The UK government has unveiled its latest Education Technology, or Edtech, strategy today, which aims to reduce teacher workloads and improve student results by partnering with leading technology companies.
The plan to give schools and colleges throughout the country a £10 million boost was set out by the education secretary, Damian Hinds, at the Schools and Academies Show in London, where he told attendees: “This strategy is just the first step in making sure the education sector is able to take advantage of all of the opportunities available through Edtech.”
“We are living in a digital world with technology transforming the way we live our lives…but we must never think about technology for its own sake. Technology is an enabler and an enhancer. For too long in education, technology has been seen as something that adds to a teacher’s workload rather than helps to ease.”
According to government figures, the Edtech industry is worth £170 million to the UK economy and, while most children in education regularly use technology in their free time, the education sector has thus far failed to leverage technology in a way that benefits students.
The government has identified 10 key education challenges it wants to tackle with the help of technology companies, including boosting teacher training opportunities, improving anti-cheating software, promoting the use of innovative tech and levelling the playing field for students with learning difficulties or disabilities.
The wider Edtech agenda will be overseen by a newly created Edtech Leadership Group, which will be responsible for determining the future use and implementation of technology throughout the education sector.
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A partnership with the UK innovation foundation Nesta will also form part of the strategy, with the foundation being specifically tasked with finding technological solutions to improve essay marking, formative assessment, parental engagement and timetabling technology.
The minister for universities, science, research and innovation, Chris Skidmore, also spoke about the new strategy, commenting on the importance of working with “leading head teachers, education experts and tech companies to unlock the benefits for our children and young people”.
The government has been criticised in the past for ignoring calls from teachers on how to improve the education sector. Today’s announcement promises a number of partnerships and collaborations that will ‘support the development of products, to ensure that they meet the needs of teachers, lecturers, pupils and students.’
While the objectives of the strategy are likely to be welcomed by those working in the education sector, it’s still too early to determine if it will help reduce the growing attainment gap amongst disadvantaged students attending state-funded mainstream schools and their privately educated peers.
Figures published by the Education Policy Institute at the start of this year found that 95 percent of all mainstream schools are much less likely to be hitting government targets in KS4 Maths and English assessments. Consequently, it’s hoped that today’s announced will help to not only level the playing field within individual institutions but between all schools throughout the UK.