Many thanks to Al Kingsley for the below article detailing the importance of a robust, evidence-informed digital infrastructure and strategy for both schools and Multi-Academy Trusts.
Al Kingsley Chair of Trustees at Hampton Academies Trust and Author of ‘My School and Multi-Academy Trust Growth Guide’ will discuss growth strategies, the role of emerging technologies like AI and the Metaverse at the upcoming LearnED: Education in Action Conferences designed specifically for school and trust leaders. Find out more about book your FREE ticket here.
Providing a consistently high-quality education for every child across the country is always the holy grail for the education sector. But, as we know, there are countless challenges. The societal variables that have shaped our students before they even reach the school gates, combined with the culture and rating of the schools they will attend, will impact how well they can and will learn.
DfE expectation for 2030
The multi-academy trust (MAT) system, enshrined in the Academies Act 2010, has taken us a good way down the route of schools supporting each other and sharing expertise. To move things on further, however, the Government’s whitepaper, Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child, set out an ambitious programme to level up and achieve a fully trust-led system by 2030, which, it asserted, “will drive up standards through the growth of strong trusts and the establishment of new ones, including trusts established by local authorities.” That ultimately didn’t move into law but the drivers and ambitions remained, now supported by the current Trust Quality Descriptors that Academies will hopefully be familiar with.
For the schools that are not currently members of a MAT, the clock is ticking, albeit not as fast as first set out. If they’re doing well, there may be resistance from staff and governors to any status change. But well-planned, strategic developments can be enormously positive, especially if it means levelling up the provision for all the children in the area and potentially strengthening teaching and learning, sharing their best practice or as part of a staff retention focus.
Routes to MAT growth
MATs are also looking at the future in light of the Government’s vision of the Academy system and considering their growth strategies to help them further leverage economies of scale, improve outcomes and retain staff. Expansion creates opportunities throughout the trust, elevating its overall provision, sharing staff expertise between its schools and, critically, helping them all to achieve better student outcomes.
The richer and more varied expertise a MAT has in all areas, the better for students and staff. Typically, a trust will grow by incorporating more breadth or capacity into its offer, for example, by introducing nursery provision, bringing in external expertise to establish itself as a specialist hub, positioning itself to bid for its own free schools (should another wave arrive), welcoming new schools or even joining with another MAT. Of course, bigger does not automatically mean better, and there are risks alongside the rewards; careful strategic planning and forecasting are essential.
Digital supports growth
Technology is a critical component in today’s schools. It is the ‘facilitating’ thread that runs throughout, bringing learning to life in the classroom, recording and reporting student and school data, communicating with parents, keeping students safe online, playing vital roles in security, sustainability and more. A flexible digital infrastructure is one of the most significant drivers that allows MATs to integrate and embed other schools within their ecosystems quickly and effectively.
As we know, the wider digital landscape is constantly shifting, so schools and MATs must have a robust digital strategy, co-produced and evidence informed, that is coupled with an equally strong infrastructure that can flex and scale seamlessly as changes occur.
Purpose and impact
Naturally, the overriding consideration for classroom technology is pedagogy and there are some truly excellent learning solutions on the market that can make a real difference to teaching and learning. But for a digital strategy to be at its most effective and achieve an impact across the whole school, it should involve all stakeholders, not just teachers. Having representation from all different departments around the table is the best – and only – way to ensure that everyone can benefit from a technology-led school and workplace.
And there is always some new technology development to talk about! For example, right now, schools are focusing on ways to use data more effectively; they’re considering how AI, XR and the Metaverse can be used constructively in the classroom to expand learning; and are looking at Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to provide flexibility to not only meet students where they are but use what works for them to drive their achievement.
Data is central to supporting MAT growth, delivering the evidence that reveals how member schools are performing; which ones need investments in time, skills or staff expertise; and which exhibit examples of good practice that they can then replicate across the trust.
Flexibility supports change
Whatever route schools and MATs take with technology, to ensure success, they must measure the evidence of its impact to determine whether it will become embedded successfully. If technology is not used purposefully in any area, it compromises its potential by taking up valuable time for little tangible return.
By adopting a strategic approach to edtech, schools and MATs can stand themselves in good stead for the future. Being wise about planning, structuring and using technology means that they can form an agile and sustainable approach that will support students and staff and be equally ready for the organisational changes ahead.