Investing in edtech

Mark Chambers, CEO of Naace and the EdTech Association talks the future of edtech, and the essential need for investment

Naace members are reporting significant disappointment with the amount of attention paid by each of the main political parties to education technology (edtech) in their manifestos. The importance of edtech is multifaceted, beginning with the fact that schools, to be relevant to their students’ needs, should offer access to high-quality technology resources, content and tools; this should be an entitlement for all UK students regardless of their background or ability. Naace ICT Mark and Third Millennium Learning Schools consistently demonstrate that the utilisation of edtech provides a multiplier effect that leads to improved outcomes for young people. Well-managed edtech leads to significant savings for schools in many aspects of resourcing and can markedly improve their systems including, for example, their communication process with the community, parents, and carers.

The financial environment that we have been coached by politicians to expect is predicated on cuts and savings, and inevitably schools are responding to this. With the huge majority of school funding focussed on people other factors, schools are feeling the strain, including for edtech, but notably and most recently Free School Meals for Infants. Every decision will have implications, but at Naace we believe that a sustained investment in edtech matched with appropriate investment in professional development makes sense on so many levels, and not least because if we are to see a continued improvement in outcomes for young people then we need to be moving away from the 19th Century curricula, classroom organisation and pedagogy to which schools are retrenching, and embrace 21st Century learning.

The financial environment that we have been coached by politicians to expect is predicated on cuts and savings, and inevitably schools are responding to this. 

In recent decades, like the creative industries and, in particular, music, the edtech representation of the UK has been huge worldwide. The reasons for this are closely tied to the success of the English language, the British School system and our reputation for innovation and creativity. However, with the recent pronouncement by the EU that English is of reducing importance, and the best efforts of recent English governments to dismantle our qualification systems, we risk losing our way and our leading reputation far more quickly that it took us to earn it.

Naace members would like to see the encouragement of a national forum, which connects those passionate for the appropriate use of education technology. Endorsing quality standards for schools, such as the ICT Mark, as well as endorsing accreditation for technicians, technical support providers, and teachers that costs nothing but time, such as the Naace Open Badges, would present the high-profile message that edtech is important and indeed a priority. School leaders would again sit up and take notice, and we would hear less of the “demise of ICT” and less of the “letting go” of eLearning Coordinators and Digital Leads and more of a commitment to manage IT well. It is well documented that when IT is managed well there is significant school improvement.

In order to serve the needs of our students for a relevant and empowering 21st Century learning experience, to improve outcomes for young people, to save money for schools, and to secure the future and the earning potential of the UK, each of the political parties, and most importantly the party that wins, needs to re-evaluate their thinking with respect to edtech. We cannot afford to ignore its potential both to impact our schools and our bottom line.