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Think IT in conversation with: Chris Tweedale - CEO of Guildford Education Partnership

Updated: Aug 22, 2019

Chris Tweedale has over 40 years' experience in education as a teacher, Headteacher, Government Advisor, Senior Civil Servant in England, Director of School Improvement in Wales and CEO of three Multi-Academy Trusts. In this conversation with Neil Watkins, Chris shares some of his experiences, offers advice to new MAT CEOs and shares his views on IT in education.

What's the best thing about being a MAT CEO?

"Bringing people together for the benefit of young people and the ability to move faster than you could in the past. If you have a good relationship with your schools, you have the ability to move quickly to bring in new technology, systems, equipment and processes without the bureaucracy that sometimes gets in the way when schools work together."

What's the most challenging thing about being a MAT CEO?

"Schools traditionally had a Head with huge delegated personal responsibility for their stand alone school, but when you join a MAT it becomes more of a collaborative venture. That means that Heads used to total control need to compromise to make things work across the Trust, and for some Heads this way of working can be quite difficult. Collaboration takes time and effort and it can't just be imposed. It is worth it though because you get a better outcome in the long term."

What advice would you give to a new MAT CEO?

"Talk to all your stakeholders as often and as much as you possibly can to build consensus around what you're doing together. Telling people what to do is not the answer. Your role is about getting people to believe that working together and sharing resources achieves better outcomes for pupils. Bring people with you on a journey rather than telling them what to do.

You need to have a vision for the future, if that vision isn't shared it won't succeed. Your vision has to be shared and owned by all the key players and staff. Any time used to build consensus is time worth spending."

As a MAT CEO, how much do you get involved in IT related decisions?

"Traditionally each school had their own systems and IT policies. But at some point, for a MAT to be efficient, processes and systems need to be aligned. So IT decisions are key for collaboration and working together. The easy thing is to leave each school to its own devices and systems, but at the end of the day it's not a good way forward for pupil attainment, forecasting, admin etc. There has to be a belief in and understanding of Trust policies, and IT needs to be aligned."

What trends do you see with IT in education?

"There is a big move from in-house server and network storage to cloud and internet-based systems that are adopted across schools and across school life, both admin and curriculum, and systems are becoming more integrated. Too many schools are wedded to in house, home grown systems that rely on existing staff to keep them going."

What's your view on Cyber-Security in schools?

"I don't think that in general, education professionals working in schools fully understand the importance of cyber-security in the school system. So, over the next few years we're going to see a much greater emphasis on cyber-security in schools. One example of that has been seen recently with GDPR policies being adjusted to ensure compliance with the law."

What's your view on IT in the curriculum?

"Use of IT has traditionally been seen as an "add-on" to the curriculum, whereas we 've got children, pupils and young people for whom IT is second nature and integrated into everything they do, so teachers and support staff need to understand that young people see IT in a different way than we older people do. So, to get young people interested in the curriculum we need to embed IT into schools as part-and-parcel of the curriculum.

When I was a Head in the 2000's, sixth formers used to see it is a badge of honour to hack into schools' IT. Now, it's not just sixth formers. We need to move from trying to police their IT use and help them understand the implications of what they're doing, and give them the digital skills they need in life."

Hear Chris talk at Think IT's IT MATters conference 2018:

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