UK.gov to tech industry: Hands up who can help cut teachers' admin

Schools can't do it alone, says education secretary

Kid raising hand in school

The British government has admitted teachers need help tackling lesson workloads and admin burdens – but wants tech firms to fix the problem.

In a speech to the World Education Forum, education secretary Damian Hinds called on the industry to revolutionise UK schooling.

His department is looking to startups and Silicon Valley giants to solve the problems facing the UK's overworked, under-funded schools, and has set out five areas of focus.

These include developing innovative administration processes to reduce the burden of non-teaching tasks, making assessment more effective and efficient, and new ways to deliver teacher training.

In addition, the government wants new ideas to support accessible and inclusive teaching, and for solutions to lifelong learning.

Of course, there are already options for schools who want to boost their use of edtech – for instance, Microsoft recently used the BETT trade show to launch "tough" devices for kids to doodle on.

However, although some schools use tech in lessons to good effect, and others deploy innovative ideas for back-office or admin tasks, most don't.

The reasons for this are varied: schools have tight budgets, teachers don't have the time to spare to identify the best options, and classrooms would be disrupted by failing tech, so the stuff have to be solid.

In his speech, Hinds said that schools, colleges and universities "have the power to choose the tech tools which are best for them and their budgets", but can't do it alone.

"It's only by forging a strong partnership between government, technology innovators and the education sector that there will be sustainable, focused solutions which will ultimately support and inspire the learners of today and tomorrow."

As part of this, the Department for Education has said it will work with teaching and tech bodies over the autumn to develop online training packages, create an online portal with free software trials for schools and set up regional demonstrations.

And over the next few months, it will help schools and businesses "ensure they have the infrastructure in place to be in a position to implement some of this technology to improve the school day for both pupils and teachers".

Meanwhile, teaching regulator Ofqual last week announced updates to its interactive apps for GCSE and A-level results, which are out over the next two weeks.

These allow teachers to compare results with the national and regional picture, but won't show the results of individual schools or colleges.

Last year, fewer than half of GCSE computing students got a B or higher, so the tech sector may have a vested interest in improving kids' education. ®

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