Teachers' workloads will be eased by technology, and their jobs will remain safe, despite the rise of automation, because direct instruction by a human being will stay "paramount", Damian Hinds said today.
In his first speech as education secretary, Mr Hinds said: "Technology must have a role in our sector, as it does in other sectors, to be able to ease workload, which is a matter I know is of great importance to teachers in this country, and quite rightly so. I share their drive to wish to work on that."
Technology also provided opportunities "to track [and] monitor the progress of pupils" and to "bring new types of content" to students which would "introduce them to whole new worlds", Mr Hinds said, speaking without notes at the Education World Forum in London.
But he said that while there was "trepidation" in schools about the use of technology, it would never replace the role of teachers.
'Trepidation' about technology
“I know there is trepidation in schools quite often and colleges about technology," Mr Hinds said. "Let me be very clear about one thing. In the research that the Department for Education in the UK has done about classroom teaching and how it works, it is absolutely clear that direct instruction is of paramount importance.
"Teaching education is a people business and it is the inspirational teacher at the front of the class that makes a child’s education."
Mr Hinds also said that it was the role of schools to develop pupils' "character" and "workplace skills", and that there was "nothing soft" about these so-called "soft skills".
“Qualifications are the most important thing you take with you into life but they are not the whole picture when it comes to what you will achieve," he said.
"There is much outside the realm of qualifications which matters a great deal as well. That you would believe you can achieve, that you can stick with the task at hand, that you understand the link that there is between the effort you make now and the reward that may come in future... the ability to bounce back from the knocks that inevitably life brings to all of us.”
As the former minister for employment, he said he had "heard a lot from business" about the importance of "workplace" or "employability skills".
"Sometimes, by the way, [these are] also called soft skills," he said. "But I would suggest to you, ladies and gentleman, there is nothing soft about these skills.
"The hard reality of soft skills is that actually these things around the workplace and these things around character and resilience are important for what anybody can achieve in life as well as for the success of our economies.
He added: "I don’t suggest that they can just be taught, but clearly what happens in school, the ethos of the school, the expectations that are set for students and the support that is given, alongside what happens in extracurricular activity, in sport, in public speaking, in voluntary work and so on. All of these things will have an effect on the character and resilience and the workplace skills young people take with them.”