New drive to better understand the role of AI in education

Education Secretary to address benefits of technology in education at London Tech Week

Using artificial intelligence to transform education in a positive way will be the focus of a new call for evidence launched by the government today (14 June) to mark the 10th anniversary of London Tech Week.

As part of the government’s wider work to make the most out of the technology, the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan will launch the call for evidence – which also asks for views on risks, ethical considerations, and training for education workers – in a speech to technology and education experts at London Tech Week.

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT and Google Bard are already making a difference in schools, but more work is needed to understand the benefits and get ahead of the risks that the technology could bring.

As a result, the government is seeking views and experiences from education professionals across the schools, colleges, universities and early years sector.

The call to evidence marks an important starting point, with the results providing a base to inform future work. This includes how AI could be used to reduce workload, improve outcomes, and run operations more efficiently as well as work around misuse such as essay bots and cheating in exams.

As part of a digital skills boost and to help make sure the workforce is equipped for the future, the Education Secretary will also confirm that courses for the new Digital Functional Skills Qualifications (DFSQs) will begin in September, as well as the launch of a new Digital and Computing Skills Education Taskforce.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan is expected to say:

"Artificial intelligence is going to transform the world around us and help grow the economy. The workforces that are best equipped with the skills and knowledge they need will be the ones that ride the wave. We must make sure education is one of them.

"For that potential to be realised, we – the government, our schools, colleges and universities - need to be able to understand those opportunities, as well as the real risks new technology brings.

"That’s why we want to kick start a conversation with experts from across education and technology to hear their views and learn from their experiences. This will help us make the right decisions to get the best out of generative AI in a safe and secure way."

Open from today for anyone working in education, the call for evidence will run until 23 August 2023. To support this work, the Department for Education will also speak to experts through forums, surveys, and interviews. The aim is to gather insight on how generative AI is being used in schools, colleges, and universities, and how it could be used to support the sector in the future.

The launch follows the publication of a statement published in March 2023, setting out the Department’s position on the use of generative AI and sits alongside wider work on intellectual property, protecting the commercial value of data and understanding regulatory implications.

Alongside this, the government is continuing to deliver on the pledge made last year to enable all schools to connect to gigabit broadband by 2025, as well as its ongoing commitment to drive down unnecessary workload and improve wellbeing.

Julian David, CEO of techUK, said:

"AI promises to be one of the most impactful technologies of our lifetimes, and the UK is well positioned to be one of the leading countries unlocking the opportunities of this technology.

"However, in our UK Tech Plan, we stressed the importance of continuing to ensure we increase access to talent to both seize the benefits of AI and guard against its risks. Ending digital poverty is crucial if the UK aims to lead the conversation on AI on a global scale.

"The tech sector stands ready and willing to work closely with government and the education sector to ensure we can use AI in the best possible way to support pupils and educate them as they prepare to enter an increasingly digitally savvy workforce."

Adult learners will also be supported to gain essential digital skills needed for life, work and study, thanks to new Digital Functional Skills Qualifications(DFSQs) courses which will begin in September.

Research undertaken by Ipsos shows that 20% of adults across the UK have either no or low essential digital skills that are essential to participate actively in modern life, work and society – such as turning on a device or connecting to Wi-Fi.

The new Digital and Computing Skills Education Taskforce will support this work by establishing what computing and digital skills are needed now and for the future, working closely with industry experts to encourage more young people to consider a career in key sectors such as cyber security, AI or computing.

BESA Director General, Caroline Wright, said:

"I welcome the Secretary of State’s focus on addressing the use of AI in education. EdTech is a tool that can support teaching and learning. Emerging technologies such as large language models have the potential to be transformative to education and the future of work.

"I am glad that both educators and industry are invited to contribute to the call for evidence and look forward to working closely with the department as it engages with the sector on this important issue over the months ahead."

Chris Goodall, Deputy Headteacher, Epsom and Ewell High School, Borne Trust:

"As a school at the forefront of implementing education technologies to enhance teaching and learning, Epsom and Ewell High School, part of Bourne Education Trust, wholeheartedly supports the Education Secretary’s initiative to explore the potential of AI in education.

"We have seen first-hand the impact that AI can have for teaching and support staff in developing student engagement and greater personalised learning. We believe that AI technologies have the potential to transform teaching and learning, helping teachers to manage their workloads effectively while enhancing student outcomes.

"However, we also recognise the risks and concerns that have rightly been highlighted across the sector and understand it is critical to work towards the safe, secure and ethical use of AI. We eagerly anticipate contributing to this call for evidence, and we welcome the opportunity to share our experiences and insights in the hopes of shaping the future of AI in education."

Department for Education
The Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP