Raising Standards with Technology

On Monday, when I wrote about Chromebooks being the ideal device for the UK classroom, I was hinting at wider issue about technology spending in education: wastage.

We waste a lot of money in UK schools on technology.

The EEF teacher toolkit is quite clear: spend your money on training teachers to give effective feedback. That is the best way to raise standards in your school.

You should purchase technology if it supports teachers giving effective feedback. If it doesn’t, don’t buy it. If you have any spare money left over, then maybe, you can spend some money on technology.

Raising Standards with technology is easy:

  • dont spend too much of your money on it;
  • don’t be distracted by it;
  • don’t waste time with it;

We have great resources in our schools – they are called teachers – if they are helped significantly by technology then buy it for them, but don’t make technology a barrier to their teaching.

Raising Standards at #BETT_2014

It’s easy to get blinded by the shiny when you visit BETT. Acres upon acres of fantastic equipment, software and services feast your eyes. Eager young sales-people yearn to catch your attention. Each one wants to show you how their product will change your school.

I know I’ve been blinded by the shiny in the past. I’ve come across products that I’m convinced will make that one amazing difference to my students. But when I’ve invested the cash, actually they haven’t. Staff and students have been disappointed instead.

The problem with technology is that with every failure, a significant number of staff within a school are disenfranchised. Education, which is essentially a simple process involving teacher and student, is sometimes not served by extra layers of technology. And when technology becomes a barrier certain teachers are put off, sometimes for good.

So this BETT I get to do a short talk myself. I’m on at the leader’s summit talking about raising standards. If you’re there at 1:15 on Friday January 24th you can catch what I’m going to say, which is essentially the story of using technology well to raise standards. I’m concerned about the amount of money that gets spent on technology without this focus and my story is one of success with limited budgets, where children achieve even in deprived circumstances. I’ve entitled my talk Raising Standards with technology: How to make the most of Pupil Premium Funding, but I guess I could have entitled it Raising Standards in Austerity Times.

Hopefully see you there!

There’s no such thing as a free lunch

When Nick Clegg announced that soon all children aged between 4 and 7 (Reception to Year 2) will be getting a free lunch, everybody should have been pleased.

My ambition is that every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day,” declared Nick, pleased with himself. And we should be pleased too. An initiative that will cost £400 per child generously funded by our benevolent government. There’s nothing wrong with a free lunch. Everyone is happy.

Not in my school office.

The first response of the administrator there was to roll her eyes and cry, “Oh no!”

You see, Pupil Premium funding is a significant part of the budget at my school. Pupil Premium funding is calculated based on census returns that indicate how many families have qualified for free schools meals. However, to qualify for a free school meal, a form must be filled in.

This form is a constant battle for the administrators in our school office. Some families decide they don’t need free school meals, even though they qualify – maybe their child can’t stand school dinners, or they’re just too proud, or they simply didn’t know about it. Every year we have families who could qualify for free school meals but don’t. The battle is one of convincing and supporting families who do qualify to actually fill their forms in. When this is done, the family benefits directly by qualifying for free school meals, and indirectly because the school is funded an extra £900 per child.

Imagine the family who was on that cusp of not being too bothered about filling their form in. Now they don’t need to – this is going to be a bigger battle for our school administrators and if we lose, our children will miss out.

So I’m mainly thinking now about the strategies we are going to need to convince families that they really ought to fill their form in. But a small, cynical part of me – the part that has watched too much ‘Yes Minister’ – is wondering if this is a deliberate money saving ploy – pumping £400 per pupil into schools in the hope it may cut down on the amount spent on Pupil Premium funding.