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Edtech 'can help close the attainment gap'

Thinktank says video tutoring apps could help 300,000 pupils make significant progress, but schools are 'snubbing' tech

A new report has called for an increased use of education technology

Thinktank says video tutoring apps could help 300,000 pupils make significant progress, but schools are 'snubbing' tech

Schools could help an extra 300,000 pupils make “significant progress” at school by using video tutoring apps instead of one-to-one tuition, a thinktank has claimed.

A report published today by Reform says that greater use of edtech could help close the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils.

However, it warns that schools are snubbing or neglecting to make the best use of the technology available to them.

It is calling for the government to identify “tech expert schools” to link up with those which are struggling to use technology to help disadvantaged pupils.

Sarah Timmis, researcher at Reform, said: “With a stubborn and persistent opportunity gap in schools between pupils from different backgrounds, innovation is urgently needed.

"Education technology presents a great opportunity to help level the playing field and create more equal opportunities for every child."

The report notes that one-to-one tuition lessons accounted for 7 per cent of pupil premium spending in a sample of 40 schools.

Reform says that schools could save money by using video conversation apps to link pupils to tutors instead. It highlighted apps that charge £20 per hour for pupils to work with online tutors rather than the national average of freelance one-to-one tutors of around £32 per hour.

The thinktank says its analysis shows how using online tutors to support disadvantaged pupils at school could allow for an additional 30 million hours of tutoring, within the same budget.

It also states that edtech can free up teacher time in disadvantaged schools to spend more with pupils in need.

The report says using digital tools could also help reduce teachers’ administrative workloads, which it claims would be “particularly transformative for disadvantaged pupils”.

It found that use of an app to set and share homework had reduced five minutes work from each lesson – 25 minutes across the school day.

The report highlights how edtech also gives disadvantaged pupils equal opportunities to learn digital skills, which it says is critical for future social mobility.

In 20 years, 90 per cent of jobs will entail some element of digital skills, the report says.

Other recommendations in the Beyond Gadgets report include:

  • The Department for Education should allow schools to see the products available to them through “an e-procurement channel” with a dedicated stream for tech products.
  • Ofsted should conduct a survey report on how technology can be implemented in schools to improve digital skills to highlight best practice.
  • Schools should be required to submit breakdowns of pupil premium spending to helping policymakers understand the extent to which innovative measures are being used to overcome the attainment gap. 
  • Schools should provide continuing professional development as they are implementing edtech. This should include sharing successful as well as failed approaches in the classroom.

Earlier this year, a poll revealed that teachers are positive about the benefits of technology in education, but many believe budget pressures and a lack of support from school leaders are holding it back.

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