ICT may not be the first thing on your mind when you set about creating a multi-academy trust (MAT). Understandably, other things may seem more important, such as leadership, school performance, staffing and buildings. However, can you really afford NOT to put ICT first from the onset?
A quick look at your school accounts will reveal the extent of ICT expenditure. Neglecting its significance could prove a LOT more costly for the MATs in the long run.
Here it would be helpful to look at a few examples. In a typical secondary school, ICT support staffing could total over £100,000 a year, with additional on-going costs on top. In some areas of the country, this figure could be a lot more. Licensing, warranty and maintenance agreements plus broadband connectivity could add another £100,000 + and an appropriate refresh strategy another £100,000 a year… all without considering future development or spending on CPD. You can see how quickly the ICT numbers add up, taking up a significant proportion of the resources available, after teaching and other non-variable costs have been allocated. To operate efficiently, your ICT strategy needs careful planning to develop a clear ICT vision.
As a Trust leader, key areas to consider, from start-up, include:
1. Establishing a clear ICT strategy in line with your MAT’s own vision
Any ICT decisions should ultimately support your Trust’s overall educational vision. For example, if school-to-school support is going to be a key part of your Trust’s work, then key ICT provision, supporting sharing and collaboration, should be developed. In this case, a key early step would be transitioning all schools to the same collaborative productivity software.
2. Setting up an effective ICT analysis system to monitor data from multiple schools
Gaining a Trust-wide overview of school and performance data from day one will enable you to make better informed decisions about your MAT. Additional MIS development might be required to achieve this or, if data is not held in common systems across schools, then an appropriate data analysis tool for multiple schools will need to be purchased, implemented and used.
3. Organising remote accessing for ICT systems
Staff working across the Trust will need remote access to key IT system elements inc. MIS, when they are off-site from their office or ‘home’ school base.
4. Enforcing due diligence audits for any joining school, covering ALL its existing ICT provision
In order to protect the Trust and enable them to manage risk, schools added to the Trust need a Due Diligence audit of their IT provision before they join. For example, if an average-sized Primary school has not replaced any student, AV or staff devices for three years then a six-figure sum might need to be invested within a very short time-frame. An audit should be comprehensive and cover everything from passive infrastructure (including cabling) and devices through to policies, procedures and staff skill-sets.
5. Planning ICT infrastructure to support your MAT’s future growth
Know how large you want to grow, because that should effect what systems you establish for the Trust. For example, growth beyond five schools will demand different types of support structures and, whilst additional infrastructure may bring more costs, there will be considerable opportunities for cost-savings, especially if the Trust develops a centrally-managed approach to ICT support.
6. Consolidating ICT suppliers trust-wide
Potential savings could be made through consolidating suppliers. In many cases, schools within the same Trust in the same local areas might even be operating with completely different suppliers. Areas for consolidation leading to cost savings and ease of management include broadband, computer suppliers, telephone lines and e-safety services.
Don’t make ICT the last thing you think about; you will not only risk wasting time and resources but could miss out on some great opportunities.
Visit us on www.novatia.com or call us on 01962 832632 if you would like to know more about how Novatia can help you with the development of ICT for your Multi Academy Trust. Alternatively drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org .