UK Education Sector Faces Significant Challenges for ICT Delivery in 2010, Says Report by Technology Solutions Provider Stone Group

- More than 80% of schools are facing real ICT budget cuts in 2010, according to new ICT solutions and services research undertaken by education sector IT specialist the Stone Group, with a distinct lack of external expertise being utilised to overcome this challenge

Jan 25, 2010, 10:01 ET from Stone Group

STONE, England, Jan. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- ICT solutions and services research by the Stone Group highlights:

  • 82% of schools are facing 'real term' ICT budget cuts in 2010. And budgetary constraint is the number one concern (84%) regarding the delivery of ICT in 2010 according to research by technology solutions provider Stone Group.
  • Despite the growing reliance on online teaching resources, and growing government expectation that pupils have reliable access to school networks whilst working at home in the evenings, the research by the education sector IT specialist shows that only 14% of schools offer out of hours technical support to schools and staff.
  • Security is the number two concern for delivering ICT in 2010 (40%) as schools struggle to comply with complex Government guidelines for both secure online access and strong physical network security to protect pupil data and work.
  • Whilst the rest of the public sector has followed government guidance to embrace third party service provision, the vast majority of ICT services to schools and colleges are delivered using internal skills – with 51% using no external services at all.

The Stone Group – the technology solutions provider to the education and public sector – today announces the results of the Stone Group ICT solutions and services Report, a survey conducted in December 2009 across ICT decision-makers in the UK education sector by the education sector IT specialist.

The study, undertaken by independent market research organisation, Redshift Research, on behalf of technology solutions provider the Stone Group, has shown that budgetary restraint is the number one concern for IT decision-makers in 2010 (84%). Placed in today's context of increasing reliance on robust and reliable ICT solutions to deliver the curriculum, this becomes all the more pertinent. These services must also be delivered securely, and security is the number two concern for delivering ICT in 2010 – yet only 6% have a dedicated security budget and only 3% rely on external advice in this area.

Commenting on these findings, James Bird, Chief Executive of education sector IT specialist the Stone Group says: "Students and teachers are now completely reliant upon the availability of robust, reliable and secure ICT solutions to undertake their daily activities. Failure to take any steps to change the way ICT is delivered in 2010 will undoubtedly result in cost cutting that will affect both the quality of current ICT service delivery and any chance of undertaking continual improvement."

The ICT solutions and services research findings highlight that a key problem facing schools in meeting these budgetary constraints is a lack of a flexible ICT delivery model. Today, the vast majority of schools and colleges deliver ICT services internally: 93% provide their own network management; 91% desktop management; application support is provided internally by 90%; whilst server management is also handled by 87% of schools.

This reliance on internal skills is reinforced by widespread avoidance of any external providers. Over half (51%) do not use external providers for any services. Only 15% are outsourcing to a third party provider; 22% use externally managed services; 19% are leasing rather than purchasing outright; 18% are acquiring via consortium and 27% open sourcing.

Bird continues, "Budget cuts are an inevitability in 2010, but it's clear from this research that schools and colleges are not currently following what is occurring elsewhere in the Public Sector by considering the use of external resources to maximise the quality of service delivery on the available budget."  

Bird concludes, "Schools and colleges need access to tailored services that can supplement the existing skills and expertise in-house. Skills that can ensure new services are delivered rapidly, systems are acquired in a financially expedient manner – such as via residual leasing – and innovation is enabled rather than constrained. It is time to consider all the options available."

The research results are available to download free of charge from .

About The Stone Group

The Stone Group is the UK's largest privately owned hardware manufacturer and technology solutions provider, specialising in the supply and support of ICT and audio-visual solutions to schools, colleges, universities, local government, the emergency services, the NHS and MoD.

As a long-established UK hardware manufacturer, Stone Computers and Compusys have built up enviable reputations for their superior after-sales service as well as the stability and reliability of their desktops, laptops and servers, earning the confidence of their customers.

Having acquired Rock in May 2008, the Stone Group now sells direct to consumers and offers high-end business and gaming notebooks to all sectors.

The Stone Group has also significantly extended its services portfolio to include fully managed outsourced solutions, IT security, software applications and recycling.

As well as being awarded all major educational and public sector frameworks, the Stone Group has well-established relationships with leading manufacturers. Strong partnerships with Intel, Microsoft, LG, Seagate and Samsung ensure that all of its customers can be confident in the quality of the technology and receive the most competitive pricing structure.

Stone was recently ranked 21st in The Sunday Times Buyout Track 100 league table 2009 of Britain's top 100 private equity-backed companies with the fastest growing profits.

For more information please contact:

Dionne Barlow

Tegan Boaler / Will Gardiner

The Stone Group

The itpr Group

Tel: +44 (0) 1785 812 100

Tel: + 44 (0) 1932 578 800

Fax: +44 (0) 1785 817 225

Fax: + 44 (0) 1932 578 801

SOURCE Stone Group