DfE programme evaluating long-term outlook for online learning

Minister says pandemic has provided ‘valuable intelligence’ on the role technology can play

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A Department for Education programme that has supported schools in switching to online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic will consider how remote teaching could play a longer-term role in the education sector.

The EdTech Demonstrator Programme was launched in the 2019 by the DfE, as part of a wider £10m strategy to support the use of technology in the education sector. The scheme was established with the intention of establishing a network of schools with excellent tech credentials, each of which would be awarded grant funding of up to £150,000 to develop proposals.

Its remit was tweaked shortly after the start of the coronavirus crisis and it since then it has worked “to help schools and colleges access training and advice on remote teaching”.

According to Baroness Berridge, the parliamentary secretary of state for the school system, the scheme is also helping schools to consider a post-pandemic future in which remote teaching may still offer some benefits. The findings of these considerations will be assessed in due course.

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Berridge said: “The EdTech Demonstrator programme, which supports schools and colleges to use technology to strengthen remote education arrangements and secure a longer-term strategy, will provide an important evaluation on the extent to which this sector-led approach can impact on the positive use of technology and help other institutions address a broad range of challenges they face both now and in the future.

“The department’s digital platforms offer allows schools to provide remote online teaching, as well as develop approaches for the longer term.”

The under secretary added that the use – albeit unplanned – of technology platforms over the last year has provided insights into where online systems could play a role going forward.

“Technology in education has been essential for continuing to teach remotely during the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent school and college closures,” Berridge said. “In the long term, it also has the potential to support teacher workload reductions, flexible working, cost savings, inclusive teaching practice and improved pupil outcomes.

“A number of programmes which have been in place across the COVID-19 outbreak are providing valuable intelligence as to the most impactful uses of online learning.”

In addition to the ongoing work of the EdTech Demonstrator Programme, schools inspector Ofsted assessed schools’ remote-education set-ups during the autumn term and recently published a short guide “to what works well”, according to Berridge, in answer to a written parliamentary question from fellow Conservative peer Lord Risby.


Sam Trendall

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