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The pandemic changed all that, crystallising many plans, forcing schools to respond almost overnight to ensure their pupils continued to receive the education they deserved. With so much gained over the last 15 months – knowledge, experience, belief – where do you go from here? Is the job done, or is this just the start? Did your school leap into action when so many school gates closed in March last year, or did you get by on a combination of good planning, adrenalin and a heavy dose of luck? “Our servers were eight or nine years old and were getting full, yet no one knew what was on there. Technology had moved on, but we hadn’t. Whilst everything worked, it was more by luck than judgement. We simply did not have an IT strategy.” Honest words from the governor of a school in Northamptonshire that is, perhaps, not unique. How is your IT strategy looking? How did the pandemic change the way you consider technology? Is IT now something that governors and parents take an active interest in? Research by RM earlier this year suggests that they may be, with 61% of parents believing their perceptions of their school’s technology changed due to lockdown, with almost two-thirds concerned that their child’s school is unprepared for future disruptions, such as local lockdowns, snow days, fires or other school closures. “The pace of change over the last 10 years has been staggering. Teaching and learning have been transformed, as has our record-keeping and administrative functions. Using IT intelligently and effectively has undoubtedly given teachers more time to concentrate on teaching and the progress of our pupils.” The view of a school in Manchester. Are your teachers able to collaborate online no matter where they are, are their lessons interactive, and lesson planning and marking a burden or a breeze? Technology can play a key role in enhancing pupils’ learning experience whilst alleviating teacher workloads. The challenge comes with whether others think you have made the strides you may believe you have. The RM research found that whilst three-quarters of parents believed technology can improve learning outcomes for their children, 70% felt their child’s school’s past use of technology was insufficient for future teaching needs. “Anything we can do to prepare children earlier for what lies ahead has to be a good thing – and that includes their exposure to technology.” As this school in Oxfordshire identifies, the remit of a school goes beyond the curriculum that is taught. Whether that is ensuring your pupils are competent with the software packages they will need when they graduate from your establishment, or giving them exposure to computer systems that encourage collaboration, online research and digital submission of assignments – these are the skills that will set your pupils apart from their peers.
Let us help you be part of this revolutionWith a heritage dating back 48 years, RM supports thousands of schools, teachers and pupils across the globe – from pre-school to higher education – including examination boards, central governments and other professional institutions. Through our innovative use of existing and emerging technologies we have one purpose: to enrich the lives of learners. Because we only work in the education sector, we understand how schools really work, bringing our breadth of expertise to your unique setting, so that you always remain in charge, because we – more than many – recognise that no one is better placed to know what your school community needs better than you.
Please download our new guide, ‘Giving you a position of strategic advantage’, to gain valuable insights and ideas from heads, bursars and governors, alongside our experiences from working with schools like yours: www.rm.com/strategic-advantage Alternatively, contact us today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 08450 700 300 to find out how we can help [post_title] => Giving you a position of strategic advantage [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => giving-you-a-position-of-strategic-advantage [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-06-28 14:34:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-06-28 13:34:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ie-today.co.uk/?p=34818 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 16106 [post_author] => 39 [post_date] => 2019-01-16 14:23:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-16 14:23:50 [post_content] => Most schools underutilise ICT, finds ISBA’s IT survey. So much so, that two in three bursars question the value-for-money of their IT. The ISC Digital Strategy Group and ISBA’s recommendations to address this emphasise the importance of deciding what you want from your school IT, putting teachers at the heart of a structured plan to get there, investing in training your teachers to use IT, using a cloud platform for more than just email and storage, sorting out your infrastructure and getting external expert help where you need it. Furthermore, the overriding advice from ISBA and the ISC Digital Strategy Group for school IT is to have a plan, involve and train teachers, and not to go it alone. Once you have read the recommendations, it’s likely you’ll be wondering how to get started on implementing them. Where do you turn? How will you find the time? How much should you invest? These are all probably questions you’ll be asking. Here are two ways we can help: ICT audit Any credible school IT partner ought to be able to give you a simple red/amber/green summary of your current school technology. RM offers this ICT audit as a free-of-charge service; one of our local engineers visits for a few hours and we’ll produce a summary report for you within a few days. Knowing where your current technology is at today provides a good foundation from which to begin your planning. “RM’s free but comprehensive initial ICT audit provided us with a detailed and readily understandable review of the status of ICT in school and their consultancy has energised us to investigate alternative technologies and teaching approaches, whilst considering how to get the best value and longevity out of our current ICT,” said Rachel Friar, The Marist Schools. Staff impact survey Our popular staff impact survey quickly builds up a picture of the level of ‘maturity’ of your staff’s use of IT. This gives you:
Further to the ICT audit and the staff impact survey, there are many more ways we can assist you on your journey to ICT success and the confident use of technology. Call our team on 0845 3077 832 or email email@example.com to find out more about ICT support for independent schools. We have also developed a useful online ICT health check tool. If you need a quick assessment of your school’s technology click here to get started. [post_title] => Beat the IT underutilisation crisis in your independent school [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => beat-the-it-underutilisation-crisis-in-your-independent-school [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-16 14:24:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-16 14:24:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ie-today.co.uk/dashboard2/?post_type=articles&p=16106 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1389 [post_author] => 23 [post_date] => 2017-06-03 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-02 22:00:00 [post_content] =>
- A distribution of IT skills vs application, allowing you to plan future staff training in a more effective manner, based on where they’re starting from. This avoids one-size-(never)-fits-all training!
- Spider diagrams that illustrate which skills you have in-house and which you’d benefit from external help with, e.g. you may have in-house experts in the use of resource, but not so much for collaboration.
- A sample of attitudes surrounding the potential of IT to enhance learning outcomes and where staff want most help first. Often this is more positive than initially thought!
- A benchmark of where you’re beginning, relative to other independent and state schools, drawn from the other 6,000 or so teachers who have also completed it. Comparison can be useful motivation.
Here’s a question for you: what could you do with an extra £1,000? In the current education climate, it’s a refreshingly pleasant conundrum to have.
It’s well documented in both the national and the education press that schools up and down the country face the ever-present challenge of tightening their belts and finding increasingly creative ways to save cash or unlock funding. The team at RM Education are working every day with academies, primary schools and secondary schools to help them navigate this funding gap, providing advice and support to schools of all sizes on how they can make their budgets go further.
From switching their revenue models and halving the cost of IT by outsourcing services through to leasing devices through BYOD schemes to help future-proof their technology, we are constantly exploring ways to help schools overcome budgetary challenges.
Wherever we can, we try to go above and beyond to support these schools, so our team have been busily thinking up ways to provide a little extra help on top of our core offering. So as a bonus for schools and academies, and to mark our recent partnership with leading hardware provider HP, RM are launching a very special ‘Golden Ticket’ competition.
Any primary or secondary schools or academies who purchase one or more of HPs core products through our store at www.rm.com/store (or by contacting their Account Manager at RM), will automatically be granted the chance to win one of six available ‘Golden Tickets’, which will be presented inside an envelope as part of their delivery.
Recipients will find a unique code on their ticket, and can check if they have the winning Golden Ticket by visiting www.rm.com/goldenticket, which also features full information on how schools can take part and what they can spend their winning ticket on, if they find it. Each of the winning six Golden Tickets will give schools £1,000 to spend on any HP windows devices they choose, or specific RM products and services, within 60 days of winning.
Each of the products in the RM Store are carefully tried and tested by our experts to ensure they meet schools’ needs, and our ‘RM Recommends’ range features an inspiring collection of hardware that could have a tangible effect on teaching and learning.
Some of our most popular products for schools include the new HP ProDesk 400 G4 Desktop, priced from just £250 + VAT. The ProDesk is the perfect desktop for UK schools and academies, running the latest Windows 10 operating system to give schools better security and faster performance.
There’s also the HP ProBook 450 G3, the latest recommended laptop with excellent build quality and a range of specification options to accommodate for differing requirements.
Alternatively, schools may wish to choose from a specialist range of RM software products, from apps designed to increase engagement to single sign-on services to user licenses. RM Unify, for instance, is an online platform that makes it much simpler to set up, access and manage cloud-based content and data, as well as improving the security of your critical school data. This hero programme provides access to G Suite and Office 365, as well as over 100 educational apps with single sign-on.
The Golden Ticket competition will run while stocks are available, or until 30th June if the remaining tickets have not been claimed by then.
Managing risk has always been a critical part of any school’s agenda, but in today’s climate of overburdened budgets and countless claims on a School Business Manager’s time, there are numerous technology-based risks which can easily be overlooked.
Most schools have excellent risk management strategies in place to minimise these eventualities, but for those who don’t, it’s worth conducting a full audit of your IT systems to identify any anomalies and ensure they’re covered.
Silvana Tann and Chris Taylor of RM Education work with schools every day to help them consider these risks and develop clear strategies to manage them. Here, they examine some of the most potentially catastrophic situations schools could face, and present practical solutions for minimising these risks.
