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How does evidence from research inform practice and policy?

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Trends in education are continually evolving, with current events triggering an acceleration of existing movements. Whether we are facing a fundamental paradigm shift is yet to be seen. But, regardless of the pace of change, do these trends, and the evidence to support them, inform procedural changes in schools?

For example, over the last few years, we’ve seen an increased focus on the importance of educator wellbeing and mental health. But, despite this, more than 8 in 10 teachers said that workload was contributing to high levels of stress in schools last year. That’s 20% more than the year before, according to our State of Technology in Education report. At the same time, more than 30% of educators believe staff retention is a challenge—but fewer than 4% believe their schools are tackling the problem. So, while there might be a trend towards improving the wellbeing of the school workforce (and recognition about how this impacts retention) in reality, the steps to achieve this are often not in place.

In your school, do research findings and statistics drive strategic change? Do trends have an influence on your evolving policies, or not? Tell us in our survey.

Has training dropped off the map?

According to our research, training is no longer considered a top strategic priority. In a backdrop of stressful workloads and exam pressures, the need for edtech training remains as critical as ever. But carving out time for what is often perceived as a non-essential means training is taking a back seat. Is this the case in your school?

While discrepancies between teachers and SLTs also apply to whether training should be a funding priority (61.3% versus 29.7%), many of our respondents – particularly teachers – agree that more needs to be spent.

How do you balance your books?

Last year’s State of Technology in Education report also found that 53% of school leaders will struggle to meet their objectives due to budget constraints. But research can help.

For example, some school leaders may be unsure where their school sits in comparison to other institutions when it comes to spending. But, researching income and outgoings compared with other schools could shed light on this. Of course, this data won’t explain why there are differences, but, by reading between the lines and filling in the gaps, headteachers should gain some invaluable insights.

Some school leaders are also conducting their own internal research to help them make strategic budgetary decisions. For example, by asking staff members across the school how they think the budget should be spent. Or, what they think could be done differently next year. IT managers can also provide valuable input on where tech upgrades are more or less pressing, and whether funds are better spent on improving the existing infrastructure or investing in more edtech.

Have you considered ongoing flexible working?

In the current situation, the majority of schools have been closed or are operating with a skeleton staff. Working from home has become the norm for many teachers, school leaders and staff. But, as schools begin to reopen, many are considering a more long term flexible approach to working.

As we mentioned at the start, more than 8 in 10 teachers said workload was contributing to high levels of stress in schools last year. And while workloads can only be reduced so much, there’s significant scope to make working more flexible. The homeworking trend might have accelerated out of necessity, but returning to the old normal, may not be the best outcome.

Will you have the ability to give staff the technology, the tools, and the autonomy to decide when and where they do their work? We’re currently gathering opinions from educators across the country for our 5th annual report — The State of Technology in Education 2020/21. We’d love to hear from you and your colleagues about your strategic decision-making and the evolving role of tech. Let us know your thoughts.

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