This journey started for me in 2003...
... when I was asked by the DfE to be the Programme Manager for the Every Child Matters Programme. Designed to reconfigure the way that services for children, young people and families were delivered, Every Child Matters (ECM) was widely considered by the sector to be one most successful government programmes ever.
One of the key reasons for the success of the programme was something called the Outcomes Framework. This diagram set out the Outcomes, Aims, Goals and Targets at a national, regional and local level so that everyone involved knew what they were trying to achieve and where they fitted in. We knew it was going to be successful when the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health rang up and asked for 16,000 copies. While I in no way can claim all the credit for the Outcomes Framework, the role I played in developing it is the thing I'm most proud of in my career. I still have Head Teachers telling me that they still use the Outcomes framework in their schools today. I learned that Outcomes are important, and I'll come back to why a little bit later in the story.
Then in 2010 the world changed. A new government meant a new set of priorities and a focus on Academies and attainment. The ECM programme was brought to an end, and I, along with my colleague Nigel Hall, left the DfE. My big lesson from the 7 years I spent there was that education has the power to change lives. I hadn't really appreciated that before. There is an old adage that education is wasted on the young. I was one of those when I was young. Not any more.
In 2012 I was introduced to the Education Lead at BT Global Services, Paul Wyatt-Pike. Paul showed me their new cloud services offering for education. I have to say that when I saw it I didn't get it. I thought the solution at the time was too big, too clunky and too expensive for any school to implement, never mind buy. I was going to dismiss it all, when another colleague of mine, Paul Miller suggested I look again. Paul is the Governor of an SEN school and could see the benefits a good cloud solution could bring.
In 2013, because of my change management experience with ECM, Paul Wyatt-Pike asked me if I would help with a BT project to implement new solutions in two of the most challenged schools in Cardiff. They had a situation where there had been no real IT investment for 9 years. PCs were taking up to 20 minutes to boot up, resulting in lost teaching time and behavioural challenges in class. Even worse, the server hadn't been upgraded creating issues such as access to inappropriate websites in lessons.
With the help of the staff and a number of key partners, we implemented a solution that had an immediate impact on the school. In the first half term attendance went from 84% to 93%, exclusions were down 30% and lost teaching days went from 66 to 11. To be clear, we wouldn't put all of that improvement down to the new IT solution, but it clearly had an impact as Martin Matthews, the Federation Head tells you in the video below.
We attribute the success of the project to a number of factors, not least the engagement of the Head and the staff. From our perspective success was achieved because we had a group of companies, all experts in their own area, working together to make the solution greater than the sum of its parts. Our belief was (and still is) that no one company can effectively deliver all the component parts of the IT that is needed to run a school.
In early 2014 we learned that E2BN (the Regional Broadband Consortium for the East of England, set up by the Government in 2000) were letting an innovative new Public Sector procurement framework contract for "Educational Cloud Services". We jumped at the chance because we thought we had something special and different to offer.
In August 2014 we were successful in winning the framework contract against competition from many of the big names in the sector. We think the consortium approach was a key factor. As was our Outcomes approach. Our strong belief is that if you make decisions from an Outcomes perspective, rather than a technology perspective, you will make better choices. For example, if literacy is the biggest issue in your school, rather than buying 30 new tablets, you might be better to buy apps so that parents can learn with their children at home, or investing in CPD for your staff. There will always be 'shiny' new things coming to market (a few years ago it was 3D Printers, now its VR headsets). We advocate that you think very carefully about the Outcomes you want to achieve, and how you'll achieve them, before you spend your precious budget. Our strategy and IT Outcomes Framework can help with that.
Because of the innovative structure of the framework we can add (and remove) companies as requirements and technology changes. We started with 13 companies and we now have over 45 of the very best suppliers in the sector. We now provide millions of pounds worth cloud-based solutions, services and equipment to hundreds of schools, MATs, colleges and local authorities. We're very proud of our heritage and will use it to guide our approach to everything we do. We want to provide the best possible service because we know that education has the power to transform lives.
Nigel now heads up our Operations team, including delivering strategy sessions using the IT Outcomes Framework with school and MAT leadership teams across the country.
Paul now heads up our Partner team and is responsible for all of our local authority relationships.
Paul now heads up our Independent School activity, working with Senior Leadership Teams on their IT strategies.