Your current technology is going out of date and you can’t afford new devices
Technology is moving at a pace many schools struggle to keep up with, and this trend is at odds with the fact that historically, schools have become used to investing huge, one-off, lump sums into hardware because that’s what they’ve always done.
But there’s a constant risk of this technology going out of date – so leasing your school’s devices, instead of constantly buying and upgrading them, presents a clear solution for mitigating that risk.
Schools must ensure they’re armed against these kind of attacks and that their back-up systems are as robust as possible
Chris Taylor suggests that there’s often a fear of leasing equipment in state schools because of the notion of spending public money without actually owning anything.
“Governing bodies can often have quite a traditional mind-set from that perspective, and feel that if they’re going to invest over a five year period, they want physical assets to show for it,” says Chris.
“But in technological terms, the only thing you ever own is the technology of today – as soon as it goes out of date, all you’re left with is the debt from that redundant technology when it changes.
What would happen if one of your SLT was carrying around removable media like disks or data sticks which could identify pupils, and that data was accidentally dropped on a bus or train?
“In our everyday lives, consumers lease everything, from smartphones to cars. You don’t have to worry about the initial cost outlay and if your phone is lost, stolen or damaged, it’s easy to get it replaced. And if it’s superseded by something newer and shiner, you simply upgrade your package.”
Chris explains that while leasing makes sense for consumers, it makes even greater sense for schools. As well as alleviating budgetary pressures and safeguarding against changing technologies, a leasing model means devices can be used at home by pupils – enabling them to continue learning outside the classroom.
You have an IT problem you can’t solve – and it brings learning to a halt
“When you think about the whole ICT estate, from infrastructure to software to security, there are so many pressure points on your Network Manager or IT support staff,” explains Silvana Tann.
“And if they’re ill, absent or on annual leave and something goes wrong, it can create a log jam that could lose hours of teaching and admin time.”
While some schools might think it’s more cost effective to run all their IT systems ‘in-house’, Silvana believes there are substantial risks in doing this because schools are limited to one person or one skillset. If something happens which can’t be fixed ‘in-house’, schools then find themselves having to bring in outside expertise at an additional cost.
“When an IT issue occurs that goes beyond the expertise held locally – such as server failure, or pupils not being able to log into something – schools have to rely solely on their Network Support Manager or IT technician, who may not always be able to help,” says Silvana.
“This puts schools in a vulnerable situation as it could ultimately lead to hours of lost teaching time and major classroom disruptions. Schools need access to a team of experts with a real sense of what’s going on in education generally, staying on top of the latest whitepapers, cloud strategies and emerging technologies – and that simply can’t be done entirely in-house.”
Outsourcing IT support allows schools to transfer the risk of day-to-day mishaps and any other risks associated with IT to the service provider, as well as providing cover for sickness and holidays.
It also minimises any disruptions from technology, as IT partners providing managed services to schools can run proactive checks on the schools’ systems throughout the day to instantly pick up and rectify issues before they become a problem.
Alternatively, co-sourcing IT support can fill in gaps in internal expertise and save schools time, money, and effort in recruiting additional staff. By combining services from within the school and from a well-chosen partner, both parties can work to achieve the same goals.
You open an email that turns out to be malware, and lose critical school data
Most of us have, at some point, opened an email that looked relatively benign, but turned out to be a phishing scam or something else that aroused our suspicion. But if someone in your school opened an attachment that turned out to be ransomware or malware – and you don’t have your data backed up – your critical school information could be at risk.
The prevalence of malware (malicious software) and ransomware (which encrypts your network and charges you thousands in a ransom to decrypt it) is a growing cause for concern, and it’s more of a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ your school is targeted.
“You’re only as good as your network or disaster recovery plan,” warns Silvana. “And in an age where data is so critical, schools must ensure they’re armed against these kind of attacks and that their back-up systems are as robust as possible.
“This is an area where schools rely heavily on the strength of their anti-virus software and the capabilities of their Network Managers – but that won’t always mitigate the risk because so many security threats are developed every day, and it’s incredibly difficult to be aware of every new virus as it’s launched.
“I’ve known schools attacked by a serious piece of malware which their own systems didn’t detect, but we found it remotely and removed it before it could do any damage – that’s why having remote technical support can be essential in managing this risk.”
Ultimately, a good governance policy should be the starting point, outlining clear protocols for what all staff should do if they receive an email from an unrecognised sender, or an odd attachment from someone they know whose account may have been compromised.
Your pupils are accessing inappropriate or extremist material in school
The internet has undoubtedly brought a myriad of benefits to learning, but as the breadth of content available to pupils increases every day, so do concerns over online safety and the risk of pupils accessing inappropriate content.
“The key to managing risks associated with online safety is to empower pupils to understand those risks for themselves – from stranger danger to cyber-bullying to sexting - and be able to proactively reduce them,” says Silvana.
“But that can’t be done without a strong, clear and up-to-date e-safety policy that identifies every potential risk and outlines protocols for managing them. These policies also need to be updated frequently, because technology is evolving so rapidly that new risks to internet safety emerge every day.”
However, no policies can prevent a pupil searching for inappropriate content, so integrating filtering and monitoring tools into your school’s network is fundamental to mitigating these risks.
These tools allow schools to filter age-appropriate content and to track and monitor keywords or topics which could highlight a major cause for concern – such as students looking for information on suicide or self-harming, or content which could be considered radical or extreme.
You’re not sure where all your school’s data is stored
New General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will come into force in April 2018 to replace previous Data Protection laws, and they’ll set significantly higher standards for the way that all organisations – including schools – manage and store their data. Amongst a litany of other changes, schools must be able to show complete transparency with their systems for data storage and management and have clear procedures in place to deal with a suspected data breach.
“Ultimately, these regulations exist to protect the people whose data is held by any type of organisation, and if organisation’s aren’t able to show exactly how their data is stored and managed, they could face hefty fines,” explains Chris.
“As data owners, schools can benefit from being much tighter on security and storage of that data, both in-school and beyond. For example, what would happen if one of your SLT was carrying around removable media like disks or data sticks which could identify pupils, and that data was accidentally dropped on a bus or train?”
Chris suggests this is another area where using cloud-based systems can support schools in the transparency and security of their systems. “If your critical data is stored in the cloud, your team can use tools like Google Drives, which removes the need memory sticks and it has the added benefit of increasing collaboration and sharing,” says Chris.
“Being able to access your work in the cloud from anywhere – using secure passwords – gives schools much greater control and transparency over where and how their data is stored.”
For schools who work with multiple IT support partners, Chris advises them to carry out careful checks and due diligence on their supplier’s data systems to make sure they are completely reliable and in line with GDPR standards too.
Someone cracks your passwords and accesses confidential information
Silvana estimates that 60 per cent of schools have passwords that can be cracked in less than a minute. This tends to happen when staff rely on the same passwords for years because they’re easy to remember – but they could be putting your systems at risk.
“With a school’s permission, we can test the strength of their passwords for them by deliberately attempting to crack them – and it’s pretty scary how quickly that’s possible,” says Silvana.
“Today’s generation of tech-savvy pupils might even see it as a challenge to hack their school’s systems, and it does happen – we’ve known pupils to crack admin passwords and access – or even try to expose – confidential information on other pupils.”
Schools have an obligation over how long they hold pupil data, as well as financial information and correspondence between staff and SLTs, and with forthcoming changes in data protection law, it’s going to become essential for schools to be able to lock down confidential data.
However, Silvana points out that this risk can be mitigated if schools adopt and enforce effective password policies, and change them regularly. The industry standard is that passwords must be at least eight letters long and contain one uppercase letter and one digit.
“Schools are obliged to keep data safe and this is another area where moving your systems to the cloud gives you greater security and peace of mind. A school’s Management Information System (MIS) holds critical data that schools can’t run without, but hosting it in the cloud ensures your data can be locked down and stored safely – and you can access it using a single sign on for multiple sites, removing the need to remember lots of different passwords.”
You’re losing money by paying for technology you don’t use - or need
“Investing in new technology can be a risk if it’s not properly planned and implemented,” explains Silvana. “If you don’t have the in-school knowledge to fully leverage the benefits of the technology you’re bringing in, or a clear plan of how it’ll support teaching and learning, it’s likely your shiny new hardware will end up in a store cupboard.”
This risk seems relatively obvious, but it’s a surprisingly common one. When schools haven’t taken a methodical approach to implementing technology to support teaching and learning – rather than bringing in the latest devices and trying to shoehorn them into your pedagogy – schools risk paying for things they can’t use or don’t actually need.
From software to interactive whiteboards to gleaming new iPads, Silvana says she’s seen thousands of pounds worth of technology effectively go down the drain, because of a lack of pedagogy, leadership, ICT expertise or foresight.
“My advice to schools would be that if you think you’ve already made all the cost savings you can – think again,” says Silvana. “A full audit of your IT systems and software will help you determine how you can be more efficient, and reveal what you need, and what’s potentially draining your resources.”
