An IT strategy is meant to underpin the day-to-day use and future planning of the school’s IT.
As such, it’s a management tool rather than a technical one. When putting together yours, it’s important to consider three key questions…
Does it contain an overarching vision statement?
This might resemble something along the lines of: “All pupils are confident and competent in using technology, and safe from technology-related harm. Teachers’ workload is reduced through the efficient use of technology, and our use of technology conforms to legal requirements.”
Needless to say, that’s not intended to be a model vision statement – only your school can create the best one for you.
Is it future-proof?
The vision statement above is, however, very broad, and thus effectively futureproof. Ideally, your whole school IT strategy won’t need revising for three to five years, so try and avoid being too specific about the technology itself. If you think about it, that vision statement would be as relevant in a school that’s using virtual assistants as one still using dial-up modems. Well, almost…
Is every aspect of the school’s IT covered?
Unpick that vision statement and you’ll see that it relates to every aspect of the school’s technology. The part about reducing teacher workload, for example, could cover marking, registration, even how school dinners are paid for. It also extends to giving parents remote access to their children’s work – if they can log in at any time to see teachers’ comments, it can save teachers time otherwise spent on the phone.
The most up-to-date technology won’t be much use if it keeps breaking down, or nobody knows how to use it. Straight away, there’s a principle you should adhere to, which is that there needs to be first class technical support in place and a good CPD programme.
Another guiding principle covers the act of purchasing. If, for example, you’re an Apple school, and a member of staff with purchasing powers wishes to buy a set of Windows laptops, they should be asked to justify that in terms of the school’s IT vision statement. Buying Windows laptops in that instance could potentially reduce people’s competence, and thus confidence, while increasing teacher workload through having to deal with two different operating systems.
Is it effective?
An effective IT strategy will need to tick a number of different boxes. It has to be relevant to all staff and pupils in the course of their daily routines, and all IT and support systems (e.g. technical staff and CPD) will need to be fit for purpose.
Purchases will need be carried out in a planned way. Budgets ought to be allocated in such a way that hardware can be replaced or added to on a rolling basis, rather than in a panic when lots of things start breaking down at once.
Your IT strategy should enable the school to achieve its overall aims, while ensuring that ‘the IT’ itself remains virtually invisible. Nobody wonders whether the lights will come on when they flick the switch; why should they have to be wary about whether the school’s IT will work? Your IT strategy should see to it that the school’s IT is regularly evaluated and potentially changed according to an objective process that involves multiple members of staff, not just the personal preferences of one person.
Above all, your IT strategy should be seen as the responsibility of the school’s SLT.
Terry Freedman is an independent education technology consultant and writer.