Unlocking a new level of learning: Enhancing the connection between parents and their school community


By Giancarlo Brotto, Global Education Advisor at SMART Technologies


As we look towards the start of a new term, educators as well as parents, will be contemplating what more they can do to supercharge the learning of their children and students. Students have had to contend with a lot over the past few years which in turn, distanced them from their teachers, and it’s safe to say that there is a lot of catching up to do.


With this in mind, it’s crucial that strong connections within the students’ support network – whether that’s between student and teacher, or teacher and parent – are taken to new levels with enhanced collaboration. This way teachers and schools can make up for the lost time in the classroom over the pandemic, by providing comprehensive support for their students both in school and at home.


We know, from data collected by SMART’s very own Edtech Assessment Tool, that schools can achieve better performance outcomes by creating a more symbiotic relationship between teacher and parent. Feedback from the assessment tool shows a clear connection between improved learning for students when the full school community is involved, resulting in greater efficiency in how learning is delivered.


With school set to return for the 2022-23 year, what do the key priorities look like for educators to enhance their connection with parents and ultimately benefit the student throughout the year?

Knowing who your pupils and parents are


The impact on learning brought by the pandemic has been widespread. Enforced social-distancing took students out of the classroom and siloed them and their parents away from the school. In some extreme cases, new students wouldn’t go on to meet their teachers and classmates in person for over six months.


Now normality has resumed, parents and teachers can refamiliarise themselves with one another and form a bond that helps preserve student wellbeing for the foreseeable future and like every connection, it takes effort to nurture.


What does this look like in practice for teachers? It means taking the opportunity to talk to your pupils and their parents, not just in the classroom or when an issue arises, but in a wide array of times like at pick-up times and during regular check-ins around performance and wellbeing. This active effort to connect with pupils and their parents on a one-to-one basis brings a multitude of benefits, like building increased trust and keeping parents up to date with the ongoing activity in the classroom.


To this point, remember to share the positive news! Parents are always open-eared about their children’s work and progress, so make sure to share their strengths – whether that’s a new skill they’re learning, academic improvements or their positive attitude in the classroom.  Sharing these anecdotes with parents will only help to reinforce positive behaviours outside of the classroom.


How EdTech is breaking down the barrier between school and home

Necessary steps were taken during the Covid pandemic to ensure learning continued and one of the steps was a seismic shift towards online learning and technology-based teaching, which enabled the ability to remotely teach and learn. Now with an increased presence of edtech in schools, what can educators do to take advantage of it?


To put into context just how quickly the adoption of education technology was, our research shows that almost two thirds (64%) of schools in the UK are now embedding technology in everyday teaching and learning practices, using it to transform teaching approaches and learning outcomes with 84% of schools in the UK reporting positive outcomes for students, and 76% reporting to have met their teaching and learning goals as a result of this adoption,


One of the greatest attributes of modern edtech is its deployment in a variety of settings. Whether in-class or at home, educational portals brimming with content provide teachers and students alike with a variety of methods to teach & learn. It is this accessibility that meant that in a matter of days, kitchen tables and living rooms became the classroom for thousands of students during the pandemic. This presented a new and exciting opportunity for parents to engage with their child’s education like never before.


Technology is able to break down the barriers between parents, teachers and staff, allowing a free flow of communication, which we all know to be vital in a child’s education. Finding that blend between school life and home life is pivotal to guarantee that both are areas where children feel comfortable to learn, to ask questions and to engage with the material. 


For an example of this integration between schools and parents that utilises technology, we can look at Shireland Technology Primary. Shireland actioned a plan that transformed the ways in which communication with parents was handled by integrating SMART technology throughout their education programme, both through interactive displays or the SMART online portal ‘Lumio’. This means that all content and resources that were being taught throughout the school were readily available to parents and students at home.


Going forward into term

With this information, teachers can go into the new term with the goal of building out  students’ wider support network by setting out goals for the year early on, so that parents know exactly where the focus of their child’s learning is headed and can contribute.


Parents know, just as well as teachers, that students need increased support following the disruptions of the past few years. To place this responsibility solely at the feet of teachers means that a student’s learning is put on pause at the end of every school day. Through an increased relationship and connection between teacher and parents, students can be guaranteed a consistent support system, home and in-school, that helps them engage with the curriculum through enjoyable educational technology. 








Early trials of automarking software for maths papers indicate 99% accuracy

Automarking software developed by Cambridge AI company, Blutick, achieves 99% accuracy across marks in two GCSE papers when checked by a human marker.

