Is budget eroding EdTech potential?

This is a series of occasional blogs by BESA members and is part of their paid membership service. These views are not necessarily those of BESA and a published blog does not constitute an endorsement.

Technology is an integral part of teaching and learning in schools and colleges across the UK, but despite dwindling budgets, schools are increasingly striving to innovate and recognise the importance and potential edtech has in modern learning environments.

The State of Technology in Education Report 18/19, pioneered by Promethean, is now in its third year and has begun to plot trends and continued to make observations on the true feelings of educators around the UK. The report has also identified key areas predicted for growth in the coming years.

A concern over school budgetary pressures

Budgetary pressures in the education sector have been a recurring issue for many years and unfortunately come as no surprise in the current economic climate. Despite there being no radical changes to school budgets, the number of educators who took part in the survey that believed budgetary constraints will make it difficult for their school to meet objectives has dropped by 10 per cent, from 64 per cent in 2017, to 54 per cent this year. The decline in concern in this area may point towards a desensitisation to falling budgets, or a renewed sense of optimism amongst educators to make the best out of the resources they have.

When addressing the issue of budgets allocated to technology specifically, the findings were not so positive. There has been a 7 per cent increase this year in the number of respondents that believe there is too little budget allocated to technology, from 33 per cent in 2017 to 41 per cent in 2018.

ā€œBudgeting is a difficult balance. I donā€™t criticise the school, I think they manage the budget well. A higher budget would mean more could be spent on technology though,ā€ commented a head of department from a local authority primary school in South East England.

ā€œThe allocation of budget comes down to ā€˜what we can affordā€™, not what we need. Approximately 90% of the budget goes on staff salaries and then with essential items it doesnā€™t leave a lot to share out,ā€ added a head of department from a local authority primary school in South West England.

Unlocking student potential through technology

Despite concern over the amount of budget allocated to technology, educators continue to recognise the potential edtech offers to enhance teaching and learning environments with positive outcomes.Ā 

  • 27 per cent of deputy and head teachers stated tech played an integral role in their school strategies.
  • Over half (54 per cent) of teachers are striving to innovate using technology
  • 94 per cent recognise EdTech can improve engagement levels to some degree
  • 72 per cent think that behaviour can potentially be improved with technology

Looking to the future of education

When considering where the future of EdTech lies, 79 per cent of respondents believe EdTech will most likely become blended with traditional teaching resources over the next decade, rather than replacing it. In addition to pupil benefits, school leaders see wider advantages to the use of technology such as more efficient delivery of training, career development and providing a more flexible working environment for staff.

Regardless of lots of talk in the technology industry and education press about developing technologies such as AI (Artificial intelligence), this has become a less popular choice for anticipated growth, dropping by 9 per cent between 2017 and 2018, from 18 to just 9 per cent. Bring your own device (BYOD) and smartphones are also less popular choices for educational development. This year, over a quarter more respondents identified front of class technology as a key growth area in the next 1-3 years (11% in 2017 to 37% in 2018).

According to the majority of respondents, the key areas for growth are:

  • Online assessments, content and resources
  • Apps
  • Tablets
  • Interactive front-of-class panels and whiteboards

Coming back to the question ā€˜Is budget eroding EdTech potential?ā€™, the findings of the State of Technology in Education Report over the past three years suggest that despite budgetary pressures educators remain confident that EdTech plays an important part in modern teaching and learning environments. Educators are continuing to innovate with their use of technology in the classroom and are optimistic about being able to utilise digital resources for both learning and assessment objectives. Although conclusions from the report stress that budgets pose a significant challenge for schools in being able to invest in and get the most out of EdTech, this is certainly not stifling technology innovation.

Download The State of Technology in Education Report 2018/19 for free here.