The School Improvement Partnership

Helping schools develop skills and improve standards.

It is widely accepted that the rate of change in our use of technology is both rapid and accelerating. To equip children for their employment in 2020 and beyond they will need to have skills across many aspects of modern technology.  Teachers need to provide opportunities for their students to develop skills and to apply them within context to their learning. But in this environment of rapid change how to teachers keep up? How to they become familiar with the newer “emerging” technologies which represent the next level of the use of ICT in the classroom? The normal sources of professional development are drying up as a consequence of budget cuts year upon year. Since 2000 over £507 million has been spent in providing the ICT infrastructure but comparatively little has been spent in showing teachers how to make the best use of these resources!

At the end of 2010 the Northern Ireland Executive announced a draft budget in which they would aim to make year on year cost savings in the period 2011 to 2015.  In each year the effected educational bodies would be tasked with savings of the order of £4 million each.  All five education and library boards offered staff severance and early retirement and some 220 members of staff across the five boards and partner organisations took up the offer and left the service.

The restrictions on early retirement meant that many of those accepting the offer were long serving experienced staff.  The loss of these accomplished staff members created “knowledge gaps”
in the ability of the educational sector to provide full and wide ranging advice to schools.  In particular, subject based advice, once the main stay of the curriculum advice and support service, has been a notable casualty.  For example, while schools may seek advice in a subject such as Technology and Design (say) an individual board may have already lost this expertise.

It is expected that staff losses will increase year on year at least until 2015 and more and more expertise will be nowhere to be found as a result. The Northern Ireland School Improvement Partnership will aim to bridge these gaps and help schools develop skills and improve standards. Specialising in advanced educational technologies, the School Improvement Partnership was established in 2011. It is a Northern Ireland based IT business, staffed by educational professionals with many years of teaching and curricular support experience in local schools. The SIP principal partners are David Barr and Noel Hunter. Both David and Noel have over ten years teaching experience and some 20+ years in the curriculum advice and support service. Specialising in ICT and Technology &  Science respectively, they have a wealth of experience in bringing innovative solutions to the classroom.   Both played a major part in the initial cross-curricular skills training programme in 2008/9 as part of the role out training for the revised curriculum.

In 2113/14 schools will be required to formally report pupil ICT attainment using levels.  This means that pupils currently in year nine will be the first cohort to face this type of statutory ICT assessment.  Although schools have reported ICT attainment of their pupils since 2009, this will be the first occasion on which pupils will be awarded a “level” on a seven level scale.  ICT skills will be delivered and assessed not through ICT itself but in an appropriate context through enriched subject teaching. Providing systems and support for this change in assessment arrangements will be a particular focus for the School Improvement Partnership. SIP has already hosted a very successful one year pilot for seven local schools (See Case Studies) and offers all schools a “Try before you buy” scheme (See Try-It).

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The School Improvement Partnership is the sole reseller of MAPS in Northern Ireland.



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