The Department for Education has promised a competition for innovative edtech solutions to promote part-time and flexible working. But how could this work? James Browning takes a look

At the end of last month the government published its long-awaited teacher recruitment and retention strategy, with Damian Hinds pledging that teacher workloads would be cut. This is good news for teachers – but implementing it will be far from straightforward.

More and more experienced teachers have been leaving the profession mid-career in recent years. In October last year the Education Support Partnership published its Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018, conducted with YouGov. It said that 57 per cent of teachers had considered leaving within the past two years because of health pressures – and they were leaving at the highest rates since records began. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many are signing up with supply agencies to try to achieve a better work-life balance. This move towards more agency staff is costly and an additional administration load for schools.

Intuitive tech is a critical aid to flexible working

The solution is not an easy one, but I believe that technology has a massive part to play in addressing underlying barriers and, in turn, helping schools and individuals to embrace the type of flexible working that the education secretary is advocating. Five ways in which I would propose edtech can help are:

1. Making all tech in schools easy to use and access

Intuitive tech is a critical aid to flexible working. Staff should be able to quickly access the applications they need in a secure and safe manner from any device and at any time, being as efficient as possible when doing so.

2. Communications, meetings and collaboration

The Department for Education cites “communications and meetings” as one of the top barriers to flexible working. Availability of “anywhere, anytime” tools such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google for Education have the potential to revolutionise the way schools communicate and collaborate, giving education providers the opportunity to remotely work on shared files and documents.

3. Data at your fingertips

This can make a real difference to flexible working. Having clear records of learning can enable job-sharing to become a reality, allowing teachers to pick up where colleagues have left off without a detrimental impact on student learning.

4. Optimising insights and actions

Ofsted has suggested that building in periodic reviews of leadership is good practice – particularly in growing multi-academy trusts. It is key that technology helps leaders spend less time trawling through analysis and more time taking actions on things such as interventions and strategic changes. One of our partners at RM – Assembly Analytics – provide innovative dashboards that combine key management information systems data with standardised assessment and finance data to give reliable benchmarks for schools and multi-academy trusts.

5. Recruitment

Some schools have found that adopting a more agile approach to recruitment and letting technology do the hard work has produced significantly better results. I believe that such an approach could also encourage those who have left the profession to re-engage. New digital recruitment platforms offer easier access, better transparency and reduced costs for schools. This is a good example where technology can lessen the admin burden and enhance the possibilities around flexible working, without it
being prohibitively expensive. Use of artificial intelligence tools and conversational interfaces are also helping to bring recruitment of supply teachers into the digital age.