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A multi-academy trust is an association of academies that have formed a trust or have joined an existing trust.
Multi-academy trusts (MATs) are growing in popularity throughout the UK, the government had plans to encourage most schools to be part of a MAT by 2030 as they felt it would make the education system more dynamic, competitive, and stronger. This was outlined in the “2022 Schools White Paper, Opportunity for All” released by the government.
This means the educational landscape will become more competitive, with academy trusts trying to optimise their people, processes, and technology to help their academies perform better compared to their peers.
As per government data, as of January 2023, 40.4% of primary schools and 80.4% of secondary schools are academies or free schools. Even without a mandate by the government to push all schools towards being part of an academy, we will see academy trusts dominate the education sector.
Every new academy onboarded brings with it many challenges, the roles and responsibilities of the people will change, their internal processes from procurement to operation will change and finally, their technology infrastructure becomes part of a larger trust and will have to undergo some changes.
Individual academies and schools, as well as Multi-Academy Trusts as a whole, will have some of these tools and technologies as part of their IT infrastructure, such as Identity Management, access control, application subscriptions and licences, storage servers, databases, management information systems, cloud infrastructure, and so on. The key challenge will be to absorb, standardise, and optimise these technologies to an organisational standard that can be rolled out across the trust.
The IT decision-makers and the management team of MAT face the challenge of creating a centralised solution that minimises overall costs, processes, maintenance operations, and management. As more schools, academies, and trusts migrate their infrastructure to the cloud as part of their digital transformation journeys, reducing the total number of vendors, tools, platforms, and networks operating within their IT infrastructure becomes increasingly important.
1. Scalability : How to ensure that the network, security, and cloud infrastructure can be scaled in line with their strategic growth?
2. Efficiency : How efficiently can IT solutions be implemented with the right deployment option, in-time delivery and on a tight budget?
3. Standardisation : How to create and implement consistency of standards in operations and safety when onboarding new academies while still sustaining a scalable operating model?
1. Implementing the Trust’s standard technology practice in schools that already have their own established standards, infrastructure, policies, and skills.
2. Resolving conflict that might arise between existing school technology and the Trust’s standards.
3. Conceptualising, designing, and implementing policies, procedures and systems across schools that may be dispersed over different geographies and demographics.
4. Making a significant organisational and technological change as simple and pain-free as possible.
There needs to be a fine balance between centralising the IT infrastructure and accommodating some localisation as many of the schools in the trust could be distributed over a wide area or made up of different types of schools which would need some flexibility to their operating procedure.
Care must be taken to ensure that systems, processes and culture are aligned at the trust level and local teams are trained and supported to make the most of the centralisation and are empowered enough to make the most of it.
Multi-academy trusts need to adopt the business procurement mindset, the first step is to clearly understand the needs, identify the current infrastructure, group them into categories and consolidate solutions as best as it can be done.
Once you understand what IT assets and Infrastructure you have at an individual school level and in your trust as a collective, then the focus can be on analysing, defining, and drafting a centralisation and consolidation plan for all the IT services, systems and related third-party services.
• Centralisation and migration of cloud services
• Centralisation of networks and network infrastructure
• Consolidation of software, services, and licensing
• Centralisation and simplification of third-party service providers
• An IT skills audit of technical staff across the whole trust
• Identity Management Solutions and Role Definition
• What users do you have and what level of access do they need?
• Why were there impediments in your IT strategy?
• Where do you want to be with your IT infrastructure?
• How will you reach there and by when?
Compared to vendors who can offer piecemeal services or a few amalgamated services it would be ideal to choose a technology solutions partner who can work with the key leaders and stakeholders to analyse, propose, and implement the centralisation and consolidation of your IT Estate.
A mature partner should be able to provide fully managed network, security and virtualisation solutions within a clear framework that is scalable, reliable, and cost-effective. Once built this framework can be used to constantly optimise the IT estate and make onboarding new technology vendors a breeze.
Since 2020 we have seen a monumental increase in technology adoption by schools, driven largely by the pandemic as a short-term solution, schools are now realising the benefits of posting digital learning materials and resources, driving paperless assignments using digital solutions, video conferencing and group collaboration solutions to name a few.
As more schools try to blend traditional and digital learning tools, we will see a change in the technology landscape of academies across the UK in the coming years. From Interactive tools and gamification that make learning engaging and interactive to Data-driven education that utilizes learning analytics for personalized instruction and progress tracking, leadership teams across the education sector will need to have a clear IT strategy that is agile and aligned with the evolving technology landscape.
Technology is transforming education for the better, and institutions need to ensure there is the necessary infrastructure to support their technology strategy and enough skills to ensure service availability.
The classroom of tomorrow will be different from today as immersive learning, virtual reality, augmented reality, AI, and big data transform the education sector, and the focus will be on teaching students the necessary skills to succeed in the 21st century.
Therefore, multi-academy trusts must streamline their IT infrastructure immediately, making sure that connectivity, security, and virtualization of their IT estate are modular and centralised to support each academy in their trust in providing the best possible learning environment for students today and to be ready to incorporate any changes in the technology landscape of the future.
The best option is a fully managed service because it consolidates multiple subscriptions, solutions, and payment cycles into a single, simple contract that doesn't require additional staff. This means a scalable solution with a consistent user experience that is highly efficient.
Hence, Multi Academy Trusts need to be mindful and choose an expert digital transformation partner who can work with their leadership team to analyse, propose, and implement the centralisation and consolidation of IT services, systems, and related third-party service providers that support their long-term IT strategy.
As multi-academy trusts consolidate, centralise, and standardise their operations and IT infrastructure, they realise the benefits of this endeavour, which are a better experience for all the stakeholders—the administrators, the teaching staff, and the students—and a competitive edge over other academies and trusts in their geography.
Few of the trusts are claiming success with new software, cloud solutions, simpler reporting, multi-school single networks, and more secure IT systems, as the provisioning and central management of the IT systems have reduced data input and repetition.
However, these trusts have also ensured IT skills training and learning support for both staff and administrative teams to ensure the systems, processes, and standards are used effectively.
According to the World Bank research, "The Impact of School Infrastructure on Learning", students’ performance is enhanced in schools with better physical learning environments, which include IT infrastructure.
So, it may be wise for trusts to leverage IT solutions to gain a competitive edge and excel in their Ofsted assessments.
Connectivity – We provide business broadband connections, connecting these to the Internet, schools, or WANs. We can connect your individual academies with leased lines that deliver the bandwidth necessary to handle simultaneous connections from hundreds or thousands of end-users and even deploy an SD-WAN solution for optimised performance.
Encryption & Authentication – We offer both SSL VPNs and IPsec VPNs to protect your confidential data and can integrate these with IAM platforms such as Active Directory.
Security – We can deploy Unified Threat Management (UTM) tools to help safeguard your end users and protect your network from attack and inappropriate network use, ensuring compliance with KCSIE and Prevent regulations.
Collaboratio Tools – We offer several unified communications options that help end users collaborate with features such as instant messaging, audio conferencing, video conferencing, and screen sharing.
Cloud Solutions – We help you make the most of Public Clouds, Private Clouds and Hybrid Clouds. We enable organisations to embrace and get the most out of Cloud services.
Back up & DR solutions – We offer cloud back-up, storage and disaster recovery solutions that help you ensure you do not lose any critical data and in the event of a contingency you can be back, up and running in the shortest time possible.
All these hSo services are backed by Service Level Agreements and are supported 24x7 by our UK Customer Support Centre.
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