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Department for Education publishes digital strategy

The department's digital and technology function wants to become a leader in the field, invest in its own platforms and manage its legacy technologies

The Department for Education's (DfE) digital and data function has launched a digital strategy as it seeks to deliver “excellent outcomes” in education and care through technology.

The strategy aims to make the department’s digital and technology organisation an agile one, focusing on four priorities, including responding to the needs of children and students, particularly in light of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“A global crisis needs a rapid response,” wrote , in a blog post that sets out the DfE’s digital and technology ambitions and priorities. “We are shaping our teams, our processes, and our strategy to be responsive to our users’ needs. If we need to prioritise something new and unexpected, we'll need ready-formed teams to pivot their focus. When the time is right, those teams will return to their original priorities. This stops us wasting time and money forming teams and then breaking them apart.”

The DfE also wants to make it easier for teachers, education administrators and carers to share information with the department to allow it to design, build and run services for them.

“DfE must become a leader in digital and technology to be able to support a world-class, modern education and care system. To achieve this, we embrace digital and technology skills within the civil service. This means we are creating a workplace where skilled professionals can thrive to do their best work,” stated the blog post.

“The coronavirus pandemic has led to digital and technology playing a much bigger role in how our department shapes its policy. We’ll continue to integrate policy with design and digital skills so that we can offer better services. This puts us ‘in the room’ at the very start of policy-making rather than at the point of delivery.”

To achieve all this, the department is working to ensure all services are digital by default, and as well as using platforms created by the Government Digital Service such as Notify, the DfE is also investing in its own platforms such as a cloud hosting platform and DfE Sign-in, which aims to make it easier for teachers to access services.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to changes in the way people work, and the DfE wants to ensure “our people and suppliers have the kit and tools they need to do their work”.

“We know the shift to internet-era ways of working will continue, and we must be part of this, mindful that there’s a balance to strike between supporting new ways of working, while maintaining security and value for money,” the blog said.

Addressing legacy

Like many departments, the DfE also has several legacy systems in place, and is keen to address this as one of its “greatest challenges”. The department wants to reduce its “highest priority legacy technology risks” and stop services where the risk outweighs the value.

It plans to publish new principles and standards to avoid the same problems cropping up again in the future, and will build, design and iterate services in a joined-up way.

“In 2021, we’ll reduce our reliance on suppliers and grow a highly skilled cyber security team. This will enable us to embed security more deeply in how we work, making sure what we deliver is designed to be secure in every step of its development,” the strategy blog said.

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  • Government strategy sets out how Westminster can harness and achieve better value from £104bn worth of innovation and knowledge assets in central government.

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