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Education, technology and LA support – a view from the side can help

Education, technology and LA support - a view from the side can help

It is a long time since the days of GEST; NGfL; LMS and even Harnessing Technology Grant Funding (history lesson and explanation of acronyms available). These grants helped local authorities provide a holistic, and in most cases high quality, support package for schools.

You could look through a brochure and a list of support ranging from curriculum focussed and topic-based training; pilot programmes; support for peer teaching; INSET sessions; implementation of financial systems into schools; broadband services; filtering and e-mail services; curriculum software; strategy planning and even leadership development (until SLICT came along…).

Nowadays you need many brochures and lists, publicity and advertising material and you may still not be sure that everything is covered.

Support for schools has changed. We are in a different world now as the dedicated funding has ended and many local authority teams have reduced, some have gone completely, others offer a reduced range of services and increasingly local authority based support is being provided as part of corporate IT support or via a commercial or quasi-commercial provider. There are exceptions and some great examples of collaborative working between local authority teams and RBCs however provision is patchy, the breadth of support is variable and in many cases there is little opportunity to create space and support for leadership and direction – in technology or learning strategies.

What is clear however, is that the wrap-around support from local authority teams is becoming increasingly rare. Yet the range of services and support is still important to ensure that schools can fully exploit technology.

Taking Stock

Regardless of the status a school has and the choices they have made about how to access education and ICT services, there is a common thread we are starting to see – a need to take stock of what support and services are needed; a view on their quality and appropriateness; and advice on how to monitor and maintain effective services. These apply to local authority, partnership and commercial arrangements.

Increasingly, school leaders are recognising that the benefits they get from having a choice of services and providers can be compromised by fragmented arrangements, through contention between providers and gaps appearing (normally where the traditional wrap-around local authority support services are no longer available).

Pleasingly, school leaders value working together, recognising the importance of partnership and in many cases are developing more formal partnerships and consortia arrangements. We are increasingly being asked by colleagues in schools (and also from local authorities) to help them take stock of their ICT in Education support, to offer a view on relative value and areas for improvement and how both procurement and provision can be improved.

Commissions

Over the past year we have worked with a number of local authorities and schools. We have been commissioned directly by the local authority, through a mandate from schools or in a partnership of the two. In some cases, the local authority team already provides most services, in another there is no local authority employed team and in a further example, school leaders wanted an independent view of the services they get and need.

It is a fascinating ask… early into our work we develop a picture of the local (schools, commercial and local authority) context; assess the issues and perceptions that schools and providers have; bring in our expertise in the education and technology arena; and seek to understand the drivers and expectations.

Whoever has initiated the commission is the key client, however we make sure our work is focused on the impact of services on learners and schools. We therefore spend time with school leaders, hearing the issues, wishes, aspirations and frustrations. We spend time with the local authority, with providers and with support teams to understand their offering, services and issues. We review key documents, service level agreements and services themselves to help develop a balanced view of needs, provision, quality and future needs. We pay attention to governance, management and interaction between the parties, and of course strategy and direction.

Positive outcomes

This is not about quality assurance of providers – other schemes exist to help providers validate their services – it is about providing an informed, professional and independent view. We are interested in improvement and the right arrangements for schools and providers.

As we have developed and shared our assessments, we have found that all parties really value our independent view; they recognise our expertise and credibility. Their understanding and appreciation of each other changes and improves and a common view of services, provision and quality starts to emerge.

In every case to date, the process of our review has improved services in schools. Relationships between parties have become simpler and more focused with greater clarity on roles, expectations and review. In all cases our findings and proposals have been accepted, leading to improvement in services, better value and arrangements that are appropriate and sustainable.

Want to know more?

If you are a school leader (or a group of leaders) wanting to review the support you have, if you are a strategic leader in a local authority and want to assess what and how to provide or broker services, if you lead support services to schools or you simply want to know more about what we can offer, please get in touch with us at info@nullietassociates.com.

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Contact us

Independent Education and Technology Associates Limited is a company registered in England and Wales. Company registration number 07441632.

Registered Office: e-Innovation Centre, University of Wolverhampton, Telford Campus, Priorslee,Telford, TF2 9FT

Telephone: 0121 288 3594

E-mail: info@nullietassociates.com