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.

Got a question about the EdTech Innovation Testbed? Read our frequently asked questions to see if we’ve answered it here. If you’re still not sure or have other questions, you can email us at [email protected] or call us directly on 020 7438 2592.

Please note, this information is for schools and colleges who may want to participate. If you are an EdTech company interested in participating in the Testbed, visit our call for applications for EdTech organisations.

What is the EdTech Innovation Testbed?

The EdTech Innovation Testbed helps schools and colleges try out promising technology products for free, while our independent evaluation team find out what works best for students and teachers. The EdTech products are designed to help you with formative assessment and essay marking, parental engagement and timetabling.

Technology has the potential to support teaching and reduce teacher workload - but we know that it doesn't always live up to expectations. Through the EdTech Innovation Testbed, we want to change this. The main outcomes will be practical advice based on evidence for schools, colleges and EdTech organisations. This project is part of a wider programme of work in partnership with the Department for Education to support schools and colleges to make more effective use of technology.

Can I apply to join?

Our first round of application for schools and colleges closed in November 2019. These schools and colleges are currently in our ‘matchmaking’ phase. However, we’re always looking to engage more schools and colleges. If you’d like to apply, please email [email protected] for more information.

What are the benefits for me and my school or college?

The programme is designed for busy schools and colleges with limited resources - but who want to get involved in the latest research, and want to experiment to see how technology could help them. Here are four key benefits for participating schools and colleges:

  1. Try out technology for free to address a challenge in your school or college to support better student outcomes or reduce staff workload and find out whether it works.
  2. Improve how your school or college uses technology, as part of a community of participating schools/colleges.
  3. Receive ongoing support to reduce the time involved and resource burden to a minimum.
  4. Professional development for lead staff focused on implementation of educational technology, understanding of evidence and evaluating in your own school or college setting.

What kind of support will schools and colleges receive?

The programme is designed for busy schools and colleges with limited resources. This means we will support participating schools and colleges in different ways. These include:

  • Financial support to help cover staff time.
  • Support to implement the products from EdTech developers through helplines and hands-on advice and guidance.
  • Help from our independent evaluation experts to run the trials, including collecting or collating any data required.
  • Professional development opportunities and support for schools and colleges interested in understanding how to generate evidence for themselves and in evaluating research evidence.

Is my school or college eligible to take part?

We have a small number of eligibility criteria for participating in the Testbed.

  • Your school, college or group of schools/colleges is in England.
  • The Senior Leadership Team of your school(s) or college(s) are aware of, and happy with, your application.
  • There is a designated Lead Contact to be the point of contact for participation in the EdTech Innovation Testbed.

Finally, your school or college must fit into one of the following three categories:

  1. Your school or college’s most recent Ofsted Inspection Grade is ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’.
  2. OR: For independent schools that do not yet have an Ofsted Inspection Grade, you must have met all Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) standards.
  3. OR: Your school or college is publicly funded but does not yet an Ofsted Inspection Grade. In this case we may request further information to evidence your capacity to participate.

NB. If you are applying as an existing group of schools (eg. a Multi-Academy Trust, Teaching School Alliance, or other close network) then only the lead applicant must have a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ inspection grade. Other schools in the group may have other Ofsted grades.

Who should be filling out the application form and be the ‘Lead Contact’?

There are a few key responsibilities of the Lead Contact:

  • To be able to commit to acting as the point of contact for your school/college or group of schools/colleges throughout the programme.
  • To take part in professional development opportunities as appropriate.
  • To possess, or be able to gather, the information about technology use in your school/college required to fill in the application form.

We haven’t specified exactly who this person should be and we anticipate it will vary depending on the school or college. What’s most important is that it’s useful for the member of staff involved. However, it might be:

  • A member of the SLT with responsibility for school or college improvement.
  • An IT Lead or Digital Learning Manager (including a non-teaching lead for MATs).
  • A teacher with an interest in technology or research.

It’s important that a member of the senior leadership team is supportive of the application, even if they are not the Lead Contact. The Lead Contact may change during the course of the Testbed.

What technology will be trialled as part of the programme?

We haven’t selected the specific products that will be tested yet. This is because we want to make sure we understand which types of products will be most useful to the schools and colleges that participate. In the short application form, we ask questions which are designed to help us identify the most useful technology tools for participating schools and colleges. However, all products will be tools to support one of the following:

  • Formative assessment and essay marking
  • Parental engagement
  • Timetabling

We are particularly interested in products that could reduce the workload of teaching staff, as well as benefiting other outcomes such as student outcomes, attendance and flexible working of staff. We will work closely with participating schools and colleges to identify technology tools which are most suitable based on their context and priorities. Of course, no technology will be forced on a school or college and they remain the ultimate decision makers about whether to trial a product or not.

We expect the majority of products to be software, such as apps, websites or online programmes. Where products rely on hardware to function, such as laptops or tablets, we will not be able to provide participating schools and colleges with additional hardware. However, there are no specific requirements for schools and colleges to possess particular technology in order to participate in the Testbed. We will support schools and colleges to make informed decisions about what could work for them.

What will the trials involve?

