ICT isn’t just about a computer in a room or a network that manages your school information; it’s about the people who use it, the challenges they face and the value they experience from it – both financial and educational. In the future, it’s also going to be much more advanced than the ICT we know of today. Think about augmented reality and artificial intelligence – these are technologies that will soon be appearing in schools, so how well placed are you to decide if they are right for your school or actually any good?
Look back and we can all see just how far ICT has come in relatively little time. In the 1980s just 20% of schools in the UK had computers in use. Now, with Apple Mac suites, Bring Your Own Device, centralised management information systems and cloud-based learning, there is much more potential for teaching and learning, and therefore there are many more technical decisions to be made in schools.
Many schools turn to external ICT providers or advisors to support them with their decision making, which makes perfect sense. Finding an ICT provider you can trust is the next step. There are hundreds if not thousands out there that would be keen to work with you.
Make sure you talk to an ICT provider who mentions:
When seeking an ICT support provider it is important that they understand education and the specific challenges you face. Choose a provider that works solely with education and offers you a personalised and holistic approach to ICT, rather than just selling you computers and software.
Easing the administration burden
From improving communication within schools to lightening staff workloads, ICT can allow stakeholders within and outside of school to communicate more efficiently and easily share tasks such as lesson plans. It can also provide deeper insights and reporting on attainment, behaviour and attendance – without administrative teams searching across spreadsheets for the information they need.
Don’t feel like you need to be shoehorned into a standard ICT support package. You’re in the driving seat and if you don’t like any of the packages on offer, seek an alternative provider who offers more flexibility and can match a package to your requirements.
Cyber attacks are one of the biggest threats that schools face, experts have warned recently, as new figures show that a fifth of education establishments have been hit. Keeping your school safe should be high on the list of your provider’s priorities.
Service level agreements
Ask to see your ICT support provider’s service level agreement (SLA) and average response times. This will give you a good idea of how responsive they are when you call them for assistance!
A 2015 poll found that nearly half of teachers did not use the technology available to them in the classroom due to a lack of training and uncertainty about effective integration. Your ICT support provider should only recommend technology they believe will be used confidently in the classroom and should suggest training to ensure staff buy-in – or your money could be wasted.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds has advised that schools seek the advice and support of third parties to enable them to make the right decisions around ICT: “It’s only by forging a strong partnership between government, technology innovators and the education sector that there will be sustainable, focused solutions which will ultimately support and inspire the learners of today and tomorrow.”
Given that all schools are stretched, we believe that working with an external ICT provider to deliver or supplement the management of your school’s ICT is one of the best decisions you can make as Governor or Chair of Governors. Use the checklist above as a short guide to help you find out if your chosen provider is right for you.