Reimagining Education at Bett 2023

Mari Downing

Account Executive

PLMR’s key takeaways from this year’s show

As the UK’s largest education technology show, Bett’s annual event in London provides the opportunity for education leaders around the country – and indeed, around the world –  to assemble and share insights from every corner of the rapidy evolving edtech sector.

PLMR’s specialist education practice attended the show, making the most of everything the three days had to offer – from supporting clients in attendance, to meeting with and hearing from leading figures at the intersection of education and technology.

With more than 123 countries represented and approximately 600 edtech companies exhibiting, this year’s Bett show shed plenty of light on some of the biggest challenges facing the sector, as well as innovative solutions to address some of these issues. Read on to uncover our three key takeaways from this year’s show:

 

Adapting the curriculum to the modern world

Unsurprisingly, the growing influence of AI dominated conversations throughout the event. In her address to the conference, Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan highlighted the potential of AI as a powerful tool to transform day to day work, but recognised that AI will never replace the quality of teachers, and that there is still a way to go in ensuring it delivers at the necessary standard. Keegan indicated that the Department for Education is hoping to publish a plan shortly for getting the most out of AI whilst managing the associated risks.

Additionally, numerous panel discussions focused on whether the current curriculum is capable of adequately preparing students for the world of work. In a session held by LEGO and LEO Academy Trust on ‘How to ignite STEAM learning and 21st Century skills’, they spoke to the troubling statistic that by 2030, 50% of children will be unprepared to enter the workforce. Successfully embracing technology and edtech solutions in schools means more than simply teaching students to code; it also means providing them with the requisite skills and confidence to flourish in the workplace of the future. Encouring children to develop mindsets of curiosity and creativity, with a growing emphasis on empathetic and ethical considerations, was a priority outlined by numerous education leaders.

 

Prioritising mental health and wellbeing

While examining the relevance of education and modern world, mental health was never far from the conversation at Bett 2023. A session exploring the OECD’s ‘Human Flourishing Project’ outlined the organisation’s vision of shifting the focus of assessing education away from solely academic metrics, towards curricula which centre the child’s holistic development – taking a ‘whole child’ approach. Michael Stevenson (Senior Adviser and Consultant at the OECD) indicated that the latest OECD education policy framework, which will be ready for publication in two years’ time, will include a move to ensure that education teaches children resilience and supports their mental health and wellbeing.

Further, in a session titled ‘Digital Innovation Supporting Children and Young People’s Mental Health’, panellists explored the potential use of AI tools for therapy, wellbeing apps and education materials to help normalise mental health conversations. As is the case for academic solutions, these mental health tools are not designed to replace existing physical supports, but rather to supplement them by widening access and encouraging both staff and students to access help.

 

Building community

The potential for edtech to strengthen communities and boost involvement from all quarters was also widely discussed during the course of Bett 2023. For instance, LEO Academy Trust shared insights on its usage of various technology-based solutions in the classroom during a panel session titled ‘PedTech: Pedagogy first and technology supports’. The Trust outlined how edtech enhances its adaptive teaching and ensures lessons are suitable for learners of all backgrounds, levels and abilities – allowing all pupils to take part in the learning community.

Panellists during the OECD’s ‘Human Flourishing Project’ discussion also flagged the dangers of assuming that technology implemented during the pandemic alone will be enough to maintain strong relationships between schools and parents; this momentum must be sustained, and connectivity with parents should remain a priority throughout the education process.

Throughout the event, contributors also appeared aligned on the importance of staff engagement in the creation of digital culture – whilst technology is a useful tool in building communities, community engagement is the number one driver in ensuring the successful adoption of edtech solutions in schools. Providing staff with adequate resources and training complementing the rollout of any technological programme is essential in guaranteeing that they will have the confidence and ability to deliver the best possible outcomes for students.

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