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Technology has increased teachers' burden, DfE says

Senior official worries about impact of parents' WhatsApp groups on teachers

Technology that increases parental engagement has increased the burden on teachers, a senior DfE official has said.

Senior official worries about impact of parents' WhatsApp groups on teachers

Technology has increased the burden on teachers, a top civil servant has told a DfE-backed roadshow promoting edtech.

The comments come weeks after Damian Hinds launched a £10 million innovation fund to help the education system make the best use of edtech.

The education secretary had told the Bett Show that the fund aims to address 10 challenges facing schools, including parental engagement, where “there is an opportunity here to cut the amount of time it takes while enhancing the quality of interaction with parents”.

Today, Emran Mian, the DfE’s director general for strategy and international, told the LearnED roadshow in Cambridge: “Schools, colleges and universities are already doing massive amounts to draw parents into the learning experiences of children and young people.

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“Again, technology offers us the opportunity to do that further and quicker and simpler.

“The challenge I think is that sometimes doing that might mean that teachers and other educators feel that the burden on them has increased.

“The fact that I’m on a WhatsApp group with the teachers of my kids – I sometimes wonder is that a good thing for my teacher, because they are actually getting messages from parents at all times of the day, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing for the teacher in that case.”

Mr Mian told the audience that the purpose of the roadshows was “not to evangelise about technology without being conscious of some of the challenges that it raises as well”.

He added: “I think what we really want to use these roadshows to do is to think about a balanced approach; think about the opportunities it creates but also have an open conversation about some of the challenges, and how best we manage those challenges.”

Amanda Jackson, senior inspector quality assurance at Havering School Improvement Service, told the event about her work to help the DfE create the edtech content of its teacher workload reduction toolkit.

She said: “Nearly all of the headteachers I spoke to talked about the barrier for some teachers where they thought that actually technology was the one thing that had increased their workload.

“Some of it was the email that I mentioned, but lots of people felt that technology had been the thing that had added to that workload.

“It’s a really important barrier for implementation, making sure that teachers really recognise that, actually, this can save me time in one way or another.”

Ms Jackson said that managing emails was “the biggest pain” for some teachers.

Her comments echoed a call from Mr Hinds for schools to spare teachers out-of-hours emails.

She said some schools had looked at protocols for dealing with emails, or were using “better tools for communication rather than always hitting ‘reply all’ so you end up getting far more emails than really you want to have to deal with”.

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