ICT is always one of the biggest cost centres for schools, but it’s difficult to see how the investments made are aligned to the learning outcomes. Every month, we visit a number of schools to carry out our ICT Health Check Review and find conflicting reasons behind users’ challenges with ICT.
The majority of teachers feel they do not have the time to prepare new lesson plans or they lack the relevant training to use the ICT available to them. Others have given up because they’ve been burnt with unreliable ICT systems. The senior leadership team feel they have invested in ICT, sacrificed spend in other areas, provided training but still fail to see a return on investment. Students are frustrated that they don’t get to use enough ICT and often complain to parents who reiterate their concerns during parent focus groups.
With all these challenges schools are struggling to understand why technology should be at the top of budgets which are being cut.
Through reading this blog you will learn how to:
- Identify the ICT challenges faced by all users
- Develop an action oriented plan to address the issues
- Strategically plan the school's ICT investment decisions.
An ICT Health Check Review should be a comprehensive, in-depth assessment that occurs over a short period of time, providing data driven outputs. The Health Check should take into account what the school has, what it wants to achieve, the challenges users are experiencing and how to address the issues identified. All issues found should be linked to clear actions, which, in turn, create a manageable plan.
- Select Users - A range of users should be asked to participate, including staff, students, senior leadership, parents and governors. The nominated user representatives should not be “tech savvy” as it is important to understand the challenges faced by the majority of users, rather than the staff who are confident users of ICT.
- Create a Schedule - You need to set up focus groups over a two day period for staff (teaching and business services), students, parents and governors. Schedule time for a technical ICT specialist to meet with your ICT services team to review the systems and services provided at the school.
- Set Priorities - Ensure you outline your key questions and what it is that you need to understand. Some examples include what works well, what would you like to improve, whether you are “keeping children safe in education” and where do you need to invest to deliver the curriculum?
The Health Check
- Focus Groups - During each focus group session you need to elicit current perceptions of ICT and future aspirations. Throughout the various focus group sessions you will see key themes emerging, make sure you focus in and understand the root cause. Ensure everything is investigated further by the technical individual(s) carrying out the ICT services review.
- ICT Services Review - Undertake an operational assessment which looks at the delivery of support, including current structure of the IT services team, roles, skills level and operational processes and procedures. Assess the integrity of your current ICT architecture, its design, implementation and documentation. This includes a review of technical assets, the specification, capacity, capability and configuration.
- Safeguarding - Assess the effectiveness of your school’s approach to online safety, including roles, responsibilities and suitability of systems.
- Cross Reference - There will be users who remember an issue from four years ago on a Friday afternoon. Try to understand if the issues identified by users are frequent or one-off incidents. Ensure you regularly catch up with the technical individual carrying out the ICT services review, as further investigation is key to creating clear actions.
- Analyse the Findings - Understand if the issues are strategic, operational, technical or directly linked to teaching and learning.
- Document - Ensure you are capturing all of the findings as this is the basis for your action plan.
- Review - Set up a workshop with the staff who will help rectify the issues and drive the desired change. In the workshop ensure you review each finding and action, agree timescales for a suitable solution and allocate someone to drive the change.
Post Health Check
- Governance - It is important to ensure you have a plan to manage the change everyone has agreed to. You need to set up fortnightly meetings to allocate actions and ensure everyone is fully informed on progress.
- Budget Allocation - Don’t allocate or spend any budget unless it is aligned to your action plan.
This is the process we follow when undertaking a Health Check Review at a school. We have found this approach provides clarity on investment, creates clear actions to address underlying issues and highlights clear lines of accountability.