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News27th May 2021

#ArkTalks: “Not build back better but build forward differently”

A panel of experts including the architect of PISA, Andreas Schleicher, joined a lively and wide-ranging discussion at the latest #ArkTalks event about the future of digital technology in schools in the wake of the pandemic.

Andreas, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills at OECD, was joined by Rosalind Goates, of Social Mobility Foundation, Lauren Thorpe, Director of Strategy at Ark Schools, and Rhys Spiers, Principal of Ark Greenwich Free School for the online event chaired by Will Hazell, education correspondent at the i newspaper.

More than 200 people attended the hour-long event and you can watch a recording below.

The panel agreed that the unprecedented scale of change presents significant opportunities – from sustaining new and exciting levels of parental engagement to the potential to deliver tailored learning for students.

Among much else, Andreas zoomed in on the changed nature of the relationship between parents and schools thanks to the use of digital technology during lockdowns. “During the pandemic something important has happened: phone calls to students, emails informing parents, providing parents with education resources. Education has become a much more whole of society enterprise.”

Andreas also cited challenges, including under-investment in EdTech and a lack of joined up thinking that risks leaving students unable to access the resources that they need.

This event followed Ark’s recent announcement that it has now delivered more than 21,000 devices to its 38 schools, as part of its digital strategy, which by September 2021 will mean every student in Year 3 and above in an Ark school will have a suitable device for home learning.

Lauren explained that Ark’s strategy is designed to extend students’ time for learning; develop the metacognitive skills of our students to develop their agency for independent learning; and to build ever-stronger relationships with our parent communities.

Andreas ended the session with a special thanks to Ark, “I just want to commend Ark for the leadership role it takes in this.”

Requesting good documentation of what has and has not gone well for Ark during the pandemic “because there’s a great risk that we get back to normal too quickly, and I think the idea should not be to build back better but build forward differently.”

Our next #ArkTalks event will be at 5pm where we will discuss ‘What now for early education?’. Our panel will comprise Naomi Eisenstadt, the first Director of New Labour’s Sure Start Unit, Felicity Gillespie, Director of Kindred2, and Zara Simpson, Deputy Head Teacher at Ark Start John Archer. Register here.