Toby Baker, Programme Manager on the education team at Nesta

Nesta is launching an ‘EdTech Innovation Testbed’, in partnership with the Department for Education, to help colleges and schools to try out technology products and support EdTech tools to generate more robust evidence in real settings. 

Trying out new technology in colleges and schools is hard. Of course, there are many hundreds of logistical and resourcing constraints.

But there is often a deeper uncertainty in the minds of education leaders: Will this actually work in my college or school? 

Attitudes towards evidence in education have shifted significantly in recent years. We expect and demand a higher standard of evidence for innovation in the education sector.

Whether through organisations like the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) funding large-scale evaluations, or teacher-led movements like Research-Ed aiming to ‘make teachers research-literate and pseudo-science proof’ - the education sector is becoming more evidence-savvy.

This is a welcome trend.

Expectations vs reality: Bridging the gap

We know that technology can have really important positive outcomes. Its potential to improve learning, help educators and increase access to quality education is genuinely inspiring.

However, there is often a gap between our expectations of education technology (EdTech) and how it works in practice in colleges and schools.

Across the EdTech sector, evidence is typically less well-developed or only manages to capture part of the story of when, how and why technology generates impact. 

More accessible and rigorous evaluation, asking a wider range of questions, is a part of the solution. 

A common misconception about evidence and evaluation is that its only purpose is to ‘prove’ things. In fact, it’s often much more useful to help ‘improve’.

Used appropriately, evaluation can answer a really wide range of questions which are relevant to both the creators of EdTech and its users in colleges and schools:

  • What are the best conditions for implementation?
  • How long do tools need to be used in order to see benefits?
  • What types of training are required to ensure impactful use? 

For this reason, it’s helpful to think of evidence and evaluation as a journey, not a single event to be carried out after a piece of technology has been developed (Nesta’s ‘Standards of Evidence’ is an example of a framework which can provide guidance about this journey).

No matter what stage of development an EdTech tool is at - from a conceptual idea to a product being delivered in hundreds of colleges and schools - evidence (rather than intuition or hunches) can help to improve its design and usage. 

Structured programme of support

To help colleges, schools and EdTech organisations to continue their ‘evidence journey’ we are launching an ‘EdTech Innovation Testbed’ in partnership with the Department for Education.

The Testbed will mobilise groups of colleges and schools to try out and test EdTech products, while supporting EdTech organisations to generate more robust evidence in real settings.

Through a structured programme of support, the Testbed will help colleges and schools to try out EdTech tools that are suited to their specific needs.

Colleges and schools will be supported to understand more about technology use and implementation in their specific context, as well as understand if tools are having the impact they expect. 


At the same time, we will support EdTech organisations to participate in more robust evaluations as they seek to progress on their evidence journey and understand more about what works and barriers to impactful implementation.

We hope that this Testbed model can help increase access to more robust forms of evaluation than are typical in the sector in ways that are cheaper, quicker and more flexible. 

Closer collaboration between our education institutions and technology companies

By connecting colleges and schools with EdTech organisations in this way, the Testbed will facilitate closer collaboration between our education institutions and technology companies (adding to the great efforts of organisations such as EDUCATE, EdtechImpact or LendEd).

For colleges and schools, this should lead to tools which are better suited to their needs and more information with which to make better decisions about the right technology for them.

For EdTech organisations, this should give them more opportunities to grow their reach and information to inform the improvement of their products. 

By improving our understanding of what works and the barriers to implementing technology - crucially, with the involvement of colleges, schools and EdTech organisations - we can ensure that colleges and schools are realising the potential impact that we know technology can bring. 

Toby Baker, Programme Manager on the education team at Nesta

Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you or your college are interested in testing technology and getting involved in the EdTech Testbed.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Newsroom Activity

Kerry Boffey added a new event 10 hours

Introduction to Fellowship of Inspection Nominees

Join Kerry Boffey, founder of the Fellowship of Inspection Nominees (fin) for an informal session outlining fin support available to providers in...

  • Tuesday, 14 July 2020 02:00 PM
  • On-line. Longdon Hall, Longdon on Tern
Kerry Boffey - updated event, Safeguarding Masterclass 10 hours 58 minutes ago

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page