Despite relatively generous ICT initiative funding in Western Australia’s 2014-15 budget, the Department of Education has run out of funding for the roll-out of its standard operating environment (SOE4) in schools. Half of WA’s schools are not yet transitioned to the new SOE, according to John Leaf, the Department’s Deputy Director General, Finance and Administration. Leaf was answering questions posed by the Hon. Sue Ellery during a 2014-15 Budget Estimates Hearing on 12 June 2014.
The primary intent of the SOE upgrade was to reduce the costs of configuring, maintaining, supporting and managing school computers.
The SOE4 wireless network upgrade includes moving schools from two separate networks and three servers to a single server and single network. The upgrade was funded by the Federal Government’s National Secondary School Computer Fund, which was established in 2007-08. WA was allocated $85.3 million over the forward estimates period under the Fund, but the Federal government provided no further funding subsequently.
394 schools have been upgraded with a further 60 to transition before the end of 2014.
However, according to Leaf, “at this present point in time it is fair to say we do not have the funding source that we have identified to bring those primary schools on board.” Those that do not transition run the risk of remaining on SOE3, which commenced in 2004.
“When we look at the standard operating environment, the majority of the cost is related to the school servers and the structures that need to be in place on servers, and that is a one-off cost of between $140,000 and $180,000. There can also be a requirement for an improvement in the broadband service connection to the school, and typically that costs between $16,000 and $40,000 per annum per school, depending on the location,” said Leaf.