Recently, the Department for Education (DfE) has released a strategy to improve education and attainment through the use of education technology (EdTech). The DfE will set out £10 million in budgets and plans to support innovation and use tech to increase attainment in schools, colleges, and universities.

All information and quotations are from this document.

The aims of the strategy are:

“to support and enable the education sector in England to help develop and embed technology in a way that cuts workload fosters effciencies [sic], removes barriers to education and ultimately drives improvements in educational outcomes. In parallel, we will support the development of a vibrant EdTech business sector in the UK to provide proven, high-quality products that meet the needs of educators and foster a pipeline of fresh ideas.”

The DfE also wants to address the barriers to good use of technology in education. The key ways they intend to do this is through addressing:

  • a need for modern infrastructure in schools with slow internet connections and outdated devices and networks.
  • increasing the digital capabilities and skills including:
  • Confidence and skills to use tech efficiently within schools.
  • Supporting leadership staff to instigate change and empower teachers and lecturers to be confident users of EdTech.
  • a need for digital procurement capabilities to allow education providers to make the right choices in selecting and buying EdTech products and services.
  • addressing concerns about privacy and data security and how education providers and students are being protected.

They also aim to secure digital infrastructure for schools and EdTech suppliers. They intend to this by addressing poor internet connectivity and aiming for all schools to have access to modern broadband infrastructure, and reducing cost and increasing flexibility by encouraging education providers to move to cloud-based hosting rather than local hosting.

The plan also details how the DfE plans to help develop digital capabilities and skills for education providers.

The DfE intends to support education leaders to develop a vision for EdTech. They will support teachers and education providers through continuing professional development and understanding what works for schools and the education industry as a whole. In addition, the DfE has been supporting the BESA LearnEd programme, which is a roadshow of workshops for teachers. It is bringing together the EdTech industry and education providers in a series of eight accredited workshops across the country, running until summer of 2019. If successful, the DfE intends to continue these workshops in the 2019/2020 academic year.

The plan also contains strategies for supporting effective procurement. These include: helping schools and trusts to get the best value when purchasing tech and facilitating a better online marketplace for EdTech.

With GDPR and the ever-changing tech environment, digital security and safety are important to both EdTech suppliers and education providers. The DfE has published a data protection toolkit for schools and has published guidance for EdTech suppliers developed by the National Cyber Security Centre.

As well as being a world leader in education, the DfE wants the UK to become a world leader in EdTech. They want to support a world-leading EdTech business sector:

“A Vibrant UK EdTech business sector is essential to ensure we realise the ambitions of this strategy. As the sector continues to grow and mature, our aim is to ensure a pipeline of innovation and encourage scale-up for proven products and services which are evidence-based and focussed on the needs of teachers, lecturers, education leaders, and students.”

The DfE also has strategies in place to help tackle challenges that EdTech businesses have through:

  • raising awareness of the importance and benefits of using EdTech in the schools, colleges, and universities.
  • helping education providers improve the procurement practice, and better understand their procurement options, which help aggregate demand and cuts sales costs for companies.
  • exploring how to facilitate a better marketplace where schools, colleges, and other education providers can buy EdTech with confidence, and making it more efficient and effective for businesses to enter the market.

With the goal of supporting innovation in the sector, the DfE has also devised a set of “EdTech challenges”. This is intended to create a culture of schools, colleges, and universities in England better-equipped to use and realise the benefits of EdTech, and where EdTech businesses are able to innovate and grow. The five broad areas that the DfE has determined the challenges should focus on include:

  • admin processes: reducing and optimising “non-teaching” tasks.
  • assessment processes: making assessment more effective and efficient
  • teaching practices: supporting improved access, inclusion, and educational outcomes.
  • continuing professional development: supporting teachers, lecturers, and other education providers in developing more flexibly when it comes to using EdTech in the classroom.
  • learning throughout life: helping those outside of formal education systems to gain lifelong skills, and supporting decisions about work and further study.

These challenges will build upon existing high-quality EdTech products and services. In addition, they will hopefully encourage the industry to fill gaps where relevant tech or services do not already exist. They also want research bodies and industry to help undertake a robust evaluation to determine the positive or negative impact of tech on education. Finally, they want best practice in regards to EdTech to be shared more widely within education and industry.

The DfE believes that: 

“It is only by working in partnership, by breaking down the barriers between industry and users, that we can hope to realise these major systemic opportunities. These challenges act as a call to industry, academia, and educators to help demonstrate just what is possible when using technology…We look forward to hearing from industry and researchers how to best measure the impact of technology and to promote progress against these challenges.”

The strategy concludes: “…technology has the potential to transform educational experiences and education provider administration, helping teachers and lecturers spend more of their time on the things that make a real difference to student outcomes.”