Your broadband capacity can’t cope with the demand
Some countries, such as the Baltic states, have nationwide policies in place to ensure optimum wifi provision across the whole country – but in the UK, we’re still behind the curve.
As schools explore new ways to improve their technology provision, make cost savings, increase collaboration and facilitate anytime-anywhere learning, having the right infrastructure in place to support these things is essential.
“We know that moving to the cloud brings tremendous benefits to schools, but as more elements are stored in a cloud environment, schools need a broadband provision that can cope,” says Chris.
“Do they have a line with enough capacity for all their users to log on at the same time? Do they have a back-up line if the first line goes down? There’s no point having a cloud-based learning environment if your systems can’t handle it because if the internet’s not available, then teaching and learning stops.”
Chris says that while it’s understandable for schools to be adverse to new investments in the current climate, technology often requires a short term investment for a long-term gain – and if schools can get their infrastructure right today, they’ll reap the benefits for years to come.
3 more ways to minimise risks in your school today
1. If you don’t already, make sure you have an up-to-date and accurate asset register. It may seem unlikely, but if your school gets broken into and you don’t have the serial numbers for each of your devices, your insurance claim could take twice as long to complete.
2. Check when your server’s warranty expires, and set up alerts so you know when the expiry date is approaching. If it’s out of warranty and your server crashes, the cost of having to replace it with an upgraded model could be significant. Longer-term, consider removing the need for servers by moving your school’s systems to the cloud.
3. Sit down with your Network Managers and make sure they have clear and complete documentation on all your systems. If they left or were absent, would your school have all the documentation you need for someone to keep your network running without them?
For more information and advice, visit www.rm.com/outsource
By Kevin Robinson with Silvana Tann and Chris Taylor of RM Education
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At some of the schools I visit, it always baffles me when pupils tell me that they’re ‘going to IT’ or when teachers wheel out a trolley full of laptops which are kept in the cupboard for most of the time. In most PC labs, the desks are positioned around the outside of the room with pupils staring at the wall, which doesn’t reflect the reality of how technology is used in modern life.
We already know that most pupils have access to devices and technology and are continuing their learning outside of the classroom via a myriad of channels. And conversely, if we look at the workplace we’re preparing our pupils for, the ‘going to IT’ concept couldn’t be more far removed from the reality of any modern office or workplace.
That’s why it’s going to become increasingly vital to synch up the two, so pupils learn in the same way they live. Some schools have pedagogical concerns around this more joined-up approach, as they don’t want pupils using their devices all day. But I’d suggest that this shouldn’t necessarily be the case; the modern school bag should include a PE kit, text books and a Chromebook or similar device, and that device should only be taken out when it’s appropriate to the lesson.
Over the next few years, we’re going to see classrooms look like very different places; instead of an IT room with a PC on each desk, we’ll see schools with superfast Wi-Fi, superfast connectivity and fantastically well-trained teachers with the confidence to say, “OK class, take out your Chromebooks for today’s lesson”.
Pupils will be more engaged because they’re comfortable and familiar with the latest technologies, and the classroom environment will become much more collaborative because pupils will be using their devices to work on projects together in and out of the classroom.
So how can schools begin to close this technology gap at a time of continued budgetary pressures? There are numerous options available, but one of the solutions that we’re seeing schools increasingly adopting is a leasing model. This model presents an ideal solution for those who are trying to make their budgets stretch further and are conscious of safeguarding themselves throughout the rapid evolution of technology.
The financial benefits are clear, but a greater advantage is that a leased device can be used by pupils both in and out of the classroom
Historically, schools have become used to investing huge, one-off, lump sums into hardware because that’s what they’ve always done; many schools we visit have spent thousands buying in Chromebooks which end up gathering dust in a dark cupboard for most of the time.
But if we look at the implications of going down this route from a financial perspective, in terms of keeping up with the rapid evolution of technology and, crucially, from the perspective of closing the technology gap and enabling pupils to learn in the same way they live, this isn’t the answer.
A leased life
In our everyday lives, consumers very rarely spend £400 buying a phone outright – we lease them. We don’t have to worry about the initial outlay; if it breaks, we can simply get it replaced and if the technology is superseded by something newer and shinier, we can simply upgrade our package. And this model makes a tremendous amount of sense for schools too.
The financial benefits are clear, but a greater advantage is that a leased device can be used by pupils both in and out of the classroom, continuing their learning in their own time; this forms a vital part of the concept of helping people to learn in the same way they live, using the technologies they’re most familiar with.
Ultimately, this will create a generation of learners who can transition smoothly into their future careers because they’ve got the right skills. And when we look at the fact that this future classroom can be achieved without a big financial outlay, the future is bright for all of us.
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There can be little doubt that we’re moving towards a cloud-based society; from our banking to our holiday photos, hosting, storing or sharing every aspect of our lives in the cloud is now commonplace.
From an education perspective, the growing diversity of new technologies is creating a new generation of engaged and inspired pupils who are learning in ways they’re comfortable with. This trend is driven by the increasing affordability and durability of devices, as well as powerful cloud computing tools like G Suite for Education and Office 365.
Schools have a wealth of opportunities for learning to be extended beyond the school gates, as pupils can now take devices home and continue their learning, working online in collaborative environments
Schools have a wealth of opportunities for learning to be extended beyond the school gates, as pupils can now take devices home and continue their learning, working online in collaborative environments. But every new technology inevitably brings risks around safeguarding and security, and schools must stay ahead of the curve to ensure their pupils – and their data – is safe and secure.
The data schools hold on their operations and their pupils is an important aspect that OFSTED look at, and is critical to demonstrating the standards of teaching and learning taking place. Part of managing that data is about clearly documenting where that data sits, how it can be accessed and who accesses it – ultimately minimising or mitigating any risk of that data being exposed or compromised.
The types of risks we see schools face can vary dramatically; we’ve come across cases of financial fraud, where a school’s email accounts were manipulated to direct them to pay invoices into the wrong account; ransomware, where schools have lost access to data on their servers following a malware attack; and general hacking, involving deliberate or automated attacks from the internet as a result of poor network configuration.
We’ve also seen instances where pupils have been able to access sensitive data as a result of incorrect school server permissions, or staff themselves have lost sensitive data as a result of poor staff practices, like losing printed contact lists, using memory sticks and accidentally leaving them on public transport, or not encrypting their laptops.
So, when we visit schools to explore the strength of their systems, we look at three key factors; how do we protect devices, how do we protect identities, and how do we protect data? These questions form the basis for a comprehensive IT security policy, which should clearly outline protocols to block, detect, contain and mitigate any associated risks.
From a legal perspective, there are a number of obligations schools face in terms of data security and online safety. They need to consider where and how they’re accessing data and who can access it, whether it’s on the web or on their servers.
Permissions and levels of data access, as well as the password security around it, are also critical; we recommend using a strong combination of multiple alpha numeric characters, including capital letters, and changing passwords frequently. We’d also advise schools to consider MFA multi-factor authentication on school systems; MFA reduces the risk of a cyber-attack by adding an extra step to the log-in process when accessing school systems.
Schools should also have a protocol in place for sharing any confidential data that relates to pupils; generally this is done via Common Transfer Files (CTF) and the school-to-school website, but occasionally we see schools sending confidential pupil data via email, which could put schools in a vulnerable position. Their data protection policy should cover this, and should link into all their other policy documentation.
Escalation routes for managing a suspected data breach, or a loss of data should be identified and shared, and policies should be in place to cover things like what happens when a member of staff leaves, and how their access permissions are effectively removed.
Internet service providers and IT support partners will also need to make the security of their systems much more rigorous; we advise all schools to check their suppliers are fully compliant with current security regulations and aware of all the latest threats.
And, whilst the cloud brings tremendous benefits in terms of enabling staff to share information and resources more easily, the security of data when staff are working at home should also be considered. To mitigate this risk, schools should set up ‘acceptable use’ policies for staff in terms of what’s appropriate to access from home and what isn’t.
The safety of pupils is a crucial element of managing technological risks
The safety of pupils is a crucial element of managing technological risks; schools have an obligation to block access to content that could be considered extremist or pornographic, as well as making sure they have an effective, school-wide online safety policy that’s regularly updated to cover new technologies.
The government’s Prevent Duty outlines the importance of tracking what websites pupils are on and how they’re accessing different types of content, so filtering and monitoring tools are also crucial to ensuring pupil safety – as well as enabling schools to identify individual pupils who may be breaching their data protection and security policies.
For schools who are currently exploring the safety and security of their systems, there are various resources and guidelines online that can provide a great starting point, but ultimately we’d recommend that schools conduct a full audit of all their technologies and work in partnership with a trusted IT partner to ensure the safety and security of their systems.[post_title] => How secure are your school's IT systems? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => how-secure-are-your-schools-it-systems [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-09 10:45:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 0000-00-00 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1840 [post_author] => 52 [post_date] => 2017-01-22 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-21 23:00:00 [post_content] =>
Technologies such as social networking, online gaming, instant messaging and photo sharing bring with them serious risks. Increasingly, those risks are as real in the school environment as they are outside of it.
