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Mark Maybury, Senior Education Consultant for multi-academy trusts, RM Education

Making ICT scalable and sustainable in multi-academy trusts

Mark Maybury at RM Education explores ways multi-academy trusts can maintain a cost-effective ICT model that accommodates growth

Posted by Hannah Oakman | October 05, 2016 | Technology

Multi-academy trusts face a number of unique challenges, but chief among them is providing a consistent ICT provision across multiple academies whilst balancing the need to increase collaboration, grow their trust in a sustainable way and leverage their scale to achieve better value for money.

Other challenges include finding ways to collaborate more effectively as a group, establishing consistency across individual academies in terms of their approach and use of technology, and leveraging that technology to make cost savings – both in terms of ICT expenditure and in using ICT to make savings in related areas to release funds for frontline teaching and learning.

Multi-academy trusts also need to consider a number of points in selecting, commissioning and maintaining ICT services which work across the whole trust – such as choosing an appropriate procurement process which ensures the suppliers they select provide services that are specific to education, and ideally accredited by the DfE or the EFA.

The technology they implement must be fit for purpose and have a sufficient life span, but it’s also crucial that ICT is funded in the right way. With growing pressure on capital funds, large one-off investments in infrastructure or devices are simply not feasible for most multi-academy trusts, so moving as many services as possible to a revenue-based model can free up much-needed funds.

Centralising ICT services and delivery through the cloud is a major factor in facilitating flexible, scalable growth in multi-academy trusts. This enables trusts to manage their technology from the centre and leverage cloud technologies to make use of collaboration and productivity platforms such as Google Apps for Education and Microsoft Office 365 to create consistency across individual academies.

The most successful academies we see are those with an ICT model where their senior leadership team are firmly engaged in the process and – most importantly – acting as advocates for the strategy and adoption of technology 

A cloud-based model also removes reliance on costly locally hosted servers where on-site infrastructure needs to be continually invested in and maintained. The cloud offers a more sustainable and scalable environment, while identity management services provided by cloud-based technologies allow for easy management of users and their resources. 

Teachers in particular can benefit from this sustainable ICT model, particularly in terms of time saving since using technology to find more effective ways to deliver lessons can have a dramatic effect on time-saving when multiplied up over five, 10 or even 30 academies in a trust.  

Transferring mission-critical services like MIS to the cloud also means that trusts can reduce costs while enabling senior leaders to aggregate and access data from multiple academies to provide a single trust-wide view of performance, behaviour, attendance and attainment. However, it’s important to note that whilst cloud brings a myriad of benefits, it isn’t a quick fix solution and will often require an initial period of investment in order to get it right for the future. It can also take time to implement.

What’s really key to adopting a sustainable and scalable ICT model is having a clear strategy led by the senior leaders of the trust, with expert advice from a trusted partner. It’s essential that this strategy is agreed and sponsored at a senior level – ideally at CEO level in larger trusts and Executive Principal level in smaller trusts.

The most successful academies we see are those with an ICT model where their senior leadership team are firmly engaged in the process and – most importantly – acting as advocates for the strategy and adoption of technology. So with a combination of careful planning, a clear vision and engagement from the whole trust community, multi-academy trusts can achieve a scalable ICT model that allows them to grow successfully and sustainably.

For more information, visit www.rm.com/trusts

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