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Look to 2019: what will most schools prioritise?

Ofsted’s recent announcement could see a downgrade of exam results in schools’ strategic goals. Our annual State of Technology in Education report assesses how these school priorities change year on year.

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Ofsted has just announced changes to the way it will inspect schools, according to the Department for Education. These changes, starting in September 2019, will see a downgrade in the importance of exam results in favour of assessing whether schools are offering a ‘broad, rich and deep’ curriculum. These changes are considered a positive measure, said to allow teachers and school leaders to prioritise more of their time on the ‘real substance of education’.

Indeed, according to our annual State of Technology in Education report, most schools’ goals still centre around pupils’ exam results. So, could this be set to change with Ofsted’s recently announced changes?

Each year, we ask school leaders and other staff members to outline their school’s current priorities. These priorities are then tracked year on year, allowing us to spot emerging trends and patterns.

What will schools prioritise in 2018/19?

Firstly, we’ve noticed there’s been a greater sense of collaboration in schools this year—over 7% more of our respondents took an active role in formulating their school’s plans and priorities. This, in turn, has led to a 13% increase in overall agreement with schools’ priorities.

But what are these priorities?

  • Attainment (64%, up 16%)
  • Reducing the attainment gap (46%, up 13%)
  • New pedagogical techniques (31%, up 3%)

When crafting these goals and strategies, senior leaders have confirmed that pupils’ needs are the highest influencing factor (60%), followed by results and attainment (50%).

Among the lowest considerations, meanwhile, are parents (6%), the local community (4%), and the economy and/or job market (2%). Inspecting bodies, like Ofsted, sit somewhere in the middle at 19%.

How do these priorities differ to 2017/18?

Whilst these goals don’t vary wildly from the previous years, there are some noticeable shifts in opinion among educators.

  • Over 13% more schools will focus on providing more creative learning experiences
  • Almost 6% more educators identified delivering educational benefits through technology as a priority
  • 11.5% fewer say soft skills development is a key priority

What do schools think is missing from their 2018/19 priorities?

There’s certainly more agreement between schools and their staff on where to focus their attention next year, but there are also trends when it comes to missed strategic priorities. These include teacher training and updating the technologies in their schools.

  • Over 25% identified delivering educational benefits with tech (6% more than in 2017)
  • Over 30% identified teacher training (12% more than in 2017)
  • 37% identified updating technology, new this year

Does IT feature in schools’ priorities?

This year, over 7% more school leaders confirmed that their schools have a specific ICT strategy, up from 50% in 2017. To understand these IT priorities further, we asked heads and deputy heads to outline their top technology goals for the coming year. Key changes include:

  • Almost 20% more school leaders identified pupil data protection as a strategic priority
  • Over 36% more intend to focus on boosting engagement with tech
  • 11% more will focus on boosting school collaboration with tech

So, according to our survey, the schools’ goals for the coming year are largely related to pupil results and attainment, much like the years before. At the same time, there’s been a rise in data protection as a priority—most likely due to GDPR—and boosting engagement with edtech.