Implementing asset management in schools enables school asset managers, administrators, and teachers to ensure the availability of assets to each student and member of staff. By choosing the right asset management tool, primary or secondary schools are able to maximise the usability of assets that are crucial for day-to-day operations.
Why School Asset Management Is Important
The purpose of implementing an asset management solution in primary schools, secondary schools, and other education facilities is to:
- Maximise and track the usability of school equipment
- Ensure the availability of assets such as laptops and science equipment to students and teachers
- Make sure the equipment needed to run the school is always in working condition
- Achieve effective management of a school’s entire inventory in a cost-effective way
With Asset Management Software, schools are able to reduce spending on the replacement of lost or stolen assets. While also accurately tracking spending across all departments. And, with the UK Government funding £39 billion to the school budget for pupils aged 5-16, it is essential for schools to track their spending and not incur any unnecessary costs.
An effective management system also provides access to a comprehensive register for all educational personnel. This includes teachers, department heads, administrators, school managers, and even local districts. The data highlighted in an asset register allows staff and students to know the location, condition, and quantity of each school asset.
An important part of keeping an educational institution running smoothly is making sure all critical assets are operating at maximum output. One way this can be achieved is with an effective maintenance and repair schedule. For instance, by checking the correct data stored in the system, schools will be able to know when the school bus needs a service. As well as identifying when the computers in the IT department will be unavailable due to updates and repairs.
In 2016/17, primary schools spent £41,780 on maintaining and operating their assets, while secondary schools averaged £172,560 over the same period. But by having a maintenance schedule in place, schools can reduce this expenditure and use the extra funds elsewhere.
The Benefits of Asset Management Software For Schools
Improve the Accuracy of Record Keeping
The amount of paperwork required to track equipment, documents, and records throughout school grounds can be overwhelming. But, the right school asset management tool can provide the features necessary to build a central data repository for all essential assets. This is also crucial for protecting and backing up data in case of fire or damage, which can destroy a paper-based asset management system and lead to complications and delays when it comes to filing insurance claims.
Avoid Spending on Duplicate Assets
Having access to the school’s asset register can reduce spending on equipment that is already available. For instance, a teacher may request that their classroom needs more chairs. But, by looking at the data, they’re able to see a number of chairs not being used in another department. Instead of purchasing more chairs, they can relocate them from one department to another, where they can be of more use.
Stick to Budgets by Accurately Tracking Spending
By using the right tools, schools are able to manage and track spending requests of each faculty department. This can be a request such as trays and cutlery from the school cafe, or for more books and desktops from library staff. Whatever the requirement, these requests need to be aligned with the budget set by the Department of Education or the local district.
Reduce the Risk of Theft or Stolen Assets
As school operations need to be aligned with a strict budget, replacing lost and stolen assets can become a financial headache. However, by utilising a school asset management’s tracking and tagging features, theft of crucial educational assets can be reduced. For instance, if a classroom projector cannot be located, teachers can check the data and see where it was last seen and who it was last used by.
Reduce the Amount of Manual Asset Audits
With access to a real-time asset register, staff are able to know the location and quantity of equipment available to them. This means the constant need for manual audits of assets, which require a lot of time and resources, are no longer needed.
4 Pitfalls of Using Spreadsheets to track School Assets
1. They’re Unreliable
Spreadsheets, as useful as they are for making quick calculations, can present all sorts of problems for your school’s asset register. For example, if you accidentally press the wrong key on your keyboard, you could wipe out essential data in the blink of an eye.
It’s all too easy to make a copy-and-paste error and have entire rows or columns of data scattered with inaccuracies. In fact, research has shown that around 90% of spreadsheets contain errors.
2. Limited User Access
Only one person can edit a spreadsheet at any one time. This means that you either need to take complete ownership of your school’s asset register, or wait in line to edit it. If you do decide to let other stakeholders access it, this opens up the door for even more inaccuracies as they might input details in the wrong place, or accidentally delete something.
