Radios for schools
Let's get back to basics. Here we talk about radios for schools.
Radios have been used in schools for over 20 years now, dating back to the old Motorola T-series twin packs and the ever so popular Motorola XTN446. As the years have gone on technology has changed as well as popularity in use.
At the very start the Motorola EURO446 and Handipro were the market leaders. You could buy a robust, rugged radio that would allow full site communications and a whole 4hours of battery life! This was ground breaking at the time, giving schools a way of reaching key members of staff wherever they were on site.
The concept of radios in schools hasn't changed much, we still use them to make finding the correct person fast and cheap. I have personally found it really interesting over the years how schools have found new uses for radios. For example at the start of the Covid-19 first national lockdown one small primary school near us ask for a system of radios to use for the drop off and pick up of children at the start / end of school. This allowed them to reduce the amount of staff actually involved in the drop off / pick up process therefore reducing the risk of spreading the virus. This is just one example of how schools have actually shown some great initiative in implementing two-way radio equipment in to the day to day running of their school.
As the years progressed we have seen major improvements in two-way radios such as digital chip sets, DSP and lithium ion battery packs. All of which make for a much better user experience of the device. Competition between manufacturers has also increased as the demand for walkie talkies in schools has increased. This benefits schools looking for radios and prices are much lower due to this than in previous years when only one or two manufacturers were in the market.
In the last 5 years brand names have become less important in the education sector. We now all know that 95% of radio equipment on the market gets made from components manufactured on the one same street in Shenzhen. Again this has increased customer knowledge and awareness, and in turn driven prices down even more. So now if you look at the whole 'open market' when looking for radios for school you'll find devices that all look the same on paper but differ vastly in price.
So on to this next point, do we buy the cheapest, or the most expensive, if they all do the same? What you want to look at here are some of the finer details, mainly:
Battery size & life
Battery size and life are one of the most important things to look at when choosing a radio for school. You want it to last a minimum of one working day and ideally two. This is more than achievable with today's battery technology. Look for a product with a minimum 1500mAh li-ion battery pack (like the Pumaradio PR-585) and avoid any old battery technologies like Ni-Mh or Ni-Cd. Modern li-ion battery packs do not suffer from the old memory effects of days past.
Warranty is next up, what if something goes wrong, can you afford to be without a radio for up to 28days whilst it gets repaired? This is something schools often don't consider when choosing a radio. Some manufacturers send the radios to other countries to get repaired. For instance Motorola sends its radios to Germany to be repaired and unless you pay a lot extra at the initial buy for extended or premium warranty this can take anything up to 28days to turn around. Also postage is at your expense. Other manufacturers like Pumaradio include next day swap out warranties as standard. So if your radio fails, you call us, we take a few details, ship a replacement radio to you on a next day service and then arrange the collection of the broken unit once the replacement has been received. We think this is one of the best warranty services around and for schools is invaluable.
Added extras. If you've done your homework and are shopping around for the best deal on your new radios you'll want to keep in mind things like earpieces and Ofcom licence fees. If you've decided to go for a licensed radio you'll need to pay the Ofcom licence fee (£75, which covers you for 5 years). Always ask if there is a deal to be done. If you're buying a sizeable number of radios for your school then see if you can get earpieces, the Ofcom licence fee or maybe an extra years warranty thrown in to sweeten the deal.
Check out our best pick of the latest two-way radios here.