27th July 2020 Leadership & Management Nursery Management Software All Posts

Software and staff – why the two should work together

No matter where we look along the education spectrum – from nurseries to universities – technology is playing an increasingly important role in the day-to-day running of the UK’s educational institutions. But, there’s a continued debate around whether tech assists or replaces the human element in the teaching world – and if EdTech can really improve teacher-parent relations.

A case of harmonising, not competing

With lots appearing in the news about technological advances within the EdTech sector, it’s sometimes easy to feel a little lost and know how to cut through the noise. While on one side of the coin we hear how technology is in danger of replacing the human element in teaching, flip it over and we witness how digital tools can assist practitioners in carrying out their day jobs more effectively.

From improving time management to cutting down the admin burden, there are tech solutions out there which foster a more harmonious and less competitive ‘human-meets-computer’ approach to child development – a key trend we’re going to see continue growing over the coming months.

For instance, a recent survey – carried out by Capita’s Technology Solutions – revealed that over 85% of Scottish citizens think the Internet of Things and other technologies will allow the country’s education sector to progress. And this high percentage signals the imminent shift towards a more digitised industry.

Putting the right foundations in place

While most technologies used by teaching staff in schools aid the delivery and creativity of lessons, if we rewind to the earlier stages of child education – such as nurseries and childminding – we see it is employed in its more nascent phase. As an introductory tool to how tech can be used in learning environments.

It’s true that nursery care is generally the first experience both children and parents have within the education sector – so, it’s vital that the ‘what’ and ‘why’ behind any EdTech in place is clearly explained by staff. This way, parents are on the same page and can see the value it has within their child’s schooling journey.

For instance, if a nursery is able to track children’s development – through managing observations and recording behaviours – and communicate real-time updates with parents, this introduces and demonstrates the ‘tech-for-good’ angle, at the very start of the education sequence.

As a result, parents will be more aware of how their child is progressing – in line with the Early Years Foundation Stage framework – and feel less phased when they come across similar software later in the school system.

This is one clear reason behind why technology and people have to complement one another to offer the most enriching and effective solution.

A collaborative effort

It’s true that the busy daily environment in which teachers operate, whether in an early years or higher education setting, isn’t that dissimilar from one another. And it’s this fast pace that means internal processes have to be slick and time efficient – this is where EdTech often proves to be a vital piece of the puzzle.

In keeping with the nursery example, it’s vital to recognise that while EdTech offers children a more personalised – and trackable – development experience, and keeps parents in the loop, it’s also key in supporting nursery workers in reducing the time spent on paper-based administration.

But, why does this matter so much?

In reality, freeing up staff’s admin time means there’s more resource to dedicate to nurturing child development – after all, this is the lifeblood of why the education sector exists. In addition, if child observations or staff management is actioned solely via a decentralised paper-based system, this is when issues surrounding data gaps or inaccuracies can start to emerge.

However, it’s worth mentioning that having a tech solution in place doesn’t guarantee the streamlining of the nursery, school, college or university, the buy-in from employees is the engine behind making the system a success. That’s why the two have to work together.

Technology in staff retention and wellbeing

When we look at the challenges facing early years – and wider education tiers – staff retention and recruitment is high on the agenda. With growing workloads and staff shortages, this is undoubtedly a recipe for workplace stress. So, how can software help mitigate – or relieve – this?

In truth, it’s a double-edged sword – some people feel threatened that tech will take their place so might be anxious, while others view it as their saving grace and embrace the support it provides.

Either way, a recent Mind Matters report – looking at the impact that working in the early years sector has on practitioners’ mental health and wellbeing – revealed that 74% of those surveyed admitted to feeling regularly stressed about work. Plus, 76% also said that paperwork and administration were often a cause of this anxiety.

And software which enables professionals to digitise, and in some cases automate, their operations – such as registrations, permissions and observations – can help to ease some of these workload pressures.

The growing role of data in education

More than ever, there’s huge focus around data – covering both children and staff – through from collation and storage to analysis and strategy.

So, whether it’s tracking how well students do in exams or how they’re developing in line with the curriculum – or indeed whether it’s looking at staff retention stats and parent engagement trends – insights are a big driver in helping shape today’s schooling landscape.

However, while teaching staff are often aware of the EdTech benefits, the ‘why’ behind them aren’t always considered – or indeed known. 

Therefore, when it comes to the relationship between staff and software, this should be a strong and supportive one – from both sides. It’s crucial to remember that technology – no matter how advanced – can never replace staff in education, as their knowledge and intuition are invaluable. Yet, when their life experience is teamed with intelligent tech, this creates a more integrated and meaningful approach to child development – no matter the learning stage.

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About the Author

Marketing Lead at Connect Childcare