DfE recruiting more expert edtech schools, and offers free Google and Microsoft platform support

Schools will be offered government-funded support to use Google and Microsoft’s education platforms, with more edtech “demonstrator schools” established to support home learning.

The announcements today go alongside the government’s pledge to provide free devices to disadvantaged year 10 pupils, along with care leavers and children who have social workers.

The government said the three measures total more than £100 million of investment to boost remote learning. This includes £85 million for laptops, tablets and 4G dongles, around £14 million for the technical support scheme and £6 million for the demonstrator schools programme.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said it’s “vital” the government provides the “right support so young people are able to continue their education”.

“Through close partnership with the education sector and two of the world’s biggest tech companies, we are working to ensure that children can continue their studies while they are at home.”

Support for Microsoft and Google platforms

Guidance for schools on “choosing the right education platform to meet their needs” will be hosted by The Key.

The government said guidance will “walk schools through the key assets of both Google and Microsoft’s platforms and provide an option to register for Government-funded expert support in getting these platforms set up”.

It applies to the two free-to-use platforms: G Suite for Education or Office 365 Education.

Funding for more expert edtech schools

The DfE has also announced a further round of funding for its edtech “demonstrator schools” project, which has been refocused on help schools using technology to support remote learning during the coronavirus outbreak. 

This morning the DfE revealed the 20 schools and colleges which have already secured between £75,000 and £150,000 in grant funding to support the delivery of their respective EdTech projects (full list below).

The programme is designed to help education providers who are “using technology effectively” to share their expertise with other schools and colleges and improve the quality of education provided. 

The deadline for new applicants is 7pm on Wednesday (29). Successful applicants will receive between £70,000 and £150,000 to support delivery of the programme, which will start in May and run until the end of March 2021. 

Most schools will have to be rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ and “satisfy the DfE that they have “robust financial controls, including financial reserves”.

The guidance states that “all programme support will now be provided remotely” during the outbreak.

Laptops portal finally opens

Meanwhile, the department has written to councils and trusts overseeing schools today to outline the process for ordering free devices.

As revealed by Schools Week, the portal, which was supposed to launch on Wednesday, had been delayed. Heads have also been critical about the lack of details about how the scheme will work.

A bulk order has already been placed, and organisations will be able to register today, the government said. It has not said how many devices are available.

Gibb said: “Laptops and tablets for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils are on their way and will begin being distributed in weeks, enabling those most in need to access online resources.”

In its letter to “responsible bodies”, the DfE announced it had chosen Computacenter as its supplier for the rollout.

The company will be contacting trusts and councils “shortly” with information on the next steps.

Bodies will then fill in an online form with “basic details” about their organisations and the names and contact details of the colleagues who will be submitting orders.

The DfE will then confirm how many devices have been allocated to each council and trust.

“This is based on the number of eligible children and young people for whom you are responsible and who the Department for Education has estimated do not have access to a device through other means. We will also update you on timings and next steps.”

The letter also confirms that laptops and tablets will have settings “to make sure they are safe and secure online”, but says trusts, councils and schools can also apply their own settings and software “to match the education resources you use and to fit with your own policies”.

“Once the devices are set up and ready to go, you (or your schools) are responsible for getting the laptops or tablets to children, for example arranging for them to be collected by families from school (with a social worker present where relevant) or organising for them to be sent to children’s and care leavers’ homes. This should be done in accordance with social distancing guidelines.”

The full list of new edtech demonstrator schools:

  • Balcarras School with National Star College
  • Basingstoke College of Technology
  • Beauchamp College
  • Broadclyst Community Primary School
  • Cheam Common Junior Academy with members of LEO Academy Trust
  • Coupals Primary Academy with Thomas Gainsborough Secondary School (Unity Schools Partnership and Unity Research School)
  • Danesfield School
  • Darlington College
  • Hambleton Primary Academy with Ribblesdale High School and Highfurlong School
  • Heronsgate Primary School
  • Kibworth Church of England Primary School
  • King Ecgbert School with Notre Dame High School
  • Lea Forest Primary Academy (Academies Enterprise Trust)
  • Mount Hawke Academy, Aspire Academy Trust
  • Sandringham School
  • Shacklewell Primary School with Grazebrook Primary School and Woodberry Down Primary School
  • Skipton Girls’ High School
  • St Albans Catholic Primary with Bishop Challoner Catholic College
  • St John the Baptist Catholic Comprehensive School
  • Warden Park Secondary Academy (Sussex Learning Trust) with Warden Park Primary Academy and Northlands Wood Primary Academy