In her recent report, the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield warned of the dangers facing children who are left to learn about the internet on their own, and encouraged schools to teach ‘digital citizenship’ to every student aged four to 14 in an effort to help keep them safe online.
This report, coupled with ongoing advice from the Internet Watch Foundation, the Safer Internet Centre and OFSTED, has led to schools taking a much more collaborative approach to safeguarding and increasingly, both primary and secondary schools are tapping into the many benefits of peer-to-peer mentoring schemes.
These schemes involve pupils taking a lead role, similar to that of a prefect, in mentoring their peers or younger year groups in every aspect of online safety. This could include delivering presentations and workshops on the correct way to behave online, providing one-to-one support with new apps and technologies, giving practical guidance on protecting privacy and staying safe online, helping pupils understand their rights online and acting as a conduit for pupils to report online bullying or flag up issues of concern.
Creating a supportive environment
Schemes such as these are helping to foster a more interactive, collaborative and supportive environment in schools, and already we’re seeing the tangible and positive impact on safeguarding. In all the schools I’ve visited where there are mentoring schemes in place, there’s much more engagement because children feel more comfortable sharing with peers than teachers.
Whilst they still respect their teachers and the curriculum, they tend to open up more with other children, which is again reinforced in the Children’s Commissioner’s report and references research that confirms children are keen to discuss their online experiences, but they prefer to do so with their peers.
Mentors know what kind of technologies their peers are using most, and can tap into those technologies to educate each other - whether it’s tweeting regular online safety advice from the school’s Twitter account, recording a podcast about how to flag up problems or making a YouTube video about how the use of social media can impact on future careers.
Bringing safeguarding to life
This approach is proving infinitely more engaging than the long-distance worksheet, and mentor-generated-content coupled with in-class workshops and face-to-face conversations are bringing these subjects to life in a way that looking at an A4 printout or scrolling through a long set of Terms and Conditions on a social media platform simply can’t do.
But it isn’t just older pupils stepping into these roles; in fact, schools are starting to move away from the idea of Year 6 pupils being the fountains of all knowledge and instead cascading that knowledge down to younger year groups. We’re now seeing mentors from as young as Year 3 and upwards, which gives the schemes more longevity by allowing mentors to build up their status within peer groups as they progress through school together.
However, for peer-led mentoring to be successful, there are a number of key elements a school must consider before implementation – starting with a clear understanding of how their scheme will work and a strategy for putting it into action. This should outline your expectations as a school for how mentoring will be delivered, tracked and monitored, and how you will support the pupils involved.
Building the right foundations
Whilst there is not yet a standard or coherent approach to peer-to-peer mentoring, and some schools simply set up schemes themselves, it’s much more likely to be safe and successful if it’s created in consultation with the relevant support agencies. The NSPCC, the Safer Internet Centre and Childnet each provide critical guidance on setting up a well-rounded programme, giving schools a clear foundation that can be tweaked to suit their unique circumstances.
Support and training must be in place for any students taking on a mentoring role so that they’re fully prepared for a position of greater responsibility. Staff should also receive appropriate training to support mentors correctly. It’s vital to clearly set out to mentors exactly what’s expected of them, how they should share knowledge and provide guidance, and what they should do if they feel any child in their peer group is at risk or is experiencing difficulties.
Establishing a clear escalation route for mentors to flag up these issues to the relevant teacher or safeguarding lead is essential, and mentors should be continuously monitored by teachers from an emotional and mental wellbeing perspective. Checking in regularly with mentors and discussing what is and isn’t working will help to ensure the scheme is running effectively.
You could also consider what other tools could support your safeguarding programme; for example, if a pupil wants to flag up an issue to their peers but doesn’t feel able to discuss it during a face-to-face conversation, mentors could direct them to an anonymous reporting function on your school’s website, or any other alternatives you have in place.
A collaborative approach
Involving the whole school community in how you’re going to deliver this programme is the next step; asking pupils for their feedback on which apps they’d like the most guidance on, or what they’ve experienced problems with, will help to determine what safeguarding issues to focus on within your school, and what technologies you’ll use to deliver them.
For example, if you’ve had incidences of online bullying in your school, you could look at creating an Online Code of Conduct to help shape online behaviour and provide advice on respecting the rights of others in the digital world. Your mentors could then choose how to deliver this advice for the greatest impact, whether through a video, a podcast or social channels. Reviewing and monitoring your school’s behaviour policy to ensure it’s as effective possible will also give your mentors a clear benchmark to work to.
If privacy has been flagged up as an issue, the mentors could deliver a workshop educating pupils on how to change their privacy settings and how these settings can impact on their digital footprint, incorporating tips like not ticking a box that remembers their information or linking all their social profiles together.
We are already seeing peer-led schemes have a transformative effect on empowering pupils to take responsibility for their safety in the digital world, and by tapping into this powerful and previously underestimated resource, educators now have a highly effective tool for reinforcing positive and supportive behaviours – both in and out of the classroom.
By making schemes such as these accessible to pupils from an early age, schools are fostering a generation of learners who are more informed about the digital world than ever before, and – most crucially - empowering them to create a safer and brighter future.
For more information and advice, visit www.rm.com
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Nowadays, there is a huge expectation placed on schools to ensure their community members are safe and rightly so. We have all witnessed in the media terrible incidents where schools have not adequately tracked, reported or intervened in incidents of behaviour and safeguarding. The impact can be long term for the school and those involved.
It may seem overwhelming for many schools but it doesn’t need to be and most schools already have a system that can help them.
Their School Management Information System (MIS), this powerful system, unfortunately often reserved for use in the school office, can be utilised to store, track and report on incidences as well as rewards. And yes, it is just as important for schools to track all types of behaviour, both positive and negative, and ensure that the policy and strategy is implemented consistently across your establishment.
But before you do start to use your MIS to track behaviour, it is worth checking that it is up to the job. It should be effective in monitoring, implementing and reporting on your individual school’s behaviours and safeguarding policies. It should also enable you to store all appropriate actions and interventions within the incident to demonstrate how they have been dealt with and interventions applied to try and prevent the incident happening again.
Where to start
Firstly, you should consider the way in which you want to track and report on incidents within your MIS. The right MIS will enable you to customise it to meet your needs. Ensure that you can track all incidents and correlate events against individual students. This will enable you to report on different types of incidents and also look at how effective your interventions and strategies have been.
Once completed it should:
- Provide a way to effectively monitor incidents
- Enable staff to report on these incidents
- Provide clearly defined and documented escalation routes which are shown against individual incidents
- Expose individual trends and patterns of behaviour
- Provide an easy way of reporting on the effectiveness of interventions and strategies on incidents within your school.
Implementing your policies and strategies
Your strategies should be implemented within your MIS and not be led by the structure or restrictions of your MIS. Online safety can be monitored, tracked and managed effectively in your MIS as well.
Consider other elements of safeguarding and how effective your MIS can be in supporting you in this area. Talk to your MIS supplier about how you want your strategy to work and what you would like to report on and track and ask for examples of how their MIS has supported different schools.
It is very important to demonstrate that all incidents, both positive and negative behaviours, have been tracked and reported on within your system
Behaviour and Online Safety strategies
It is very important to demonstrate that all incidents, both positive and negative behaviours, have been tracked and reported on within your system. Make sure that all escalations have been documented and interventions taken to prevent incidents from taking place.
Then make sure that your behaviour strategy is being implemented by all staff consistently and that your policy is being effective in your school setting.
Reporting within your MIS should be easy and all information about the child should be aligned to ensure that a clear and overall picture of the child is given.
To do this it is important that you update your MIS regularly as a key bit of data could be missing and could be the linchpin to a set of behaviour types.
Using your MIS as a central hub of information is crucial and will allow you to manage incidents successfully, track trends and patterns of behaviour and implement effective sanctions and interventions.
