How edtech could help schools with flexible working

16 Feb 2019, 5:00

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.

Your thoughts

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  1. Eve Rolland

    Hi, I believe flexible working is the future in many aspects of work . I work in recruitment and regularly challenge regards working requirements for a role. If you are mainly working on line all day, as long as you have secure access to all the systems you need, a phone and ideally skype, why do have to be in a set location at a set desk to carry out that work? Why is the role fulltime- can it not be part time ?You do not have to physically see a person to ensure they are working. Businesses do have core working hours, but I believe in the future these will also become more flexible. If you are a remote worker as long as you are covering the requirements of the role ( Checks can be made and built into the plan) then flexible working especially regards location should be offered. If you can also offer flexible hours – brilliant.
    I have been what I call a Martini Worker (for those that may remember part of the marketing phrase -Any time, any place, any where) for many years. I have run teams of remote workers- had little to no sickness in the team and had fantastic output from the remote team. I know this is not always a possibility but we should be questioning and challenging why we require certain working requirements with a job role, and any flexibility and employee empowerment that can be accommodated should be offered. You can save a fortune on desk running costs, hours for the employee on commuting times, also will keep traffic of the roads etc.

  2. James, great article! No doubt that Edtech is the future. However, I strongly believe that schools and colleges should also promote online and distant-learning via better platforms doesn’t matter they build themselves or get their educational content published on different online learning websites. That would dramatically scale up the learning and more progress could be made if data of students learning in-class or from distance could be aggregated for better opportunities.

    I personally like the idea of how Cisco is actually playing this role. Like I’m doing a ccnp course online but the platform that is provided to me helps me stay connected and productive.

  3. Your article on reading is so full of great insights.I strongly agree EdTech is rapidly improving student achievement by providing a variety of benefits to schools and teachers, such as reducing administration time, improving communication, and allowing for greater flexibility in teaching.