The UK is leading the adoption of digital technology in education with schools allocated an estimated £900 million in funding from the Department of Education for 2019-20 for Edtech, according of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
In physical terms this equates to 3,392,100 computers in classrooms across the UK with an average primary school having 70 computers and secondary school an average of 431.
There are currently 32,113 schools in the UK. Of these, 20,925 are primary schools and 4,168 are secondary schools. There are 2,381 independent schools, 1,256 special schools and 351 pupil referral units.
The opportunity to expand Edtech sales are obvious for those who know how to tap into this growing market that values accessible technology to equip young minds for a successful ‘digital’ future.
There are also benefits for already stretched schools to help bridge the gap through Edtech – as it’s proven to reduce teacher workload, boost student outcomes and help create a level playing field for those requiring learning support. So much so that the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, set out plans in April this year to support innovation and raise the bar in education establishments across England, backed by £10 million injection.
School funding per pupil is expected to be frozen in real terms between 2017-2018 and 2019-20 albeit at a level of above 4%, reports IFS.
Technology in education allows some students to open up channels of communication and makes learning accessible to all. The target audience is not exclusively schools that have the budget to grow Edtech, it’s also parents, as many public secondary schools employ a BYOD program, therefore parents are expected to buy their child a suitable device. However, this is becoming stricter as previously it was an “any device will do”, approach but due to different devices having different capacities and capabilities, this has changed. Today, school book lists stipulate the minimum requirements for a device to create a more uniform and compatible ecosystem that is hassle free for all.
The retail market for back-to-school is worth, in all categories, some £1.45bn in the UK and is an increasingly important fixture in the retail calendar, becoming competitive for both brands and retailers endeavouring to appeal, in particular, to those students heading off to university.
From PC to projection and display technology such as Jamboard from Google and BenQ, the classroom is a place where technology is the norm, and the standard for students as they transition through their education and eventually into the workplace.
It’s not just about the hardware and software solutions, it’s also about the teachers who need professional development and training to understand how each device could work and how they can add them into their lesson plans. Figures from BETT highlight that 74% (rising from 60% in 2018) of educators surveyed said that educational technology is often not sufficiently easy to use for ordinary teachers. Something that vendors need to be considering as part of their proposition.
The classroom of old is no longer the norm. Education, at all levels, relies heavily on technology and some brands recognise this. Those brands that offer the end-to-end solution that enables education access to the best technology with the easiest interface, least maintenance and highest reliability will capitalise on this growing market.
Chromebook by Google is one of these, Google shared in January 2019 that 30 million Chromebooks are now used in education, up five million from the last reported figures in 2018. Growth has been aided by education systems from around the world choosing to use Chrome OS devices and G Suite cloud based computing solutions that enable collaborative learning accessible whenever you need it. In London the brand has worked with London Grid for Learning to help over 90% of schools across the city bring technology to more students by offering free training in Google Classroom, G Suite and other tools to help improve the digital skills of teachers.
Similarly, Epson has identified that 58% of students cannot read all content on a 70-inch flat panel. Epson’s interactive display solutions provide scalable image size. Having the right sized image for a room can make a huge difference to levels of concentration, enjoyment and understanding.
The DFE in April 2019 published a white paper entitled “Realising the potential of technology in education: A strategy for education providers and the technology industry”. This white paper identified 10 challenges for the industry to assist in eradicating within education, quoting: “To catalyse change in the use of technology across the English education system, we are launching a series of Edtech challenges. They are designed to support a partnership between the Edtech industry and the education sector to ensure product development and testing is focused on the needs of the education system. The challenges are to the industry and the education sector (including academia) to prove what is possible and to inform the future use of Edtech across our education system.”
THESE CHALLENGES ARE:
• Challenge 1: “Improve parental engagement and communication, whilst cutting related teacher workload by up to five hours per term.”
• Challenge 2: “Show how technology can facilitate part-time and flexible working patterns in schools and colleges, including through the use of time-tabling tools.”
• Challenge 3: “Cut teacher time spent preparing, marking and analysing in-class assessments and homework by two hours per week or more.”
• Challenge 4: “Show that technology can reduce teacher time spent on essay marking for mock GCSE exams by at least 20%.”
• Challenge 5: “Identify how anti-cheating software can be developed and improved to help tackle the problem of essay mills.”
• Challenge 6: “Challenge the research community to identify the best technology that is proven to help level the playing field for learners.”
• Challenge 7: “Demonstrate how technology can support schools and teachers to diagnose their development needs and to support more flexible CPD.”
• Challenge 8: “Prove that the use of home learning early years’ apps (both those aimed at parents and those aimed at children) contributes to improved literacy and communication skills for disadvantaged children.”
• Challenge 9: “Widen accessibility and improve delivery of online basic skills training for adults.”
• Challenge 10: “Demonstrate how artificial intelligence can support the effective delivery of online learning and training for adults.”
Whilst the 10 challenges may not apply to all, it enables positive opportunities for all to develop the channel in Edtech initiatives.
Interestingly the DofE chose to release this white paper after the 2019 BETT show, the world largest Edtech event that brings together over 850 Edtech companies and attracting more than 34,000 attendees. I suspect this may lead the conversation at BETT in 2020.
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