The other disadvantage is that editing a spreadsheet is complex from a mobile device; realistically, you’d have to use your desktop device.
3. Difficult to Maintain in Real-time
Keeping spreadsheets up-to-date involves a lot of data inputting, calculations, and analysis. To get a complete overview of inventory in real-time, you’d have to make maintaining the asset register template your full-time job.
If teachers across different departments are also updating the spreadsheet, this makes it even harder to keep track of assets. There’s no way of knowing when an update has been made, and an audit trail is non-existent.
4. Limited Reporting Capability
A spreadsheet doesn’t allow for detailed reporting, at least not without a few hours of tedious work to calculate an up-to-date inventory. Even then, you’re unlikely to be able to demonstrate how you’re utilising the school’s educational assets effectively or identifying opportunities for improvement.
5 Key Features for Managing School Assets
1. Store all Data in One Centralised Asset Register
Schools can consist of hundreds, or possibly thousands, of important assets that need monitoring. Keeping track of these usually requires a pen and paper or an Excel spreadsheet, which can be time-consuming, restrictive, and at-risk to fire or data loss.
An alternative solution is to implement an asset management solution. Asset Management Software is one of the easiest and quickest ways to build and maintain an up-to-date asset register. Each asset register can be compiled of essential data regarding a school’s soft and hard assets. These could be anything from chairs, desks, keys, and laptops, to important documents such as fire procedures and financial contracts. Asset registers allow you to store all kinds of information alongside each of your school’s assets, including:
- An asset’s current condition
- An asset’s current and previous locations
- The teacher or classroom an asset has been or is currently assigned to
- If an asset is scheduled for repair and when it will be unavailable during this period
- How much an asset is being used and by which member of staff
Another feature to look out for when building an accurate asset register is mobile access. Having mobile access allows data to be accessible to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. For example, if a teacher wanted to check the current location of a projector screen, they wouldn’t need to be on school grounds to access the register and check the data. Instead, they could do this at home via a smartphone.
2. Track Faculty Department Spending Against DfE Budgets
Sticking to an allocated budget that has been set by the school, district, or MAT (Multi-Academy Trust) can be difficult, especially without a form of spend-tracking in place. But, with an effective asset management tool, department heads are able to track spending for their own faculty. This can help to understand how the school’s budget is being used and how it can be better utilised.
Source: Institute for Fiscal Studies, 2019 annual report
Having a dedicated solution for tracking spending and budget costs can also help to:
- Know the purchase and running costs of each school asset and identify which assets need protecting to sustain their best value
- Re-allocate under-used assets to other school departments and save on replacements or unnecessary purchases
- Calculate the level of depreciation in each critical asset around the school grounds
This type of financial data can also be accessed by a school’s local authority and MAT, allowing administrators to instantly understand the school’s costs and spending figures to help with future funding from the DfE.
3. Share Reports Across Departments
With most school asset management tools, users have the ability to create reports and share data across the school’s entire hierarchy. Whether that be between teachers, department heads, managers, or even local districts.
For instance, a school’s head of the art department may require a weekly report from its teachers regarding the usage and condition of art supplies. In this instance, each teacher would input data about the usage and condition of their assets, such as paintbrushes and paper, and generate a report that is shared with the department’s head.
School reports and data can also be shared among:
- Parents that wish to have access to their child’s classroom timetable, homework assignments, and current grades
- Students that need to access their timetable of classes and their current workload set by teachers
- Local authorities such as school districts and MATs
In terms of local authorities, an asset management system can enable them to generate reports from multiple sites using a single login. For example, a MAT that is responsible for five academy schools can access all reports from these schools on one system, instead of having to gain access individually.
4. Equipment Booking for Classrooms & Students
By renting out classrooms, equipment, and sports halls, schools are able to generate extra funds. Additionally, with an asset management system in place, schools are able to build a booking module system to do this efficiently and professionally.
