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DfE plans education technology strategy

24/01/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

The Government is planning to publish an education technology strategy and provide a £10 million fund to support new uses of digital tech in schools and colleges across England.

Damian Hinds

Education Secretary Damian Hinds (pictured) outlined the plan in a speech at the Bett Show in London, highlighting the potential to use AI and reduce teachers’ workloads.

He said the edtech strategy will be published later this year, aimed at supporting teaching and giving teachers more time.

The investment will be supported by a group of schools and colleges selected to take part in the development, piloting and evaluation of new technology, and will build on support provided to innovative technology firms through the Government’s Modern Industrial Strategy.

The effort to reduce workload reflects the Department for Education’s (DfE) support for education regulator Ofsted in including the issue within its new inspection framework.

Hinds highlighted the potential of AI technology to reduce administrative tasks in schools, pointing to the example of Bolton College. It has used the IBM Watson programme to build a virtual clerk named Ada, which helps to deliver personalised learning and assessment for 14,000 students and deal with queries about attendance and curriculum content.

He also emphasised the importance of reducing email usage, saying that teachers are having to spend too much time replying to a huge volume from parents and school leaders.

Culture shift

“Many schools are already reviewing their school practices to reduce workload – and to those who haven’t already, I encourage them to look at what they can do to shift away from an email culture in, and into, school to free teachers up to spend more time in the classroom,” he said.

He pointed to the Workload Reduction Toolkit, a series of online resources released in July of last year by the DfE, which has now been downloaded more than 84,000 times, and to the experience of St Edward’s Secondary School in Dorset. It developed a communications policy that includes a ban on emails to an ‘all staff’ distribution list and expectations of when it should and should not be used. This has led to a considerable reduction in email traffic.

“Education is one of the few sectors where technology has been associated with an increase in workload rather than the reverse,” Hinds said.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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