21 Feb 2020

Digital Xtra Fund Awards Record Number of Grants in 2020

Twenty five grants totalling £110,000 have been awarded across Scotland to help boost interest in computing and technology to help inspire the next generation of developers, designers and digital leaders.

Digital Xtra Fund announced it has increased its 2020 funding round by £35,000 and will now be awarding £110,000 to 25 tech related initiatives thanks to additional support from the Fund’s industry partners. The funding will enable these initiatives to engage young people across the country and help boost interest in computing and technology.

This announcement comes hot on the heels of The Scottish Government’s  ‘Report on STEM in early years of education’ which found that gender imbalances and disadvantages from living in areas of deprivation or rural isolation are creating serious barriers to engaging young people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths). It also highlights that systemic change is required to overcome these barriers and an increased focus on long-term interventions in school and early learning settings – including through extracurricular activities. Digital Xtra Fund emphasises awarding grants for initiatives that target girls and young women or are delivered in areas of high deprivation or rural settings.

The Report also highlighted that school staff are often paying for resources themselves or parents are called upon to fund and support activities. Specifically, a 2014 study by the Learned Societies Group found “98% of [primary school] respondents drew on additional funding for practical activities, with parental sources the most common source for extracurricular activities”.

Kraig Brown, Partnership and Development Manager at Digital Xtra Fund, explains: “The fact that almost all primary schools must rely on parents or teachers to fund extracurricular activities flies in the face of this Report’s recommendations. How can we hope to engage more young people from areas of high deprivation when the main source of funding is parents? Let’s be honest, technology is expensive, and we can’t rely on schools or parents to fund this.

“The good news is Digital Xtra Fund have increased our industry partnerships this year which will allow us to award £110,000 to 25 initiatives across 22 Local Authorities. This is a record amount since the Fund became a charity in 2017. The bad news is it’s still not enough; Scotland as a whole needs to invest in computing education and quickly, but with an ongoing shortage in computing science teachers we need to engage young people outwith the classroom too.

“The number of tech job opportunities in Scotland has risen from 12,800 to 13,000 per year while the number of people entering the job market with relevant tech skills has risen from around 5,000 to 6,600. While the increased number of skilled people is a step in the right direction, the lack of young people learning relevant tech skills is causing real problems for industry in Scotland. We need to show more young people the amazing opportunities available to them with a career in tech. Ensuring all young people have access to exciting, relevant tech activities is the simplest way to do this.”

To date, the Fund has helped 55 initiatives engage nearly 30,000 young people across Scotland by awarding a total of £550,000. This year’s grant recipients include an App Development course hosted by Heart of Midlothian Football Club focussing on Tech for Good, a Robotics Club at The Nicolson Institute in Stornoway and the expansion of FIRST LEGO League Jr in Scotland with The IET. The Fund’s industry partners will also have an opportunity to engage with supported initiatives to help provide context to the skills being taught.

Digital Xtra Fund brings together businesses, organisations, and individuals with a common goal to help young people succeed in a digital world through an annual grant awards programme. Key Partners include AWS, Baillie Gifford, Skills Development Scotland and Skyscanner as well as Accenture, BT Scotland, CGI, Cirrus Logic, Fujitsu, Incremental Group, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, ScotlandIS, Sky UK and The Scottish Government.

For further information about Digital Xtra Fund and this year’s grant recipients, please visit: www.digitalxtrafund.scot.

 

Created in 2016, Digital Xtra Fund is a Scottish charity which supports high-quality, extracurricular computing initiatives across Scotland that inspire young people to understand and create with technology, not simply use it.  The aim is to encourage young people to consider careers in computing to fill Scotland’s digital skills gap.  To date the fund has distributed £550,000 in support of 55 projects, achieving an active engagement of nearly 30,000 young people across all local authorities in Scotland.

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07 Feb 2020

Scotland tops UK for Digital Proficiency in Schools

Lenovo has commissioned a report from CEBR, Technology in UK Schools, detailing insights into the use of technology in UK schools in 2020, examining the types of technology that have been adopted, how this has been applied, and the ways in which this has shaped the learning environment.

Please see below for the key findings, methodology, recommendations, calls to action, and an overview of Lenovo’s education portfolio in 2020. The full report is also available to share.

This has been achieved by conducting a survey of 2,000 teachers, covering a range of different school types across the UK, alongside one-to-one interviews with experts from the education and tech sectors from Lenovo’s education network in the UK.

