Using, Choosing and Using an educational consultant
The aim of this document is to provide advice and guidance in choosing a consultant in field of education. You may be headteacher or principal of a school or college, an officer in a local education authority (LEA) or school district, or director of a private company wishing to undertake work in educational sector. This article focuses mainly on information and communication technology (ICT), but underlying principles also apply more generally.
Using a consultant
Consultants, at least in UK, have a poor reputation as a species, and yet they are in greater demand than ever. Why? Why would any organisation elect to use a consultant rather than hiring someone? There are several reasons for this.
Some work is, by its very nature, short-term. If, for example, you are having a new computer suite installed, you might want some advice from an external person who has no axe to grind – and whom you can blame when half staff complain about design, equipment and so on!
In a specialist area, such as ICT, it’s quite likely that school doesn’t have expertise in-house to do what it needs to do within a particular time scale.
Although consultants can be expensive, it is (or should be) a relatively short-term expense. And don’t forget that you don’t have all on-costs, like pension contributions. These can add up to 20% of salary costs. Also, if consultant goes on holiday or falls ill, you don’t incur any extra expense.
Choosing a consultant
When choosing a consultant or adviser to assist your school in ICT, whether for Hands-On Support, training, strategic development or any other aspect of ICT, it’s important to get right person or company for job.
To help you do so, here is a list of questions you may wish to ask before hiring someone. You are unlikely to find any person or company who can answer “yes” to all of these questions, so you will need to bring your own professional judgement to bear on your decision.
1.Is consultancy independently accredited by a quality assurance scheme, such as by NaaceMark or similar scheme? If not, is it seeking accreditation? Note that an answer of “No” in either case is not necessarily a bad thing. In my own experience, work itself is so time-consuming that it’s quite difficult to go through hoops required to prove that you can do what you’re doing! That’s why next few questions are important too.
2.Is consultant a member of a relevant organisation, such as (in UK) Naace or Society for Education Consultants? These types of organisation provide a certain degree of quality assurance in sense that they won’t accept just anybody as members, although they will give no guarantees about quality of work undertaken by their members. Also, they often provide useful information about sector in which consultant works, which in theory at least keeps consultant up-to-date on current developments in field.
3.Ask for details of similar work undertaken by consultancy, and for details of satisfied clients – but bear in mind that a reluctance to supply such details may be due to considerations of confidentiality.