‘A new era for schools’ – government unveils £10m education technology strategy

Minister pledges a range of measures to support improved procurement, delivery, and use of IT

The government has published its £10m strategy to reform the use of technology in education, including a wide array of initiatives and investments in skills, infrastructure, procurement, and cybersecurity.

The 48-page document – Realising the potential of technology in education – sets out the government’s 19 “key commitments” for the coming years. 

These are:

  • Working with commercial partners to expedite the deployment of full-fibre networks for “schools most in need”
  • Supporting non-profit digital specialist Jisc to roll out full-fibre connections via its Janet network
  • To “encourage and support” schools in moving to a cloud environment
  • Assessing and improving government guidance for schools wishing to install new tech infrastructure
  • To provide teachers and senior managers with online courses in technology use, delivered by the Chartered College of Teaching
  • Establishing a “network of demonstrator schools” to disseminate expertise
  • Supporting the LearnEd ICT training programme run by the British Education Suppliers Association
  • Making improvements to and better promoting aggregated buying deals
  • Helping BESA trial LendEd – an “online lending library” for educational software
  • To create a “better online marketplace” for schools to buy technology
  • Ahead of a planned national rollout, undertaking pilots in south-west and north-west England of regional buying hubs that can “directly manage procurement for schools”
  • Promoting procurement best practice by better engaging with “local school business manager networks”
  • Creating an independent EdTech Leadership Group comprised of representatives of academia and industry
  • To “galvanise activity across the wider technology sector”
  • Setting up testbeds where small batches of schools can develop and test new technologies
  • Helping investors access government-backed funding programmes
  • Engaging with tech incubator programmes via the EdTech Leadership Group
  • Launching edtech challenge competitions in which firms can put forward tech solutions to key challenges
  • Enabling a “step change” in the Department for Education’s digital services

The government has already identified the first 10 technology challenges it will put to the market. The first two of these cover education administration: improving parental engagement while cutting teacher workload by five hours per term; and using tech to support part-time or flexible working.

There will be three challenges in the area of assessment, the first of which is to reduce by two hours a week the burden on teachers of preparing and marking homework. The second challenge is to reduce by a fifth time spent marking mock GCSE essays, and the third is to use software to combat so-called essay mills operating online.

Teaching practice is the subject of the sixth challenge: to find software that could “help level the playing field” for learners.

The seventh challenge will address best to use technology to support the continuous professional development of teachers.

The final three challenges all fall under the banner of “learning throughout life”.

The first of these is to use apps to support improved literacy in early-years learning, while the second is to improve the availability of basic online skills training for adults. The final challenge will look at the use of artificial intelligence in delivering online education for adults.

Announcing the strategy at the Schools and Academies Show in London, education secretary Damian Hinds said: “This will set the direction we need to take to make the most of the digital revolution. This is not about tech for tech’s sake, and it is definitely not about issuing diktats to schools about what they should be using and how and when they should be using it. Instead, it marks the start of an important conversation about the place for technology in education.”

He added: “I want our world-class education sector to be at the forefront of this conversation – and to be shaping how innovation can help schools drive efficiencies, help drive down teacher workload and ultimately of course make the learning experience a better, more successful one, for all children and young people.”

Sam Trendall

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