Some of you I know are following what seems to be a developing 'campaign' with the DfE (or at least a good opportunity to open some dialogue with them).
After a short 'holiday' I was prompted to get cracking with something so I have written a very short email to Austen at the Technology Policy Unit introducing myself and seeing whether we can open a line of conversation. Obviously if I get anything back I will blog it.
In the meantime I have begun to think about what policies or issues should be brought up if I am able to begin a dialogue with the members of the Technology Policy Unit. This may be a good way of being able to frame discussion and measure progress. This list should be a short one as I think it would be a wise idea to avoid the political version of development-hell which would therefore be 'campaign-creep'
This therefore is my list of issues so far:
- ICT to be incorporated in a future DfE method for measuring schools (future ebaccs basically)
- ICT skills to be re-incorporated into required skills for Teachers
- In light of DfE comments about more autonomy for schools I feel they should be pushed into acknowledging that they need to educate schools in being autonomous and therefore when it comes to issues like usage of technology and information services online schools should be made aware of the fact that they can now push forward with the usage of this technology (eg YouTube)
That should be it for now
After the mention of the technology policy unit in a letter I received from the DfE recently (read further back on the blog) I thought it might be a good idea to investigate who or what they were. Since the demise of Becta the DfE has not been showing much leadership in this area and this unit seems to be operating under the radar. I have been offered a meeting with a member of this unit (which unfortunately doesn’t acronym as well as the CIA … but is just as secret ) and I think before taking this meeting up (which I hope to encourage some others to join) I think it might be a good idea to find out a little bit about who they are especially if they are in charge of defining the future role of technology in education. This blog post is therefore a summation of links and findings about them.
Members of the Unit:
Vanessa Pittard linkedin profile http://linkd.in/pEov9Y
Head of Technology Policy Unit, DfE
Vanessa is Head of the Technology Policy Unit at the Department for Education which has responsibility for the development of technology in schools policy in the context of the Department’s priorities for education. Prior to her role in the Department, Vanessa was Director of e-Strategy at Becta, building Becta’s strategic role and leading its work on research, evaluation and innovation. Before joining the government sector in 2002, Vanessa had a career as an academic, leading the Department of Communication Studies at Sheffield Hallam University and researching in the areas of technology and literacy. (from
Mentioned in letter: Austen Okonweze
So not much information so far – there is no information I can find on the DfE website but then again there aren’t any other policy units mentioned on the site. I am considering some further ideas about how to take this forward. (comments always welcome)
In researching this technology policy unit mentioned in my recent exchange with the DfE I came across this outstanding blog post summarising the issues present in the ICT and education debate today. A brilliant, detailed and very worthwhile read. http://www.agent4change.net/policy/ict-provision/1050-mluds-and-luddites-poli…
I’m going to save the commentary for later – partly because I want to see what everyone else says
Transcription of letter:
Dear Mr Sharland
Thank you for your letter of 18 July, addressed to the Minister of state for schools, written in response to the speech made by the secretary of state to the royal society on maths and science on the 29th June. As I’m sure yopu van appreciate, ministers receive a vast amount of correspondence and are unable to reply to each one personally. On this occasion I have been asked to reply. The government agrees that when used effectively, technology can help to support good teaching and learning, raise standards and address educational challenges. Over the years, schools have made progression integrating technology into teaching, learning and management and we would wish to see this continue even more and for there to be more confidence in using technology pedagogically. Though becta has closed, there is an array of support and advice services and organisations for schools (ie Naace, FITS, regional broadband consortia and charitable organisations). We continue to support such good work that is why following Becta closure we set up the Technology Policy Unit within the Department and brought some of the Becta functions in house to ensure continued expertise to support this very important area. The department is currently developing its thinking and strategies on technology in schools, engaging with a wide range of stakeholders including school leaders, professional bodies, educational charities, industry, academics and other experts. The strategy will aim at enabling schools and teachers take advantage of opportunities presented by technology to deliver technology and improve effectiveness And efficiency including around the purchase of technology. Further details will be published in the autumn. Thank you for the issues you have raised which I will address individually below:
We will raise the website issues with the relevant team. We believe that it is critical that as much day-to-day decision making as possible is devolved to the front line and that schools can operate with more autonomy. As a result we believe it is not for the department to over prescribe to schools and that the use of YouTube and personal devices needs to be decided at local level. We welcome your support for the use of games to support learning and we are also talking to UK organisations, industry and monitoring evidence around this.
Finally we encourage the collaboration and sharing of ideas and best practice and departmental officials will be happy to meet with you to know more about this. Please contact Austen Okonweze in the Department’s technology unit: Austen.Okonweze@education.gsi.gov.uk
Once again thank you for writing
Public communications unit
May be minor grammatical and spelling errors – banged out on my iPad
Recently in collaboration with a couple of colleagues on Twitter I wrote a letter to Nick Gibb, the Minister in charge of schools. It was in response to a section of a speech by Michael Gove in which for the first time seemingly acknolwedged the role of technology in supporting education. That letter was sent a couple of weeks ago and as of today the 1st of August I have yet to receive a response. Obviously any response I get will be blogged.
I have been thinking (and did receive some prompting online) about a letter to Andy Burnham, the shadow secretary for education. Andy is on twitter at @andyburnhammp and he seems to be an amiable chap who tweets occasionally about educational matters and a fair bit about football. He has responded to a tweet or two in the past but seems to be careful about picking his responses. More crucially though (and this may be symptomatic of general Labour shadow cabinet context) he doesn't seem to be leading in terms of credible alternative options and policies regarding education in the UK.
What I am going to propose is therefore to send a letter to the Labour shadow secretary of education to outline firstly what we wrote to the Tories about and see whether we can open up discussions with peers and fellow colleagues throughout the UK. I have a further idea which I will outline below but at the very least I hope the letter will at least be able to enlighten Labour to the potential and possibilities available to them in support, consultation and ideas from the wider teaching community in the UK.
I do have a further idea which could be incorporated into a letter to the Labour secretary. I have been thinking about how Teachmeets could be used to support any possible collaborative work with politicians. I think politicians have been invited in the past and I am not sure whether any have come or not. If they have I am sure they would be impressed at what is on offer however what is demonstrated is often very inward focussing ideas which can only really work on a smaller scale dependant on another teacher's enthusiasm and often creative use of a budget. These ideas therefore tend to be very micro scale and so they should be as the vast majority of attendees I would assume are normal teachers each with only a few classes and a school to influence.
I think Teachmeets could therefore be used for macro scale ideas where educationalists could demonstrate or pitch ideas and projects which could impact schools positively across the country. I envisage presenters therefore giving their ideas not only to an audience of fellow peers but also invited politicians. How the evening would be run and who would come up to speak are other issues which can be discussed another time if this idea has legs.
As for the next letter itself I will be wait to see whether this blog picks up any reaction and then probably begin it in a few days.