School improvement support has changed radically across all (most?) of Wales. In the South East where I work, all five local authorities (Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport and Torfaen) have combined school improvement services into one regional consortium called the Education Achievement Service for SE Wales.
"The EAS has been created by the five local authorities to raise education standards. By working together as part of an integrated service to support and challenge schools effectively, enhance front line services and make the most of the available resources, progress will take place quickly and effectively."
Unlike the 'culling' of education staff that occurred in the formation of some of the other consortia across Wales, the EAS retained the staff who moved from each of the local authorities. I now work for a 21st Century Learning team - five people in total. Two people full time, and three part time, basically this works out as 2.5 people in the team. That's two and half people to cover 266 schools across the region! As you can imagine much of our time has been spent trying to develop new approaches in how to work effectively with schools. What has become very clear is for the team to become far more strategic in the way to support schools. Most of our work so far has involved talking to headteachers, SLTs and ICT coordinators about how ICT is used across the whole school, for management & organisation, internal communications, L & T, CPD, assessment, etc. We feel that engaging in a conversation with the lead people in a school will eventually have greater impact on the way new technologies are used in a school and more likely to become embedded practice with the whole staff. That's not to say that we won't be working with individual teachers but experience has shown us that a school doesn't move forward in its effective use of ICT if the head and senior leadership teams are not fully behind it. I'm sure you can think of lots of current examples where the head teachers are certainly driving ICT from the front.
Working across the five authorities have also given us quite an insight into the regional differences in ICT provision in schools, which are to say the least, stark. How this inequity happened or was allowed to happen is deserving of a blog post of its own. Also remember that we are a curriculum ICT team, IT services to schools (corporate) have stayed in the five local authorities. So a question that has arisen is who is writing and supporting the educational ICT strategies in each authority? There appears to be a void. Do we have to support five different strategies or try to develop one for the region? Is that possible? This leads me quite neatly onto Hwb.
In the immediate future I'm really looking forward to the Hwb and Hwb+ learning platform roll out. The team have attended a couple of Hwb meetings with Welsh Government over the past month or so, and I'm 'chomping-at-the-bit' to try the Hwb+ platform out to see what's possible. I think there is going to be some great opportunities to work across the region supporting this national strategy. More on Hwb in my next post.