If you would like to find out more information on how your MIS can benefit your whole school, visit www.rm.com/rmintegris or call our MIS experts free on 0808 172 9531[post_title] => Utilising your MIS [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => utilising-your-mis [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-29 08:47:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 0000-00-00 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2192 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2016-09-20 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-19 22:00:00 [post_content] => In many walks of life, there's a tendency to look for a single solution to current problems and issues. That's true too in education. Not too long ago, for example, interactive whiteboards were seen as the ‘magic bullet' to transform teaching and learning. It's fair to say that for most schools that hasn't been the case. Indeed, the reality probably is that no single panacea has ever existed, or ever will. So instead of a single solution, maybe we can learn from the success of Sir David Brailsford's GB cycling team where a focus was given to improving, ever so slightly, every aspect of the team's performance; a process known as ‘The Aggregation of Marginal Gains.' As Brailsford says: 'The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by one per cent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.” This is a principle that can be applied across a multi-academy trust. Let's take, as an example, the role of English departments in building a culture of high expectations, enjoyment and achievement in literacy. ICT can play a part here. Using free or very low-cost tools, English teachers can improve the quality of learning experiences in small steps that collectively add up to create significant improvement. We'll take a brief look at just a few of these highly effective tools. An important consideration in choosing these is that they are easy to implement, have very shallow learning curves, and are free or inexpensive. In our example, an English department can play its part in developing a culture of literacy achievement by becoming a centre for students' writing through the use of blogging and publishing tools. One of the benefits of academies working within a trust is access to partner academies and, therefore, a ready-made and authentic audience of fellow students in these. By sharing and commenting on blogs across the trust, students become more conscious and critical writers and readers – something noted by school blogging expert, David Mitchell. And, as American educator, Rushton Hurley puts it: “If students are sharing their work with the world, they want it to be good. If they're just sharing it with you, they want it to be good enough.” Using free services, such as Issuu, students' writing can be quickly created as digital magazines hosted online by the department, the academy or by the trust. Students' writing can also be transformed into high-quality printed books by using a free service such as Lulu. These days, students' expectations and sense of production values has risen considerable. The days when an English teacher could create a class anthology using a photocopier, cardboard covers and spiral ring binders has long past. Instead, Lulu provides a means to publish printed books with the same production quality as you would expect to find in Waterstones. By using these simple and free ICT services, English departments within the trust can provide authentic purpose and audience for students' writing. High impact visual media can engage students in discussion and creative responses. The excellent, and free, Literacy Shed provides a wealth of videos, visual literacy ideas and teaching tips. A superb service is also afforded by Watch Documentary which saves considerable teacher time by providing a curated source of free online documentaries. To help create active engagement with videos teachers can make use of services such as EDpuzzle and EduCanon. These tools allow teachers to embed questions directly into a video and provide analytics on students' use of the visual material. On their own, none of these ICT services is likely to have a transformative effect on the work of English departments in the trust. But, cumulatively, a regular and skilled use of such tools can contribute to the aggregation of marginal gains. Just as small flowers can have an unexpected impact so too can a few ICT resources. Andy Hutt is an Educational Consultant at RM Education. www.rm.com/trusts [post_title] => Small flowers crack concrete [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => small-flowers-crack-concrete [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-11-26 14:15:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-26 14:15:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2592 [post_author] => 13 [post_date] => 2016-05-11 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-10 22:00:00 [post_content] =>
RM Education’s annual ‘Rethinking Education and Learning’ technology summit brings together education professionals from across the country to share experiences and discuss the future of education; this year’s event, which took place at London’s Mermaid Theatre, revealed some interesting new themes and trends in technology – we explore some of the most popular topics.
#1: Creating bespoke text books online
Abdul Chohan, Director of Essa Academy in Bolton, shared his experience of using iTunes U to curate content collaboratively and turn that content into text books for students to reference online, rather than buying in the physical books. The initiative is part of the academy’s drive to reduce costs by saving money on text books and gradually removing their reliance on printers and copiers to encourage students to deepen their learning beyond the classroom. Essa’s students use iPads and iTunesU as their core platform for learning, and Abdul’s innovative approach to curating bespoke content has encouraged students to create, develop and share resources in a collaborative way.
#2: Taking students on virtual field trips
Whilst field trips are an important part of any student’s education, running regular physical trips can be costly for schools and parents. Emma Fish, Partnerships Manager at Google for Education, explored how schools can expand their students’ minds with Google Expeditions. The app lets teachers take their classes on immersive journeys around the world as a guided experience, not only enabling them to explore places like the Great Barrier Reef on a geography lesson but allowing them to see what a classroom looks like in countries that aren’t familiar to them.
#3: Using video to deliver online safety
Alex Holmes, Head of Anti-Bullying at The Princess Diana Trust, illustrated how a growing number of schools are using video to deliver online safety policies and workshops. Alex explained that students like to film themselves on apps like Snapchat, and making their own film automatically gets the attention of other students. Videos are infinitely more accessible to them than reams of A4, so students have been filming each other training their peers through 30-second presentations on bullying and e-safety policies, as well as practical tips like workshops on staying safe online, which are shown during school assemblies.
#4: Thinking big to get the right tech
Dave Beesley, Assistant Headteacher at St Julian’s School in Wales, explained how using ‘Moonshot Thinking’ had led to a breakthrough in the way his school used technology. The premise of this model is that rather than seeking a 10% gain, a moonshot aims for a 10x improvement over what currently exists. The school’s original goal had been to get devices into the hands of their students, which would mean a costly financial outlay. But when they applied their new model of thinking, the school realised it was the wrong discussion to have; instead, they focussed on which technology would help them meet their goals of building life skills like collaboration and resilience within their students. For St Julian’s, that technology was Google, and it has led to a remarkable change within the school; students use Google Sites to build their own websites, improving their written skills and increasing confidence, whilst collaboration is encouraged through twinning with foreign schools online using apps like Google Hangouts.
#5: Using data to make better decisions
Mike Dwan, Founding Sponsor of Bright Tribe and Adventure Learning Academy Trusts shared his successful experiences of using Microsoft productivity and data analytics tools to empower his team. This allows them to make data-driven decisions that are significantly improving not only the standards of education across the Trusts, but also the financial performance of every academy. 11 of the Trust’s 12 academies were running at a deficit, but using these tools, all operating deficits were eradicated. Mike believes that making use of the data created by a school and its students – and making that data accessible and interpretable to those involved with the academic planning and delivery of a school - will help them adopt a ‘commercial entrepreneur model’ which will allow schools of all sizes to remain economically viable and function at a sustainable level into the future.
#6: Making students Online Anti-Bullying Ambassadors
Whilst instances of cyberbullying are comparatively small compared to virtual bullying, playground drama can quickly escalate into digital drama. To help combat these issues, schools are increasingly involving students by making them Anti-Bullying Ambassadors, whose job it is to keep themselves and others save online, as well as in practical terms. Ambassadors map out hotspots in schools and take action on behalf of any students experiencing bullying. Online, digital ambassadors patrol different platforms – from Facebook and Twitter to Snapchat and Instagram – whilst in school, virtual compliment walls shown on big screens are helping to foster a school environment of positivity and happiness.
#7: Becoming a server-less school
Many schools attending REAL this year have already begun their journey towards becoming a server-less school. As financial pressures on schools increase, moving over to the cloud is becoming one of the fastest and most effective ways to reduce capital outlays by spreading costs through a friendlier revenue-model. Martin Pipe, Head of service Scope and Design at RM Education, illustrated how this approach means schools can choose more cost-effective and internet-optimised devices for teachers and students, improving accessibility, mitigating lost teaching time and extending learning beyond the classroom, and RM predict this will become a necessity over the coming years.
