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Can schools be ‘outstanding’ without high-quality edtech?

How is technology helping teachers to create outstanding learning environments that meet the needs of modern students, and in line with requirements of Ofsted? We reveal five tips in our latest blog.

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Schools are striving to create exceptional educational experiences, and employing great teachers is the best way to do this. But, against a backdrop of budgetary pressures and controversial government policies, even the very best educators need help. One way of providing this support is through high-quality edtech; helping teachers to get the job done (and more!) despite the challenges of the modern classroom.

At the same time, students themselves have changed. Our youngest generation learn most effectively when they are left to solve problems and find solutions. So, to be outstanding, they way we teach must reflect this; especially if we are to equip pupils with the skills needed to survive in today’s modern workforce.

But just how is technology helping teachers to create outstanding learning environments that meet the needs of modern students, and in particular, in line with requirements of Ofsted?

A culture of respect

Ofsted considers whether the experience of its students is outstanding when assessing the overall effectiveness of a school. This includes pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Subjects like PSHE, Citizenship and Politics are crucial when exploring these areas, but to establish a genuine culture of respect needs a much more comprehensive approach; one that inspires collaboration in every classroom.

“An “outstanding school” has technology that inspires the children and is used cross-curricular.” Teacher, Local Authority, Primary

Collaborative learning is an active learning method that requires two or more students to come together to work towards a common goal. Through collaborative learning students discover how to listen, how to ask good questions, and how to make shared decisions. And, when it comes to stimulating deep and meaningful collaboration, technology can help.

Edtech can be used to deliver interactive, collaborative lessons with the dynamic flow of information between teacher and student devices (e.g. ActivPanel, tablets, notebooks, laptops, Chromebooks, etc.). It can also help to share learning, in real-time, with the whole class, increasing discussion and participation. Furthermore, with quality edtech, teachers can customise content, tasks and lessons depending on the ability and learning style of each pupil. Taken together, this helps to increase exposure to and understanding of different perspectives.


Another aspect Ofsted will look at when assessing a school is whether or not safeguarding is effective. But, as well as having the necessary policies in place to protect pupils in the classroom, to be truly outstanding, schools must do more to address the challenges of our digital world.

Digital literacy is separate from computer literacy. It requires critical thinking skills, an awareness of the necessary standards of behaviour expected in online environments, and an understanding of the shared social issues created by digital technologies.

With a worrying rise in unhappy and anxious children emerging alongside the upward trend of childhood internet use, simply sticking our heads in the sand just won’t cut it. Teaching students how to thrive and survive in our online world is now as important as reading and writing; and to do this effectively schools must embrace technology, not run from it.

Support for all pupils

School heads must create a culture that enables everyone to excel and improve – especially disadvantaged pupils – if they want to lead an outstanding school.

Furthermore, an outstanding school is one where educators engage and connect with students, and where students feel like their teachers care about their well-being and enjoy a positive classroom environment.

Technology can be used by schools to tackle factors that contribute to the achievement gap, including school attendance and classroom disruptions. For example, by deploying digital reward systems that acknowledge and celebrate success. But more than this, it can also help to create more engaging learning environments.

With the use of mobile devices, rather than sitting at a desk, pupils could be standing up, kneeling at low tables, or even lying on the floor. Even equipment which is traditionally seen as a front of class tool (e.g. whiteboards) can be upgraded to ActivPanels and used in more creative ways. At the same time tablets and interactive panel displays – as well as emerging technologies like virtual reality – inspire kinaesthetic, tactile or participatory learners who may struggle with auditory teaching methods.

Ultimately, technology can help to create motivated and confident students that want to do their best while improving behaviour and attendance.

“[An outstanding school is where] learning is encouraged, celebrated and all pupils achieve well despite their starting point. Where life skills are recognised and taught as well as preparing pupils for the next phase of education and life.” Headteacher, Local Authority Primary

But Ofsted doesn’t just take into account how well pupils are prepared for exams; it also wants to ensure they are ready for modern life. As well as establishing digital literacy, used correctly, educational technology can also help pupils to develop soft skills. For example, tools such as Skype can help foster communication skills in a way that translates directly to the real-world, with blogs used to enhance written communication skills, personal expression, and creativity.

Quality of teaching, learning and assessment

Ofsted will look at a wide variety of factors when assessing the quality of teaching, including whether teachers plan lessons effectively and make maximum use of lesson time. They will also look at how educators coordinate lesson resources, how they provide feedback, and how they identify and support pupils who are falling behind.

Edtech facilitates active participation by pupils via instant assessment, allowing teachers to mark, collate and feedback on responses at the moment of learning, and immediately spot any pupils who might need more help. In addition, modern technology makes it easy for teachers to customise lessons and assessments to the learning experience of each pupil depending on their unique abilities and learning style.

“A school that uses technology to really engage with students and not for the sake of it [is an outstanding school]. Technology must be used to actually benefit staff, saving both time and money.”Network Manager, Local Authority Secondary

Of course, these are just some of the criteria Ofsted will look at when deciding whether or not a school is outstanding. And, there is an argument that a school that has the confidence to realise its own vision can still be outstanding, even if Ofsted doesn’t agree.

An outstanding school is one] which has a vision appropriate for its stakeholders and one which has the confidence to deliver it, even if it does not follow government or Ofsted guidelines.” Deputy Head, Local Authority Secondary

Nevertheless, without modern edtech, today’s educational leaders will struggle to create schools that meet the standards expected by inspectors, teachers, parents and pupils. So, it is vital that senior management teams keep up-to-date on how technology can enable and complement the learning process, and put this thinking into action. Because in the hands of great teachers, technology can turn a good school into an outstanding one.

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