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Five top challenges for secondary school ICT departments

Find out the top challenges for secondary school IT departments when devising a school ICT strategy.

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Technology influences young adults everyday; developing the core digital literacy of teenagers, and educating them on the dangers as well as benefits of connectivity, will benefit their future careers and employability. On average, secondary school pupils spend 55.5% of their class time engaging with edtech. Research by Oxford University has shown that digital connectivity enhances creativity, communication skills and development in young adults.

Despite this, according to the National Association of Headteachers, 72% of headteachers believe that school budgets will be unsustainable in two years’ time, severely impacting future technology investments. Budgets, however, aren’t the only issue.

Peter Millar, the IT Technical Consultant at Promethean, has extensive experience as a college IT Services Coordinator and a public sector ICT technician. He has shared with us his top 5 challenges faced by secondary school ICT departments:

1. Safeguarding

More sophisticated digital technologies and social media access, particularly in the hands of young adults, open pupils up to online vulnerabilities and exposure to cyberbullying. Worryingly, though, British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) found almost 50% of secondary school teachers need training in e-safety issues.

Secondary school ICT departments, as well as primary and higher education institutions, should examine carefully whether their e-safety curriculum is age-appropriate, whether they have a recognised internet service provider with actively monitored, age-related filtering.

2. Data protection & GDPR

The reformed General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is designed to improve the safety and security of all data held within any organisation — including primary and secondary schools, academies and other educational institutions — and will fundamentally change the way schools handle their data. ICT departments should think about what systems they are putting in place to verify the age of individuals and to gather consent from parents or guardians in regards to data processing, and to what purpose data is being stored. Redundant data cannot be stored under the GDPR.

School ICT departments should make time to check whether their data is managed securely and in accordance with the statutory requirements of the GDPR. Alternatively, work with an an accredited data processor who is also compliant with GDPR obligations and IT asset disposal. What’s more, the use of cloud-based applications help protect critical information by removing the need for repeated data back ups, mitigating the risk of data breach.

3. Edtech training

Over 60% of IT leaders in secondary schools cite adequate technology training as the biggest challenge in their schools. This is corroborated by our 2017/18 State of Technology in Education report; only 5% of polled teachers believe that they receive full training and support when it comes to edtech, down 2% from last year.

While it can be time consuming in a busy school schedule, it’s vital that ICT leaders spend more time training their teachers and staff on the use of their new digital technologies, or investments will be wasted.

4. Spending

According to our annual report, only 36% of school leaders think that the level of investment in IT is correct in their schools; down from 58% in 2016. The average ICT budget for a secondary school is expected to be £58,230 in 2017/18, according to the National Education Research Panel (NERP). This is a year-on-year decline of 7%.

There are, however, a variety of ways that technology in schools can be used for collaborative learning, optimising your investments. First, conduct an audit of your school’s current ICT framework to identify if any legacy hardware is no longer fit for purpose. Our school IT audit framework template will help you form the basis of this audit.

With an interactive front of class display like ActivPanel, for example, schools can benefit from engaging, mobile learning from one device, without necessarily having to find the budget for a full 1:1 edtech program. Free cloud-based applications and software, like ClassFlow and ActivInspire, can also be used to incorporate digital learning at a lower cost.

5. Infrastructure

The British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) found that schools agreeing they are well-equipped with ICT infrastructure has dropped to its lowest point in six years. Only a third of secondaries specifically say they are well-equipped — down from 37% last year and 64% the year before that.

A 2018 poll by TES, assessing the quality of edtech in schools, found that 47% of educators believe the IT infrastructure at their institution inhibited adoption of more educational technology. With a poor network and internet speed, cloud-based digital learning is impeded. By reducing onsite resources and saving costs that way, however, schools can reinvest in better infrastructure and network performance.

The bottom line? Technology has countless benefits for the development of teenagers and young adults. Secondary school ICT departments, however, have complications to overcome before they can fully reap benefits of their new platforms and devices, and to maximise their ICT budgets. Formulating a strong ICT strategy first and foremost is essential, to ensure technology is fit for purpose.