Digital Strategy: The Importance of a Robust Network Infrastructure in Multi Academy Trusts

28/03/24 Nick Shea
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An effective digital strategy should have a network infrastructure in place that allows all schools within Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) to connect, centralising IT management and providing a single platform for collaboration and learning. It includes promoting the educational experience of students, teachers, and administrators by enabling them access to online learning tools, learning platforms and real-time communication tools. For MATs this is essential as it means smooth communication, data sharing and efficient running of the Trust. With each new school added to the Trust, the complexity of the network increases, requiring a strong foundation to support the growing needs.

Challenges in Establishing and Maintaining Network Infrastructure in MATs

Establishing and maintaining network infrastructure in MATs comes with its challenges, the major challenge being standardisation as we noted in our previous blog.

MATs expanding through the acquisition of new schools often inherit different practices and technology infrastructures; this can result in compatibility problems, inefficient processes and fragmented communications. The physical locations of schools within a trust can be problematic in terms of network connectivity and bandwidth allocation. Ensuring that there are no interruptions on a line and that all computers work properly requires serious planning, coordination, and constant maintenance.

Imagine, you may find yourself teaching at several locations which use different Wi-Fi systems. It can be quite inconvenient to keep entering the Wi-Fi password each time you move to another site. However, standardising your network could make things much easier for both you and other educators, just plug it in and start teaching – it can actually be that simple!

Another thing is to comply with the digital and technology standards for network infrastructure described by the Department for Education (DfE) which will elaborate as we go through this article some more.

With multiple schools connected through a network infrastructure, the risk of cybersecurity threats and data breaches increases. MATs must implement robust security measures to protect sensitive data and ensure the privacy and safety of students and staff, this is where our digital strategy comes into play, we will audit your trust to make sure you have all the correct things in place for a safe and reliable environment for both staff and students.

Benefits of a Well-Designed Network Infrastructure in MATs

There are various advantages that MATS can gain from having a well-designed network infrastructure. Foremost, it promotes uninterrupted communication and teamwork among schools, teachers, students, and administrators, so a unified network enables teachers, staff and students to share resources with each other like information and lesson plans.

Secondly, an effective network system enhances student’s learning experience. It allows them to get access to digital sources of information, e.g., online teaching platforms as well as virtual classrooms that facilitate personalised learning. Students can work together on projects with their fellow pupils in online forums or receive immediate responses from their lecturers regardless of their geographical location.

Thirdly, for efficient operation within MATs there must be a strong network infrastructure. IT management becomes less complex through this method; it reduces administrative expenses; as well as enables centralised control and monitoring of all network sources by the IT department within the organisation. This strategy makes it easier for maintenance activities on networks such as troubleshooting processes besides upgradations ensuring the availability of the most present technologies including services to all schools in the trust.

DfE’s digital and technology standards for Network Infrastructure

The DfE has established digital and technology standards for network infrastructure in schools and MATs. These standards aim to ensure that schools have reliable and efficient network connectivity to support teaching and learning activities, one of the key recommendations is the use of full-fibre connections for broadband services, with backup measures in place to ensure resilience and continuity of service.

The DfE's standards emphasise the importance of scalable network systems specifically designed for the education environment. Schools are encouraged to have servers, storage, and cloud infrastructure that meet the DfE's standards to ensure smooth day-to-day activities. By following these standards, MATs can create a network infrastructure that aligns with the educational vision of the trust and supports the use of technology in teaching and learning, and resolve the challenges outlined previously.

When discussing MATs, it is clear that well-designed networks helps drive innovation and improve educational outcomes for everyone.

👀 Stay tuned for our next blog, where we will dive deep into the Information & Data strand! We will explore the DfE’s recommended digital and technology standards for schools in this crucial area.

To discuss your MAT’s digital strategy and adherence to the DfE standards, please get in touch.

Digital Strategies, Technology for Education

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