There’s ongoing pressure for multi academy trust (MAT) academies to deliver considerable cost savings, yet each trust (and each academy) may operate within a different model. Your trust, for example, may or may not have a centralised budget or approach to IT procurement, so a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is not yet appropriate.
At the same time, technology can still be used to drive value for your MAT. Whether using a centralised approach or not, your MAT IT solutions need to be scalable and flexible, especially if they are to work well across a number of different schools with varying infrastructures. They also need to last well into the future to maximise your budgets. A standardised supplier relationship, meanwhile, gives each academy access to common products, more robust supplier support, and stronger buying power.
Here are five ways that optimising and standardising your approach to tech could drive value for your multi academy trust, whatever your school’s IT strategy:
1. Deploy common devices
There has been much praise around giving pupils frequent access to personal devices in the classroom; tablets can significantly boost pupil engagement and provide greater learning opportunities for mixed-ability classes. This is an important goal in all schools. But for MATs, each academy has a different infrastructure, wireless solution, and personal technology.
This mismatch of IT across a MAT can make it very difficult for staff and pupils to work together, so standardising your edtech makes it far easier to manage. If you’re purchasing centrally within your trust, having insight on the lifecycle of compatible devices across your schools can indicate which hardware can be upgraded rather than be replaced, and where devices can be redeployed to maximise their use.
Even if your multi academy trust is not centralised budget-wise, standardising your approach to devices, rather than constantly rolling out new models, allows you to recycle and maximise your schools’ tech to stretch the costs. This offers significant advantages from minimal staff training to optimised support across your MAT.
2. Use cloud-based software
If you have a central approach to IT, monitoring usage of your software allows you to see where infrequently used licences can be re-deployed within your multi academy trust. This gives you scope to identify where they will be put to best use, rather than constantly purchasing more licences.
If your academies are purchasing separately, meanwhile, moving your legacy solutions to the cloud, and using cloud-based software and applications still increases access and reduces costs. What’s more, sponsorship arrangements with tech companies can make it easier to obtain the latest software without blowing your IT budget.
3. Standardise on edtech brands and partners
For academies in a MAT, whether they are purchasing hardware centrally or not, using one trusted and reliable partner for your trust’s education technologies has a number of benefits. Not only can you and other academies drive value from using common products, you will have access to the same level of support across the entire trust. School staff will feel confident moving between academies within the MAT using the same technologies.
Standardising with one edtech brand in conjunction with other academies in your trust boosts your buying power, whilst building solid relationships that you can leverage moving forward. This is particularly useful in agreeing training and additional support.
4. Consider interactive front-of-class technology
Because your trust has academies spread across various sites, using technology to connect them can be incredibly valuable. Interactive technology encourages pupils to work together on activities and provides tasks for the class to complete in groups or all together—either virtually or in the same classroom.
Interactive front-of-class displays have long term value for schools. They are constantly upgradable, allowing your MAT to keep up with changing computing technology. Even better, interactive front of class displays, like the Promethean ActivPanel, offer future-proofed functionality, with the ability to integrate your existing mobile devices using instant polling and assessment tools and the function to mirror multiple devices simultaneously.
If you have central IT visibility across all your academies, you can distribute edtech more effectively to minimise under-usage and to plug gaps where needed. If not, rolling out standard technology like an ActivPanel still drives value for the schools across your trust, unites your schools through technology, and protects your school’s budget with an extensive product warranty.
5. Standardise safeguarding tools
Many software providers are building in functionality that allows MATs to manage edtech across their portfolio of academies, where applicable. If your school has a centralised approach, this capability is incredibly valuable when you’re deploying your online safety and safeguarding technologies. SafetyNet, for example, is an internet filtering solution that allows your IT team to manage online safety policies from one account, across all academies.
Even if you’re not currently purchasing software centrally, your MAT academies could input their safeguarding policies to a standard database. This means your safeguarding strategies, training and procedures will take a common approach, driving efficiency and time-savings. What’s more, your data will be more accessible if your MAT takes a more centralised approach in future.
So, whilst driving cost-savings for a school that sits within a MAT can be complex, it is valuable to standardise your approach to IT and manufacturers. It allows your MAT academies to work together to share costs, best practices and resources. And this can still be done, whether you have centralised budgets or not.
Unlike most Edtech manufacturers, Promethean has a dedicated team of experienced MAT advisors to help MATs and academies maximise their IT investments. Contact us now to speak to our experts.