However, this system not only applies to equipment rentals. It can also be an effective feature for teachers that want to avoid double-bookings. For example, a teacher may have built their entire lesson plan around using a projector, only to find that it is unavailable.
With an asset module booking system in place, teachers are able to:
- Build a check-in/check-out system for key assets such as laptops and projectors
- Create a shared calendar to highlight which assets and classrooms are available
- Create unique booking forms for each asset type and each department
- Operate a portal login for staff to use that can also require administrative approval
5. Leveraging IoT For Inventory Management
The use of the Internet of Things (IoT) can help improve the time management of inventory counts across each faculty department. IoT devices can also be used to help track visitors and parents around school grounds.
One major benefit of using IoT-enabled devices is for improving a school’s registration system. Once a teacher has entered the attendance data of their class, an asset management tool will report data back to the School Student Information System (SIMS).
IoT devices can also be used around the school grounds to:
- Track the real-time location of physical assets, such as using GPS trackers to identify the location of school buses
- Easily and quickly count the inventory of books, stationery, desks, and chairs in each classroom
- Help reduce downtime of important assets by scheduling pre-planned repair times and producing a maintenance schedule that can be accessed by teachers and administrators
- Track visitors and allow entry in the school grounds by using barcodes, GPS, and RFID tracking technology in visitor passes
These devices are also key for keeping valuable assets (like monitors and vehicles) working at an optimal level by helping to create an effective repair and maintenance schedule. By using technology such as Barcode and RFID, users can track the life cycle of each asset and understand when it needs repairing or even replacing.
Considerations When Purchasing a School Asset Management System
The Time it Takes to Deploy Software
Once you have chosen the right software, you’ll want to deploy it as quickly as possible. In this case, it’s important to know how long the vendor will take to make the system available to you. You should also consider the time it takes to activate portal logins for staff and the process of collecting all inventory data to build your asset registers. Such as the number of books available to pupils and the number of chairs and desks needed in each classroom.
Integration with Other Software
It’s important to know what other software can be integrated into your choice of school asset management software and how easy the process is. For instance, your institution may already be set up with accounting applications, emails, spreadsheets and more. It can also be beneficial to know if this software solution provides its own functionality, such as tuition management and inventory control, that can replace existing systems.
As a manager of a large educational institution, you’re bound to have a variety of different configurations for each operation. In this case, you’ll want to look for an asset management tool that is highly customisable to suit your setup. If you choose a system that requires you to change the way you control most operations around the school, this can end up being time-consuming and expensive.
Training Your Staff
Before making any decisions, make sure you’re able to demo or trial the vendor’s product. This is a great way to understand the system and define whether it is easy enough for each staff member and department to use. You’ll want to look for familiarity when compared to programs you may already use, such as registration and inventory software. It’s also good to look at the vendor’s training options in case you need teachers to be well trained in using the system. For example, do they offer video tutorials, online support or in-person training? And can they accommodate in-person training outside of school hours to avoid lesson downtime?
The Vendor’s Market History
When it comes to receiving the right support and training, a good way to check that you’ll get the very best service is to understand the vendor’s history. Check to see if they have experience supplying other schools or educational institutions and how long they have been doing so.
The Type of School
In terms of a vendor’s asset management solution for schools, how they define ‘school’ can have a big impact on their features and tools. For example, if you’re managing a large educational institution such as a secondary school, you’ll need a scalable system to accommodate the large amount of assets, as opposed to the fewer assets found in a primary school. Also, if you’re an academy that relies on the DfE’s funding, then you’ll want a system that focuses more on tracking your school’s spending in relation to its budget.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Tracking and Tagging Technology Help Track the Attendance of Pupils and Visitors?
Introducing tracking technology and IoT-enabled devices into schools can help replace the time-consuming process of taking attendance. This task can end up costing teachers up to ten minutes at the beginning of every lesson. Instead of teachers manually taking count of their pupils, technology such as RFID and barcodes can be deployed.
