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£1 billion funding announcement to lift learning – what should you do now?

By Colin Green - 24 Jun, 2020
Education

On Friday 19th June we were informed about the government’s big plan for education as we emerge from lockdown. As well as a focus on tutoring (either 1:1 or in small groups) there will also be money in the form of a one-off grant.  

£650 million will make its way into school coffers somehow, someday. The detail may be sketchy, but at first glance it appears that schools are to be trusted to make the decisions about how best to pick up following lockdown and are to be supported with funding.

Education Foundation Guidance for Investment

One of the strands under the wider strategies recommended by the Education Endowment Foundation is giving access to technology. The EEF recognise that pupils’ access to technology has been an important factor affecting the extent to which they can learn effectively at home. The EEF also state that as pupils return to schools, technology could also be valuable; for example, by facilitating access to online tuition or support. But school access is not just about this. Our research shows that schools who regularly used technology as part of their curriculum were best placed to deliver remote support and on-going provision once lockdown arrived.

Futureproofing for school-closures would suggest having technology in use as an everyday tool is a must have. Effective use of technology to support home learning should already be an expectation of a 21st century curriculum.

Age-appropriate platforms to gain the benefits

The requirement for technology however is not limited to devices, in-school facilities or Internet access. It also extends to the platforms that can enable a quality learning experience, complete with in-built communication and collaboration systems, online assessment and feedback combined with assured security and safety systems.

Such facilities have been used by some schools for many years, whereas for others as budgetary pressures hit home, they either fell into disuse, were discontinued altogether or were never invested in in the first place. The announcement of the one-off grant and the guidance by the EEF should provide a significant boost to schools.

Teachers require training as well as devices and platforms

In the early days of lockdown, the DfE provided some funding for schools to access training in limited accredited free platforms. These platforms however, do not necessarily meet the requirements of primary schools and the restrictions on the use and access to funding to giant tech platforms says more about the limited approach at the time and the lack of focus on primary practice than it does on a clear and forward-thinking technology strategy.

However, what should be taken from this approach is the necessity to invest effectively in training. This is not push-button training. Education technology, like technology in general, is largely intuitive, but what is required is training on how and when to use the technology to improve learning outcomes. Simple uses of technology may have an enormous impact on learning outcomes for groups and for individuals, but they will only do so if teachers have an opportunity to understand, put into practise and reflect on effective practice.

Critical factors in using technology to support learning

EEF research has identified some critical factors in using technology to support pupils’ remote learning and key things to consider include:

  • Teaching quality is more important than how lessons are delivered. This is absolutely the case but without effective training and investment in staff we cannot expect teachers to deliver quality in a variety of formats. Teachers need easy to use platforms, with support on how to use them effectively.
  • Ensuring access to technology is key, especially for disadvantaged pupils. This is also a central tenet of our approach but giving access to devices and the Internet without the fabric to hold them together will be a flawed process. It may not only fail to improve learning outcomes but may give children inappropriate access to the Internet without appropriate safety or checks.
  • Peer interactions can provide motivation and improve learning outcomes. This is absolutely the case and having an appropriate facility for this that includes age-appropriate filtering, monitoring and moderation is essential.
  • Supporting pupils to work independently can improve learning outcomes and having a platform that is flexible enough to allow children to explore learning activities independently is key.
  • Different approaches to remote learning suit different types of content and pupils and having an age appropriate platform is central to this throughout the primary school.
Investing for the future

Schools are being given a one-off grant to fund education recovery. Spending this on longer-term investments are likely to bring better short-term results as well as making a lasting impact. Schools could do worse than investing in technology and the training that is required to make the most of it. This will enable them to build an approach that gives early benefits as well as futureproof them for the uncertainty that lies ahead.

More info on how we can help?

For more information about how our EdTech products can help you maintain school community and keep teaching, contact our team today.

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