Test 13 February, 2017

Government at your service (II)

This article was first published in Reform’s 2017 Annual Conference brochure. To read more articles, click here.

At the Department for Education we serve a range of stakeholders – employers, parents, schools, teachers, to name a few. Digitalisation is vital in helping us serve them better, which is why our department’s digital strategy is so important. We want to be able to produce digital services so easy to use that our customers prefer to use them.

Our online school and college performance tables have been in public use for nearly a year. They are easy to find and understand, meaning everyone who uses the tables is able to make an informed choice. Parents are given the chance to effectively compare schools and colleges to find the one that’s right for their family. Publishing the data also helps schools and colleges do their own analysis – improving accountability and transparency.

Our Digital Apprenticeship Service is also due to go live in April 2017, alongside the start of the apprenticeship levy. Employers can create an account through which they can access funding for apprenticeships, find the right training provider and recruit an apprentice – all through the same portal. We are delivering the Digital Apprenticeship Service in partnership with a number of other government departments, creating a culture of open collaboration and flexibility. For example, the system needed to exchange information with HMRC’s Digital Tax Platform about the Apprenticeship Levy – so rather than build a gateway between the two platforms, we set up a cross-departmental team within HMRC that used agile working to build a secure integration between the two systems.

Most critically though, we wanted the service to meet the needs of the employers who will be using it. Our mind-set is that the more we involve users, the more we learn, so the go-live date of our Digital Apprenticeship Service will be the start of delivery, not the end. The Department’s digital strategy has users at its core, as we continue to strive for better ways to deliver practical and effective digital solutions wherever we can.

I recently attended the British Educational Training and Technology show (BETT), which demonstrated a number of new and innovative ideas in educational technology from around the world. At last year’s BETT, the Secretary of State announced a Data Exchange project to enable easier movement of data within and between schools and the department. There are many opportunities in this area for the Department and the sector to take advantage of technology and digitalisation, and I look forward to seeing the results.