Age of Aquarius


Most people remember “Age of Aquarius” from the 1960s musical Hair, but the reference I make here is to the new way of working and the way technology will change education forever...

Most people remember “Age of Aquarius” from the 1960s musical Hair, but the reference I make here is to the new way of working and the way technology will change education forever. Computers are already ubiquitous and they will become an even greater part of our lives; it is essential that we empower all members of our society with the digital skills they need to participate and thrive.

After many years of witnessing children being failed by the British education system due to ‘behavioural issues’ which led to them being permanently excluded from school, Equal Education applied the Oxford and Cambridge model of one-to-one tuition to work with children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), as well as Looked After Children and Children in Need. 

During the global pandemic, Equal Education adapted, moving our tuition model online, through which it became very apparent that many families did not have access to digital technology suitable for learning. This was confirmed by Sutton Trust research which found that 5% of teachers in state schools said that all their pupils had access to a device such as an iPad, compared with 54% in private schools. It also found that 86%  of private schools were using online live lessons compared with 50% of state schools — a gap that had widened since the first lockdown.

As the Headteacher of two inner city local authority schools, safeguarding has been at the forefront of my mind with the vulnerable children I have had the pleasure of serving, and the shift to online made it imperative that this transition was managed safely.

In response to concerns over access to technology devices and the widening of the attainment gap during school closures, Equal Education applied for an Innovate UK grant and was awarded £50,000 to launch and IT offering and provide iPads suitable for remote learning.

Through a partnership with  Apple UK and JAMF Device Management, we launched our Technology Supply Service to enable schools and Local Authorities to order iPads to be delivered directly to those who need them. Each device is preinstalled with specialist protection software which limits access to distracting and dangerous websites and Apps.

The grant will allow Equal Education to build on its services as a provider of tuition and explore innovative ways of closing the digital divide and increasing engagement.

The pandemic illustrated the potential of online learning to engage vulnerable learners. One tutor reported: “The students are loving the online tuition and I really believe that we should continue to use this method after the lockdown. I feel the students are more comfortable by doing lessons online as they are happier to discuss and take part in the lesson. It definitely works for young people who have anxiety and are unsure of working face to face with tutors.” 

This is an exciting time for education and as it advances, we hope the lessons of the pandemic are not lost. We are excited to be exhibiting at this year’s Tes SEN show and are delighted that Margaret Mulholland, whole School SEND specialist, will speak on the value of digital learning for vulnerable learners. Margaret will speak at the Exhibitor Workshop Theatre on Saturday 13:45 – 14:30. Our SEN Show offer - Reimagining Education Post Covid: Digital learning programme - includes 25 hours of 1:1 tutoring with a qualified teacher for £2,000 (a 20% discount on usual rates) including a device-managed iPad. Come visit us at Stand 171 to learn more!

I want to leave you with a note on evolution and how from 6500 BC to 4000 BC humans began to develop their intellect, as well as languages and written communication. 4000 BC to 2000 BC money and banking were formed and are still drivers for growth. Fast forward to the present day, 2000-4000 we are progressing with robotics and the use of the internet and other technologies. In Greek mythology, Aquarius is Prometheus, the Titan God that stole fire from the Gods and gave it to humans. The fire is, of course, a symbol for the light of knowledge, but also, quite literally, Aquarius is a symbol for electricity and other types of renewable energy.

This blog has been adapted from an original version published on Education Technology Insights.

Author: Kim Rihal, Co-founder and Head of Partnerships, Equal Education