Department for Education sets transformative data, technology strategy

A year on from the Department for Education's (DfE) merger of its data and technology teams, the organisation has set out a strategy intended to deliver "simple, safe and easy-to-use digital and technology services" that enable excellent outcomes in education and care.

The department's digital and technology priorities are to be responsive to learners' needs, run the business better, reduce friction and continually improve standards, according to Emma Stace, DfE's Chief Digital and Technology Officer.

The biggest challenge singled out is the management of legacy technology, processes and services, something recognised as a side effect of how the Civil Service funds, buys, builds and operates.

DfE's new strategy cites a number of approaches to tackle this issue:

  • reduce our highest priority legacy technology risks
  • stop services where the risk outweighs their value
  • value thorough and excellent maintenance of our software, bringing business operations and development closer (this known as a DevOps culture)
  • propose new ways to fund, buy, build and operate
  • publish new principles and standards to avoid these problems in the future

Beyond a focus on keeping the lights on in the face of the pandemic and delivering over 400 services within the department - the new strategy sets out its intention to build world-class digital expertise within the organisation, with an avowed aim to increase resilience and agility by bringing development smarts in house, and reducing the number of external suppliers.

Even when it comes to resilience, the intention is to build a cybersecurity centre of excellence within the organisation, and lessen dependence on third-parties.

Emma Stace - CDTO DfE"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. Crucially, our pay and benefits must be competitive," said Stace.

The strategy reflects the fact that the pandemic has led to digital and technology playing a much bigger role in how DfE develops policy - with emphasis on continued integration of policy, design and digital skills so that DfE can offer better services: "This puts [DfE's data and technology teams] ‘in the room’ at the very start of policy making rather than at the point of delivery."


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