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Using technology to support efficiency

Improving quality

Becta has been studying the link between saving teachers’ time and improving the quality of the learning experience.

Online lesson resources that are available through the school’s learning platform and high‑quality resources created by suppliers can all be effective productivity tools for teachers.

Interactive whiteboards in primary schools pilot study has shown that interactive whiteboards can create greater opportunities for questions and discussion during class, making a richer, higher-quality learning experience. 

Whiteboards can also help teachers gain time in class, by spending less time writing on the board. “A teacher can save a significant proportion of time, resulting in more time for questions and classroom discussion,” says Vanessa.

A further study, by the Manchester Metropolitan University,The DCSF Primary Schools Whiteboard Expansion project suggests that this is one of the reasons there have been improvements in students’ outcomes using interactive whiteboards.

Making better use of resources as a whole

All the debate around saving teachers’ time has led to an even more challenging question. How can technology help schools make better use of resources and deliver better value-for-money overall? On the one hand, institutions have a variety of input costs:  

  • Teaching costs.
  • Other staff costs, such as teaching assistants and administrators.
  • School running costs, such as energy and technology costs.

If these are the inputs, the outcomes are about school performance. A key measure of this is the Contextual Value Added (CVA) formula. CVA takes into account a variety of factors such as income, pupil prior attainment and special educational needs, when measuring the effectiveness of a school or the progress made by individual pupils. 

“We know that some schools have achieved relatively low costs in terms of inputs but also have a high CVA measure. That is, they are very efficient schools. We are interested to find out if technology can play a role in this: can it help reduce costs and improve outcomes?”

Becta is currently compiling case study evidence that shows that by using well-planned, effective technology platforms, institutions can reduce the time spent on ‘back office’ tasks such as recording marks, reporting to parents, managing finances and human resources.  Technology should do what it is good at, which is to automate routine processes. The experience of Kemnal College illustrates this.

Kemnal College Trust case study:  working more efficiently and effectively

Kemnal College in Bromley is a high performing trust comprising four schools with 4,100 students and 700 staff.  It has designed a trust-level IT service that joins up classroom teaching, classroom management, pupil information, school/trust administration and communication with parents.   

This approach has increased efficiency by:

  • using technology to automate the old paper-based administrative tasks so that school offices no longer exist on all sites.
  • improving communication with parents by offering them real-time access, such as emails and phone calls – there are no more resource-intensive letters.
  • enabling shared online resources for teachers. These are ready for in-lesson delivery.

This efficiency is achieved through a central IT service, which buys equipment at the trust, rather than school level. There is one central, IT team (three people) and one or two support staff (depending on size of school) in each school.

This type of evidence, suggests that there is potential for technology to help institutions work far more efficiently and effectively. See Kemnal trust.

The Further Education and Skills sector

While there is scope to use technology for efficiency improvements across both sectors, one approach is particularly relevant to further education and adult learning. This is the idea of using online learning to make more time for 1:1 tuition, adding value to the learning process.

Imagine what could happen if some aspects of instructional learning could be done more with online resources and with online real-time lectures. This has the potential to free up educators’ time to deliver that all-important face-to-face support.

“We know that increasingly, many learners are turning to the internet as their first source of information. We also know that many learners are increasingly comfortable using an online environment for their learning. This includes using a variety of internet resources, interactive activities and networking with tutors and peers,” adds Vanessa.

The Sheffield College is a good example of this. It offers a range of GCSEs online, with a high pass rate. There are digital resources to support learning and access to tutor support via email and other forms of communication.

Online environments can manage learning as it progresses. They can identify what has been accessed and what has been submitted. They can also keep track of the results of tests and assessments. There is considerable potential here to save practitioners’ time in delivering teaching. This enables them to offer more 1:1 support, and offers considerable potential for savings if online learning is provided at scale.

The benefits

All of this work is about the best possible use of resources to add value to learning. “Educators are at the beginning of a debate about how to take this idea forward. We are now living in a world where the opportunities offered by technology are accessible for educators and learners. Becta intends to work with educators to explore the growing options now available to save time and improve efficiency, with the ultimate benefit being improved quality of learning.”  

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Welcome to Informing policy

The Policy web channel is Becta's specialist area for policy makers, thinkers and advocates.

Here you will find information and resources relating to the development of technology within education. We are happy for you to make use of the facts, opinions, examples and materials you will find here.

We know from our extensive research that technology when properly deployed has a positive impact on outcomes, effectiveness and efficiency. The resources here are designed to illustrate these outcomes, and to support the creation of policies which allow the education system, learners and teachers, to benefit from technology. We hope that you find them useful and we would welcome your feedback so that we can continually improve the channel to better meet your needs.

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