About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Why I believe in the power of an EdTech Testbed

Nesta launched the EdTech Innovation Testbed, part of a two-year partnership between Nesta and the Department for Education (DfE). The programme is designed to explore and assess how innovative EdTech can solve key challenges in schools and colleges, ultimately leading to a reduction in teacher workload.

‘Testbeds’ are a recent phenomenon that are gaining traction in various forms globally. They provide an environment to test and experiment with EdTech in a real-world setting. Earlier this year, we launched a database with an interactive map of different examples of ‘Testbeds’ across all sectors.

Real-world testbeds

Explore this interactive map of real-world innovation testbeds

Screenshot 2019-12-18 at 11.08.06.png

My entire career has been dedicated to education, after my undergraduate degree I chose to study a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in Primary Education, learning about pedagogy and reflective practice. I then spent six adrenaline-filled, frustrating, yet rewarding years as a class teacher. Earlier this year I made the difficult decision to leave the profession. In the end, it was the unbearable workload, being in a constant state of stress and the lack of work-life balance that led me to explore life outside the classroom. This is a common pattern, on average a third of teachers leave the profession within five years citing teacher workload as a key issue.

I spent my final year of teaching working as a supply teacher across many London boroughs. Having taught in a well funded primary school, I was shocked to see the disparity of technology in schools from borough to borough. I was accustomed to having my own iPad, a class iPad, a desktop computer, a state of the art interactive whiteboard with effective software, as well as access to trollies of iPads and Chromebooks, alongside a passionate onsite ICT technician. Yet, some primary schools used archaic, inefficient computer suites and projectors to teach their lessons.

Since joining Nesta’s Education team, I’ve helped launch the EdTech Innovation Testbed. This two-year joint venture with the DfE allows schools and colleges to trial EdTech products for free, while an independent evaluation partner, Durham University, finds out what works best for students and teachers. Over 300 schools and colleges and 50 EdTech products have applied to take part in the Testbed. The trials include EdTech products that focus on one of the following challenge areas: formative assessment & essay marking, parental engagement and timetabling.

A flow chart of the EdTech Innovation Testbed

Many sectors that my peers work in such as healthcare and finance praise technology for saving them time and opening new opportunities, so why is this not the case in education? The EdTech Innovation Testbed hopes to confront this, it will hold the EdTech sector to account, collating a higher level of much needed valuable evidence.

As a former teacher who had left the profession for the very challenges the EdTech Innovation Testbed hopes to solve I was sceptical. How could EdTech make a dent in the complexities of our education system?

However, after spending the past few months working on the programme, learning about its essence, liaising with passionate innovators, EdTech organisations, as well as schools and colleges, my scepticism has faded. It has been replaced with hope; hope in the countless individuals and organisations that are trying to improve the education system through innovation. I have encountered EdTech products that revolutionise marking, solve issues of timetabling and AI that assesses and tracks student learning. I am proud to be a part of the EdTech Innovation Testbed and excited to see its impact and results.


Huma Haque

Huma Haque

Huma Haque

Schools and Colleges Engagement Officer

Huma is a Schools and Colleges Engagement Officer in the Education team.

View profile