“More than one million children attend schools that are not good enough.”
This insight (Ofsted, Jan 2017) was discussed at an interesting seminar at the Education Show 2017 on education reform, hosted by Toby Young of the New Schools Network. One of the points made highlighted the amount of misleading data in the sector, which is often hotly contested, or difficult to track owing to small data sets.
As an agency specialising in education PR campaigns, we understand the need for accurate data – not only for news stories, but to give valuable insight into the current education system in order to improve it.
In the digital age, there is no excuse for a lack of conclusive data, but the education system has yet to catch up with the abilities of current technology.
Assessment tools that can collate evidence of knowledge and skills have the potential to create a culture of lifelong learning and improve fairness, as opposed to the current, age-old exam system. We need a move away from the current focus on generating good exam results, instead pushing for utilising tech in the classroom. Digital portfolios, for example, could create a generation of “life-long learners”, as paper certificates fast become out-dated.
There is also a strong debate over differentiating the curriculum by content. Should we teach one thing to high achievers, and another to lower achievers? In the seminar, it was suggested that the approach to the content should be tailored accordingly, not the content itself.
Delivering a different approach to each child could prove a struggle for time and resource strapped teachers. This is another instance where embracing technology that can help to scale good teaching practice would have a huge impact. Artificial intelligence systems can replicate the teacher’s dialogue with a pupil to open up thought processes and gauge where a student may be struggling. This leads to more meaningful conversations with the teacher, giving a better understanding of what each individual needs to progress.
According to the seminar, there is less appetite for education reform in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and subsequently these nations have fallen behind England in terms of attainment levels of schoolchildren. This highlights the need to get on board with these reforms in order to raise standards.
Estimates show that the school age population will reach more than 8 million by 2025. This means that the next few years are crucial for the UK education sector to be driving forward the changes it needs to catch up with other countries.