Why I support Innovate My School

A couple of weeks ago I spent the day in the offices of Innovate My School in Chester, meeting with the extraordinary group of people who make up the IMS Advisory Board. You can see why they are extraordinary here – for some reason I was down to chair this meeting and suffice to say I had one of my more challenging days of education debate in a long time, pushed to my limits by the knowledge and expertise in the room. I left enervated and clinging to the final shreds of my professional credibility!

And why has this group of people agreed (for free, a long way from home, at significant opportunity cost for the self-employed among us) to be involved? In simple terms, I think it’s because we all believe that IMS is doing something really useful for the education sector and it’s doing it for ethically sound reasons. Where the worlds of education and commerce collide, those things are relatively rare and make IMS stand out from the crowd.

The Advisory Board has been assembled by IMS’s founder and Managing Director, Michael Forshaw to act as a kind of educational rudder to the company’s direction – to provide ‘corrective feedback’, to ensure that it’s heading the right way. It has no legal standing and no commercial ties to the company; we’re all just people who have met Michael through our work at one time or another. What we have in common is that we’ve all been impressed with his drive, his vision for what IMS could achieve for schools and, crucially, by his integrity. Michael means what he says, and then he goes and does it. You’d expect nothing less from a former school network manager and son of a head teacher!

Advisory board members Mark Anderson and Sarah Bedwell

Innovate My School is a business, but its business is in helping school leaders find useful and affordable products among the literal thousands of companies bombarding schools with information or clamouring for attention at conferences and trade shows. Their model of ‘speed dates’ puts local groups of heads in front of half a dozen interesting companies for a couple of minutes each, allowing them to see the best of what’s out there with the minimum of disruption to the job of running their school. Along the way it has grown into the UK’s most comprehensive and lively platform for educators to talk about and show what is working for them in their classrooms – the ‘innovation’ bit of the company name. New content from teachers and other educational professionals is published daily and last year’s inaugural annual hard-copy IMS Guide  was an impressive collection of advice and experience from around the sector.

I’ve got a long history in navigating the rapids of procurement in education and it’s always been a rocky ride, mostly because the customer (the school) is relatively isolated, with limited access to the views of others working in similar contexts. With budgets due to tighten year on year for the foreseeable future, the sector can ill afford to waste money. Innovate My School seems to me to be well positioned to help prevent that, and that’s why I am pleased to have been asked to play a small part in their development.

Dominic Norrish is a former history teacher, school leader and educational-technology consultant, and is currently the Group Director of Technology at United Learning, a national group of over 50 maintained and independent schools. Prior to this he worked for an academy trust where he implemented a 1-to-1 strategy and is now involved in similar projects in several United Learning schools, utilising iPads, Chromebooks and Android tablets. He has written a book on the subject in collaboration with other UK expert practitioners called ‘Educate 1-to-1’.

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