What to look for in a 1:1 learning programme

Paul Edmonds

Paul Edmonds is a risk management professional with 40 years experience in financial services. He has two children and was a parent governor during their early school years. Paul has also worked with the learning disabled as Trustee of a local Mencap charity. After senior management positions with the former Abbey National Bank group, GE Money, and Goldman Sachs (UK Mortgages) he now provides risk management consultancy. Paul recognises making the ‘right’ choice is rarely simple, but insists that with the right research and carefully selected partners, resilient, sustainable projects can be delivered, to budget and into the long-term.

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Implementing a 1:1 learning programme means making sure that your school is secure. Paul Edmonds of CPU explains the different things that a school should take into account.

At a time of continuing austerity, the ability to tap into a place where providing a device for a student that can address both the Learning & Teaching ICT demands, and also address a student’s “wish list” for a home device can prove attractive. If the latter becomes compelling, seeking parental contribution support can not only become an option, but it can genuinely become a sensible and reasonable route to providing ICT resources. The moral challenge, of course, is making sure that it is 100% inclusive so that all students can benefit from any programme that is put in place; much akin to that of dealing with School Uniforms in the past.

1:1 learning programmes can provide an extremely cost-effective way for schools (and other educational establishments) to purchase IT equipment. By procuring higher end, robust and reliable equipment through a leasing arrangement, supported by the contributions by parents and a small element of the pupil premium for example, the vision of 1:1 can easily become a reality. The key aspect to remember is that as these devices will become a key component of both a learner’s day to day Learning as well as their home activity, quality insurance & warranty provisions need to be in place for the duration of the leasing arrangement. This ensures that in the event of a problem the issue is dealt with on a timely basis; after all, the absence of a device for a school week would be bad enough but for most teenagers, that would be an eternity for today’s digital citizens!

As the concept of 1:1 learning programmes is still relatively embryonic, it’s important to note that whilst there are a number of schemes out there, Senior Leadership and ICT team should always review on a “buyer beware” basis, as you will likely committing public money for a considerable period of time. The fact that you will likely use parental contributions further emphasises the point that you really need to do your homework first. In order to help you evaluate the pros and cons of each scheme, here are some pointers which should help define decision making:

The equipment

Remember that any device used is likely to be treated more harshly than a device simply kept on a desk or in a mobile device trolley. All devices should have the best possible protection (i.e. rigid/padded case) to minimise the potential of breakage. Equally, long or even extended battery lives in excess of the curriculum day are essential. After all, if a device has a 4 hour life when new, it is likely to be considerably less after 2 years and even more so after 3. You also need to consider the lifecycle of the device from a consistency of Learning & Teaching perspective. If a device is at the end of its natural development cycle, the next version release by the manufacturer may change both the appearance and performance of its successor, which could impact on your staff. Equally, it may deter parents from contributing if they get feedback from their child that the device is “so yesterday”. Remember, a properly constructed 1:1 scheme should mean that the overall value of the scheme to parents should still cost less than if the device was bought on the high street. If not, you need to ask why. All equipment should come with at least a one year manufacturer’s warranty.

Asset Management

Most leases require the lessee (schools) to keep an accurate track of all leased assets. How will you achieve that? This can be time consuming when assets such as iPads are regularly swapped out as a result of damage and replaced with new iPads with new serial numbers. An asset management system should provide schools with a real time schedule of all assets throughout the duration of the lease and automatically update the register as assets are replaced as a result of an insurance claim.

Insurance

Most leases will require the assets to be covered by an Accidental Damage and Theft Insurance policy which provides cover for stolen and damaged equipment. The insurance policy should provide cover for the whole period of the lease and so it is important that is issued by a duly authorised (by the Financial Conduct Authority – FCA - and the Prudential Regulation Authority - PRA) insurer, who will last the distance. The organisation arranging the insurance also has to be suitably authorised (by the Financial Conduct Authority). Both can be checked by simply referring to the Financial Services Register http://www.fsa.gov.uk/register/home.do.

