Another 450,000 students to get IT Academy with the SSAT

It’s NAACE Conference time again – this year it’s in Blackpool – and we’ve just announced the expansion of the IT Academy programme in partnership with the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT amongst friends).

Of course, because NAACE is in Blackpool, the official Microsoft Press Release starts “Blackpool, UK – Wednesday 4th March 2009”, which makes a change from “Seattle”, “London” or “New York”. At long last, we’ve put the north west onto our map!

In a nutshell, we’ve announced a partnership with the SSAT that expands availability of the IT Academy programme out to a further 500 secondary schools in the next year, on top of the 300 universities and colleges that deliver it today. In today’s economy, where ‘employment’ is right at the top of students’ minds as they head towards the workplace, it makes sense to expand the programme – the primary goal of the IT Academy programme is to provide Microsoft certifications, which are widely recognised by employers. Potentially, within a year the scheme could be covering up to 450,000 students in the UK. And the qualifications it covers include Digital Literacy Curriculum (suitable for 13-14 year old students), Microsoft Desktop Technician (equivalent to an A/AS level), up to Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE) which is the equivalent of an NVQ Level 4 (First Degree)

Here’s the detail from the News Release:


Blackpool, UK – Wednesday 4th March 2009: Microsoft has today announced an agreement with the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) to help schools deliver IT qualifications designed to meet the needs of students, employers and the 21st century school.

Microsoft’s IT Academy programme has been re-designed to meet the needs of SSAT’s network of schools and gives students practical skills in information technology that are rewarded by a Microsoft certification that is recognised by employers across the world. The programme will be made available through SSAT’s network of specialist schools and academies.

With students worried that it will be difficult to find a job when they leave school, college or university, it is important young people have relevant skills and knowledge that will help to improve their employment prospects. This announcement of an agreement between the SSAT and Microsoft will help schools to respond to the needs of the employment market, and to raise the information technology skills of students and teachers, which will have a positive knock-on effect on local communities.

The programme is expected to cover up to 450,000 students in 500 secondary schools within the first year, building on the existing 300 colleges and universities that deliver the courses and qualifications already.

Speaking of the new partnership between Microsoft and SSAT, Elizabeth Reid, the Chief Executive of the SSAT, said:

“It is important young people have the skills and knowledge required to enter the workplace and make a valuable contribution from the beginning. This initiative builds on our commitment to ensuring students are fully equipped for the challenges of the 21st century. We hope that it will also serve as a valuable resource for the whole community.”

Responding to the requests of the SSAT’s network of schools, Microsoft has re-designed the IT Academy programme, which has been running for the last five years, to deliver training and development for students seeking employment in the IT workplace. The programme has also helped students seeking employment in less technical jobs, but where the use of IT has become a commonplace requirement of employers. At the end of their course, students are able to qualify for a recognised Microsoft certification, which is widely recognised by employers – for example, as a Microsoft Certified System Engineer.

Alan Stevens, Deputy Head teacher of the Sawtry Community College in Essex has implemented a similar IT Academy programme to today’s announcement for a number of years, and has used it to help students, staff and employers in the local community:

“One of our 16-year old students has now achieved the recognised Microsoft Certified Trainer qualification. It doesn’t replace her achievement at GCSE level, but it will help her to stand out from the crowd when it is her turn to look for a job.”

With the changes in the formal education leaving age coming in 2010, there is a recognised need for all students to have a curriculum that matches their employment aspirations, and the new IT Academy programme agreement between the SSAT and Microsoft will directly contribute to meeting this need. Microsoft has been working with qualifications awarding bodies for at least 5 years to ensure that the programme fits into the national awarding schemes, and today’s expansion of the scheme demonstrates how quickly employers and the education system can work together to respond to the current economic conditions.

Andrew Dent, MD of a local employer to Sawtry, says:

“When I am recruiting new staff, I look for the right qualifications and experience to do the job. If I’m faced with two similar candidates, the one who has job-relevant qualifications will stand out – and a recognised Microsoft qualification would only normally be held by somebody who has already been in a job for a number of years. So students applying with these qualifications have a head start on all of the others.”

Schools joining the Microsoft IT Academy Programme will save money and, through the SSAT, will be connected to a network of other schools involved in the programme, thereby giving them the opportunity to learn from others.

Gordon Frazer, Managing Director of Microsoft UK, said:

“This agreement with SSAT will provide students with the right tools when they enter the jobs market, which is an increasingly competitive place, especially for those with limited experience.  The IT Academy programme is being created to give students the best possible opportunity to secure a job and show their new employers that they are able to contribute to the business from day one.”

You can register and find out more from the SSAT website. To get the special SSAT member pricing of £560 pa, you need to contact Prodigy Learning to register for this programme by phone (0845 399 1553) or by email at The £560 per year, which includes all training materials and qualification resources, to support teachers to achieve Microsoft Certified Professional and Microsoft Certified Trainer status.

The Microsoft IT Academy Programme will provide SSAT schools with a complete roadmap of IT education and certification. Additionally Microsoft certifications are recognised by OCR, City & Guilds, SQA and Edexcel. These awarding bodies provide validated exams in Functional Skills, GCSE, A-level and Diploma levels and schools are able to gain valuable performance points and draw down programme funding.

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