Ofqual research suggests that, in maths, 30,000 students (4%) receive a mark which does not align with the ‘definitive grade’ given by the principal examiners. However, following a successful trial, an automated marking tool developed by Blutick was found to be 99% accurate when assessing scripts across two GCSE exam papers. This is an important step in helping to significantly reduce any margin of error, and ensure students receive the grades they deserve. 

Blutick is a Cambridge AI software company focused on teaching, learning and assessment in maths. The organisation is currently working with exam boards to improve marking consistency by augmenting and supporting the work done by examiners, and ultimately, champion a fair system for all students.

Once the automated marking was conducted across the exam papers, an examiner reviewed the students’ responses and the Blutick mark, correcting any marks where necessary and returning an accuracy rate of 98.6% to 98.75% by the AI software.

Currently, a sample of only 1.2% of questions are double marked (Ofqual 2018, p. 9). However, a 2013 review of literature on marking reliability research by Ofqual indicates the value of multiple marking for exam scripts. Despite this, it raises the recruitment of examiners, cost implications, time constraints and logistical issues as barriers to its introduction across the board. With other experts also disputing the accuracy of the current examination and grading system, this new automated marking software would help remove these barriers and challenges, increasing the feasibility of multiple marking.

Rob Percival, Blutick’s CEO and a former maths teacher, said:

“With so few questions double marked, there is a lot of scope for error. A system like this can review 100% of marked papers and flag potentially erroneous responses for further checking.

“It in no way replaces the work done by examiners, but instead acts as a safety net in ensuring more students get the grade they deserve with almost no extra cost or increased workload for examiners.”

Beyond eradicating errors, more automation in marking processes is a growing focus for exam boards and for Ofqual. With barriers to recruiting suitable examiners exacerbated by Covid, automarking software provides a solution to these problems that benefits students, teacher–examiners and exam boards.

Simon Armitage, Deputy Head at The Perse School, Cambridge, said:

“Whilst examination grades should never be the sole measure of ‘output’ from a school or the nature of any student’s achievements, it is self-evident that any grades must be fair.

“Anything that helps exam boards to deliver accurate results more reliably is good news for everyone – students, schools, universities and employers. It is one of the reasons why The Perse School has been pleased to be involved in the Blutick Maths project.

“If an Artificial Intelligence system is part of this improvement, then it also helps reduce inevitable human error and could help exam boards to circumnavigate the difficulties of finding well-qualified markers.”

How to Use Storage Containers as Educational Spaces in Schools

Storage containers have multiple uses. Not only do they transport everyday essentials around the world, but storage containers can also be converted into homes and offices. To go one step further and utilise all of the space in schools, professionals within the education system can introduce storage container solutions in the classroom and playground.


Here are some of the ways that storage containers can be used to further education.



First and foremost, storage containers can be converted into classrooms. They might have a steel exterior, but professionals can transform the interior to contain every comfort expected in a classroom, from electricity to running water and heating on a crisp afternoon.


Storage container classrooms can be placed outside in the school grounds, creating more space for children to get together and learn. This might help with growing class sizes in England. In January 2022, 494,675 primary school aged-children were taught in classes of 31 children or more, a 2.6% increase from the previous year.


In addition to the retirement and retention of teachers, these growing class sizes can be accredited on a lack of funding for schools. Shipping container hire can be an affordable alternative to traditional education rooms.



Storage container classrooms are flexible. They are stationed outside of the main school building, presenting the perfect opportunity to create an eco-classroom. These are immersed in the grounds of your school and allow children to learn more about nature.


A typical day in an eco-classroom might involve anything from growing seasonal fruits and vegetables, learning about local ecosystems and taking part in educational scavenger hunts. This is a great way to bring variety into nursery, primary, and secondary timetables.


Outdoor education is beneficial to children of all ages and abilities. This educational approach can be particularly advantageous for younger students who’re spending time away from adults and developing important social skills in turn.


Bird hideaways

Storage containers can also be made into bird hideaways. Just as eco-classrooms allow children to learn about nature, bird hideaways are great for children wanting to learn more about birds. The steel coatings can even be camouflaged with leaves and bushes.


Bird watching might not be a conventional school activity – but it could be. Research shows that it can help children with their concentration levels. In fact, one study found that bird watching decreased confusion, fatigue, and tension in high school students.


Swimming pools

It’s no secret that swimming is beneficial for the physical health of children. This activity is also great for maintaining and improving students’ mental health, releasing serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins after swimming a few laps around the pool.


Despite many benefits, some schools might not have the space or funds to build their own swimming pool. This is where storage containers can become an unlikely solution, providing children with an outdoor swimming pool to exercise in.