The exact design of the trials will vary, depending on the type of technology being used and the schools and colleges involved in the trials. However, there are a number of common features:

  • Each school/college will work with our independent evaluation partner who will use their expertise to design specific evaluations suited to participating schools/colleges and the technology being evaluated.
  • Each school/college will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which sets out the rights and responsibilities agreed for each side.
  • Schools/colleges will be expected to take part in surveys and a small number of interviews as necessary. This is to help us understand the process of implementation and identify any barriers or challenges faced in using technology.
  • Schools/colleges will be expected to provide existing data (as agreed in advance during the design of the evaluation) which can be analysed by the independent evaluation partner. This is to enable us to evaluate the impact of the technology on students or teachers.

It’s possible that some trials will involve ‘control groups’. ‘Control groups’ are participants who don’t trial the product at first, so that we can compare the impact of the technology tool against those who are not using it. Where control groups are used, we will use a waiting-list design to ensure that all schools and colleges will get the chance to try out the product at a later stage.

Is the technology free? And for how long?

The technology will be available for free to participating schools/colleges for the duration of the trial (between one and two terms). Following the trial period, it may be available for free for up to a year after this depending on the product, but the exact conditions will not be confirmed until after each school/college has been matched with a product.

We will make sure that schools and colleges are aware of the ongoing costs of the technology to help inform decisions about what technology they trial.

There’s a specific product I want to try out. What can I do?

Within the application there is an opportunity for you to identify specific products that you would like to trial. We will take this into consideration but cannot guarantee availability of the product.

We want to focus on the underlying problem that you’re trying to tackle or outcomes you want to see, rather than starting with the technology. That’s why we’re keen to first understand your needs and context and then work with you to match an appropriate product.

What if I change my mind at some point in the process?

Expressing interest in the testbed programme will not commit the school/college to participate in the programme, and a school or college can withdraw at any time if they find the programme is no longer right for their institutions.

However, we encourage any issues to be reported to the evaluation partner as soon as they occur. The evaluation partner will then take all steps necessary to ensure any issues are dealt with in a timely manner to prevent unnecessary burdens and complications. However, if withdrawing is unavoidable, please let us know as soon as you can to help us mitigate any impact on the wider programme.

Is it appropriate to test things with students and staff?

The Testbed is a more structured way of:

  • facilitating activities that schools and colleges are already doing (i.e. formative assessment, timetabling, engaging with parents);
  • adopting technology that many schools and colleges have already adopted elsewhere.

Additionally, the Testbed will help schools and colleges to find out the extent to which these products help to improve current practice. This will be of benefit to participating schools and colleges and other schools and colleges more generally.

Through the Testbed we will be trialling technology tools that are supported by evidence, are in use in schools or colleges already, and show great promise.

All schools and colleges will be volunteers, and staff, students and parents can withdraw from a study at any time.

Am I guaranteed a place in the Testbed if I apply? How will you make decisions about which schools and colleges take part in the Testbed?

We will make all efforts to allow interested schools and colleges to participate in the programme, but, unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that everyone who applies will take part in a trial.

We will make decisions about participating schools and colleges based on the availability of technology tools suited to the schools and college interests and needs, and the suitability of the school or college for a useful evaluation design.

Do I need permission from people in my school/college to take part?

We require that a member of the senior leadership team of your school/college is aware and supportive of your application to take part in the Testbed. We would expect a member of the senior leadership team to be involved in early discussions about matching a school/college with the most appropriate technology tool.

When matched with a product and before a trial begins, your Head or Principal will need to sign a Memorandum of Understanding which outlines a commitment to meet agreed responsibilities.

Do I need student/parental permission?

Since this project is generating evidence on products to help existing school and college objectives, and is in the public interest, there is no need for individual consent. We will support any school or college which, nevertheless, wishes to obtain consent for students or parents.

All participants may opt out of the evaluation at any stage.

What time commitment is involved in taking part?

The time commitment for the Lead Contact will likely vary depending on the technology tool being used and the intended objectives being measured - but we will work hard to reduce this to a minimum. For the Lead Contact, we expect the heaviest time commitments will be at the:

  • Beginning of the project; for example, filling out the application form, signing a Memorandum of Understanding, and helping collect and share data for the evaluation.
  • End of the project; where the Lead Contact will work with the evaluation partner to arrange for survey administration and data collection.

As described in ‘What kind of support will schools and colleges receive?’ we can provide financial support towards covering staff time.

Where possible, the evaluation partner will provide support to ensure these additional burdens are kept to a minimum. During the trial, we might want to arrange some activities like a school visit, interviews and monitoring the implementation of the tool, but expect that less time commitment will be required from the Lead Contact during this period.

For other staff in your school or college, taking part in the evaluation will not take up additional time beyond using technology as appropriate. And of course, we hope that the EdTech tools being trialled will reduce workload! Additionally, the evaluation partner may ask to observe some lessons, talk to some teachers and students to get their feedback or to complete a very brief questionnaire about the topic.

How will personal data be managed?

We will follow GDPR guidelines for data management and sharing practices. All personal data (from students, teachers and parents) will be transferred to the evaluators for analysis as password-encrypted files. Such data will be treated with the strictest confidence, and stripped of any individual identifiers. Only suitably qualified researchers on the evaluation team will have access to the data. All data will be analysed anonymously. No individuals will be identified or identifiable in any report.

The evaluation team has extensive experience of working with schools, colleges and families. All members are familiar with safeguarding protocols involving children and young people. All are DBS-certified, ONS SRS-certified, and trained in the use of sensitive or individual data.

What is the privacy policy for how you’ll use the information I share?

Are there Terms and Conditions for taking part?

Read our terms and conditions for schools and colleges.