What it means to be a successful Multi-Academy Trust – The DLL Team

In News by James

As we continue to watch the education scene develop, we ask the question “What does it really mean to be a truly successful Multi-Academy Trust?” Over a series of posts, we will discuss the benefits of being a MAT, in this post we discuss the power of the mysterious ‘DLL’ team.

Depending upon the audience, the answer to this post may differ considerably, and this has certainly been the case in my experience. Whilst some may not appreciate the significance of linked schools working as a united front, the consolidation of efforts can certainly lead to some impressive results.

But what does it mean to actually be a ‘Multi-Academy Trust’? Why group academies together at all, and is there a common goal within all MATs?
This series is not a history lesson on academies and how they came to be; there are several great articles on this subject, one of which can be found at OpenLearn which provides everything you need to know on the matter. What this post is attempting to provoke is some consideration around the technology that each academy is now inherently reliant upon.

All MATs have a fundamental advantage over single academies when considering technology, not just the obvious buying power, but also the access they have to loyal individuals willing to provide feedback. Feedback is so often undervalued, whether it is from teachers, administrators, students or even parents/guardians.

By utilising these relationships and valuing feedback, issues can be identified, addressed and resolved far quicker. Access to ‘experience’ is fundamentally wider within a MAT than in a single academy and, borrowing yet another lesson from business, MATs can also be far more resilient.

So how do these relationships and the feedback that they provide play a part in providing value to a MAT? Well, experience comes in many forms, familiarity with technology being the one we will focus on. MATs who have realised this value, have already formed IT groups but that is not to say that it is too late for your trust. We would not, however, suggest that you advertise these groups as ‘IT’ related; you might find volunteers thin on the ground!

‘Digital Learning Leads’, has a far better ring to it and you’ll likely get a larger group of people interested in contributing (call it what you will but DLL is the example we will be using in this post). Ultimately, the best-case scenario for a MAT is a diverse group of individuals from different teaching/year groups from within your schools. It is also useful to have people with varying degrees of technical ability as well.

As an IT provider, when launching a new product (or looking to do so) we do not just want a group of ‘yes’ people who will find the product easy and beneficial to use. It is often far more useful to have a mixed group including people who really find it difficult working with technology. It allows us to fine-tune an offering into something far more realistic before launching it into the wider community. The same principal applies to a DLL team.

So, what is the purpose of a DLL team and how do you harness its power? The DLL team do not need to be techies; it is an important point to make as recruiting team members can sometimes be troublesome, especially if you are not able to offer any financial or CPD benefits. The DLL team are there to act as a sounding board, translators between the IT team & staff, and conduits for other staff to pose tech-based questions and ideas. They are the first group of users who are notified of proposed significant IT changes and the first group of people who IT will ask about when considering new potential projects.

Consider the roles of the team members. Are they all teachers? Do you have any admin or SLT representation? Are there members of staff that you could invite that work across more than one of your academies? The more insight that you deliver into this group, the better it will perform for your MAT.

As you move forward with your team, a number of benefits will arise. The first will be an immeasurable one; the general relationship between your technology team(s) and staff WILL improve. Both will learn more about each other; staff will feel more listened to and IT teams will have the opportunity to build a better rapport with staff who may have considered IT simply a hindrance days gone by.

Another benefit will be the emergence of groups of staff who do not normally feel represented. Now that may sound like an odd benefit, but these members are likely to be influential but not outspoken. They may hold credibility with team members and be well respected with students and parents. As other staff are catered for by utilising the DLL team as a conduit, these hidden groups will surface and want to be involved.

The ideal position for your MAT is to have a DLL team who represent the entire employee base, without exception. You may consider tying in or creating a student-based team as well; student insight can also be incredibly powerful.

So why is a MAT DLL team more valuable than that of a single academy? The answer is simple, a bigger and more diverse group. Sharing experience, thoughts, ideas and responsibility. Synergies created by a united team across multiple academies become organic. The desire to share technologies and learn from each other’s successes and mistakes sets the new standard.

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