For more information about REAL, visit www.rm.com/real[post_title] => 7 new trends in edtech [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => 7-new-trends-in-edtech [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-10 16:07:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 0000-00-00 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2596 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2016-05-10 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-09 22:00:00 [post_content] => What do Dr Sakena Yacoobi, founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning, Abdul Chohan, Director of Essa Academy, and Bear Grylls, the face of outdoor adventure, have in common? They all believe in success against the odds. Speaking at RM Education’s REAL event, Dr Sakena Yacoobi spoke of her journey setting up the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), the first organisation to bring human rights and leadership training to women in the region. After the Taliban closed girls’ schools in the 1990s, AIL went underground and educated 3,000 young women by smuggling education supplies into the country. Before the Taliban era, women could not even leave the house, Dr Yacoobi says. Now, they are working and even in politics. She now wants women to be able to access university – at the moment, higher education is male-dominated and intimidating for Afghan women, and an all-female, English-medium institution will help them to progress. Dr Yacoobi is also pursuing partnerships with UK schools via the British Council. A delegate from the National Governor’s Association (NGA) asks how AIL can keep their ethos strong as the organisation grows. Dr Yacoobi says recognition for your team is key, listening to their ideas and showing compassion – something that is sometimes lacking in society. Abdul Chohan, Director of Essa Academy in Bolton. A Chemistry teacher for 13 years with a passion for using technology in learning, Abdul spoke about the impact of a 1:1 handheld device programme at the academy. Abdul says there is a difference between belief and interest. You need two things to change belief, he says simplicity and reliability. Otherwise people won’t use the new system and, in his school’s case, carry on printing reams of paper when technology is deemed to have failed. Essa Academy was the first school in the UK to give out iPod Touch devices to all students, before the iPad was available. Now, students use iPads and iTunesU as a basis for all learning, and even create their own content and textbooks to share with others. The technology, Abdul says, creates seamless communication between staff and students, who take their devices home. The six most expensive words in education, Adbul says, is ‘We’ve always done it that way’. By using handheld devices, printing and photocopying costs have dropped by almost two thirds - but it’s not about being ‘paperless’, Abdul insists, as students still need to develop writing skills. Abdul is passionate about how education promotes social mobility. Students at Essa Academy speak 46 different languages and 80% of the cohort come from areas of deprivation. The formerly ‘failing’ school has changed dramatically through a new building, converting to academy status and introducing the 1:1 programme. The programme benefits parents, too – they can come and visit, use the various apps and learn about how learning works at Essa. The programme also promotes accountability for teachers, as Abdul says: “You can’t plan a rubbish lesson at Essa Academy, because everyone can see it!” L-R: Dr Sakena Yacoobi takes questions; Bear Grylls delivers the keynote speech Highlighting a pressing issue in today’s schools was Alex Holmes, head of anti-bullying at The Diana Award. Alex received a Diana Award in 2004 for his efforts in tackling bullying at his school, and is now responsible for leading the anti-bullying campaign, which works with tens of thousands of people across the UK. We spend 11,000 hours of our lives at school, Alex says, and bullying has an effect on mental health as well as future employability. Sixty per cent of Diana Award participants have experienced verbal bullying, and 23% have experienced cyber bullying, which is an important part of their campaign. The Diana Award involves young people in the design of their programmes, as it’s important for students to be ambassadors for their school. Alex believes students are more likely to listen to their peers than a ‘lecturing teacher’ and recommends several activities for schools:
After an impressive lunch overlooking the Thames, author, broadcaster and youngest-ever Chief Scout, Bear Grylls, gave the day’s keynote speech. Bear shared his story of the epic journey to the top of Mount Everest, in what emerged as a powerful metaphor for determination, strength and grit. A warm, witty and engaging speaker, Bear left us suitably inspired for the afternoon sessions. Given the rapid developments in education policy so far this year, a panel debate offered participants and audience to discuss the important issues of the day. Hosted by Jeremy Vine, the panellists were: Dominic Norrish, Group Director of ICT at United Learning Trust, Jonathan Simons, Head of Education at Policy Exchange, Graham HC Donaldson. Author of Teaching Scotland’s Future, Sir John Townsley, Executive Principal at GORSE Academies Trust, Jenny Smith, head of Frederick Bremer School (subject of TV documentary Educating the East End), and Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the NGA. Understandably, the hottest topic was the DfE’s plans to make every school an academy (now cancelled following widespread criticism). Panelists said the movement to academisation was too rapid and there were more important issues in schools, such as teacher recruitment and testing. Sir John Townsley said that while there’s a lot of lesson learning taking place in the academy system, there are great examples of academy success – but it’s not as black and white as people think. Emma believes schools should be able to convert if they want, but shouldn’t be told to, and that capacity and funding were more pressing issues. On recruitment, the panel suggested that teaching is no longer seen as a lifelong profession, and that many drop out during their career progression because they don’t want the stress of becoming a headteacher. How to fix the pipeline? Stop changing everything, they said, and give teachers more respect. An inspiring day of CPD, RM Real was full of bright ideas on tech, teaching and finding joy in an ever-changing profession.
- Making a 30-60 second video interpretation of the school’s anti-bullying policy, starring pupils
- Asking pupils to count on five fingers who they can go to if they are experiencing bullying
Internet safety has been a key part of many schools’ agendas for almost a decade, but with the introduction of OFSTED’s latest safeguarding measures and the recent launch of the DfE’s Prevent Duty on schools as part of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015, it’s now vital that every school has the knowledge, systems and protocols in place to safeguard their students.
Recent social, cultural and behavioural shifts, coupled with the explosion of content, the widespread availability of inappropriate material, growing concerns over online radicalisation and the rise in popularity of apps like Instagram, Snapchat and even Tinder have meant that schools need to stay ahead of the curve and ensure their staff have the proper training to keep students safe.
In recent years, RM Education’s annual survey has indicated that some schools were still viewing e-safety measures as a cost or an item to be ticked off a list, rather than a pedagogical responsibility. However, education specialists and internet safety advisors have identified a growing urgency amongst primary and secondary schools to invest in training, update their policies and embed internet safety into every aspect of their curriculum.
“Something has happened in the last 18 months which has meant online safety has moved much higher up the agenda for schools,” says Kat Howard, Senior Educational Consultant and Online Safety Lead at RM Education.
“In that time we’ve seen a growing number of schools suddenly becoming concerned that their policies are out of date, and realising they may need to invest in specialised training so they can take a far more proactive approach within their school. I think this reflects a more positive trend towards schools empowering themselves, and their students, to understand and minimise the risks.”
Teachers must be appropriately trained to know how particular sites and apps work
Taking a whole-school approach
However, not all schools are taking such a thorough approach. Research conducted earlier this year by David Brown HMI* as part of OFSTED’s Child Internet Safety Summit discovered that five per cent of UK schools still didn’t have an online safety policy, and in the schools that do, figures showed that both students and – to a lesser extent – governors, were not always aware of this policy. In fact, over 25% of secondary students reported that they couldn’t remember having been taught about online safety over the previous 12 months.
Kate Brady, e-safety Product Manager at RM Education, says that issues such as this can be a result of schools having a fragmented approach to safeguarding responsibility: “There’s a tremendous amount of pressure on teachers but internet safety is everybody’s responsibility, including parents, governors and students themselves.
“Involving the whole school community and taking a collaborative approach is fundamental; students across all ages have a key role to play in sharing information on the sites and apps their age group are using, teachers must be appropriately trained to know how particular sites and apps work and the school’s safeguarding governor should ensure teachers, parents and students are kept up to date about their school’s e-safety policy and protocols.
“Teachers and senior leaders need to embed it throughout their whole curriculum so that in an English lesson, for example, when students are going online to research a topic, that’s an opportunity for their teacher to talk about how to search safely.”
Clear escalation routes
The increase in freely-available, inappropriate images, as well as inappropriate behaviour amongst students in certain age ranges, has given rise to more serious breaches of online safety; this highlights the necessity for schools to have a clear escalation route outlined within their policy.
“Every school I’ve been into in the last 18 months has had an issue with either social networks or sexting - these are by far the most common issues we face,” says Kat Howard. “We see sexting and the distribution of sexual images becoming an issue in some schools where they’re running BYOD schemes and their students are mobile, and for schools that don’t have a robust safety policy in place, there can be fairly serious implications for staff too.
If inappropriate images are discovered on a student’s device, it is the school’s responsibility to confiscate the device, place it in a secure area and escalate the issue as laid out in their Internet Safety policy to either the school’s safeguarding lead, or the Head.
David Wright, Director at the UK Safer Internet Centre, advises schools in this situation to consider whether it’s an isolated incident between two pupils, what the nature of the image is, whether there’s a broad age difference between the individuals, whether it appears there was coercion from a third party, whether they’ve done anything similar before, whether the child is vulnerable, whether the image has been widely broadcast and, finally, whether there is any concern for the individuals involved. Considering each of these points carefully will help Heads and safeguarding leads determine the relevant course of action.
Online grooming and ‘stranger danger’
In secondary schools, a number of social networking sites and apps are becoming increasingly problematic. Beyond the more obvious sites like Facebook, there have been numerous instances of students being targeted or approached on apps like Instagram and Snapchat because students haven’t updated their privacy settings, as well as video chat app ooVoo and - most alarmingly - the adult dating app, Tinder, which is being used by students as young as 11.
“Stranger danger exists in the virtual world and can continue into the home, so in addition to making students and parents aware of the threats, they should be encouraged to report these issues straight away,” says Kat. “It’s about having open communication within schools and a clear protocol in place, so students know exactly who to go to and that they won’t get into trouble.”
Students will always find a way to see content, so rather than prohibiting these sites, we need to educate them on what’s appropriate and what’s not
Filtering and keyword monitoring
Internet safety policies can create different content rules depending on year groups. Parents, too, must understand the importance of age-appropriate content.
“I visit a lot of primary schools and speak to parents who tell me they’ve actually set up their nine-year-old child’s Facebook account,” says Kat. “But Facebook doesn’t permit users under the age of 13 to have an account, so if a parent has lied about their child’s date of birth, the targeted media and advertising used in Facebook may not be at all appropriate for that child’s age.”
There are various filtering and monitoring tools available that can be added to a schools’ network to filter age-appropriate content, and to track and monitor keywords or topics - particularly those which may highlight a major cause for concern, such as students looking for information on suicide, self-harming or content which could be considered radical or extreme. Under the new Prevent Duty, every school must have an extremism policy for both staff and students, and keyword tracking can be integral to identifying and quickly escalating these issues.
Empowering, not prohibiting
With the sheer volume of sites and apps to monitor within the school environment, some institutions feel their students will be better protected if they remove all access to any site or app that isn’t related to learning. But, as Kate Brady points out, this is a mistake.
“Students will always find a way to see content, so rather than prohibiting these sites, we need to educate them on what’s appropriate and what’s not, so that they’re empowered to make informed decisions for themselves. They also need to be aware that if they do get into a situation, there’s someone within the school they can approach for help.”
However, despite the seemingly endless list of negative issues schools must navigate as a result of social media and the wider internet, there can be tremendous opportunities too.
