VIEWS & OPINION Improving efficiency in education

procurement in a digital world Comment by BILL BURKLAND, Head of Amazon Business UK

Over recent years, the education sector has experienced two important challenges. The first is very significant digital transformation. Classroom-based devices are becoming increasingly complex; learning approaches and spaces are both being redesigned; and artificial intelligence, augmented reality and ‘gamified learning’ are evolving rapidly. Similarly, educational establishments are also having to evolve and innovate

in their back-office functions. In 2017 the Department for Education recognised that when buying everyday items, buyers felt overwhelmed and unsure of how to achieve best value. Furthermore, while “teachers spend a lot of time creating paper orders… buyers spend time collating and entering them onto suppliers’ online ordering systems”. The report concluded that “there is a great opportunity to streamline this activity.” I completely agree: procurement everywhere can benefit greatly from

digital transformation. It’s exciting that we’re now past talking about its ‘potential’ – because the benefits are already accessible. Recent research revealed that 64% of UK schools needed to make savings to balance their budget in 2017-18, showing just how significant the opportunities of improved procurement efficiency could be. Digitally transforming purchasing processes offers educational institutions a chance to realise these opportunities; and focus instead on developing world-class students. This is what drives us at Amazon Business to build solutions that are easy to use and efficient: saving time, resources – and money. Money, of course, is the other big challenge. A recent survey revealed that

“94% of teachers are having to pay for school essentials such as books, stationery and storage equipment” from their own pockets. This shows how

vital it is for educational establishments to have access to the lowest-possible supply costs in a way that is easy, intuitive and efficient. At Amazon Business we’ve developed tools to do just that. Building on the convenience of Amazon, we’ve developed a marketplace to take the hassle out of purchasing. It offers a vast selection of products; allows easy price and specification comparison; and provides the controls, visibility and accountability safeguards that educational institutions require. We’ve seen some great results since our 2017 UK launch. Feedback from

the 100,000-plus UK organisations now using Amazon Business has been really positive, especially in the education sector. To take one example, teachers from Hackney New School in London praised the logistical benefits of sourcing many different types of products – from paintbrushes to revision guides – (virtually) from “under one roof”. They also cited the budgeting and reporting features, commenting that, “It’s very easy to go into Business Analytics and see what’s been spent in a particular month”. The stories we heard from Hackney’s teachers and administrators resonate

with me. My brother has been a teacher for more than 10 years, and my sister for over 20. Like the staff at Hackney New School, both are incredibly dedicated, so I know first-hand that they greatly value whatever allows them to focus on teaching and avoid distractions. There are so many benefits a simple digital switch can bring. A recent

report from Deloitte commented on how digital technology is “poised to transform procurement”5. Amazon Business believes this to be as true for education as it is anywhere – and we’re really excited by the prospect of helping make it happen.

Listen to the brain when learning Comment by FELICIA JACKSON, Chair of the Learn2Think Foundation

The education sector is awash with new approaches to teaching, as well as ways to engage children with digital technologies and media. One thing it doesn’t do very successfully however is map children’s education against the way brains develop and learn. As neuroscience gains more traction, it is becoming clear that our educational system may not be fit for purpose. Sarah-Jane Blakemore, a professor in cognitive neuroscience at

University College London, recently pointed out that it’s only in the last few years that we have learned much about adolescent brain development. Yet it’s not just adolescents who can benefit from a neuroscientific approach to education, it matters for younger children too. One of the most important things to know from a neuroscientific

perspective is that the brain is ‘plastic’. While brain development is influenced by genetics and all brains have structural similarities, every single thought, emotion, behaviour and interaction changes the brain. As Jenni Newcombe, experienced SENCo, teacher and curriculum designer with a masters in educational neuroscience, says, “Schools decide what’s typical, brains don’t.” In discussing the benefits and risks of separating children into ability

streams, that’s worth remembering. Schools put limits and parameters around what needs to be learned at both extremes, and its usually too much or too little. Children learn at different speeds and in different ways. One of the great myths is that people have different learning styles and if they are taught the right way, they will learn better. The reality is that children may have learning preferences but it doesn’t really matter how content is delivered, it can be learned.

June 2018 The real question then seems to be why are we teaching children

content rather than teaching them how to learn. The Finnish education system, which is considered to be the best in the world, focuses on developing and applying skills across the curriculum rather than on learning content. In a world where much analytical work will soon be delivered by computers, isn’t it more important that we equip the next generation with the skills to learn new things in new ways? Examinations are being introduced at ever earlier ages and while they

are supposed to be ‘low stakes’, the stress experienced by many children taking these tests is enormous. While the school may make clear that the tests will not affect the children’s future, that doesn’t prevent children’s concerns about competition, failure, letting down parents and all sorts of negative thinking. According to Newcombe, exams themselves fail because they measure the child’s value rather than assessing their skills and knowledge effectively. Instead, testing should only be used, at least until exiting school, to assess for further learning—to identify the gaps, ideally. If the outcome of any test is expected to be a measure of the child,

surely that’s a failure in our thinking. How can the factual recollection of content in an examination environment help any child in preparing for the new work and home paradigms of a digital society? If they have the learning skills they can learn the content anywhere. In

the brain activation is greater if children have done something they have learned from, not when they know something. As Newcombe says, “There is no benefit in the brain to knowing, the benefit comes from learning and the use of that learning in doing something new.” 25

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48