As a leading provider of educational technology, Lenovo is committed to building smarter technology to empower students and teachers through personalised education solutions. A trusted technology partner to institutions around the world, Lenovo is enabling new models of teaching, learning and collaborating through cutting-edge solutions, all while managing cost, efficiency, and security.

This report presents a view of:

  • The digital proficiency of schools in the UK, looking at region, school size and category among other factors, rated using a Digital Proficiency Scale developed by CEBR for this report
  • The provision of technology in schools, both for direct use by pupils and in the classroom for teaching purposes;
  • Recommendations and calls to action for improvement in digital proficiency
  • Case studies with first-hand teacher experiences and perspectives

Key report Findings

  • Nearly one in ten (8%) schools fall into the inadequate category on the Digital Proficiency Scale developed within this report. One in five (20%) are in the excellent category.
  • One in five (18%) of all private schools fall into the highest scoring group, compared to just 5% of the state schools in the survey.
  • Scotland emerges as the part of the UK with the highest level of digital proficiency in schools.
  • Examining the digital proficiency at different stages of the educational system reveals that secondary schools and sixth form colleges score slightly higher than primary schools.
  • Smaller schools have on average a slightly lower overall score whereas bigger schools have a higher degree of technological proficiency.
  • The survey revealed that the number one priority for teachers is to increase the number of computers available to students in school, followed by more provision of training for teachers on the use of technology.
  • Nearly half of students access school computers at least four times a week.
  • It is not very common for schools to provide laptops or tablets that students can bring home. Only 3% of the teachers work at schools where all students are equipped with laptops or tablets that they can bring home.
  • Microsoft Word and coding are the most common digital skills on the school curriculum.
  • Teachers are using technology to digitalise their administrative work. 79% of all teachers surveyed responded saying that they are performing some or all their administrative tasks digitally.

Recommendations

  • Based on the survey results, but also informed by one-to-one expert interviews and a review of existing literature Cebr has developed the following recommendations:
    • There is a need to expand the provision of training to teachers, in order to maximise the effectiveness of new technologies.
    • Continue to re-orient the curriculum towards developing digital skills for the future such as coding, web-design and technologies of the future.
    • Encourage information sharing among teachers to improve and inspire usage of new technology and digital skills in classrooms.
    • Expand funding opportunities for investment in new technologies to address the shortfall identified by teachers and unlock the gains associated with higher workforce productivity in the longer term.

Calls to action

1. Engage with the teaching community as new technologies are introduced: while only a small percentage of teachers feel there is too much technology in schools, more than two in five (42%) believe the use of technology is currently about right. In order to maximise the effectiveness of new technologies, it is essential that they have the support of the teaching community. This can be achieved by expanding the provision of training to teachers (currently just a quarter of teachers receive training on the use of technology more often than once a year), as well as collaborating with staff on an ongoing basis to ensure that technologies are implemented in a way that aligns with the school’s objectives.

2. Continue to re-orient the curriculum towards developing digital skills for the future: as technology evolves, routine tasks are increasingly likely to become automated, and workers will instead be required to interact with computers in a more involved and creative way. It is therefore essential that schools continue to shift their focus towards developing these deeper digital skills. While it is encouraging that most schools now teach computer programming, the fact that only one in five (21%) include topics relating to technologies of the future such as machine learning or artificial intelligence highlights that there is still progress to be made.

3. Sharing information: the interview with digital technology lead and computing teacher Donna Shah gives further insight into how teachers use technology to share information with colleagues, students and parents. Software programmes such as Microsoft Teams allows communication to increase between teachers and can speed up administrative processes which allows for teachers to spend more times with students. In addition to this, information sharing among teachers can also improve the technological and digital skills of teachers, as they are encouraged to share and learn from each other, which in turn leads to an increase in the quality of digital skills teaching in the classroom.

4. Expand funding opportunities for schools: while there are ways in which schools can upgrade their technological proficiency in a relatively cost effective way, many of the areas of weakness identified in this research require considerable investment in order to be addressed fully. Although the initial costs of technology can be steep, the feedback from teachers and the wider literature is that technology delivers a sizeable boost to educational outcomes, and in the longer term would result in higher workforce productivity.

Methodology

CEBR conducted a survey of 2,000 teachers at UK schools across all regions of the United Kingdom and conducted in-depth interviews with industry experts in order to create this report and its recommendations.

You can read the full report here

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