Innovation praised at edtech expo Bett 2017 as UK government promises to support the growing education technology sector
The UK government pledged its support to the UK education technology sector at Bett 2017 this week, despite the Secretary of State for Education dropping out at the last minute.
Robert Halfon, the Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, stood in for Justine Greening after she was unable to attend and spoke about the government’s mission to give students “the skills they need to get ahead in the labour, market whilst at the same time making sure that our economy gets the skills too”.
“I’m incredibly excited about education technology as a British export,” he said. “You only need to look around this hall to see the depth of innovation on offer and the amount of enthusiasm towards what we can achieve.
“We as a government fully intend to support this sector as it continues to go from strength to strength over here and abroad.”
He was followed by Caroline Wright, director general of the British Educational Suppliers Association, who praised the government’s new industrial strategy that was laid out by Prime Minister Theresa May last week.
“The news that the government will be investing in fibre broadband in areas where schools have poor connections is a welcome sign that the government is committed to harnessing the powers and opportunities that technology can offer,” Wright said. “Especially when more than 50 percent of learning time in UK classrooms now is spent using some form of technology.”
“I applaud both the DfE [Department for Education] and private government for the vision and aspiration outlined in the industrial strategy and the digital edtech industry here today looks forward to helping our ministerial colleagues to deliver these plans.”
However, she warned that the plans must be met with “concrete investment” at a time where more and more schools are facing financial pressures and shrinking IT budgets.
“Over many years the UK has built up a well deserved reputation and status as a world leader in the classroom use of technology and an industry innovation of groundbreaking digital solutions, yet these funding shortfalls mean that schools are increasingly having to make do and mend, with more than 900,000 school computers currently in UK schools reported to be ineffective or broken,” said Wright.
“We need to ensure that we continue to invest in our young people’s digital futures and we’re going to continue to work with schools and government to champion technology in our classrooms.”
A raft of new education products and initiatives have emerged from Bett this week, such as the global STEM training programme F1 in Schools which is working to develop the next generation of Formula One engineers.