The education sector has typically been heavily paper-reliant and slow to modernise, especially against the pressures of underfunding and staffing shortages. Balancing the budget remains the top challenge for educational institutions, with staff workload and pupil attainment ranking amongst the top strategic priorities for school boards. These challenges are providing exciting opportunities for schools to embrace smarter ways of working, to leverage technology and digitalisation to help budgets and resources stretch further, and fulfil long-term strategic goals. The difficulty for decision-makers is identifying which opportunities are a good investment, and the technologies that will add genuine value for schools. We’ve made it a bit easier by breaking down the current landscape of the education sector and the solutions that can meet its demands.
Technology for streamlining processes
It’s estimated that schools in the UK are spending in the region of £484 million a year on printing paper resources. Reallocating the huge figures spent on paper into delivering a digital-first education can yield significant savings for schools both financially and environmentally, to better support digitally-native generations in their learning.
Document management solutions are ideal for capturing, storing and managing the huge amounts of data that pass through a school, from student records and permission slips to invoices and enrolment documents. Automating the manual processing of these documents helps to lower costs and improve efficiency for staff members, whilst ensuring paperless ‘paper trails’ for maintaining secure and organised records. What’s more, digitisation helps to minimise waste production associated with these manual activities, such as storage, stationary, pens, plastic wrapping, workbooks and cardboard. Innovative multifunctional printers further support a paperless approach, offering time and energy saving features to help users make smarter choices about their print usage. Rules-based printing can help limit unnecessary consumption, while features such as high-speed scanning can easily route communications and mail around the school without the need to copy endless sheets of paper.
Managing staff workloads and resources were found to be top strategic priorities for school boards, but both are increasingly difficult to achieve without smart technology. Studies show that teachers spend over 50 hours a week on average on work-related activities – including time spent on weekends or evenings – with only slightly more than half of this time actually spent teaching; the rest is largely dedicated to marking and preparation. Interestingly, research shows that each extra hour teachers spend doing these tasks is particularly strongly associated with declines in their wellbeing. Leveraging automated, intelligent data capture and processing tools can enable teachers to spend less of their own time on administrative/non-teaching tasks and more time with pupils directly.
It’s no secret that the education sector is in need of modernisation, with 54% of teachers agreeing that the level of tech used in classrooms right now won’t prepare students for the working world. By digitalising communications, schools can improve student attainment and ensure that remote, blended, or SEND learners aren’t at a disadvantage. Visual communication solutions, such as interactive screens with wireless presentation systems for classrooms, and video conferencing tools for virtual lessons, can support staff in delivering face-to-face and blended learning with ease. Engaging, large format display screens, coupled with an easy-to-use content management system, enable educational institutions to communicate messages with staff, students, and parents more easily, lessening the need for letters, phone calls, or emails.
Technology for furthering sustainability
Last year, the government announced its vision for the UK to be a world-leader in sustainability and climate change education by 2030, which in turn will help to drive the UK’s target of net zero emissions by 2050. However, research from the NGA has identified that the main areas of support needed by schools in order to take further action on environmental sustainability are resources – such as staff time and capacity - and funding.
Investing in print management software helps to reduce waste and associated costs with minimal resources required. They boast eco-friendly policies which encourage sustainable habits, helping to recover print costs and monitor usage more effectively. Implementing solutions with smart dashboards can support schools on their sustainability journeys, allowing them to visualise and measure the impact of their efforts over time.
Sustainable sourcing is another valuable tool: this means considering the CSR goals and environmental efforts of suppliers before deciding who to work with, and what products to choose. Harnessing providers that invest in green initiatives, such as re-forestation programmes and carbon offsetting schemes, can enable schools to hit their own emissions targets. Embracing a circular economy can assist schools in reducing and recycling their e-waste, and achieving their climate goals.
When it comes to technology itself, choosing eco-conscious solutions - like linerless label printers - can yield a meaningful reduction to environmental impact. For example, Toshiba supports linerless label printing which offers an environmentally friendly alternative for producing address labels and food labels. By removing backing paper from labels altogether, and only printing on the necessary length, educational departments can dramatically reduce the paper waste they would typically produce when using standard labels. Sourcing greener technology is made easier when it’s standard practice; for example, all Toshiba print devices are delivered carbon neutral, meet the latest environmental standards, and offer the opportunity to offset the carbon impact of all paper used, so schools can feel assured that whenever they have to print, it’s less harmful to the planet.
Technology for safety and compliance
Safety is a basic expectation within educational establishments – the safety of students, staff, and of data. Protecting students and the flow of information through schools can be tremendously costly if not done right, and with funding being a recurrent issue it is vital that schools invest in technology and processes that can prevent extra spending.
The education sector also has a duty to comply with data regulations and implement proper security measures to protect privacy. Asset visibility and security can be a challenge, what with loaning of devices to students and opening networks for remote connection; it can be difficult to keep valuable devices and data secure. Toshiba’s desktop barcode printers provide a low-cost and reliable solution, appropriate for asset and document tracking.
A survey of UK schools showed that 66% have suffered a cyber-attack in the last 18-months (as of Feb 22), with only 35% feeling strongly that they’d be prepared against malicious activity in the future. A Managed IT Service Provider can help schools ensure their IT infrastructure is compliant, secure, and working like clockwork, which becomes more and more important as schools modernise. Enhanced security features on hardware like Toshiba’s multifunction printers can give added protection against cyber criminals.
But it’s not just data that requires vigilance: catering facilities within the education sector also need to be considered when it comes to safety. Adhering to legislation, such as Natasha’s Law, ensures the health and safety of staff, students, and visitors through clear labelling of food allergens on prepared and packaged food. In-house solutions like label printing systems make it simple for catering staff to comply with Natasha’s Law, helping students to make informed food choices through clear labelling of ingredients. These solutions ultimately provide schools with the reassurance of safety and compliance, so nothing can get in the way of teaching and learning.
The top challenges faced by educational establishments are becoming harder to overcome with outdated, manual processes. By embracing digitalisation, the education sector can make budgets go further, use time and resources more productively, support teachers more effectively, better engage students, encourage more sustainable habits, and manage safety more vigilantly. Other sectors have already taken significant steps towards digital transformation and recognised the benefits, and schools now have a prime opportunity to do the same.
If you’d like to discuss some smart solutions for your school, get in touch with one of Toshiba’s education experts today!Get in touch