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Kent gets go ahead to sell IT packages

KENT COUNTY Council has emerged as the only non-commercial organisation allowed to sell package deals of technology to other schools across the country.

Kent has won the right to sit alongside the likes of IBM and RM as an approved supplier of the new "managed services" launched by the Government last month.

Managed services are intended to give schools a one-stop shop for buying computers and all associated services at a fixed price.

Education minister Charles Clarke, launching the initiative before the reshuffle that took him to the Home Office, said the Government would not tolerate schools being charged "excessive prices" for computers and related services.

Mr Clarke said money for the National Grid for Learning and other computer-related schemes depended on good quality and value being assured.

Kent, through its EIS unit, uses another approved supplier, RM, to install computer systems.

But, according to Peter Banbury, the county's information technology projects manager, schools still save money because Kent makes sure they only get the equipment they need: "Our understanding of schools is better than any national company."

He believes other authorities should follow Kent's lead and try to become approved providers in the next round. "It's a slightly frightening situation that as an LEA you might not be certified to supply a service into your own schools."

Kent's services will be most useful to schools that "do not fit the mould," Mr Banbury says.

He says the county's technology advisers have often had to "guess what schools really want, not what they say they want.

"We have had a number of cases with companies delivering in all good faith what the school asked for, but when it arrives it isn't quite appropriate. That has caused some disappointment."

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