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BESA in conversation with Educater

Gareth Heggie, Managing Director at Educater, explains how they are helping academies to monitor pupil progression

Posted by Lucinda Reid | September 01, 2017 | Technology

Educater was launched at Bett 2015 so you’re still quite a new company. What was the gap in the market that you identified and wanted to fill?

When the Government announced that levels were being removed without any alternative model created as a replacement, teachers and school leaders were left scratching their heads wondering how they were going to effectively monitor and support pupil progression without them. We quickly recognised this problem and with the help and support of over 40 schools and leaders across Sheffield, practitioners, and the local authority, we were able to develop Educater STATonline to provide support for teachers in assessment and planning for children at all stages of attainment.

We wanted to create a collaborative culture within the education sector that encourages schools to come together with a common approach to develop collaborative professional development, increase data sharing, improve the moderation of children’s work, make teacher assessment more consistent, and improve the management of transitions between schools for children or staff.

How is Educater “a person-centred communication and tracking solution”?

We understand that every child has their own unique way of learning and communicating. Children can express their emotions and understanding in a number of different ways and this is why we try and provide teachers with the tools needed to place the individual pupil at the heart of everything they do – that’s what person-centred communication is. 

One of the ways in which we do this is through our ‘pupil passport’ one-page profile module. A one-page profile lets educators know exactly what matters to each pupil, detailing what people appreciate about them, what is important to them, and how best to support them. By putting every child’s individual needs first and making pupils feel valued in this way, has a positive effect on pupil wellbeing and self-esteem, meaning schools have a larger number of contented learners.

What do you think are the main issues and challenges that schools face when it comes to choosing and using a pupil assessment framework?

We have found that schools want to find an assessment framework which is simple to use and one that will suit the learning needs of their pupils. Assessment in primary schools is one of the main headaches causes for school leaders and at a time where teacher and pupil wellbeing is a hot topic within education, schools need an assessment system that can alleviate stress and significantly reduce workloads.

One of the developments we have made recently is to incorporate multiple frameworks into our system and allow our schools to pick and mix between all frameworks, meaning that they can shape their assessment strategy to meet the needs of the schools.

In our research on EdTech in schools and academies (to find out more visit the BESA website), we noticed that academies are more likely to report the use of parent payment systems than local authority schools. Have you noticed a difference between academies and other schools in their approach to EdTech?

The overall approach to EdTech is the same – to support teachers and school leaders to improve the quality of education they provide to their pupils. The main difference is in the greater buying power that academy schools have over other schools.

Academy schools are able to pull their resources together to ensure that they can obtain EdTech of the highest quality which enables them to share information on best practice and school improvement. By maximising their funding and driving efficiency across all of their schools, academy schools are able to significantly improve the progress of pupils across all of their schools.

How much do you think EdTech can drive school improvement? What else do you think is needed?

In my opinion, it is for schools to drive their own improvement but EdTech certainly has a part to play. In order for schools to improve they need to identify where their strengths and weaknesses lie, so self-evaluation has a key role in helping schools find areas for improvement.

By school leaders highlighting and prioritising the right areas for school improvement, planning the actions they need to take and putting these into practice, schools will be able to improve the quality of education that they provide to their pupils. EdTech can help in this process by making self-evaluation less time-consuming and as easy as possible for schools to complete.

Educater will be providing a brilliant example of this when we release a new module called SEFonline in October. This online version of the self-evaluation form significantly streamlines the SEF process saving schools hours of time, stress and workload. Schools will be able to know exactly where their school is based on Ofsted criteria and their SEF will be a valuable tool in shaping school improvement and not sitting hidden in a folder having little impact on the future. EdTech needs to find the time sinks that get teachers back doing what they do best – teaching in the classroom.

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