For example, students can be given an RFID-enabled fob that they use with an RFID scanner. Scanners can be placed at the entrance to a classroom and send data straight to a system. The system then collects the attendance data and stores it. It can even send attendance data directly to SIMS.
As well as implementing tracking technology for student attendances, it can also be used to track visitors throughout school grounds.
These visitors could be guests, parents, or education authorities such as OFSTED members. This can be achieved by using specific cards or fobs that include RFID, barcode, or even GPS technology. Visitors can scan their cards to access certain areas of the school, or can even have their location tracked by school managers throughout their visit.
Can Software Be Scaled to Meet Future Demand for Virtual Classrooms and ELearning?
Most vendors that provide asset management for schools will enable a system that is scalable for future demand. This is most likely achievable through a payment package that offers extra storage and usage capabilities. The extra storage is able to accommodate an influx of extra asset data that needs to be stored. It is also able to withstand the extra usage from students that wish to access a teacher’s virtual classroom, which can be put in place to encourage distance learning.
With a scalable system, teachers are also able to upload lesson plans via multimedia files such as videos. These files can then be accessed remotely by students to encourage eLearning.
Can Teachers and Students Have Mobile Access to a School’s Asset Data?
Most software vendors now provide cloud-based asset management. This type of system means data can be accessed at any time by anyone and anywhere. This allows teachers, school managers, parents, and administrators to access the system via mobile devices. These mobile devices can be anything from smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers.
With easy access to data via a mobile device, cloud-based systems aren’t restricted to being used on school grounds only. It can be used by parents wanting to access their child’s schoolwork or teachers on a school trip. District authorities can also access it from their offices to track budget expenditure.
As part of the contract with a vendor, the system can be edited, updated and accessed at any time. This means teachers don’t have to wait for term time to upload lesson plans and review pupil attendance data; they can do it during school holidays periods as well.
Can a System Provide Checks and Alerts to Comply with Health & Safety Checks and DfE Guidelines?
A module alert system can be put in place to make sure all departments and facilities are obeying to the necessary checks. These tasks can be set up on a regular basis with a ‘check’ feature, reminding teachers to regularly review and complete tasks such as health & safety checks. This can also apply to make sure a department is complying to DfE guidelines and operating within the given budget.
A handy feature to help managers make sure staff are complying to these tasks is to configure an alert system. This will alert you when a task is set to be carried out and when it has been completed. Or even if it is overdue.
Is it Possible to Track Loaned Assets That Have Been Assigned to Staff & Students?
With the use of IoT-enabled devices, a school management system can collect essential data that can help track loaned assets. For example, a school library will use barcodes to track books that have been borrowed by students. Librarians can scan the unique barcode that is attached to a book and the system will generate data. This data can be the book title, the date and time of the loan, the student’s name who loaned the book, and which librarian who sanctioned the loan.
This type of tracking can also be applied to other assets and situations. For instance, a teacher may need to loan a school laptop to design a lesson plan from home. Or a PE teacher may need to loan some sports equipment to run weekend sports classes.
My School Has Thousands of Assets That Need Importing into the Database, Is There a Quick Way to Collect This Data?
Having an asset management software solution implemented in your school helps to reduce costs and improve time management. But the time it takes to deploy a system can depend on the data that needs to be collected. For example, a school manager at a secondary school will want to input all asset data into one system. But this is going to require a lot of time and resources.
But most vendors have a solution that can make this process easier. Usually incurring an extra charge, vendors can provide trained staff to come to school grounds and help collect essential data. This not only frees up time for teachers, but it can also save a lot of time waiting for the system to be up and running.
But, if the school budget does not allow for this option, then vendors can provide training to school personnel. Having this training means teachers are familiar with the system and can collect and input data at a quicker rate.