Finding a strategic edtech partner for our trust

Published: October 5th, 2020

A bit of background

Cidari Multi Academy Trust was established in 2013 and is made up of eight primary schools and one secondary school. As the main Trust of Blackburn Diocese, it has a mission to provide high quality education to all its children, based on clearly established Christian values and principles.

Cidari Multi Academy Trust is committed to achieving excellence in education, allowing each child to reach their full potential, flourishing academically, socially, spiritually and emotionally. A strong caring ethos with clear moral purpose is instilled in pupils across the family of schools.

Working collaboratively with school leaders, Cidari aims to empower its schools to put in place strategies that will deliver the best outcomes for their academy. The trust encourages sector led improvement to maximise and share resources through knowledge and opportunity.

As part of a review of the education technology provisions across its schools, Cidari identified a need to upgrade front-of-class interactive displays so began to explore solutions available on the market and partnerships that could be leveraged.

“Cidari Multi Academy Trust is an extremely well-run organisation. We’re able to operate with a financial surplus so we can systematically allocate budget to priority spend areas. This allows us to make greater impact, continuously improving our high standards of education,” explained Peter Ashworth, Chief Executive of Cidari Multi Academy Trust.

Key Considerations

For Cidari, the procurement process was rigid in seeking a quality edtech partner that could work with the schools in a partnership approach, not only providing industry leading technology but wider value and support in the long term that would help realise pedagogical outcomes.

As the existing technology across the schools was a mixed estate, the trust wanted to find a technology provider that would help standardise its provision through a phased approach and with minimum disruption. One of the objectives of tech standardisation was to give educators familiarity and confidence when moving between classrooms or even between schools for portable staff.

In the interest of bolstering staff confidence using new technology, Cidari needed an edtech partner that offered comprehensive training and support. This would allow educators to get the most out of the investment and have the maximum impact on teaching and learning.

A key priority for Cidari was identifying an interactive flat panel display that could seamlessly integrate with existing edtech across the estate. As a ‘Google Trust’ that has begun the implementation of Chromebooks, a solution was needed that was compatible and could be used in conjunction with Google software and devices. This was integral to achieving the ambition of creating interconnected and collaborative classrooms.

Having a pre-existing relationship with Promethean, Cidari naturally included the brand in its procurement exploration process based on the excellent experiences it already had. The trust began to evaluate its options and liaised with Promethean and its partner LEB Partnership to arrange a demonstration and open a dialogue about how Promethean could support the trust’s objectives.

Why Promethean?

Following an extensive consultation where all of Cidari Multi Academy Trust’s requirements were discussed at length, the Promethean ActivPanel interactive display was chosen as the interactive flat panel display of choice and would be implemented as a phased upgrade to the full estate.

With over 20 years’ experience in the education sector, Cidari Multi Academy Trust was confident in Promethean as a trusted partner to support the upgrade and provide valuable expertise. By partnering with Promethean, the trust felt assured they would receive the consistency and continuity they need to achieve success.

“Our ICT strategy is built around several technology partners that can help elevate our delivery. As a trust, we wanted to select an established education technology partner that we could forge a long-term relationship with, for financial stability but also access to industry-leading hardware and knowledge that align with our strategy for the future,” said Peter.

The ActivPanel continues to evolve with new and exciting features to give educators and pupils more functionality. Whilst this may be a concern for some schools looking to do a phased and standardised implementation, Cidari was reassured by Promethean’s firmware updates to all models of the ActivPanel. Regardless of whether ActivPanels are installed at the beginning or end of the implementation, users will have the same experience. The firmware updates future-proof the ActivPanel and guarantees fluidity for portable staff.

Promethean has worked closely with the trust to develop coordinated implementation strategies for all of the schools, ensuring that the installations are at an agreed pace and that appropriate processes are put in place for integration with existing edtech as well as training. Promethean will continue to assist Cidari with after sales support into the future through responsive customer service support as well as access to training materials and resources.

Peter added:

“There is no denying that the ActivPanel is  a word-class system that is transforming teaching and learning across Cidari – but moreover, we are benefiting from a fantastic relationship with Promethean as an active edtech provider that is going above and beyond to add value through wider support.”

Promethean has worked closely with Cidari to strengthen its education technology strategy at both trust and school level. As part of the investment programme, Promethean and its partner LEB Partnership have delivered numerous ActivPanel training sessions and will continue to do so over the duration of the implementation and beyond.

“Promethean elevates itself even further when it comes to communication and engagement with schools in the interest of pedagogy. There are constant new injections of thinking from Promethean, but what is special is their ability to keep schools up-to-date, giving us foresight on the evolution of product development so that we’re primed to positively incorporate this in our strategy,” added Matt McIver, the Chief Operating Officer.

Cidari is now halfway through its implementation of the Promethean ActivPanel in schools across its estate. Teachers and pupils are already recognising the benefits of the ActivPanel as the interconnected hub of the classroom, facilitating engaging teaching and class collaboration simultaneously. Cidari Multi Academy Trust is confident in its long-term partnership with Promethean.

Responding to COVID 

Following the Government’s announcement on school closures, Cidari Multi Academy Trust, like most other schools around the UK, remained fully operational. Although the majority of students moved to distance learning at home, each day Cidari’s schools would welcome 70 – 80 children into the classroom.

While there was no requirement to deliver formal education to these students, Cidari wanted to run a curriculum as close to conventional as possible. Naturally, this required appropriate distancing and safety protocols to be in place, which saw class sizes reduced to a maximum of six students and teachers working on rotation.

Striving to provide continuity of learning and maintain high levels of collaboration, Cidari  kept the ActivPanel at the heart of its classroom-based teaching. Observing necessary distancing and sanitising, students would still go up to the front of the class and engage with content on the ActivPanel. Using the in-built app to screen share content between the ActivPanel and students’ Chromebooks, teachers could also facilitate group discussion and peer feedback.

For those students at home, distance learning was rapidly mobilised using existing Google platforms.

Matt explains:

“We were very fortunate that we had already invested in a robust IT infrastructure that is flexible enough to support students wherever learning takes place. Despite the news headlines which suggested schools were closed, the reality is that most, if not all, have remained open at a reduced capacity. For those students attending school, we believed it was important to deliver engaging lessons and maintain lesson delivery as close to normal as possible.”

Cidari Multi Academy Trust has also been keen to minimise disruption to its ActivPanel implementation, with plans underway to complete the next installation phase in the summer term:

“In the same way we can’t afford the recent challenges to get in the way of learning, we can’t allow it to stifle progress. With the appropriate safety procedures in place, the ActivPanel installations can go ahead as scheduled. And with current plans for schools to be open at full capacity in September, it’s even more important that we use the quieter time to complete the installations now,” concluded Matt.

Credit St Aidans CofE Primary Academy

Photo credit: St Aidans C of E Primary Academy