Snubbing tech in schools fails pupils, research suggests

Research by think tank Reform has found that edtech can transform outcomes for disadvantaged pupils but is being neglected

Reform’s analysis – Beyond Gadgets: Edtech to help close the opportunity gap – indicates how using video tutoring apps instead of one-to-one tutoring could allow 300,000 additional pupils to make ‘significant progress’ at school. With the right input from schools and DfE, technology has the potential to narrow the opportunity gap.

Reform’s research also found that using online tutors to support disadvantaged pupils at school could allow for an additional 30 million hours of tutoring, within the same budget. The report shows how technology can free up teacher time in disadvantaged schools to spend on more pupils in need. Schools could cut the working day by 25 minutes and cut the time teachers spend monitoring homework by 95 per cent. Artificial intelligence systems have also been tipped to produce better learning outcomes than comparative human methods.

The report recommends that the Department for Educahtion should identify ‘Tech Expert’ schools and link them up with schools that are struggling to use technology to help disadvantaged pupils. It should also allow schools to see the products available to them through an e-procurement channel with a dedicated stream for tech products.

Education technology presents a great opportunity to help level the playing field and create more equal opportunities for every child.
 Sarah Timmis, Researcher at Reform

The report finds that the money currently spent on helping disadvantaged pupils, worth £2.2 billion, is recorded unsystematically, making it difficult to understand what approaches schools are taking to help disadvantaged pupils. Reform analysis of how 40 schools spend the pupil premium found that only 3% goes to tech teaching tools, while 7% is spent on one to one tuition between a teacher and pupil and 8% on additional teaching assistants, both of which are high-cost interventions. The report recommends enforcing tighter reporting standards to understand the impact of evidence-based guidance, and the extent to which innovative measures are applied to overcome the attainment gap.

Education technology also gives disadvantaged pupils equal opportunities to learn digital skills, which is critical for future social mobility, found the report. In 20 years, 90% of jobs will entail some element of digital skills. The report also recommends that Ofsted conduct a survey report on how technology can be implemented in schools to improve digital skills. This would allow Ofsted to give schools individual feedback on their digital strategies and highlight best practice to schools around the country.

Sarah Timmis, Researcher at Reform, said: “With a stubborn and persistent opportunity gap in schools between pupils from different backgrounds, innovation is urgently needed. Education technology presents a great opportunity to help level the playing field and create more equal opportunities for every child.”