One of the costs that schools have to think about is printing costs. It used to be a simple affair in that one would buy an inkjet printer for every classroom. However, laser printers and networked photocopiers have come down in price to a huge extent so should schools move away from having individual printers in classrooms and move to a centralised system?
I think that once a school has reached a certain size, it’s time to make the jump to a networked colour photocopier. It avoids several problems. For example, inkjet printers tend to run out of ink quite quickly if used often enough. Another problem is that they are not really designed to last that long. I found that I seemed to be going through a printer every year when I used them. Because printer models seem to update quite regularly, often it’s difficult to get the same printer as before. A final problem is that if you print a photograph on an inkjet printer, it can cost you almost a Euro for the pleasure.
Having a centralised networked printer ensures that none of the above situations occur as long as you don’t own it! I would recommend renting a good colour photocopier from a company that deals with schools. They provide a very easy way to manage printing in a school. My own school has around 20 members of staff and they can print to the photocopier in b&w and colour from their laptops.
The great thing is that good companies will set all this up for you. While my school went with IBS, there are other alternatives out there. There are a number of things you need to agree on to ensure that your printing costs are minimised.
Firstly, always go for the “pay per copy” model which means that you only pay for what you print. We do not pay for anything else. The price includes all toner, all maintenance costs and a guarantee of next-day service should anything go wrong.
Secondly, to make sure that your school remains environmentally friendly, it’s a good idea to put some cost on printing for staff. While printing and photocopying are a must for any teacher these days, charging for photocopying and printing allows teachers to print whatever they like, be it personal or professional work. We have a credit system in the school where teachers are given a reasonable amount of credit, (roughly equating to a maximum of 5 copies per child per day – the average use is 1.2). This is particularly important for colour printing, which is more expensive.
Finally, it cuts down on maintenance. As I said before, inkjet printers tend to break down with a lot of use. They are designed for home use rather than work. Having one single point for printing ensures less headaches especially with a good service contract.
Having said all this, it’s probably a good idea to have one extra printer lying around in case disaster strikes. While most schools can last a day without printer access, there’s always one document that needs printing urgently. We have our spare printer in a corner of our secretary’s office. We haven’t ever used it but hopefully it will work if anything ever happens!