Storage solutions

Last and certainly not least, storage containers can always be used for their original purpose. They can store spare educational equipment, from soft balls to jungle gyms, when schools don’t want to sacrifice fun for space.



These are some of the ways storage containers can be used as educational spaces in schools. They can be a short-term and flexible solution to expanding and improving the current curriculum, especially if schools are struggling with funding opportunities to build new amenities. So what is there to lose?





Education is the second best industry to work in for a good pension, new study shows

  • Working in public administration and defence (including compulsory social security), offers the best employer contributions to your pension
  • Education is the second-best sector to work in for employer pension contributions
  • Wholesale and retail trade is the worst sector to work in for generous employer contributions to your pension

A new study has revealed the industries that offer the best pension contributions by your employer, with public administration and defence (including compulsory social security), otherwise known as the civil service, taking the top spot.

The study conducted by investing comparison site Investing Reviews analysed data from the Office for National Statistics to establish which industry has the highest percentage of its workforce receiving employer pension contributions of 20% or more.

The research revealed that employers in public administration and defence (including compulsory social security) are the most generous when it comes to pension contributions with 67.9% of employers contributing 20% or more to their employees’ pension pot.

Education is the second-best sector to work in when it comes to employer contributions to your pension. The percentage of employers in the education sector contributing 20% or more is 64.0% – the second highest percentage out of all industries. The high contribution percentage is likely due to both industries being largely based in the state sector as well as private sector.

Employers in the electricity, gas, steam, and air conditioning supply sector that contribute 20% or more to their employees’ pension pot comes to 19.4% – the third highest percentage of any sector.

The fourth best sector to work in for a good pension contribution is the human health and social work activities sector. A total of 15.4% of employers in this sector contribute 20% or more to the pensions of their employees.

Water supply, including waste management, sewerage, and remediation activities, is the fifth-best sector to work in for good employer contributions to your pension. Employers contributing 20% or more to pension pots in this sector are at 10.6%, the fifth highest out of all industries.

Interestingly, working in wholesale and retail trade (including the repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles) results in the lowest percentage of employer contributions of 20% or more, at only 1.3%.

The best industries to work in for a pension
Industry Rank Percentage of employers that contribute 20% or more to employees’ pension
Public administration and defence (including compulsory social security) 1 67.9
Education 2 64.0
Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply 3 19.4
Human health and social work activities 4 15.4
Water supply 5 10.6
Arts and entertainment 6 8.5
Finance and insurance activities 7 7.6
Transportation and storage 8 7.2
Real estate activities 9 6.2
Professional, scientific and technical activities 10 4.0

Commenting on the study, a spokesperson from Investing Reviews said: “With the cost-of-living crisis playing on the minds of many, working in a sector that offers good pension contributions can bring ease of mind when thinking about future finances. This study serves as an insightful guide as to the sectors where employer contributions are higher than others.”

The study was conducted by Investing Reviews, an independent comparison review site that was set up to help people make smarter decisions about investing.


Department for Education provide almost 2 million laptops to students for remote learning

London, 17th August – The Department for Education (DfE), the UK government department responsible for the English education sector, has provided nearly two million electronic devices to children and young people to support their education.

The research, retrieved via the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) and analysed by the Parliament Street think tank, observed the number of laptops, tablets and phones purchased by the DfE over the past three years, for staff, teachers, and students during the era of remote learning over the pandemic.

It was revealed that the Department for Education has supplied a total of 1,939,320 electronic devices, including laptops, tablets and mobile phones, to DfE staff, as well as students, delivered via the Get Help with Technology Programme (GHwT).

The GHwT Programme has sought to provide devices to children and young people to support their education and keep them connected to teachers and peers, with laptops and tablets being lent to digitally deprived students, by schools, trusts and local authorities.

The greatest investment in devices came between July 2020 and June 2021, with 1,122,308 devices purchased, 1,114,789 of which were for the GHwT Programme.

Cybersecurity expert Achi Lewis, Area Vice President EMEA of Absolute Software, commented: “It is fantastic to see the Department for Education supplying not only their staff with new devices, but helping to deliver new technological equipment to classrooms across the UK in order to help with education and staying online, especially throughout the difficulties of the pandemic.”

“For staff connecting to the DfE’s network, and students connecting to their school network, it is important that individuals are not only educated on potential cyber threats, but also the right cybersecurity measures are in place in order to avoid sensitive data breaches.”

“Remote secure access solutions which promote strong network resiliency are the backbone of remote working environments, providing IT teams with valuable insight into device and application activity in order to identify suspicious behaviour and freeze, or shut off, compromised devices, or apply pre-defined policies to protect company resources and data.”