“We know the internet can be an amazingly positive place and can create opportunities which can change our whole life,” says Kat. “But there are associated risks, and there has to be a balance. It’s not about scaring people away from using the internet; it’s about empowering them to understand those risks and be able to reduce them.”
Robo Wunderkind is a set of blocks for building robots. On the outside, Robo blocks are child friendly and safely encase the sophisticated electronics contained on the inside. These electronic components transform regular blocks into programmable robotic components. By just snapping blocks together, even a five-year-old can build a robot. Modular and LEGOTM compatible, it’s hoped the toy will open up children’s eyes to the world of technology.
Rustem Akishbekov, founder and CEO of Robo Wunderkind, initially came up with the idea of a child-friendly programmable robot while trying to teach his friends the basics of coding and robotics. When he realised how complicated it was for new-to-programming users, he set out to make learning coding and robotics as fun and simple as possible.
“We want to revolutionise the toys our kids play with, we want them to be more than pieces of plastic,” explains Rustem. Now is the time for a smart toy like Robo Wunderkind that will help kids develop the skills they need for the future.”
Robo Wunderkind connects to Android and iOS devices via Bluetooth. Kids can use the app’s visual drag-and-drop interface to programme it. This early learning method means that children aren´t hindered if their reading level is still developing. Once children have mastered the basics of coding, they can move on to program their robot with Scratch, a fun programming language for kids developed at MIT.
Anna Iarotska, COO and Head of Business Development at Robo Technologies added: “Kickstarter is the perfect place to launch Robo Wunderkind, as it hosts a community of people who value innovation, creativity, and fun. We look forward to seeing what the kids out there will build with Robo Wunderkind”.
The team hopes to raise $70,00 with their Kickstarter campaign, which will run until 29 October 2015. The funds they raise will go directly towards producing the very first batch of robots, with shipping scheduled for Summer 2016.
The Robo Wunderkind Kickstarter website can be found HERE.
You can also follow the campaign on Twitter via @start_robo[post_title] => Robo Wunderkind launches on Kickstarter [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => robo-wunderkind-launches-on-kickstarter [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-10-01 10:04:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 0000-00-00 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 3236 [post_author] => 39 [post_date] => 2015-10-03 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-02 22:00:00 [post_content] =>
Today we are living, learning and working in a fast-moving technological world. Independent schools face particular challenges in keeping pace with new developments and ensuring the necessary level of ICT investment to meet the growing expectation for technology-rich learning environments from pupils, staff and parents.
In the ‘10 tips for effective ICT in independent schools’ downloadable guide, we take a look at how to plan and implement good ICT in your school, and how it can make a tangible difference to your teaching and learning outcomes.
Read your copy today at www.rm.com/independent[post_title] => Ten tips for effective ICT in independent schools [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => ten-tips-for-effective-ict-in-independent-schools [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-10-01 09:33:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 0000-00-00 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 3640 [post_author] => 13 [post_date] => 2015-05-30 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-05-29 22:00:00 [post_content] =>
DDoS attacks are an increasingly publicised and pervasive online threat, particularly for schools. Hackers use these attacks to restrict access to online or computer resources to the point where they can no longer be accessed. But how do they render a website, server or a network completely inaccessible? Well, imagine going into a bank. On a normal visit, you’d walk in, go to the counter, deposit a cheque or withdraw some money, and leave. But imagine instead that just as you set foot in the door, a thousand other people all rush in at once and tried to mob the counter, each of them shouting and demanding attention from the overwhelmed bank staff. Then imagine that only a fraction of those thousand people are legitimate customers that have a genuine need to be there – everyone else is just a nuisance, a distraction.
Regardless, the bank is overcome and no one is able to access any services. And this, essentially, is what a DDoS attack does; it denies access to services by flooding a target with requests until it is no longer able to serve anyone.
Mark Conrad, Broadband & Internet Services Product Manager at RM Education, explores the three things all schools need to know about the threat and consequences of a DDoS attack, and the steps they can take to be prepared.
1. Could it affect my school?
The simple answer is: yes. Arguments such as ‘we’re too small to be targeted’ (which certainly isn’t going to stop an attack) or ‘we have some pretty impressive firewalls on site!’ aren’t good enough. DDoS attacks can target any organisation of any size, whether large or small; and increasingly, the attacks are beginning to pose a serious concern to schools.
One of the biggest examples of DDoS to make recent headlines was the takedown of Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Sony’s PlayStation Network last Christmas; millions of users woke up on Christmas day to find that their shiny new consoles would not connect to the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live.
Each of the sites had been flooded with traffic, which in turn prevented anyone from accessing the complementary online platforms provided by the gaming giants - this meant users could not register their consoles, access the full set of game features (many games now need an Internet connection) and were essentially left with a very expensive plastic box for a week until the attack subsided.
The negative publicity around this event was hugely damaging to both companies. And whilst DDoS attacks aren’t always on this scale, large events aren’t actually that rare; in fact, they are more common than you might think and unfortunately they are on the increase.
In 2012, 35% of companies reported disruptive DDoS attacks. In 2013 this figure rose to 60 per cent and is still increasing. These attacks aren’t one-off occurrences either; over 45% of those interviewed reported being attacked on multiple occasions and 17% said they had simply lost count! (Neustar, 2014).
2. What impact could this have on my school?
Schools are feeling the effects of DDoS in multiple ways, primarily in terms of the content they can access. The websites you need your Year 6 class to log on to can easily be put out of service if the provider or host isn’t protected and is under attack. Or, if your Internet service provider doesn’t have robust systems in place, you can experience inconvenience ranging from slow bandwidth to a complete loss of service – and an attack can mean losing access to key services for hours, if not days.
Whilst schools are more commonly inconvenienced by DDoS attacks because of something happening to their providers, they can be a target in their own right as well. School pupils are often the most tech-savvy amongst us and launching a DDoS attack is potentially well within the realms of their capability. The bragging rights associated with an attack that brought down their school’s virtual learning environment or parent services is something we hear about more and more.
A simple Google search can provide enough information to enable one of your pupils to launch such an attack. However, with DDoS attacks being ‘sold off’ at $5 for a one-hour attack or $40 (Juniper Networks, 2014) for a 24-hour onslaught, they may just outsource the inconvenience of initiating it themselves!
As the vast majority of schools are not-for-profit institutions, they are often lulled into a false sense of security by thinking that they are unlikely to suffer such attacks. DDoS targets are mainly aimed at the massive profit churning organisations, right? Wrong. That may have been true back in 2000 when Amazon and eBay were amongst the first targets of DDoS attacks, but this simply isn’t the case anymore.
3. What should I be doing about it?
Firewalls and other industry-standard security systems are a critical part of any network defence, but DDoS attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated and your IT partner’s traditional forms of defence may not be up to scratch.
For example, an attack can be launched as a smoke screen to distract network staff and systems, so that whilst they are dealing with the DDoS threat, hackers can exploit other avenues within the network to remove data or other sensitive materials. By the time the user is aware of this, it is usually too late.
So where does this leave schools? Should you be going out and buying a dedicated DDoS mitigation platform? We don’t think so; they are expensive and complex to set up. Instead, schools should be carefully assessing their choice of cloud services and Internet providers to ensure their partners have them covered in this respect.
As trends in education increasingly reflect a gradual move to the cloud, the increased reliance on the Internet – as well as software and applications which are not installed on devices – mean that a DDoS attack or the theft of data could place you in a very difficult position or even blight your school’s reputation.
It could leave you unable to carry out the most basic tasks, from browsing the Internet or registering pupils, to more critical functions such as processing new admissions. Unfortunately, DDoS isn’t going away and its indiscriminate nature means the education sector and its providers need to keep the threat in mind as they embrace the new and exciting resources available on and offline.
So what can schools do right now to be prepared? Well, first of all – don’t panic and don’t waste money on extra kit that won’t add value to your school’s Internet security. Challenge your cloud services and Internet providers to make sure they’re keeping up with Internet security and preventing DDoS attacks. And finally, educate your pupils and encourage responsible use of the Internet and IT. Remember, DDoS attacks and other forms of hacking are actually illegal.
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Technology has transformed teaching in recent years, with interactive screens replacing blackboards and tablets replacing books, enhancing tuition and learning for teachers and pupils alike. Behind the scenes, a management information system (MIS) can similarly boost a school’s administration, providing vital and varied information in an instant. Integrating functions and processes can ensure joined-up thinking leads to joined-up action, providing that a school has fully considered what it needs its MIS to do.
Avoiding obsolescence is crucial, according to Chris Munday, head of MIS at RM Education: “An MIS is the single point of truth for nearly all of a school’s data and is used to record pupils’ attendance data for each lesson, as well as any behaviour incidents, and to track pupils’ progress and attainment. It also holds staff data and is used to record staff management information, such as absences or CPD and training.
