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Is your school ICT ready for September?

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As leaders, this time of school closure has given us time to reflect on many things, with staff and child wellbeing being at the forefront of our minds constantly. But the more I walk around the empty school building, the more my thoughts have turned to preparing for September, when I am confident we’ll be much closer to ‘education as usual’.

After the challenge of staying digitally connected whilst working from home, it is clear that ICT infrastructure and school tech should be taking centre stage in school procurement in the coming months. Knowing that Summer is the usual time for preparation work to be completed and compounded by the thought that companies will be busier than ever as lockdown is eased, here are three key areas that schools need to assess and act on now to enable a fully functional start in September.

How robust is your infrastructure?

Many effective apps and online learning activities have been discovered in lockdown and it’s highly likely these will now become part of everyday school life. For this to happen seamlessly, you’ll need to assess now whether your school WiFi is strong enough and fast enough to support the continued use of these back in the classroom (and if not, put plans in place to bring it up to speed).

Lockdown has also taught us new ways of collaborating that don’t rely on us all being in the same room – but this is only possible if your infrastructure can accommodate remote working. For older server systems, access can be granted through a VPN, which your IT support can organise. That said, maybe now is the time to become future ready and upgrade to cloud systems for your school files, if you haven’t already?

Do you have the right hardware in place?

Lockdown has given teachers and students a completely different digital experience. When they return to the classroom, consider whether you’re equipped with the right hardware that will immerse children in their learning. We’re fortunate to already have interactive flat panels in some of our schools, which we know gives our teachers a powerful tool to create dynamic lessons and support learning in the moment – this will be key in maintaining attention spans as children readjust to classroom based lessons.

Now is also a good time to ask your staff whether their device has hindered their capability to work well from home. If it has, consider upgrading to new devices that have a front facing camera and can cope with online video conferences. Not only will this facilitate an effective return in September, it also prepares you for any remote working in the future.

Is your licensing in order?

As mentioned previously, lockdown has opened a whole new world of digital resources that we won’t want to see go to waste. Access may have been free during school closures, so you need to evaluate now which ones you want to continue using. Canvas your staff and children to see which curriculum sites are the most popular and purchase licenses before September.

Also think about software to support school operations. Discuss with your staff whether you will begin the joint editing of documents and incorporating remote working into normal practice. If so, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams and Trello are some examples of software that might meet your needs.

September might seem like a long while off, but under normal circumstances we’d be allocating our ICT budgets for the year ahead and putting our strategies into motion. The Summer holidays have always been a crucial time for implementing ICT upgrades and installing new systems, and lockdown doesn’t change this.

If we don’t assess and act now, we’ll miss the annual window of opportunity to maintain our ICT estates with minimal disruption and no teaching downtime. The phased re-opening of schools is obviously a focus right now, but we cannot afford not to also look ahead and be ICT prepared for a fully functional return in September.

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