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Fragmented schools system ‘hinders edtech take-up’

Tech company leaders warn MPs about barriers to engagement with individual schools and multi-academy trusts

edtech, fragmented, schools, select committee, martin hamilton, priya lakhani,

Tech company leaders warn MPs about barriers to engagement with individual schools and multi-academy trusts

The fragmentation of England’s education system is hindering the take-up of new technology in its schools, MPs have been warned.

The Commons Education Select Committee heard the concerns during evidence at today’s hearing on the fourth industrial revolution.

Martin Hamilton, a futurist at Jisc, a not-for-profit company that helps the post-16 education sector with new technologies, said the UK is a global leader in edtech, with 25 per cent of Europe’s edtech based in the country.

However, he said these businesses nevertheless find it “extremely hard” to access schools in England.

“We have this problem with access to the home market”, he told the MPs.

“Even if you said ‘let’s approach a multi-academy trust as an edtech’ – we run an edtech support initiative and we work with lots of start-ups and scale-ups – there are hundreds of MATs, there are 25,000 plus schools. It is extremely hard to find a route into those markets.”

His concerns were shared by Priya Lakhani, the founder and CEO of Century Tech, which uses artificial intelligence in education.

She told the committee: “We have done more business in the Middle East and Africa and the US in 14 days than in five years in the United Kingdom”.

Ms Lakhani said there was no lack of will for tech companies to engage in schools, but many schools were reluctant because they had been “burned” by previous pieces of technology that did not fulfil their promise.

She added: “It’s very difficult to engage in 26,000 schools. It’s very a fragmented market, and there’s no real championship coming from the Department for Education apart from what we’ve seen in the past few months.”

She said that Century Tech had only been able to grow in the UK by using schools that use technology well as role models for others to follow.

Ms Lakhani added: “I think it’s a case where schools are inundated, they are really tired, they have huge workload issues and they just simply don’t have the time to sift through all of this.”

At the same hearing, she raised concerns that the government was not taking the lead in developing "digital CVs" which she said would "destroy" high-stakes assessment.

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