The Journal for Executive and Governance Leaders

Enabling trust-wide collaboration through the use of technology

One of the primary roles of MATs is to create a culture of collaboration across the organisation that transcends all levels from the Executive to the frontline teaching staff and between learners. Effective collaboration has been identified by successive National Schools Commissioners as a characteristic of high performing Trusts and one of the keys to achieving sustained improvement. Technology has the potential to facilitate greater levels of collaboration within your Trust, also saving time and potentially reducing workload.

The challenges

Working with Trusts of all sizes and types, we come across common barriers to the effective use of technology that in turn hamper collaboration. These obstacles include:

The lack of a clearly defined tech strategy – many Trusts have grown rapidly and organically.

Disparate and inconsistent systems and processes – bringing together individual academies into one family can present a variety of challenges and of course opportunities. It’s likely that you have inherited a plethora of different systems, software, contracts and processes related to IT.

Lack of investment in IT – since 2010 discreet funds available for school IT have been largely eliminated, leading to underinvestment in many schools. Bringing schools with this profile into the trust and integrating them into a shared strategy and IT environment, can be daunting.

The solutions

Defining a strategy – first and foremost your Trust needs a coherent, deliverable IT strategy that is aligned with your ethos, your ambitions and of course your funds. No one should expect a Trust’s leadership to be experts in IT, but it is vital that the Executive Team firstly commission, and then engage in the creation and sponsor the development and execution of the strategy at every stage.

Establishing consistency – In the same way that you will seek to establish consistent approaches to areas such as governance and assessment across your schools, it is also important to establish consistency in the use of software platforms, data and IT processes. This can be achieved more easily and quickly than you may think.

Adopting a cloud-based approach is vital. Moving away from ‘on premise’ solutions and towards a platform like Google’s G Suite for Education or Microsoft’s Office 365 can immediately replace outdated software applications and shared areas or VLEs. As these platforms are cloud-based, no investment is required in new hardware and in fact savings can be made on licensing and other associated costs.

Investing in the right areas – Some new expenditure will be inevitable, however with the right approach, we have demonstrated how technology can save Trusts money in two ways. Firstly you can reduce expenditure on ‘traditional’ hardware, software and associated support costs. Once that switch has happened, you can then begin to realise savings in other areas by using technology to enhance or replace existing ways of working.

Tangible ways to collaborate using technology

Better communication – In January, Damian Hinds identified email culture as a major contributor to teacher and leadership workload (source: DfE). Use of alternative tools to communicate with colleagues, parents and learners can significantly reduce the amount of email traffic. Utilising instant messaging, targeted team or class based portals and sharing documents from the cloud rather than attachments, are all viable alternatives to endless email chains.

Data, when and where you need it – Changing your approach to the capture and storage of data can result in Trust leaders being better and more quickly informed about what’s happening across their Trust. This allows them to gain insights and collaborate with their academy leadership to make decisions and interventions in a timely manner.

Technology has the potential to facilitate greater levels of collaboration within your Trust, also saving time and potentially reducing workload.

Jesse Johnson

Sharing resources & supporting peers – Most Trusts provide centralised support in various forms, for example in the area of school improvement. By harnessing technology, this central expertise can be shared more quickly and pervasively across your Trust. Utilising common platforms, specialists can share resources with their peers, or support them in, for example, the moderation of coursework, disseminating and propagating best practice.

These are just a few examples of how IT can be deployed to enhance how people work and learn in a Trust. To find out more about how technology could help you contact: Jesse Johnson [email protected] or visit www.rm.com/trusts