We must secure education technology’s great leap forward

5 Feb 2021, 5:00

Education technology has taken great strides in the past year. Now the legacy of its impact must be secured for a generation, writes Gavin Williamson

There haven’t been many rays of sunshine during this pandemic but one we can celebrate is the incredible way education communities have been using technology to deliver remote education.

Even for schools who had already embraced technology, Covid has forced a challenging step change and I continue to be enormously grateful for the profession’s tireless creativity and innovation. The speed with which you’ve been able to pivot a large part of your lessons online is remarkable.

The result is that education technology has really come into its own. It has shown us how it can expand the reach of the best teachers and ensure children have access to world-class learning materials wherever they are.

Of course, technology is only effective if you’ve got access to it, and I am determined that no child should be left behind because they haven’t got the right kit or internet access.

That’s why we worked so hard on what has been one of the largest procurement exercises in this country. We have been able to get hold of 1.3 million laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children and young people. As of February 2, 927,000 had been delivered to schools, trusts and local authorities to distribute to those who needed them most.

We want pupils to be able to access high-quality teaching wherever they are

From next week, schools will be invited to order from the 300,000 additional laptops and tablets to support the pupils who need them most, helping hundreds of thousands more students benefit and get online. Schools with the highest proportion of disadvantaged pupils will be prioritised to receive devices first, with the majority of device deliveries to be completed by the end of the first week of March.

We will continue to work with you in the sector to make sure children can access the education they deserve, whether that’s remotely or in the classroom. This collaborative push has been making a big difference and schools have been letting us know of the positive impact it has had not just on student learning but on teachers and families too.

The challenge is now to keep the momentum going and to embed digital tools and approaches more firmly in our school systems and practices. The pandemic has certainly provided a growing awareness of the potential of digital tools. We will build on the work we have done so far to develop a long-term strategy setting out how we can further take advantage of the opportunities tech presents.

We need to ensure all schools are developing their digital capabilities to make the most of technology’s potential. We want pupils to be able to access high-quality teaching wherever they are but we also want to help teachers enjoy its benefits. It can strengthen professional bonds and give teachers the chance to share resources and learn from each other.

We launched the EdTech Demonstrator programme with this in mind. It is a network of 48 schools and colleges which provides peer-to-peer support on making the best use of technology to support and enhance remote teaching.

This will help address our long-term ambition of building the digital capabilities of everyone working in our education communities, whether that’s by driving up standards, helping children catch up on any learning lost to Covid, reducing teachers’ workload or saving schools money.

We need technology to deliver for schools and not become an expensive white elephant. To date, more than 11,000 schools and colleges have benefitted from the Demonstrator programme, including through live webinars, tutorials and bespoke advice

I am pleased to announce that we are extending this programme into next year so that more schools can benefit from it. It will enable us to ensure adoption of technology is bound by strong pedagogical rationale and business need, and plays an important role in upskilling teachers, leaders and school and college staff.

Even before the pandemic, technology was changing the way the world worked at dizzying speed. Covid has meant this is now happening even faster. Thanks to the amazing resourcefulness of teaching staff, our children are well placed to make the most of its potential not just now but in the decades to come.

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One comment

  1. andrew32

    There needs to be a device for every child (preferably a chromebook due to ease of management, long battery life and a long device life span), clear expectation as to the online provision each school is required to provide plus a plan as to how tech is to be integrated into daily lessons.