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4.Ask for references, testimonials, or details of evaluations, ie evidence of quality assurance of consultants’ work.
5.You can also ask how consultant gets most of its work. Word of mouth is a good sign.
6.Ask for CVs of consultants who will be working in your organisation if you decide to sign up this consultancy.
7.Is consultant qualified to undertake work? This could be an academic qualification, accreditation as an inspector or training provider in one or more schemes, or qualification by experience.
8.Has consultant been on relevant training in last year?
9.Ensure that consultancy agrees not to subcontract work without prior discussion with you, client.
10.If you are considering consultant for staff training, ask if you can attend one of their training sessions in another school.
11.Ask for other evidence that will help you decide if consultancy is best for this particular work in your school, such as a client list (but note point about confidentiality above), examples of video work, published work or a website.
Using a consultant
Once you’ve decided on a particular consultant, have an agreement drawn up that ensures, for example, that you will be kept informed of progress. For example, it may not be unreasonable to ask for a summary every 2 weeks, if you are an LEA and consultant is working in your schools.
Once you’ve hired a consultant, make sure you get best value for money. This means some or even all of following, depending on particular circumstances:
Have a clear set of aims and objectives that you are both agreed upon. This may be developed in discussion with consultant before signing on dotted line, but there must be a clear set of expectations by time consultant starts work.
Make sure that consultant has tools needed to do job effectively. This could mean access to computer network, desk space, essential contact information and so on.
Ensure that you have all contact information you need too: phone and fax numbers, a mobile phone number too, perhaps, with facility for leaving messages, and an email address.
Put in place whatever is needed to enable consultant to “hit ground running”. If, for example, you spend first morning discussing what consultant should do, you’re throwing money down drain: all that should have been agreed beforehand – unless, of course, there is a need for a sudden change in plan, although even in those situations there should have been a contingency plan (a “Plan B”) in place.
Don’t keep asking consultant to do more and more in an unplanned kind of way. If more work is needed, discuss whether it could feasibly be done well in agreed time, or whether more days need to be allocated for it.
With proper groundwork when choosing a consultant, and sound planning, hiring a consultant to help you with your ICT work can be an excellent means of achieving aims of your organisation.
Based in the UK, Terry Freedman has nearly thirty years’ experience in education. Specialising in information and communication technology (ICT), he has taught in inner city schools, been Head of Department, worked at the Qualification and Curriculum Authority (a non-departmental government body) and held a 3rd tier officer post -- Head of E-Education -- in a London local education authority (LEA).