Can eBooks Provide a Competitive Edge to Private Schools?

The private education sector in the UK is being forced to become more competitive in  the current economic climate. We are not talking about the Etons and Harrows who will always have waiting lists but the lesser know schools which take in pupils with average ability and learning difficulties with the aim to have them leave with the best exam results possible.  This is the sector that needs to attract more pupils.

So how do you attract more pupils? One of the key ways is to use Value Added Scores which compare the pupil’s ability when they enter the school to that of when they leave. If a school is taking pupils with predicted C or D grades at GCSE and sending them out with A or B grades then that school becomes an attractive proposition for parents. The problem is how to achieve such a rise in grades.

One of the best methods is to offer more courses that cater to a pupil’s strengths. However this does lead to the problems of providing staff to teach them and a classroom to teach them in. The staff problem is relatively easy to overcome as most good teachers can teach most subjects to GCSE level.

The second problem of where to teach them is a challenging one. No school achieves one hundred percent utilization of their classrooms. At the same time no teacher wants to carry around all the textbooks required to teach their course around with them all day. So it would seem that the obvious answer is to give the pupils the textbooks so they can take them from lesson to lesson. The problem is of course that some pupils will forget them, causing the inevitable disruption to the start of the lesson as pupils are moved around so they can share. The other problem is the amount of weight a pupil would need to carry around with them.

So this leads to the proposition of using eBooks. This, along with the use of interactive whiteboards, makes the course mobile and so no longer tied to the room with textbooks in. This allows the school to better utilize the spare classrooms in any given period and therefore able to provide more courses for their pupils. This means that the school is able to target more suitable courses to a pupil.

From a pupils point of view they are unlikely to forget something that is required for every lesson. If they do then it would be possible to lend a pupil a spare device from the school’s library or boarding house and load it with the textbooks required for the day.

So, the use of eBooks could provide a practical solution to a private schools dilemma of having to offer more courses directed towards the “average” pupil to help them achieve better Value Added Scores without the need of more classrooms. Schools which are early adopters of this new technology also benefit from the added marketing value as being seen as innovative and “hi-tech”.

So it’s win-win for the eBook then? Well not quite, there are several issues which need to be overcome with eBooks, not least of which is the cost of the devices and licensing of books. I will discuss these issues in future articles.

[Andy is an IT professional within the British education system and has agreed to share his thoughts on how eBooks can benefit schools.  — Mike Cook]

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One thought on “Can eBooks Provide a Competitive Edge to Private Schools?”

  1. Interesting article.

    I guess that allocating teachers to create ebook resources could potentially avoid the licensing issue, but then the greater the amount of original material required, the higher the cost. Using existing staff to create these resources would ensure that they are tailored tightly to the school’s requirements, but would perhaps be the least efficient way of doing it in terms of time taken an the cost of that time to the school (especially among higher paid staff).

    Staff are making resources all of the time, so it would seem obvious to go just one step further and make all of these resources electronic. I have already seen several schools that do this, either partially or completely.

    A lot of teachers are concerned though, that this could herald the era of remote learning as a replacement for a lot of what currently has to happen in a classroom. That teaching as a profession will be deprofessionalised, with lesser qualified personnel ‘delivering’ or ‘facilitating’ lessons that are only considered professional because they were ‘designed’ by teachers.

    Will this favour private schools over non-private schools? Perhaps. If it is just a question of resources then private schools are always better funded and resourced. But won’t that just lead to other schools banding together and sharing their resources in groups, in order to compete? Certainly we have initiatives in place already that support this in principle, such as the 14-19 initiative in Wales. So private schools need not think that they would be especially advantaged by using ebooks.

    Certainly the future looks interesting :-) whichever way we end up going.

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