Will the Minister outline steps to simplify ICT systems in schools by using one system in every local authority?
The Welsh Government is committed to enabling maintained schools across Wales to take full advantage of the transformational benefits which digital and technology can have on education. Through the Hwb EdTech programme, over £116 million has been provided to local authorities to future-proof education technology infrastructure and services in all maintained schools across Wales. This funding ensures schools can benefit from the investment in superfast connectivity and digital services, including Hwb, to underpin the Curriculum for Wales.
The funding provided to local authorities was centred around supporting schools to maximise the benefits that digital and technology can offer. A core principle of these local authority change programmes is to provide a central strategic delivery partner service, which should ensure that all maintained schools benefit from a consistent and sustainable approach. All investment decisions and arrangements have been strategically driven by each local authority to ensure a standardised model is in place across all maintained schools.
The Welsh Government’s Information Management Strategy provides guidance to schools and local authorities to support and simplify the statutory considerations in relation to their ICT systems and how educational data should be used safely and securely in line with legislative requirements. It encourages them to develop and/or procure systems that meet their own local needs, requirements, and budgets. Some have chosen to exercise this discretion by developing their own ICT systems to satisfy their local needs, whilst others have decided to procure, as the contracting customers, various systems for various purposes, from the core management information system (MIS) to cashless catering systems to timetabling solutions.
The Welsh Government does not form any part of discussions and negotiations for contracts relating to school ICT systems currently in place within schools and local authorities. Local authorities will all be in existing commercial contracts for varying lengths of time with various suppliers of their choosing that meet their own local needs.
The Digital Strategy for Wales outlines how we want to transform our approach to developing digital solutions in the public sector including through collaboration, common standards and supporting the public sector in working with the market in delivering their needs. Therefore, Welsh Government representatives are currently part of a stakeholder group to provide support in a discovery and, potentially, procurement project relating to school management information systems (MIS). This work commissioned by the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) on behalf of Welsh local authorities is being led by the Centre for Digital Public Services (CDPS). Its scope is to assess the school MIS landscape, carry out research into user needs and requirements, and to provide a foundation for any future procurement of school MIS solutions by schools and/or local authorities. The project is part-funded by the Welsh Government having recognised the project’s ability to encourage a joined up, all-Wales approach to school MIS development and/or procurement.
The Welsh Government also manages and hosts the Software Development Forum (SDF). This is a Forum that brings together various stakeholders such as educational software suppliers and local authorities and facilitates continuous collaboration with stakeholders to develop, review, and refine school ICT systems to ensure they are both fit for purpose within the Welsh education framework and as simplified and burden-free as possible for schools.