Schools have adopted new technology at an unprecedented pace over the past 18 months, as part of a seismic shift in how education is delivered.
Live streamed lessons and online assessment became the norm during the Covid-19 school closures, and according to a recent report in Tes News, the 2020 lockdowns led to 71.5 per cent growth in the UK education technology sector.
But the edtech revolution didn’t stop there: the report says that schools are “embracing the benefits” and adopting further innovations for the future.
According to the Department for Education’s (DfE) Education Technology Survey 2020-21, the majority of headteachers (88 per cent) and teachers (84 per cent) believe that technology can contribute to improved pupil attainment, and more than half (55 per cent of headteachers and 57 per cent of teachers) believe that this positive impact has already been experienced.
The survey also found that almost three-quarters of leaders and almost two-thirds of teachers believe edtech is reducing workload or is expected to, listing timetabling, engagement with parents and managing pupil data as areas where technology had saved them time.
How can we help support your school?
1. Communicating with parents
Using virtual platforms to conduct parents’ evenings was one of the unexpected benefits of lockdown teaching for many staff, and, according to Tes News, is one of the edtech trends that is likely to become a regular feature in schools.
Shona Anderson, headteacher of Koru Independent AP Academy in London, explains that technology has “played a particularly key role in delivering virtual parents’ evenings, providing a secure and seamless experience to ensure that parents are able to stay connected”. Mark Deans, deputy headteacher at West Bridgford School in Nottinghamshire, adds that from now on at his school, “all parents' evenings will be bookable video conferences”.
How we can help: SchoolCloud, part of the Tes family, has been supporting schools to run parents’ evenings more effectively for nine years. The virtual parents’ evening software means appointments can be booked online and the video conferencing option means remote meetings can take place easily and securely.
Teachers and leaders using SchoolCloud report that their parents’ evenings now keep to schedule (which means staff get to finish on time) and are better attended, as families are able to fit video conversations around other commitments.
“We had a paper-based system where staff and students would arrange appointments between themselves,” explains James Fendek, from Aldridge School in London. “The evenings would overrun and parents would arrive having no idea when their appointments were as their children had lost their sheets.
“From our own surveys we knew that 23 per cent of parents were unhappy with how the evenings were run. Now, 97 per cent of our parents think this new system is an improvement. We love it, it has revolutionised our parents’ evenings, putting the power back into the hands of parents.”
2. Timetabling and flexible working
Timetables were hit hard by Covid restrictions, with schools having to incorporate staggered starts and year group bubbles, as well as managing high rates of staff absence.
Having a timetable that can be adapted quickly and incorporate the needs of different classes and staff members has been of paramount importance – and will continue to be. Edtech can be a vital tool here: according to the Department for Education survey, 72 per cent of heads said technology had reduced the workload of timetabling.
Jean-Paul Papineau, director of pedagogy at Christ Church Grammar School in Perth, says the right timetable can make a huge difference around staff wellbeing.
"A lot of schools bring in other wellbeing influences and extracurricular activities, but all these things seem to fade into the background if you're not actually giving any visionary thought into the logistical structure," he says.
“If your timetable is just constructed as hastily as possible, or because we've always done it that way, or around a particular class or teacher bottleneck, I would argue that is not necessarily the best for wellbeing.”
How we can help: Edval Timetable allows schools to construct complex timetables that incorporate staff requests and countless other factors (from specialist room requirements to department meetings) at the touch of a button. Edval Timetable automatically eliminates clashes and allows you to synchronise with existing software.
The easy-to-use platform takes your school’s requirements and data and automatically transforms them into a timetable that is easy to navigate and can be quickly adapted to meet the needs of your staff and students.
3. Pupil data management
Managing pupil data is a big job, and one that edtech can save huge amounts of time on, as 92 per cent of headteachers in the DfE survey agreed. This was particularly significant in secondary settings, where 70 per cent of leaders claimed “a lot of time” had been saved.
Behaviour data is always particularly important. Tes News behaviour columnist Amy Forrester explains that it “can provide accurate, useful information on patterns that may be occurring,” and give leaders “precisely the information that we need” to address issues.
How we can help: Class Charts doesn’t just offer schools a simple way to create seating plans, but incorporates quick and simple behaviour recording software, which takes seconds to use.
Staff can schedule detentions in a couple of clicks, integrating with existing systems such as SIMS, and the analytics function also makes it easy to explore and export data, for use in department meetings, for example, or to share with parents.
4. Data protection
Back in March, Tes News reported that an increase in cyber attacks on Microsoft servers had prompted the DfE to send out guidance to schools to ensure they had the necessary security measures in place. This was followed by a call for an urgent review of school cyber defences.
And in recent months, leaders have been warned that it is their responsibility to take action to protect against these risks.
How we can help: On 26 August, we are hosting a free webinar on how to train your staff to handle personal data in school safely.
Speaker Mark Orchison is the founder of 9ine, which offers expert advice to schools on data protection, tech and cybersecurity. He'll be exploring data protection law, the recent data breaches in schools and how to train your staff to meet the requirements.
5. Staff training
Online CPD rocketed in popularity during school closures. With conferences and teach meets on temporary hiatus, leaders had to find flexible new ways to enable staff to develop their skills and knowledge. And the approach looks set to continue.
In the Tes News article ‘Why the Netflix approach to CPD is trending’, writer and assistant headteacher Lisa Lockley explains that the use of bite-size, on-demand digital training offers more choice, greater accessibility and extra time for staff to reflect on their learning.
“The benefits of this approach have been of blockbuster proportions and should clearly remain part of our professional learning culture in future,” she says.
How we can help: We have hundreds of online CPD courses available through our online platform Develop, from the latest safeguarding and duty of care training to subject-specific knowledge and general professional studies.
The courses and accompanying materials can be accessed at any time, and staff can be designated modules to complete, or browse the selection to meet their own training needs, all at a time that’s convenient for them.
And reporting software means leaders can keep track of which courses have been taken, giving clear and up-to-date oversight of school CPD progress at any time.