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Caution Over School Online Environments

15.05.22

As England sets digital and tech standards for schools, Stewart Watts, vice-president for EMEA at edtech firm, D2L says teachers need to consider carefully how best to upgrade.

In March, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi, promised high-speed internet for all schools across the country by 2025. Speaking at the Bett Show in London, Zahawi said the UK needs to use its experience from the pandemic as a springboard to embed new and better ways of using technology across education.

To support this new digital strategy, the Department for Education (DfE) published its first set of technology standards to be used as a guide “by everyone involved in the planning and use of technology within schools and colleges”, from senior leadership teams and suppliers, to teachers and IT staff, to ensure staff are better equipped to deliver modern teaching.

It also includes minimum levels of internet speed in different settings. From a “minimum 100Mbps download speed and a minimum of 30Mbps upload speed” for primary schools, while secondary schools should have the “capacity to deliver 1Gbps download and upload speed”, as well as full fibre connection for all schools to ensure that they can make effective use of all online learning tools. Zahawi also said he would consider the future role of technology in assessments.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced earlier this year a series of technology and digital standards for schools and colleges, with guidance for edtech suppliers, teachers and senior leaders on how to implement them.

This is a bold policy statement, as the government publicly acknowledges the vital role that technology and data has played within education throughout the pandemic and lays the foundations for the future deployment of edtech across our schools and colleges.

However, it will not be an easy feat. The DfE has said it will not interfere or dictate what technology schools opt for but wants to see “a new culture of evidence-based use of technology across every school”.

As the past two years have demonstrated, schools need to think carefully before rolling out complex online environments so quickly. Schools will be feeling the pressure from government policy to deliver new digitally enhanced learning pathways for students, so leaders need to establish clear edtech strategies that prioritise students’ needs and tailor solutions according to their own schools’ ongoing challenges.

Most importantly, they will need to consider where technology might be better placed to improve teaching standards and ease teacher workloads, especially given the proportion of teachers reportedly planning to quit due to workload and stress.

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