A recent BBC investigation into an IT leasing scam, where schools were found to be overcharged up to 10 times too much for IT and other essential equipment, has highlighted the vulnerabiltiy of schools in the market. One school in particular, Glemsfield Primary, Suffolk, became the target of a ‘kit scam’ that left it £500,000 in debt. The school was in promised ‘free’ laptops and other electrical equipment by Direct Technology Solution, but later found they had actually leased the laptops and that the company had gone into administration, leaving the school indebted to Clydesdale Bank. On top of this, the values of the equipment were greatly overpriced, with laptops priced at £3,750 instead of the normal price between £350 and £400. “It’s surprising that anything like this can happen in this day and age,” said Derek Kuziw, managing director of A+K who distribute interactive learning technolgies to school and universities.‘Here at A+K we have systems in place to prevent anything like this from ever happening.” Advances in classroom learning tools and technology should ultimately lead to a reduction in cases where schools are taken advantage of by companies which distribute electrical equipment beneficial to learning and to teaching. And when the BETT Show 2012 opened its doors, it provided an answer; highlighting how technology can be tailored around the classroom itself, with a focus on the end user, allowing the market to move away from the unscrupulous equipment suppliers who have tarnshed the industry of late.
“Suppliers should be focused on the teaching and learning aid that this kind of equipment has to offer,” said Mark Robinson, group head of product strategy, Promethean. “There needs to be more contact between manufacturer and end user to remove the possibility of this happening. It’s a shame that schools are losing control over their equipment. Schools should own a vision that looks beyond the present – future proofing often leads to safeguarding against these types of problems. Here at promethean we provide for the school and its future, and always know how our product is performing at any given locations, meaning issues such as the one seen in the BBC news are avoided and rightly so.’
Nieve Cavanagh, marketing and PR, Casio, said: “Transparency is what the industry requires. Schools could be considered vulnerable targets by scammers because of the finances available to them, but they don’t necessarily have the relevant knowledge to buy in the right way. The 5 year no quibble warranty we’ve recently introduced to our range of learning products means schools never experience issues with supply because they have ongoing support from ourselves.’ As a result of the investigation, The British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) have said more emphasis should be put on teachers’ buying powers to equip them with the professional purchasing knowledge to make informed decisions when purchasing technological pieces of equipment, which could actually be an alien field to them.