Why school leaders need the New Technology Advisory Board – independent advice. Paul Haigh explains

BETTBETT: 'sea of humanity'As our community makes its annual pilgrimage to BETT, we plan our visit and work out where we want to go. If you are like me the 'trade show' aspect of BETT, superficially its raison d'être, is just the flag that brings all the people in the educational technology community together for the most important bit – talking to each other!

This year sees yet more change, and lynchpin national ICT organisation Becta is no longer there to offer advice and guidance to schools. And this year we all get to grips with BETT'S move to ExCeL but these two changes are related by what I have to tell you.

You might think in a vast hall of sales people there is no independent advice to be had. Or, if there is, those snippets and gems passed on won’t turn into ongoing support back in your schools. As you perfect your 1,000-yard stare aimed at avoiding eye contact with yet another salesman trying to sell you a technology you already know about (and would be far more interested in them selling you CPD or support for) you might want to seek out a conversation with someone who can help your school make the most of technology and cope with the upcoming changes to the ICT curriculum.

That’s where the opportunity to meet the New Technology Advisory Board (NTAB). You can find us on the at E250, space being hosted by NAACE, the membership organisation for ICT professionals in education. Excel offers a lot more space for meetings than the crowded and claustrophobic Olympia where you might find yourself floating along on a tide of humanity. Don’t forget, NAACE is there all week, and it also shares NTAB's aims to offer unbiased, researched-based advice and support to schools.

Who make up the NTAB?

We are now seeing the reality of the "self improving school led system". The rise of academies and the fall of the role of local authorities and national agencies like Becta mean that schools now need to work as self-supporting communities of practice. The National Teaching Schools are at the heart of this. There are now almost 220 of them and another 150 will be announced this spring (a further 150 in 2014)

These 500 outstanding schools are not there to run the education system but to be the strategic hubs at the heart of 500 alliances of schools who will support each other and take on more of the much-touted freedom and autonomy the current government is offering schools (albeit with a ever more keen edge of accountability).

My own school, Notre Dame High, in Sheffield, became a teaching school in the first cohort in 2011. As a former Becta Excellence Award winning school (in 2009) there was a sense of shock when we saw the apparent gap in the remit – if teaching schools were to help navigate the education system towards a 21st century future and to lead innovation, why was there not an explicit expectation to lead in the field of new technology?

The answer to this was clear. Teaching Schools are there to decide locally what innovations are needed, based on what the alliance schools need, so if innovation with new technology was needed then that’s what’s they should facilitate.

But a quick analysis of the first cohort of teaching schools by consultant and former principal Bob Harrison, based on the ICT Mark, Excellence Awards and other signifiers of success and confidence with ICT, found that the majority of the new teaching schools did not have a reputation for excellent use of new technologies (obviously there are great schools who don’t chase accolades – never claimed it was a scientific study!).

This led me, as someone who moved on from leading new technology at Notre Dame to running its teaching school project, the Hallam Teaching School Alliance, to talk to Bob Harrison and Paul Hynes, former ICT Lead for the SSAT and now vice-principal of George Spencer Academy, also a teaching school. The three of us decided to set up the New Technology Advisory Board  on behalf of the National Teaching Schools (sign up for our newsletter at ntab.org.uk).

The aim of the NTAB was to bring together a range of stakeholders from the new technology community including Teaching Schools with lead status for ICT, big industry players including Toshiba, Microsoft and Intel, key higher education institutions, regional broadband consortia, NAACE, VITAL, CAS (Computers At School) and academy sponsors, to advise the entire teaching school network on the new technology issues of the day and help them to help their alliance schools.

One of the first tasks was to lobby the Department for Education for funding for teaching schools to innovate and disseminate support around new technologies, and education secretary Michael Gove MP{ announced this when he opened BETT 2012. Today a rather modest £200,000 has filtered down to ten teaching schools, and this work is happening and those schools have joined us.

Then NTAB secured backing from Open University's CPD unit VITAL which commissioned a research project to ascertain capacity and capability across the entire teaching school network – this will report soon. Also, NTAB members fully engaged in the work to redraft the ICT Programme of Study and, working with CAS, we have already seen the direction of travel and planned our first CPD events to help schools adapt to the new ICT Programme of Study.

Then, most recently, we have been kindly supported by NAACE who are helping NTAB meet school leaders at BETT. So if you are a school looking for support, or if you are a teaching school looking for help in giving support to others or if you are an organisation looking to partner with NTAB to help support schools and contribute to research and development, then come and meet us, on Thursday at BETT (1-3pm) or ask anyone in a NAACE T-Shirt to point you towards us. Or simply pick up information for post-BETT meetings.

Paul Haigh is director of the Hallam Teaching School Alliance and leads the New Technology Advisory Board (NTAB)

BETT 2013 logo




Naace E250
NTAB is with NAACE at BETT on Thursday January 31, 1-3pm

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