“When considering one, ensure it is future-proofed. Is it going to manage the school’s need for the short and longer terms? Ease of use is also critical as staff at all levels will need to use it to get real value from it and its data. Time and resources are precious commodities in the day-to-day workings of a school and an MIS should enhance, not hinder, their day-to-day responsibilities. Reducing time on administrative tasks means value can be added elsewhere. Plus it needs to be simple to create any reports on demand for all sorts of stakeholders, from headteachers and governors to local authorities and Ofsted.”
Chris also warns against false economies when deciding which MIS to install. “Ensure you are getting value for money. There is no point spending a large sum of money on an MIS only to find it doesn’t do some of the things you expect it to do or you have to pay extra for hardware or additional modules. The right MIS solution will bring together all of your assessment, behaviour, attendance, pupil and staff data into one system, making it easier to track pupil progress and get a holistic view of a pupil and the school, as well as reducing errors, saving time and eliminating the amount you need to spend on disparate systems that don’t link up together. We offer an online-based MIS system, along with finance solutions suiting schools and academies which have been developed specifically for schools. Our MIS solution, RM Integris, is the leading online MIS system in UK schools and combines a powerful suite of administration tools that can provide schools with easy access to assessment, behaviour, pupil, staff and school data all in one place through a highly intuitive and secure online user interface.”
Schools can rest assured RM Education’s MIS will function in harmony with their operations. “We work closely with schools, local authorities, the DfE and the education industry to ensure our MIS meets the ongoing, changing needs of schools, such as providing more flexible reporting tools to enable them to interrogate their data more deeply or catering for the new NAHT assessment framework criteria.
“We spend a lot of time in schools to understand how they want to use the system and how it can enhance what they do. We also capture feedback directly through the product with our ‘user voice’ section where customers can send suggestions for improvement. We also run user forums and research projects to find out what customers want in the future and what matters to them most. We genuinely value the feedback customers give us and that really impacts on the roadmap of our products. Plus, as RM Integris is an online product, we can do much analysis around what schools do and don’t use. This online delivery also means we can implement enhancements quickly, effectively, automatically and out of school hours so there is no school day disruption.”
WCBS is a specialist provider of MIS software to independent schools in the UK and overseas, offering a complete MIS solution that can support multiple departments, including academic, admissions, finance and alumni.
According to 2014’s UK Independent Schools ICT Survey and Analysis, conducted by Ovum and commissioned by the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association, WCBS is, “the most widely-used vendor by far” by UK fee-paying schools, achieving the top position and largest market share in nine out of ten categories.
WCBS has a dedicated support team, ensuring schools have a point of reference available when needed and delivering convenient, flexible support via email, website, phone and Skype. Robert Blake, headmaster of Kenya’s Peponi House School, described WCBS’s help desk as being “manned by superstars of shining genius and lightning response time”.
WCBS also offers an extensive programme of training and workshop opportunities, including bespoke training and regional workshops covering an extensive topic range and expertise levels, their support team ensuring that the most is gained from their products. Bespoke training can be provided onsite or at WCBS’s offices while regional workshops held at numerous locations nationally also provide popular, informal networking environments.
WCBS will shortly be conducting a survey which will analyse information management in the independent schools market. This will be converted into an informative report giving insight into how information is currently managed, an MIS’s importance and benefits, key factors influencing decision-making and schools’ information management challenges.
Classroom Monitor is an online tool for recording formative assessment, tracking pupil progress and reporting to parents. Quick and easy to use, it provides instant in-depth pupil and whole-school performance analysis. Based around an interactive markbook storing evidence of learning year-round, it is linked to curricular frameworks and streamlines pupil assessment and target-setting. It also provides teachers with over 2,000 learning resources for use in the classroom or for pupils working independently.
The markbooks are fully flexible to the national curriculum 2014 and can be customised to a school’s own curriculum framework. Teachers and senior leaders can track pupil progress instantly and the markbook feeds into a data dashboard with live updates on pupil, cohort and whole-school performance. Key metrics are always at your fingertips, giving school leaders the vital information they need to maintain high standards of teaching and learning.
Reporting also becomes faster and more effective with Classroom Monitor’s revolutionary ‘parent portal’, which allows multimedia examples of pupils’ work to be shared with parents and engage them with their child’s learning. Time spent on reporting is also greatly reduced.
Classroom Monitor supports key stages 1-3 and EYFS and synchronises with school MISs; it is mobile-friendly and can be accessed anywhere at any time for flexible curriculum management.
Contact Group is a leading provider of communication and data services to schools in the UK and Ireland, their products integrating seamlessly with leading MISs to meet schools’ needs in safeguarding pupil welfare. These solutions have radically changed the way the sector approaches mandatory tasks, significantly improving efficiency and productivity.
Call Parent notifies parents by SMS and email of school closures and events – prior to this teachers used a telephone tree system wherein they would call, for example, six parents who would in turn call other parents. This was highly time-consuming, unlike Call Parents which works in minutes at the touch of a button.
Truancy Call tackles pupil absenteeism through automated phone calls and texts, avoiding the need for a dedicated staff member to phone parents of absentees. Text Someone encourages pupils and parents to report incidents of bullying via their school’s website, the Text Someone website or by texting, with all services available 24 hours a day. Previously, children would have to approach a teacher during term time to report bullying, something most were too embarrassed to do.
E-Mentoring enables schools to provide secure and convenient e-mentoring via text or online. Before this technology existed, busy teachers would have had to find time to meet with each pupil they monitored; this service means pupils can ask a question by text or online at their leisure and their teacher can respond securely whenever they choose.
A school administrator returning to their role after several years away would be astounded at the technology now available to them. The brave new world brought by software and services brings smooth day-to-day school operation, with previously mundane tasks accomplished efficiently and effortlessly. Teachers sometimes advise their pupils to ‘work smarter, not harder’; thanks to an MIS and the products which can function alongside it, schools can now work smarter than ever before.
RM Education W: www.rm.com
WCBS W: www.wcbs.co.uk
Classroom Monitor W: www.classroommonitor.co.uk
Contact Group W: www.the-contactgroup.com[post_title] => The information game [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-information-game [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-03-30 13:56:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 0000-00-00 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 3862 [post_author] => 17 [post_date] => 2015-03-31 00:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-03-30 22:00:00 [post_content] =>
ICT is as important to today's learners as the air they breathe, both in their personal and educational lives.
Read 8 steps to really successful ICT to help you plan your ideal strategy that moves towards transformational from traditional.
If you'd like advice and guidance from the leading supplier of ICT support services to education, contact RM Education for your free ICT review. An experienced Services Architect can help you understand your current position and help you plan a realistic journey towards your vision for outstanding ICT.
Find out more and book your free ICT review at www.rm.com/independent.
RM will share how they've helped other Independent schools to achieve more.[post_title] => Is your ICT as independent as your school? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => is-your-ict-as-independent-as-your-school [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-03-31 16:10:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 0000-00-00 00:00:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4599 [post_author] => 17 [post_date] => 2014-08-01 08:45:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-08-01 06:45:00 [post_content] =>
Working together for the past decade, the organisations have made real strides in disrupting the distribution of online child sexual abuse content.
Thanks to the support of its partners, including RM Education, the IWF has been responsible for the removal of over 100,000 URLs containing criminal content and, by sharing intelligence with police, has aided the identification and rescue of 12 children since 2010.
Hilary Wright, e-safety product manager for RM Education, said: “As an established education technology solutions provider, we are delighted to have spent ten years in partnership with the IWF to help in the fight against the sexual exploitation of children online.
“E-safety is becoming a growing priority in schools. While the internet can provide endless possibilities for communication and learning, it can also present many dangers. One of our core roles is to help schools address this delicate balance and implement a stringent e-safety policy to ensure the safety of children online.”
Established in 1996, the IWF allows the public and IT professionals to report criminal online content in a secure and confidential way.
Let us help you be part of this revolutionWith a heritage dating back 48 years, RM supports thousands of schools, teachers and pupils across the globe – from pre-school to higher education – including examination boards, central governments and other professional institutions. Through our innovative use of existing and emerging technologies we have one purpose: to enrich the lives of learners. Because we only work in the education sector, we understand how schools really work, bringing our breadth of expertise to your unique setting, so that you always remain in charge, because we – more than many – recognise that no one is better placed to know what your school community needs better than you.
Please download our new guide, ‘Giving you a position of strategic advantage’, to gain valuable insights and ideas from heads, bursars and governors, alongside our experiences from working with schools like yours: www.rm.com/strategic-advantage Alternatively, contact us today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 08450 700 300 to find out how we can help [post_title] => Giving you a position of strategic advantage [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => giving-you-a-position-of-strategic-advantage [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-06-28 14:34:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-06-28 13:34:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ie-today.co.uk/?p=34818 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 18 [max_num_pages] => 0 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => 1 [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_favicon] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 4ea03b8b2e5262942866fdc877d921d5 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array (  => query_vars_hash  => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array (  => init_query_flags  => parse_tax_query ) )