Hwb programme: strategic overview of digital services for maintained schools in Wales

Since 2012, the Welsh Government has been providing maintained schools in Wales with access to a wide range of digital infrastructure, services and resources. The Welsh Government remains committed to delivering a national approach to digital services, enabling maintained schools in Wales to consistently exploit the transformational benefits which digital and technology can have on education.

Through the Hwb programme, we are providing a range of digital services which will inspire our teachers and learners to confidently embed digital practices, while developing their culture, competencies, skills and knowledge underpinning the Curriculum for Wales.

We are fundamentally challenging and changing the digital landscape in schools, developing a fully sustainable, standardised and consistent approach with digital being seen as the ‘fourth utility’.

The long-term strategic aims of this programme are to:

  • improve educational standards and outcomes
  • prepare learners for life and careers
  • maximise the opportunities digital presents to reduce the burden on our workforce and
  • to support the wider Welsh economy.

This strategic overview outlines the overarching approach to the delivery of digital services which supports the delivery of these aims.

Develop and implement a strategic and sustainable approach to embed digital services in all maintained schools in Wales. We will:

  • recognise and understand how education priorities can benefit from cross-government work programmes through a sector leadership group;
  • raise awareness of the importance of digital and technology in supporting the transformation of classroom practices which underpin the Curriculum for Wales;
  • work with local authorities to raise schools awareness of the importance of technology as the ‘fourth utility’ - ensuring schools are appropriately planning and budgeting to receive adequate and cost effective support and services;
  • develop a robust programme of digital change to meet existing and future challenges faced by our schools;
  • recognise the importance of horizon scanning across the sector to simplify the adoption of new technology, embracing a proactive approach to supporting schools;
  • manage a strategic digital link with other aspects of education in Wales, including but not limited to further and higher education institutions; and
  • encourage and support collaboration across the Welsh Government, local authorities (education and IT teams) and regional consortia.

Provide schools in Wales with a simple and compliant route to market, to purchase appropriate equipment and services at the most cost effective price. We will:

  • build strategic relationships with key sector suppliers to represent the needs of schools in Wales;
  • develop a national education framework and catalogue of equipment and services;
  • identify opportunities to include innovative products and services in our framework to ensure it remains relevant to sector needs; and
  • leverage the benefits of national procurement opportunities to maximise investment opportunities and realise economies of scale.

Ensure there is a suitable national infrastructure in place to consistently support the needs of schools in accessing and using digital services. We will:

  • simplify local infrastructure needs by maximising the use of our high-speed connectivity across Welsh schools;
  • continue to develop a compliant Hwb Cloud as an alternative to local infrastructure delivery;
  • through collaboration with local authorities, ensure the digital infrastructure meets the needs of schools, adopting a ‘turn it on and it works’ approach,;
  • further develop the education digital guidance and standards, ensuring the digital infrastructure evolves in line with school needs and current technical standards; and
  • work with the local authorities to deliver an appropriate national education infrastructure which will streamline local delivery and realise more efficient and effective ways of working.

To support schools in the digital delivery of our national mission, we will:

  • ensure all maintained schools in Wales have consistent access to a wide range of centrally-funded, bilingual transformational services and content;
  • identify shared services for schools which remove complexity and costs from school budgets, or offer more efficient ways of working;
  • encourage the teaching profession to collaboratively develop digital content which can be shared via the Hwb platform;
  • work with the sector to ensure all services are designed around user needs; and
  • through access to anytime, anyplace digital services, identify opportunities to help reduce the cost of the school day and the impact of poverty on attainment

Safeguarding our learners in Wales is paramount. Digital resilience can be seen as a challenging area to navigate, especially for non-specialists. We will:

  • continue to provide robust guidance on monitoring, filtering, data security and cyber security;
  • design digital services with safeguarding/information assurance at the core;
  • ensure all Hwb services are compliant with relevant regulations and schemes (GDPR, Cyber Essentials, data processing, etc.) to help schools meet their digital safety requirements;
  • leverage the all Wales network to deliver shared services to help schools meet their safeguarding and cyber security obligations;
  • engage with other government agencies such as the National Centre for Cyber Security; and
  • deliver an annual National Digital Resilience Action Plan.

A lack of digital skills and capability can be a barrier to full exploitation of digital services. We will:

  • ensure digital capability and skills are built into professional learning through collaboration with Professional Learning officials and regional consortia;
  • provide a range of engagement activities and support across the sector to fully embrace digital transformation to ensure schools are equipped to deliver the Curriculum for Wales;
  • facilitate expert collaboration to develop regional/national approaches to consistently meet school needs; and
  • further develop the Hwb Support Centre working in partnership with local authorities and schools to identify and share best practice