BETT 2017 – one year on, will Edtech have met the evidence challenge?

A long-standing tradition is that BETT is opened with keynote address by the Secretary of State for education. This provides businesses in education with a helpful indicator of the ‘mood music’ for tech demand in the year ahead. 2016 was no exception, so as we look forward to BETT 2017, we thought it worthwhile to reflect on some of the key themes from the then Secretary of State for Education, Nikki Morgan’s speech, notably a call for Edtech to up its game on evidencing benefits.

BETT Nicky Morgan


Support for ‘evidence based’ technology ‘that really works’

Overall whilst claiming to be excited about education technology there were caveats:

First that education technology is an aid to schools and teachers but not a replacement.

Second that technology benefits should be ‘evidence based and outcomes driven’ – ‘where it really works – we will back it all the way’. In this context, it was instructive to see the high profile and support given to developments in assessment, notably adaptive systems alongside the more usual suspects of broadband, computing in the curriculum and online security.

Finally, there was an expressed ambition for open data standards – welcome in principle, particularly when considering progress in comparison to other sectors such as healthcare, but possibly still early days.



All change for 2017?

So what might we expect in 2017?

Post Brexit we do have a new Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, whom we can expect to have her own agenda. However, retaining Nick Gibb et al means we can expect continuity on the priority given to assessments, and, with paper the preferred medium for exams and associated textbooks, a continuing squeeze on tech.

A likely development is a heightened drive for efficiency combined with pressure for a redistribution of the combined budget of £86bn now that universities have joined schools and colleges under the same DfE umbrella.

A simmering, if not burning platform however is a projected bulge in school’s population, which combined with teacher shortfalls and a widening education/industry skills gap are all problems suggesting potential for a fresh impetus for innovation and change.

Adding to this pressure is England’s failure to make progress in the latest international rankings in Maths and Science (TIMSS) whilst Singapore retains the top spot.

So we await the Bett 2017 edition with interest.

In the meantime a full transcript of Nikki Morgan’s 2016 BETT speech can be found here  

Your views?

Are you expecting change or more of the same? To what extent might a redistribution of the £86bn budget benefit UK education rankings and young people’s education? Has the Edtech industry done enough on evidence to secure its share?


2016 and beyond: Predictions from Altain and eleven others in the qualtech industry

Earlier this month RM results, world leaders in online marketing technology, invited influential figures in the qualtech industry to share perspectives on the future. Predictions shared by Geoff Hurst, Managing Director of Altain Education are reproduced below and the full article featuring all twelve contributors can be found here


Reform, reform and more reform

Predictions for this year are, on the face of it, easy. Reform, reform and more reform – potentially leaving little bandwidth for anything else.

In September last year, teachers began teaching new specifications for GCSE, A levels and new Tech levels with first awarding in summer 2017. This is an ambitious programme of change that will take up to around 2020 to complete.

A fresh look at requirements to meet the challenges ahead

A new Chief Regulator is due to take office later in the year and they should be encouraged to take a fresh look at the planned programme and resources required both by schools and by the examining industry, in order to reassure all that resource levels are commensurate with the level of challenge and quality demanded. The fact that 2016 is largely the run out phase of the old specifications presents us with a window of opportunity to anticipate challenges and mitigate risks for 2017 and beyond.

A need to find the bandwidth to advance technology’s contribution

We would also benefit from anticipating the requirements of users and consumers of these reformed qualifications – students/ parents/ universities and employers – failure to do so risks undermining the hard work by everyone to rebuild trust in the system.

For the time being these qualifications remain paper-based supported by traditional textbooks which will be disappointing for some.  Online marking has successfully demonstrated technological interventions in the right places will continue to have a valuable supporting role to play. However, we would hope that there is also bandwidth to evaluate the potential for a technologically advanced future beyond the current cycle of change

Your views? 

What do you think that the future holds in store for qualifications? Is the industry equipped to satisfy the requirements of all its stakeholders? How might technology help?

Edtech future and assessment- is a rethink required?

The recent Westminster Education Forum (WEF) event ‘Using Technology in Education’ was a varied and lively session, but without the benefit of Ministers, the DfE or Ofqual present we were in the dark about how recommendations in the featured Education Technology Action Group (ETAG) report had been received.

tablets stacked

Given this, extracts from the speech given by the Secretary of State at BETT were shared by Altain in the published transcript. The indications are that the relationships between technology, assessment and accountability are deemed important with an emphasis on productivity; however, the speech pointedly provides no direction on ‘learning in the classroom’. Is there a message we should take from this?

Certainly a recurring theme threaded throughout discussions at the recent WEF keynote seminar was of the strong influence of the accountability/assessment regime on technology adoption. All the signs are of this influence growing stronger still in the new policy environment.

Speech extracts by the Secretary of State at BETT 2015

“A year ago, my predecessor was one of 3 ministers responsible for establishing the Education and Technology Action Group to investigate how digital technology might empower teachers and learners in new and exciting ways.

I look forward to studying the group’s report, which will be published today. But as I do so, I will be looking for ideas in a number of areas where I think technology can transform the educational landscape.

The first is accountability.

We need to reform the way schools are held to account. We have an analogue system in a digital age. League tables are important and an Ofsted report will always be an essential part of the service, but there is much more we can do.

As we inject further choice and competition to the school system, parents and students will rightly demand more information from us so that they can exercise that choice effectively. We need to consider how the era of ‘big data’ can help to provide it.

Already we have begun to produce destination data on school leavers to identify where they end up. We aim to include them in league tables by 2017. In future, we could try to link qualifications to tax data too in order to demonstrate the true worth of certain subjects.

The second area I would like to look at is assessment and reporting.

John Hattie’s work in New Zealand demonstrates what is possible. By using technology to administer regular standardised tests, he has transformed the way children learn and the way parents are able to monitor their child’s progress. This is vital. One of the major concerns that busy parents raise with me is the challenge of staying on top of what’s going on in their child’s school.

If we can find a way for all schools to use technology to improve the flow of information – ensuring the information parents need is there when and where they need it – this will help to ease some of this pressure.

Finally, I believe technology can play a critical role in helping to deliver one of my major priorities: reducing teacher workload. My recent ‘workload challenge’ initiative – which received more than 44,000 responses from teachers across the country – identified a number of key drivers of teacher workload.

Two of the most prominent were planning and marking, and there is so much that technology can do to streamline the processes here. There is so much more we might do. I have not had time to explore the role technology might play in changing how children learn in the classroom, though Liz Sproat from Google will do so shortly.

But we are fortunate in this country to have some of the best teachers, best schools and best educational technology companies in the world. And I am keen to ensure we do more in our own schools to harness the power and potential of ed tech”

Your views?

Given difficulties reported by the ETAG team in gaining traction on report recommendations with ministers and the regulator is there a message we should take from this? Does the ed tech community need to rethink the relationship between assessment and technology? What are the solutions that ed tech providers need to offer to secure business in the new policy environment?

Please share your views in the comments section below