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When the Guidance on Schools and AI Doesn't Go Far Enough...

...Our Mark Anderson fills in the gaps

When England’s Ofsted recently put out a new policy paper, Ofsted’s approach to artificial intelligence (AI), our favourite ICT Evangelist and long-time Associate Mark Anderson was all over it like a rash.

‘While much of it is useful,’ he explained, ‘it could go some way further’.

Mark has been at the forefront of what is an increasingly un-ignorable tidal wave when it comes to the impact of AI on pretty much every aspect of schooling.

What Ofsted got Right About Schools and AI - Simplified

As such, he is ideally placed to highlight what Ofsted got right – relevant to wherever in the world you might be teaching – as well as shine a light on aspects they missed.

To begin with, he simplified the paper as below:




Best Approach to Implement

Likely Benefits

Policy Development

Develop clear AI usage policies.

Involve stakeholders in policy creation to ensure alignment with educational goals and ethical standards.

For some ideas around this, please check out this AI policy template.

Ensures compliance and sets clear expectations for AI use.

Staff Training

Train staff on AI tools and their educational applications.

Provide professional development sessions focused on ethical AI use and integration into teaching.

If you’d like some help with this, please get in touch.

Enhances teacher competence and confidence in using AI.

Safety and Security

Ensure AI tools are secure and protect user data.

Regularly review and update security protocols for AI technologies.

Tony Sheppard is legendary at this.

Protects students’ and staff’s personal data.


Maintain transparency about AI use in school operations.

Communicate openly with parents and students about how AI is used and its benefits.

Never underestimate the importance of this.

Builds trust and clarifies AI’s role in education.

Bias Monitoring

Monitor AI tools for bias and fairness in their functionality.

Implement regular checks and balances to assess AI outputs and correct biases.

Promotes equity and prevents discrimination.


He then put virtual pen to paper and identified ten areas that Ofsted had missed and that are of importance for schools everywhere.

Data Farms, The Cloud and Climate Change

(We were particularly struck by number ten.

Every gain comes with a cost, as our Ian Gilbert pointed out in his prophetic book Why Do I Need a Teacher When I’ve Got Google?*, where he highlighted the climate challenge caused by the massive energy requirements of data centres – the real life ‘cloud’.

2018 research by the International Energy Agency found that these computer farms consumed as much energy on one year as the whole of the UK. And that was before the pandemic and the new WFH culture.)

Climactic concerns notwithstanding, here are Mark’s ten points for all schools to consider when looking at AI:

1. Practical Implementation Examples: Based on my extensive work in this area and on whole school digital strategy, AI can dynamically help in many key areas such as: adapting learning materials to assist adaptive learning, potentially increasing engagement and effectiveness. AI can also help with workload reduction, speeding up of processes, administration tasks, report writing and more. With some practical implementation examples, Ofsted could have provided much more help for schools and leaders in their implementation.

Involving Students in AI Policies and Practices

2. Student Digital Leaders: Inspired by my work with student digital leader groups and setting up the UK’s Student Digital Leader Network, Ofsted should have mentioned the importance of involving students in shaping AI policies and practices, which in my experience would bring significant benefits to schools whilst simultaneously enhancing the learning experience and responsibilities of many students.

3. Professional Development: Ofsted could and should have made mention of evidence-informed approaches on how to successfully implement professional development. