How MATs can drive consistency across schools with ICT

According to the Discover Society article, ‘Multi-Academy Trusts in England – are they really accountable?’: “managing and governing collaborative organisations [such as Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs)] is no mean feat… Even when all of the collaborating organisations are keen for it to work, the challenges of factors such as: the creation of a coherent organisational identity; ensuring that the tension between conformity and autonomy of organisations within the group is well managed, and, ensuring that internal as well as external accountability is clear and productive- i.e. that it works towards the organisational mission and not against it; are demanding of the most able management and leadership teams.”

Whether your procurement model is centralised, fully devolved or hybrid, consistency can be a challenge for MATs in varying degrees. This cannot be resolved with one single solution of course. However, in our daily lives outside of work we all experience the benefits of technology, and similar advantages can be experienced across MATs. For example, ease of communication, organising tasks and sharing information.

Meanwhile, Education Secretary Damian Hinds believes that: “Schools, colleges and universities have the power to choose the tech tools which are best for them and their budgets. But they cannot do this alone. It’s only by forging a strong partnership between government, technology innovators and the education sector that there will be sustainable, focused solutions which will ultimately support and inspire the learners of today and tomorrow.”

Does the answer to driving consistency across MAT schools therefore pertain from ICT and external ICT support for a fresh and insightful perspective on your present and future technology requirements?

An audit

If schools across your MAT are using different technologies and this creates inconsistencies across the MAT in terms of teaching, learning and administration work, we recommend an ICT health check. Work with an external company to survey what’s happening where and what’s working well or not so well. This will involve talking to ICT teams as well as other stakeholders who have ICT touchpoints. Only by building up this picture can you create a starting point from which to improve on. The audit will also identify areas of improvement, recommend the next steps for you to take and define ideal technologies…one of which will almost certainly be…

…the cloud

Of course, everyone has been talking about the power of the cloud for a number of years now. If you’re part of a MAT and you’re not using cloud computing yet, it really is an ideal solution for bringing systems, software and school information together into one single dashboard. Multi-academy trusts can also leverage cloud technologies to make use of collaboration and productivity platforms such as Google for Education and Microsoft Office 365 to create consistency across academies. The cost savings involved in moving to the cloud over the medium to long term can also run into tens of thousands of pounds each year – although of course there is upfront investment required and a transfer in spend to new areas like training and support.

Leaders’ buy-in

Any new technologies that you decide to adopt across your MAT to improve consistency for teachers, staff and learners must have the full buy-in of senior leadership teams for them to succeed. Without this, your technology won’t be used and you will not see a return on your investment. There must be a desire to drive this forward and clearly demonstrate the benefits for your new implementation to get going and be taken up with enthusiasm.

Training

This leads us nicely onto training, without which your staff could feel overwhelmed and unhappy about the changes – and let’s face it, change is hard, particularly when you’re time-poor. If you have partnered with an external ICT support provider to help you with an audit of your schools, they should also be able to advise you on the types of training that are needed, to whom they apply and when they need to happen. They may even manage this schedule for you, ensuring a consistent approach to the ICT you have in place and consistently positive outcomes of its usage.

With initial research across your MAT and the way it is functioning now, and a trusted and experienced ICT support company advising along the way, you can make the right decisions about the best ICT provision for your trust. Seeking expert advice provides you with knowledge, expertise and an impartial view of where you are now and where you need to get to. It will help you to deliver consistencies across teaching and learning, and administrative tasks too – through greater communication and collaboration, whilst also driving time and cost savings. For further information around consistencies across groups of schools, read the whitepaper: How to ensure consistent ICT support across schools.

This article was originally posted on RMlive on 16 October.

Kat Howard from RM Education will be outlining How to create a Whole School Approach to Online Safety in the MAT Summit.