The Department for Education visits Edspace
Edspace – The Education Specific Co-working Space
Edspace is a co-working office based at Hackney Community College in Hoxton, East London. Edspace special and unique because it is the UK’s only co-working space dedicated specifically to the education sector. Everyone that works there is working to achieve the same goal: Creating better education opportunities for the next generation.
One of the beautiful things about Edspace is that the office plays host to companies helping improve the education sector in a multitude of ways. Some are fledgeling or rapidly growing startups while some are well established, international companies.
Who works at Edspace?
The co-working space benefits from hosting a huge variety of companies that work in the education sector.
Emerge Education is an education-specific accelerator. This means they invest and mentor startups through their 3-month programme accelerate their growth. Emerge are responsible for over 50% of all of Europe’s investment into Education Technology companies at the seed stage. This stage is normally the first time a startup company receives investment and is often the hardest time to raise capital. Emerge’s alumni include:
- Wonde (now in over 85% of UK schools),
- Primo (developer of the award-winning Cubetto toy to teach infants computational theory)
- Makerclub (the UK’s largest network of educational maker spaces)
Nesta also has a presence at Edspace. Nesta is a not-for-profit that provides research and funding across multiple sectors, including Education. They are helping drive Edtech uptake in schools. Their papers include Making the most of data in schools, What Next for Digital Social Innovation?, Digital learning technology: Converging promise and potential and their 2012 report Decoding Learning.
As well as these larger organisations, Edspace hosts many startups and SMEs. Wonderhub is one of the many startups who enjoy being able to work in an environment with like-minded individuals who work with similar audiences and customer bases. Mama.codes are based there, as are Now>Press>Play, Teach Pitch and TeacherIn.
If you go down to Edspace today you’re in for a big surprise!
Given this mix of companies, the Department for Education often comes up in conversations around the water cooler! Most Edspace companies are looking to help, anticipate (and sometimes ameliorate) government policy. It is refreshing to hear that we are now on their radar, to the point that we have received a visit from one of their most senior civil servants.
Paul Kett is Director General of Education Standards and Policy at the Department for Education. Paul gave us an update on DfE processes, meet some of the founders and answer our questions. Given the scale of change which is driven by DfE policy we were very eager to hear his thoughts!
What did we learn?
Much of what Paul said was with caveats but here are a few things which we learnt from the day:
On school budgets & funding:
- There is budget available to help schools improve their financial efficiency and make sure they are spending their budget on the best options
- The DfE believes that Pupil Premium is an underused resource for schools
- There is funding to help schools scale up changes which have shown sufficient evidence of efficacy but it isn’t fully utilised. This is via the Strategic School Improvement Fund
On education technology development and uptake
- They would like to encourage the sharing of best practices and help schools demonstrate sufficient evidence of efficacy but without being too hands-on
- The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is an underused resource which has the potential to accelerate Edtech uptake. 4 years on, many schools still lack awareness or aren’t using their quantitative efficacy studies.
- Sustainability is the watchword. The DfE is keen on discovering tools and processes which work not just in the short term, but in the long term with efficiency. The role of government around this was described as ‘an interesting question’.
- It is hard to single out specific areas where Edtech companies can best help but literacy is still a key target. A child’s comparative literacy ability when they join school is still a very good indicator of their literacy aptitude upon leaving. Shrinking this literacy gap is a priority.
- A strategic report into Edtech within schools being published but no concrete plans have been made as yet
All in all, I think everyone would agree that it was great to have someone with Paul’s in-depth knowledge of government policy and processes able to come in and speak with us.
It was great to have been introduced to his team and I look forward to meeting with them in the coming weeks to discuss Wonderhub’s mission and how it pertains to the DfE’s goals.
What do you think of the things discussed? Comment below or join in the discussion in our new Facebook group dedicated to Edtech