Talking to Pedroza Communications ahead of the General Election, Dan Sandhu calls for the incoming government to be less risk adverse.
Although it’s likely to take a few days for anyone to form a government the ed tech sector certainly has a list as long as it’s arm for the incoming government.
Next week the Education Investor Summit takes place in London (we’re going to be live tweeting) and brings together all aspects of education business including the ed tech sector. Typically a government minister gives the keynote but clearly a week after the election was a little early this year. But what are the big priorities for ed tech? I caught up with some of the leading players to ask them about their top priorities.
Fix the broadband
“I frequently visit schools where the students and teachers are using their own bandwidth from their mobile phones to supplement systems in schools that can’t even support YouTube”, says Richard Taylor, serial entrepreneur and angel investor. He’s not alone in lamenting the poor infrastructure Maria Brosnen backer of Striver also calls for urgent improvement: “I would welcome some Government meddling if it could ensure all schools have really good, reliable broadband.”
Finance for Series A ed tech fund
Charles Wiles is the CEO and co-founder of startup Zzish a dashboard that allows teachers to track student progress in real time. “It’s possible to raise seed funding, but virtually impossible to raise Series A and so typically a start up will do the hard work of building a product, getting into one or two universities or perhaps 50 schools and then find themselves unable to raise the funds to scale up the sales and marketing.
“In the US there are several specialist EdTech funds such as the New Schools and Learn Capital venture funds. In Europe there are none. I would suggest a minimum of a £50m specialist edtech fund for Series A investments and ideally a £100m fund. The presence of a specialist Series A fund would also encourage more seed investment in edtech as investors would know Series A funds are available for companies that do well.”
Greater research and development funding
“It may seem obvious but a lot of good ideas just never see the light of day”, says Maria Brosnen. Dan Sandhu CEO of Digital Assess and experienced tech entrepreneur agrees: “access to supportive research funding is always welcome.”
Prioritise educator involvement in edtech development
Lots of folk feel that a much stronger link is needed between edtech developers and the potential beneficiaries of edtech. Maria Brosnen’s latest school resource development is in partnership with a primary school teacher: “Engaging teachers to work in partnership with edtech means we can ensure a resource is right for teachers from its very inception.” Charles Wiles is also considering this: “we’d like to build a site where teachers can sign up to get paid to test educational apps and educational app developers can pay to get their apps tested by teachers.” But is can be hard to engage teachers as Richard Taylor found with his initiative ed-invent: “Teacher inspired ideas are very important but what we found was that putting educators at the heart of edtech was much harder than we expected.”
Be less risk averse
“If I had just one request to the new government it would be to encourage innovation,” says Dan Sandhu, “the UK education sector is inherently risk averse. This has meant there’s been no drive towards innovation within the sector. As a result they’ve ended up simply trying to improve on what has already been done, making tweaks rather than thinking outside the box. “New approaches and technologies are already available to improve what and how we assess. The UK education technology industry is well-regarded in the global marketplace for such innovations, yet they are being adopted in countries such as Sweden, Singapore and the US much faster than in the UK.” Richard Taylor supports this and adds: “I’d like the government to set up a schools based edtech research programme along the lines of iZone in New York, that’s one of the most exciting public education development at the moment.”
Thanks very much to everyone that’s helped with this list. Let’s hope in five years time we can ring the changes