‘Great leadership’ and ‘coherence of vision’ are vital if you want to run an effective and sustainable multi-academy trust (MAT). These are the key findings of a recent report (April 2018) from education charity, Ambition School Leadership, using input from 40 MAT CEOs as well as surveys from staff at 22 MATs.
We can wholeheartedly support these research findings. Over the last 15 years, we have worked as Education ICT advisors for a number of high-performing MATs and their schools. During this time, experience has proved that a planned approach to ICT by MAT leaders, with a clear mission and purpose, best supports, as well as drives, future growth. In the long term, it is far better to anticipate and plan ahead, than use ad hoc add-ons as well as a confused mixture of inherited systems, software and processes.
So, what can your MAT do to make sure its growth is achieved as smoothly as possible? And what role does ICT play in it all? Take a look at these three easy steps …
STEP 1: Recognise when the 'pain' points will happen – so you can prepare for them
Ambition’s report outlines nine 'break points' for small and medium sized trusts relating to improvement and growth. These points occurs when current approaches stop working and new tactics are needed to ensure sustained growth. The Nine points were summarised by School Week recently. Their article is a useful read for MAT leaders, in helping to anticipate and identify any issues that will arise in their growth journey, as their MAT transitions from one phase to the next.
At every 'pain' point of a MAT's growth, different problems associated with ICT and technology can arise. Issues can be wide-ranging, as more schools come on-board. These could include inconsistent data collection and reporting across the trust; different broadband providers at each school, each with their own contracts and services; varying use of ICT in the classrooms of different schools across the same trust.
Anticipating when your MAT will need to make changes and evolve gives leaders time to approach the change in a controlled, planned manner; rather than lurching into whatever solution is to hand and quick to implement.
STEP 2: Approach ICT holistically - treat it strategically
In successful MATs, ICT is a strategic decision. Directors and head teachers in high-performing trusts know that ICT is crucial in bringing their vision to life. They look at all elements of ICT and have a well-developed ICT strategy that all tactical ICT decisions hang off and work together to achieve.
For them, ICT is more than the day-to-day tactics - it is about the bigger picture. The best MAT leaders ask themselves: "How can we use ICT to develop an exceptional educational experience, and monitor and manage pupil and staff performance across a range of indicators, and to effectively communicate with parents, carers, governors, staff and pupils while maintaining security?"
If you are a leader in a growing MAT then you have to be thinking about ICT strategically.
If you need some guidance, read our blog 'Time to start thinking strategically about your school's ICT' and download our FREE Novatia Note about setting up a clear and deliverable ICT Vision & Strategy.
STEP 3: Consider bringing in experts in ICT Vision & Strategy
Sometimes, ICT can seem a bit overwhelming; there can appear to be so many different problems, it can be difficult for MAT leaders to know where to start. We witness this a lot. We sit in meetings where head teachers and directors are being bombarded with tactical ICT issues and concerns – spend your money on this before the system falls over, upgrade this now, the pupils need this to deliver this more effectively - but they aren’t being given the advice and guidance from their own ICT team on how to use ICT strategically.
The tactical issues are often genuine ICT concerns brought by experienced ICT team members, whose role is to maintain and support current ICT approaches and functions. These people rarely have the time to look up to see the bigger picture and they are often not in the best place to do so. Bringing in external ICT experts, who will look at your ICT strategically and holistically and across multiple sites, is often the first step in using ICT more effectively.
An experienced ICT advisor will usually start with a current state audit or review which will help you gain some clarity.
If your MAT is hitting a phase of growth or has just moved to a new one, or if you can identify that you are either reaching, or already in, one of the report’s nine 'break points', now is the time to start thinking about ICT strategically.
If you feel that an external, objective, expert view will help, then do get in touch. We can offer you free consultation - contact us either by phone: 01962 832632 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’d be happy to advise you on any of your current ICT challenges. After all, it’s what we do best.
To download a copy of the report Building Trusts: MAT leadership and coherence of vision, strategy and operations (April 2018) please visit Ambition School Leadership’s website.
Other useful resources:
House of Commons Education Committee (2017) Multi-academy trusts. London: House of Commons.
Ofsted (2016) HMCI's commentary: high performing multi-academy trusts. Manchester: Ofsted
DfE (2016) Multi-academy trusts: Good practice guidance and expectations for growth. London: DfE.
DfE (2015) Characteristics of successful multi-academy trusts. London: DfE