If the equipment is being financed by a lease, check if the 1:1 learning Provider is working with the Leasing Company to insure their assets and noting their interest on the insurance policy.

Some 1:1 learning programmes include a guarantee provided by a reseller or other organisation to replace stolen or damaged assets or to extend manufacturer’s warranty. The efficacy of that guarantee depends on the ability of the guaranteeing organisation being able to afford to replace stolen or damaged assets throughout the whole duration of the lease. Will that organisation be around to do so? Whereas, the Prudential Regulation Authority has a duty to ensure that the authorised insurer is capable of meeting future claims and, in recent times, very few insurers have ceased to trade.

It is important to check that the costs quoted during the term of the scheme are fixed, or are they subject to variations during the agreement as part of a service contract?

Any extended warranty should be considered either from the manufacturer or from a reputable insurer.

Insurance claims

IT is becoming ever more utilized within education - for example, IT applications replacing textbooks and tablets being used as part of the wider curriculum. Whilst the school should always take steps to minimise damage to their assets, claims are inevitable, and this results in downtime for the students and additional administration for the school. Therefore, when selecting a provider for a 1:1 learning programme it is important to consider how the Insurer will deal with claims. Some important questions should be asked including:

  • Will the provider offer a complete claims service that will provide fulfilment in the event of theft or damage i.e. repair or replacement of the device? Or will they just issue financial payment leaving the school to organise this?
  • Will the provider arrange collection and return / delivery of the devices to and from the school, providing secure packaging to avoid any unnecessary administration for the school in arranging their own logistics?
  • Does the provider have an online claims portal for registering claims easily, without the need to phone call centres or fill out paper forms?
  • Does the provider have online claims tracking so at all times during the claims process you can identify the progress of each claim, and how many claims are outstanding?
  • Does the provider provide real time online claims statistics, providing useful information including claims frequency, the location of damages occurring, age groups, and cause of damage?
  • Will the provider update and maintain the asset register when devices are replaced following a claim?

Parental contributions

Often schools ask parents to contribute towards the cost of subsidising their 1:1 learning scheme. In return, this allows the devices to be taken home and used outside of school time.

Some providers of 1:1 learning schemes provide an additional service to manage the Direct Debits for Parental Contributions on behalf of the school. This is something to take into account when selecting a provider and if you would like to outsource the collection and handling of direct debit payments.

It is important to note that unless a school has a Consumer Credit License with the correct permissions, they cannot offer or promote a scheme which can be construed as a regulated finance agreement to parents.
In addition to the question of a Consumer Credit Licence, implementing a regulated Consumer Credit Programme would create a range of other challenges and we recommend a school take professional advice before taking that route.

If a school has not got a Consumer Credit Licence, it is important to check that the scheme being managed by the 1:1 learning provider is run as voluntary contribution scheme. None of the documentation from the provider to parents should refer to or describe an enforceable agreement.

If a school asks parents to contribute then there should be a formal agreement for parents to sign allowing schools to collect the contributions. That agreement should also set out the terms for the use of the equipment including any restrictions. If the equipment is leased, it is worth checking if the provider offers G.A.P. and Misappropriation cover that can be purchased before delivery of the equipment and contributions begin. This insurance further protects the school and its liabilities under the lease in the event that a parent misappropriates the equipment or hands the equipment back and ceases to make contributions.

Understandably for voluntary schemes, it is important for the school to receive good management information showing monies being received per school roll out, and any shortfall, on a regular basis. Whilst some providers offer a collection service do they make this kind of reporting available and publish it online for the school to view? Is there an online ‘Cashbook’ service which allows parents to pay cash contributions to the school?

Recipe for Success

1:1 Learning programmes increasingly form an integral learning resource, with coverage being extended across age, ability and social need groups. Researching, funding and operating a successful programme is complex and can be challenging. Luckily help is at hand – highly experienced providers are at hand to offer support for schools, manage their exposure to the financial costs and ensure continuity of service. By considering the important questions above, a school will be able to make an informed choice of partner in this exciting field.

Do you have any further advice for implementing a 1:1 learning system? Let us know in the comments.

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