‘The Digital Divide was here before Covid – it’s just more obvious now’

Richard Martin, digital transformation lead at edtech charity LGfL – The National Grid for Learning – talks about the need to build an IT strategy for schools and MATS

Schools must not default back to their pre-pandemic education modes but need to think carefully about their IT strategy and ensure they get it right for the future. Here, we set out the key components, the outcomes that schools want to achieve, what it means for teachers, management and support staff, and where your school is and where it needs to be.

The pandemic has moved the advancement of digital adoption forward at least five years since March 2020. A digital platform is now mandatory and everyone can see the benefits. It’s vital that you continue to think strategically about your IT strategy going forward.

The key components of your IT strategy

Start by listing the key components your school needs:

● ICT for teaching and learning – educational software, display and presentation equipment and kit for teachers and pupils.
● ICT for running your organisation – back-office software for HR, finance, payroll and facilities management.
● ICT for developing your organisation – management information systems, data analysis tools, reporting tools, fundraising and marketing software.

Now, consider the outcomes that you want to achieve with the technology for your various stakeholders. For example:

● Your teachers want a reliable consistent IT experience that will enable great teaching, save them time and increase flexibility by allowing them to perform preparatory tasks outside of the classroom and even the school.
● Your pupils need resources held within a safe and secure digital environment, that cater for their different learning styles, improve engagement and play an active role in preparing them for the digital world of work.
● Your administrative staff need secure reliable equipment that will help them to automate repetitive tasks, increase productivity, and improve communication with parents.

This will give your teachers the ability to:

Plan – with easy online access to resources, any time, anywhere, using standard laptops
Teach – benefit from reliable consistent classroom set up and standardised display methods
Mark – electronically and annotate
Enter data – using a standardised management information system (MIS) for secondary and primary schools
Analyse – using a standard suite of consistent, accurate reports
Provide better pastoral care – using simplified electronic processes for logging and reviewing incidents.

This will enable your managers and support staff to:

● Work remotely using a lightweight smaller laptop as opposed to one with a bigger screen that is more useful if you are not very mobile.
● Access key software and simplified electronic procurement processes via a single sign-on.
● Use easy-to-access centralised information, collaborate and share best practice throughout the network.

What is your school’s level of maturity?

Another important stage of the review is to establish your school’s level of maturity. Where exactly is your school now and where does it need to be? The following is an idea courtesy of Leigh Academies Trust:

Level Description
0 – Initial IT is unreliable and a hindrance to productivity, teaching and learning. There are risks to the network and data security.
1 – Repeatable IT is used for traditional teaching from the front of the classroom with limited direct engagement from pupils other than in IT suites.
2 – Defined Teachers routinely use technology to set and receive work. Pupils have safe, secure, reliable regular access to devices all around the school.
3 – Managed Technology is used collaboratively in the classroom and at home to share and mark work. Project-based learning is possible. Security threats are monitored and managed.
4 – Optimised Blended learning and the flipped classroom are the norm. Students can use any device anywhere to access learning resources.

Empower your team

Empower your team by agreeing the following key principles – that all IT investment will contribute to great teaching and learning, make the school more efficient, and improve safeguarding and compliance. Ensure, too, that your team agrees to secure the best possible service and value from suppliers, to enable better communication and collaboration across your school, and to give guidance and support to help schools make the best choices regarding technology.

Engage your stakeholders

Stakeholder engagement also needs to be given careful consideration. Start by creating an inclusive steering group, seek critical friends and address dissenters head on. Nothing beats a face-to-face meeting on their turf.

Think carefully about who your key stakeholders are and about the challenges they face. Communicate with them, keep everyone updated via email or via newsletters, give shout-outs to unsung heroes, and remember not to over-commit.

Measure your success

The final step is to measure your success by reviewing your school’s maturity level, customer feedback, financial reviews and lessons learnt.

How will your strategy develop?

Once the foundations are stable, sensible discussion can commence. Expectations will rise rapidly once confidence increases, and the technology and processes focused on the key principles will evolve.

Richard Martin is digital transformation lead at edtech charity LGfL – The National Grid for Learning.

Need further free advice?

Richard will be hosting a free event for senior leaders called ‘Building an IT strategy for Schools and MATs’ at 10.00–15.30, Tues 18 October 2022, 9th Floor, 10 Exchange Square, Primrose Street, London EC2A 2BR. Here he will explain all the elements required for formulating and delivering a digital strategy in a standalone school or multi academy trust. In the second part of the day, he will cover trends in the current education IT market and how to choose and procure services with some insight into benchmark costs. Key points to be covered include:

● Building the digital vision and defining objectives
● Assessing the current state of technology
● Identifying key components
● Determining total cost of ownership (TCO)
● Managing change and risk
● Choosing the right partners
● Benchmarking
● Choosing a support model for your school/organisation
● Detailed case studies
● Measuring the benefits.

The event is free to any school considering joining LGfL’s consortium and also current members. Please use a school or business email address when registering at: https://lgfl.bookinglive.com/book/add/p/50

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