The news comes prior to A level results day on August 18th and GCSE results day on August 25th.

Screenshot of the DfE’s response:

Clearlake Capital-Backed Discovery Education Acquires DoodleLearning

Discovery Education—the worldwide edtech leader backed by Clearlake Capital Group, L.P. (together with its affiliates, “Clearlake”)—today announced the acquisition of DoodleLearning. The Bath-based DoodleLearning’s maths and English products create personalised learning experiences that help improve students’ academic achievement and confidence. Terms were not disclosed. 


The acquisition of DoodleLearning supports Discovery Education’s mission to prepare learners for tomorrow by creating innovative classrooms connected to today’s world. DoodleLearning complements Discovery Education’s other award-winning digital services, which include Discovery Education’s K-12 platform, Mystery ScienceSTEM Connect, the MathScience, and Social Studies TechbooksEspressoCoding and Health and Relationships


“Discovery Education is dedicated to creating a best-in-class edtech ecosystem that supports our mission to prepare today’s students for future success,” said Discovery Education Chief Executive Officer Scott Kinney. “This acquisition is an important milestone in that effort, and we look forward to both partnering with the talented DoodleLearning team and scaling the reach of their innovative, adaptive maths and English products.”


Prior to founding DoodleLearning, Chief Executive Officer Nicola Chilman and Chief Operating Officer Tom Minor taught maths. In 2011, after experiencing firsthand technology’s ability to accelerate student learning, Chilman and Minor created an app combining high-quality digital content and educational supports that encouraged children to learn in an engaging and personal way. 


Today, DoodleLearning offers four products supporting instruction in maths and English for ages 4-14 that have been used by over one million children in the U.K. and around the world. As part of the Discovery Education family of services, DoodleLearning will continue to apply its educational ability to building and deploying affordable learning solutions for students worldwide.


“The entire DoodleLearning team is excited to join Discovery Education’s efforts to build and scale a powerful edtech ecosystem of digital resources serving teachers and learners worldwide,” said Nicola Chilman, DoodleLearning Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder. “Our team will naturally fit into Discovery Education’s mission-driven culture, and we look forward to working with our new colleagues on our joint mission to prepare today’s students for future success.”


“DoodleLearning is excited to join the Discovery Education team,” said Tom Minor, Chief Operating Officer, and Co-Founder of DoodleLearning. “The company has laid out exciting plans to increase the number of instructional minutes it supports each day, and DoodleLearning is poised to play a significant role in this effort.”


DoodleLearning is Discovery Education’s latest acquisition. In October of 2020, Discovery Education acquired Mystery Science and in July of 2020, Discovery Education purchased Spiral. In August of 2019, Discovery Education announced the acquisition of Inspyro.


For more information about Discovery Education’s award-winning digital resources and professional learning services, visit, and stay connected with Discovery Education on social media through Twitter and LinkedIn.


IMPACT – A five-part framework for making a difference in schools

From influential Executive Headteacher Nick Hart comes
Impact, a practical framework for improving outcomes for
children in both primary and secondary classrooms, helping
them thrive and succeed.
Impact provides a strategy for thinking about, planning for and
maximising the impact of teaching in your school. All educational
establishments require leaders and teachers who can make a
difference, regardless of the community context, age range or
Ofsted grading of the school. This book condenses the
knowledge that educators need and offers practical steps to
improve academic attainment and progress, as well as pastoral
outcomes such as social and emotional development, behaviour,
attendance and wellbeing.
Impact is ideal for the aspiring middle leader striving to make a
difference in their school, the middle leader tasked with raising
standards in their subject or phase, and the senior leader working
on school improvement. Nick Hart identifies a five-part framework
for understanding what impact really looks like, helping educators
at all levels to plan for and recognise the difference they can
make in their classroom, department or school. This book is the
perfect tool to inform professional development, subject action
plans and school development plans in a very practical way.

Nick Hart is the Executive Headteacher of two primary schools in
Berkshire and is the course lead for the National Professional
Qualification for Headship (NPQH) at the Ambition Institute. Nick is the
organiser of ResearchEd Berks, and also speaks regularly at education
conferences and events including UKEdChat. He blogs at Follow him on Twitter

You can read an extract here.

Transforming Science Education through Twig: From the UK to the world

Revolutionising science education, Twig provides award-winning resources to over 60 countries in more than 20 languages, preparing the next generation of scientists and citizens for the biggest issues in climate change, sustainability and innovation.


