One of the biggest challenges for MATs when sponsoring new schools and integrating them into the trust will be meeting their different ICT requirements. Financial and building constraints often mean that the technology within a school has to develop organically over time, but with technology and services frequently representing a large part of an academy’s spend, there’s also pressure to get things right from the word go.
The first step is to review the new academy’s existing technology, how it’s used in the classroom and the staff’s skills and attitude towards applying ICT across the curriculum. Installing the latest education technology won’t deliver real benefits on its own – an academy needs to have the network infrastructure to support it, and there needs to be widespread buy-in from teachers.
At OAT, we take the time to get to know a school, its staff, and technology requirements. This allows us to put a plan together to ensure the right tools are brought in to save time for teachers and enhance the learning experience for pupils. This approach means that academy staff, teachers, and students alike are more likely to embrace the tools we provide.
We understand that the 36 academies across Ormiston Academies Trust (particularly the six that have primary provision) all have very different needs, but we look to ensure that all of them are closely supported. Achievement is always locally led at OAT, but regionally and nationally governed.
We encourage all our academies to share best practice and any new initiatives that have helped transform their teaching with each other at every opportunity. We provide a number of forums for this throughout the year, such as our OAT Annual Conference.
Whenever our academies get the chance to collectively explore how technology can best work for them, and the benefits it can deliver in the classroom, ripples of positive change can occur across the trust.
It’s possible to secure significant savings when purchasing technology for academies, which can then be reinvested in other areas. One way in which we’ve been able to make purchasing technology for our academies easier and more cost effective is through our partnership with Capita Managed IT Solutions.
We have in place a framework that our academies can use to ensure they’re implementing the technology and services they need, when they need then. This gives our individual academies the flexibility they need, while at the same time saving on the cost of having to buy licenses and equipment in bulk for use across multiple academies.
When deployed appropriately, technology can free up teachers to focus on what’s important – inspiring their pupils and enhancing their learning experience. While it’s true that no two academies are the same, assigning the right IT and systems in a way that makes a difference to outcomes may not be as hard as you think.
James Miller is the national director of estates and technology at Ormiston Academies Trust.