In my opinion governors have a critical role to play in schools. This is why I was happy to join the board of a local school in the past year. They help set out a school’s ethos and vision, take responsibility for financial decisions and spend time analysing data to make recommendations for progress. And crucially, we share our own personal blend of skills and areas of expertise with the school we’re working for.
One of my own personal specialisms is technology. The small school at which I am a governor uses EdTech very well and carefully considers technology both for teaching and learning, and for efficiency and effectiveness, particularly for improving parental engagement.
I have met with the curriculum lead for computing in my role as governor with responsibility for curriculum, and have explored ways in which the use of some EdTech can be extended and we have a good working professional relationship. But I’m one of the lucky ones – often the link between a governor and teaching staff doesn’t end up being made, or, frequently, technology skills and expertise aren’t represented among the governors. It can be difficulty enough recruiting governors let alone those with specific knowledge or skill in this area.
I recently saw research indicating that from the perspective of school leaders, expertise in technology is second only to safeguarding on the list of qualities sought after in governors. Yet the study from Canvas found that it is the most underrepresented area currently on boards – more than a quarter of school leaders put it among the toughest skills to find.
Governors have a strategic role and should support the SLT to make good choices when procuring, using and identifying the right EdTech for them – I’ve been a headteacher too, so know how valuable this can be! However, it is not currently an explicit role or requirement under the NGA guidelines.
Given the value and potential impact of EdTech I would expect schools to actively engage in using it to support teaching and learning and to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Governors therefore have a critical role.
Of course, it is for the teachers – through SLT – to determine how to effectively use EdTech within teaching. But Governors should help direct the process, and query and interrogate evidence around the decisions. The choices regarding procuring, using and identifying the right EdTech are essentially no different to the decisions made on any other initiative or purchase. The key questions are what the impact is and is it value for money. We already have this evaluative role but that outright link to tech expertise isn’t usually made.
The implementation of EdTech requires careful consideration in a teaching and learning context. There is a need to ensure that its implementation is properly supported by training and infrastructure and that it actually meets the identified needs.
All in all, it can be a challenging process. Currently, it feels like we’re missing opportunities when it comes to EdTech – an area of education that is only going to become more important as technology increasingly impacts all that we do. Teachers must have the key input, but can’t be expected to dedicate their valuable time to researching the options out there and ascertaining whether they’re right strategically for the school.
And that’s where governors can come in – we just need more people to volunteer and support schools, particularly where there is uncertainty around technology. After all, our key role is strategic. If there’s one area where external knowledge and understanding is sorely needed in schools in a rapidly changing world, it’s technology.
Colin Green is a governor at Colebrook Infant Academy in Swindon, and Director of Education at New Era Education UK