Inspiring students everywhere to engage with STEM through thousands of high-quality videos, investigations, experiments, and other digital resources, we’ve created some huge waves in the world of science education. In fact, in 2021, we were honoured to be named as the Assignment Report’s UK Education Industry Company of the Year, and to receive the trophy for Best Global Education STEM Learning Company at the Scottish Enterprise Awards!


Since 2020, Twig has established a number of partnerships across the world. In Guatemala, we collaborated with the Ministry of Education to provide free access to teachers and students on Aprendo en casa, while in Uruguay we joined the Ministry of Education and Culture to allow for the integration of Twig’s content in the virtual learning environment of Plan Ceibal, also known as “CREA”, with similar efforts taking place in Columbia, Chile and Spain during our first year of distance learning. In Peru, we delivered a national pilot for more than 20,000 participating students, across all 26 Peruvian regions. This included online training sessions for participating teachers in 2021, with more than 1,100 attendees.

Slightly further afield, we expanded our resources into a new language for the United Arab Emirates, offering short films for the national learning framework. This new edition, in both English and Arabic, was for the Ministry of Education’s learning management system and science lesson framework. 

We also hit a new milestone in the USA, where we now provide more than 25% of California schools with Twig Science – a product we developed into a distance learning solution, with video lessons, virtual hands-on labs, and filmed teacher videos to provide further support during school closures. 

Our free weekly news resource, Twig Science Reporter, has also continued to be a huge success, and now prepares to enter its seventh season. Including more than 400 stories and counting, the episodes keep us up-to-date with all the latest pressing problems and their scientific solutions across the globe. Available in both English and Spanish, our full episodes are just one example of our countless supplemental offerings – and our presenters Chris and Arantza never fail to get students excited about science and technology, either! What’s more, we were honoured to receive a Teacher Choice Award last year, which recognised all the hard work and dedication that goes into our materials.

Wesleyan Foundation donates £11,000 to Evolve

The charity Evolve, which works with young people across the UK to improve their emotional and physical wellbeing, has received a donation of £11,000 from the Wesleyan Foundation to continue its life-changing work with vulnerable students.


The donation – from the Wesleyan Foundation, the charitable arm of financial services mutual Wesleyan – will help to support and nurture the development of 50 pupils through the final terms of the academic year by providing extra mentoring, health and classroom support.

Anglesey Primary and The Oaks Primary will also benefit from a specialist health mentor, who will be on site five days a week to work with selected pupils and provide a one-to-one mentoring service.


Evolve works with an average of 1,350 children every year across six different UK regions, and 65% of pupils at risk of falling out of training, education or employment have stayed in education as a result of the charity’s work. Last year it provided 45 health mentors to schools across the UK and managed to help reduce school expulsions by 50% and close the wellbeing gap for disadvantaged students.

Nathan Wallis, Chief of Staff at Wesleyan, said: “Evolve is an incredible charity that is transforming children’s lives through its mentoring and wellbeing support programme.

“As a mutual, it is part of our ethos to give back to the communities and organisations that matter to our members and we’re proud to support the organisation’s incredibly valuable work through the Wesleyan Foundation.”

Lewis Griffiths, Business Development Manager at Evolve said: “Since we started Evolve in 2003, we’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of schools and thousands of children up and down the UK and have seen just how valuable mentoring and coaching can be.

“We want to continue transforming the lives of pupils across the country and we are immensely appreciative of Wesleyan Foundation for their donation which will enable us to further our work at two schools and provide one-to-one mentoring to a not only 50 of the direct individuals but also benefit the entirety of the school through our on site activities. Organisations like Wesleyan make such a difference to society and help to build better futures for the most vulnerable pupils, along with our partnering schools, we can’t thank them enough! ”

In 2017 Wesleyan, the financial services mutual, launched the Wesleyan Foundation as part of their commitment to supporting great causes that are important to their members and the communities in which they live and work.

The Foundation has since donated £4.3m and has supported over 100,000 people across 500 different groups.

Back to school with ZOONO®

Going back to school after the summer holidays can be a daunting time, especially if you are starting a new school. As September looms, there is no better time to start thinking about what supplies you need, making sure you don’t leave off that extra layer of protection. ZOONO’s Hand and Surface sanitisers are the perfect addition to any new school year giving you peace of mind that bacteria won’t get in your way so you can focus on the more important stuff! With protection for up to 24 hours on skin and up to 30 days on surfaces, you can rest assured ZOONO has you covered.

Worrying about sickness and outbreaks shouldn’t be at the forefront of your mind when returning to school that’s why we’ve set out to create the best protection yet! Our alcohol free and water-based formula is effective against 99.9% of bacteria and enveloped viruses, so head to to find your next level of protection.

Head to for more information