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The education secretary, Damian Hinds has challenged the education sector to launch an educational revolution in schools, colleges and universities. It is ethically, morally and commercially important to all our futures to do so. The UK faces a skills crisis due to a lack of investment into professional training and teacher development, and this is most apparent in further education (FE).

The UK has more than twice as many GCSE pupils per teacher as the European average, according to research comparing UK education to the rest of the continent. This is even worse in further education with the average amongst the EU member states standing at 12.9 pupils per teacher, while the UK has 26.1.

Hinds is right to highlight that UK institutions and tech partners need to develop solutions that help to improve teaching and learning, constantly evolving and innovating so that all stakeholders can achieve the highest possible standard. As a community, tech companies need to continuously deliver real opportunities for teachers, and tangible educational outcomes for students through action-based research and partnership with schools.  

Technology for technologies’ sake  

Hopefully Hinds’ comments will encourage FE institutions to work with tech partners to address real problems that education needs solving. On too many occasions “amazing new shiny technology” has been used for technologies’ sake and that has overshadowed what should be the real concentration of everyone’s efforts; supporting teachers to be the best teachers that they can be. 

Technology has the potential to revolutionise professional training and teaching styles. However, before signing contracts, hard questions have to be asked to justify the return on investment and show demonstrable improvements to student/teacher experiences. Whilst it is easy to look at the financial costs of technology, all too often other considerable aspects such as set-up time, teacher training time, adoption, scale, frequency of use and engagement are overlooked. 

Teacher Development is Key

In order to address the talent gap currently affecting the UK, ed-tech needs to support teacher development. Not only does professional development make it more likely for NQTs to stay in their roles, there is research to suggest that the quality of teaching a student receives makes a considerable difference to their outcomes; most notably from the Sutton Trust who suggest that for a student from a disadvantaged background this could be as much as a year’s worth of teaching.

A great example of this is Shavington Primary School (a partner of the Learning for Life Partnership) which has invested in “the Challenge” and installed 360o video systems in their teaching areas so that every lesson taught can be effortlessly captured for teacher review, reflection and coaching.

 

Dan Thomas, CEO of The Learning for Life Partnership who run Shavington Primary School, has been spear-heading the project:

“The focus of the initiative is all around the efficient use of technology to support teacher training and in the achievement of increased pupil outcomes. Shavington staff are determined and committed to improving their teaching effectiveness to focus on improving student outcomes. Having 360o video systems in place means that all normal teaching can be reviewed, and teacher effectiveness discussed in a collaborative manner with colleagues and external experts.” 

He continues, “The technology coupled with developing teaching practice is already driving positive change with all staff mindful that they can now easily look back at any of their lessons taught; there is no prior scheduling required, no setting up of equipment, no starting and stopping of recording and as a result, most importantly, the Hawthorne Effect is minimised and normalised teaching coached making the whole process worthwhile. On demand lesson observations are being trialled instead of in-class ones and rich constructive conversation fuelled by the exploration of 360o classroom video clips is taking place between colleagues on segments of lessons.”  

Ultimately, the UK’s educational establishments need to take Hinds’ comments as a driver to invest in retaining, recruiting and developing amazing teachers that fluently use all manner of EdTech and other tools to deliver the most effective quality learning experience for the young people in our classrooms. If we can’t address the skills gap facing UK students, we risk falling behind on the international stage as the next generation enters to workforce. 

Andrew Goff, Director of ONVU Learning

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