Management > CIO

Edtech 50 celebrates key people and projects shaping education technology

David Bicknell Published 01 March 2018

London schools community London Grid for Learning named as one of key projects in initiative led by Edtech and Jisc


The London Grid for Learning (LGfL) community of 3,000 schools, academies and local authorities in London and other parts of the country has been named in the Edtech 50 , a celebration of the people, products and projects shaping Education Technology across the UK.

The Edtech50 was launched yesterday by Edtech UK, the strategic body launched in 2015 to accelerate the edtech sector in Britain and beyond, together with digital solutions for UK education and research provider Jisc.

Welcoming the creation of the Edtech 50, Education Secretary Damian Hinds said, “I welcome this new initiative to highlight and celebrate many of the people, products and projects that have most impacted education.

“There are so many reasons to be optimistic about the possibilities for technology across education. Edtech is increasingly supporting improved outcomes across England and internationally, and in my short time as Secretary of State for Education I have already seen how it can support and transform education at every step of the journey.”

He added, “Technology offers educators a wealth of opportunities to support effective and proven teaching practices as well as increased support for themselves, their institutions, and their students.

However, we know it can sometimes be difficult to implement new technology or gain access to the evidence and equipment educators need. The benefits of digital technology are often seen as innovation that only digital experts can achieve, but that shouldn’t be the case. This is why the sector must come together to support this change.”

Paul Feldman, chief executive of Jisc, said, “A former teacher with a mission to remove homework headaches, a headteacher who used digital technology to improve special educational needs teaching and an entrepreneur who creates STEM play experiences are among those named in the inaugural Edtech50. The Edtech50 show’s how education technology can be a catalytic force for digital innovation in teaching and learning.” 

He added, “When done right, edtech has the potential to transform lives for the better, helping people from disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve their full potential, and helping us to build the digital skills base that will be so critical to the UK’s global competitiveness in the years to come.

Ty Goddard, director of Edtech UK, said, “The Edtech50 has been chosen from a mixture of public nominations and the insight of our judging panel. It has been a challenging and exciting process. 

“The Edtech50 helps us all celebrate a wonderful sector, whilst recognising the benefits of education technology, and acknowledging the economic advantages of the growing edtech sector to the whole UK economy.” 

Among the judges for the Edtech50 were Ian Fordham, director of education at Microsoft and Peter O’Rourke, director of IT at the University of Suffolk. 

LGfL, led by former Camden Council chief information officer John Jackson, uses its buying resources at scale to help schools get procurement benefits as well as the development of secure broadband, IT services and curriculum resources.

The organisation, which was set up by the 33 London boroughs in 2001 has 97% of London’s Schools in its community, connecting to the Internet via Jisc’s Janet network.

LGFL recently introduced a new ‘Let’s Get Digital initiative, a scheme incorporating projects with Microsoft and Google, designed to help schools make the most of their current technology purchases.

It has also recently announced Cyber Protect, an initiative to create an online Centre of Excellence for Cyber Security for schools. The new centre, which will sit within LGfL’s existing site, wants to provide the best possible protection from increasingly complex and sophisticated cyber threats.

LGfL said it is “acutely aware” of the security risks posed to schools by criminals on the web. LGfL said its passion for protecting schools led it to commission its own dedicated fibre network, LGfL 2.0, for use with schools, designed to provide defence in depth through multiple layers of security and the delivery of one of the largest IP VPN networks for education in the world. 

As part of the initiative LGfL plans to harness its buying scale to deliver products to schools as part of its own managed service offer. This includes InterceptX and Malwarebytes which are being provided free to London schools.

Jackson said, “LGfL and our partners have always shared a passion for security and keeping children safe. The rise in the frequency and complexity of security incidents on the internet has convinced LGfL that it is vital that we do all we can to proactively protect schools and ensure our children’s education is not interrupted. I am delighted that LGfL has made this a priority and I’m sure the schools we support will feel the same way.”

It is understood LGfL is set to launch a buying initiative, SmartBuy, which promises to collectively save schools millions of pounds on their technology purchases. To date, LGfL says it has already saved its schools in excess of £300m through the central purchasing of tools.

Jackson said of the SmartBuy initiative, “Procurement and deal making is an area where LGfL comes into its own by virtue of its scale and ability to offer suppliers a very low cost of sale for schools. SmartBuy will enable LGfL to use its aggregated purchasing power more efficiently for the benefit of our entire community.

"At a time when schools are under extreme pressure to cut budgets we are determined as a not-for-profit to help schools make savings whilst continuing to drive innovation and embrace exciting new technologies to accelerate teaching and learning. Our suppliers share this excitement because it enables them to reach further and faster with their products than attempting to do this directly with individual schools.”

Among the products that made it into the Edtech 50 are SpyQuest, Mindful Education, SAM Labs STEAM Kit, Raspberry Pi Zero, FutureLearn, and GIS 4Schools - Esri UK. Five 'exceptional and far-sighted' Coding for the Future' projects were also named: Code Kingdoms, Code Club, Project Torino, Teaching London Computing and the cs4fn Project.

Included among the initiatives named as 'ones to watch' for the future is the Ada National College for Digital Skills, a further education college in Tottenham Hale in London, named after Ada Lovelace. 



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