Education Secretary Damian Hinds has challenged the tech industry to launch an Education Revolution for schools, colleges and universities.

In some schools state-of-the-art technology is bringing education to life by helping children take virtual trips through the Amazon and control robots, while also slashing the time their teachers are spending on burdensome administrative tasks.

However, only a minority of schools and colleges are currently taking advantage of these opportunities.

Today the Education Secretary is calling on industry – both the UK’s burgeoning tech sector and Silicon Valley giants like Apple and Microsoft – to help tackle the five biggest issues facing schools and classroom teachers today.

These include developing innovative teaching practices, cutting teacher workload and promoting lifelong learning.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

I’ve been fortunate enough to see technology being used in revolutionary ways. Students are able to explore the rainforest, steer virtual ships or programme robots from their classroom, while teachers are able to access training, share best practice with colleagues and update parents on a pupil’s progress without being taken away from their main focus – teaching.

Schools, colleges and universities have the power to choose the tech tools which are best for them and theirbudgets. But they cannot do this alone. It’s only by forging a strong partnership between government, technology innovators and the education sector that there will be sustainable, focused solutions which will ultimately support and inspire the learners of today and tomorrow.

There are five key opportunities for a step change in education so the sector can create an EdTech Dividend, improving teaching and slashing workload.

These include developing innovative:

  1. Teaching practices to support access, inclusion, and improved learning outcomes for all
  2. Assessment processes, making assessment more effective and efficient
  3. Methods for delivery of teacher training and development by upgrading educator support so they can learn and develop more flexibly
  4. Administration processes to reduce the burden of ‘non-teaching’ tasks
  5. Solutions to lifelong learning to help those who have left the formal education system to get the best from online learning

In one of his first speeches to the sector at the World Education Forum, the Education Secretary set out his determination to raise the status of teaching as a profession and ensure teachers are able to focus their time and effort on the pupils in the classroom.

Shireland Collegiate Academy in Birmingham helps staff by reducing unnecessary burdens. The school uses many apps and software packages to facilitate the day-to-day running of the school, saving their teachers ‘hours and hours of time’.

Sir Mark Grundy, head teacher at Shireland Collegiate Academy said:

At Shireland Collegiate Academy we have used technology to support staff, students and families for a numberof years. We have supported many schools in replicating our processes, and having the interest and advocacyof the Department for Education around using technology for school improvement will make an enormousdifference.

Education technology leaders are already working with schools, colleges and universities to help them to embrace technology, with many doing so successfully. The Education Secretary is asking the tech sector to demonstrate how to roll this out more widely across the country, backed up by evidence of the impact they are having on schools, colleges and universities.

Through a package announced in the Autumn Budget, more schools are able to access ultrafast broadband speeds, connecting them to the world of technology and all the things it has to offer.

Over the autumn, the Department for Education will be working closely with the Chartered College of Teaching, the British Educational Suppliers Association and other industry leaders as they develop online training packages, establish an online portal providing free software trials for schools, and bring together industry and school leaders through a series of regional ‘demonstrator’ roadshows.

Caroline Wright, Director General at the British Educational Suppliers Association said:

After eight long years with next-to-no Government guidance on the use of Edtech in education, 2018 looks set to deliver a change of fortune for EdTech in English schools, thanks to today’s announcement by the Secretary of State for Education.

All-too-often we have seen an over-simplistic knee-jerk backlash against the use of technology in schools in recent times. These anti-tech adversaries cite mistakes made in the early noughties when shiny new pieces of tech were introduced into classrooms without effective training or support for teachers. And, yes, lessons must be learned from early tech implementation failures, but we must also not fail to recognise the power that technology has to inspire young minds and free-up teacher time to focus on the delivery of high-quality teaching and learning practice.

I am delighted that the DfE’s plans recognise that EdTech, when introduced as part of a whole school strategy, has the power to help improve pupil outcomes, save teacher time and reduce workload burdens.

It is also welcome that the DfE places teacher training and support at the heart and soul of their future approach to EdTech. BESA’s latest annual research of the use of ICT in UK schools found that 68% of secondary schools and 56% of primary schools cited training in EdTech resources as being their key challenge over the next 12 months.

 The measures outlined by the Secretary of State for Education to support classroom teacher training and development in the effective use of technology, are whole-heartedly welcomed and supported by the EdTech industry sector which BESA represents.

I’m therefore delighted that BESA members will be working closely with the DfE to provide free software trials for schools and to deliver a series of best-practice regional ‘demonstrator’ roadshows over the coming academic year.

In the coming months, the Department for Education will be working with businesses and schools to ensure they have the infrastructure in place to be in a position to implement some of this technology to improve the school day for both pupils and teachers.

Gordon Wilson, CEO at Advanced, said:

The Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, has challenged the tech industry to help tackle some of the biggest issues facing the education sector. He wants to help “create a step change in education” by improving teaching and slashing teacher workload.

The call comes as no surprise. Teachers have become frustrated with spending too much time on marking, planning, data entry and management, which explains why the government sees an  opportunity for the tech industry to tackle administration processes to reduce the burden of ‘non-teaching’ tasks, thus helping teachers concentrate on teaching and their own development.

The tech industry can and should play a bigger part in the whole education space to free educational resources to focus on educating – not wasting time on admin. Technology is a key driver in eliminating unnecessary, mundane tasks. And, according to recent analysis into the impact high levels of pressure on work, 46% of education leaders and decision makers admitted they would love to benefit from technology’s positive force at work.

Grimsby Institute is one example of a college with an appetite for technology. It is using Advanced’s further education software to increase staff productivity and, as a result, its support staff are a 200% more efficient on basic learner administration tasks – the equivalent of freeing up 11 people to focus efforts elsewhere.

As Damian rightly says, the challenge now is for the tech industry to demonstrate how to roll technology out more widely across the country. Ultimately, it comes down to collaboration.

We need to see more leaders in tech companies work together to educate the entire workforce across schools, colleges and universities on how technology can make a direct and positive impact. Even better if they can show how technology is more effective when integrated with other systems in the organisation, such as finance, procurement and HR.

One such example in higher education space is the University of Manchester, which created £1.8m in efficiencies simply by using Advanced’s cloud procurement solution, freeing up those resources to student and teacher facing investments. 

Connected systems mean that student information can be kept up-to-date centrally, improving accuracy and reliability, and provide a single real-time view of student data for all employees as well as key stakeholders and the board.

It’s also this level of visibility that helps education leaders and decision makers spend more wisely and reinvest more in education and teacher training.

Rebecca Garrod-Waters, CEO of Ufi has commented:

The Rt Hon Damian Hinds has gone a long way in promoting the need for greater investment in cutting edge education technologies. However, the UK government cannot hope to tackle some of their most pressing challenges without putting more emphasis on the importance of developing the skills of those that are already in work.

The widening skills gap, Brexit and even Industry 4.0 will have an increasingly severe impact on the UK workforce. Without ensuring people currently in work develop the skills that employers desperately need, these issues will continue to plague the country. The classroom is no longer the final point at which we are expected to acquire new skills and expand our knowledge. The focus cannot solely be on the next generation of workers.

Digital technology offers an unprecedented opportunity to ensure effective training and upskilling on a massive scale. We hope to see a greater focus being put on the harnessing of education technology in colleges, offices and factories across the UK.

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