Coronavirus: National edtech hub needed to close gap

Exclusive: Government urged to forge national edtech resource for schools in England to aid remote learning support during shutdown

Amy Gibbons

Education technology

The government is being urged to develop a national edtech platform to support schools "at times of extraordinary upheaval" during the coronavirus crisis.

The "educator-designed and led" platform would equip schools with "useful, secure and reliable resources", bringing England's edtech offer in line with those of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, according to a new report from HomeLearningUK.

England is currently the only UK nation without a national edtech hub.

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Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland each have their own free-to-use platforms, which provide resources to support the use of digital technology in schools.

While it says "it remains to be seen" whether schools in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were "better prepared for a rapid switch to remote and flexible learning" following Covid-19 outbreak, the report suggests that "ease of access to an ecosystem supports educators during normal school term and at times of extraordinary upheaval".

The move would also prevent teachers being "inundated with product offers" that have not been fully assessed by professionals "with respect to their educational value and/or security", the report states.

"The Department for Education in England should create a national platform that includes access to cloud-based platforms for schools and create an educator-designed and led national platform for useful, secure and reliable resources," the report says.

"Feedback from educators across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland suggests a national platform helps educators, pupils (and by extension their parents) also access digital tools in a consistent manner.

"A national platform also prevents educators being inundated with product offers that have not been fully assessed with respect to their educational value and/or security by professional educators."

It adds: "The strength of communities of professional practice and ease of access to an ecosystem supports educators during normal school term and at times of extraordinary upheaval.

"Whether the existence of national platforms has supported teachers better to protect learning will need further study.

"When we begin to think in terms of ‘system resilience’ for the future; the creation and investment in national digital platforms will be a priority for access, equity and supporting...the digital journey of schools."

The Department for Education has been approached for comment.

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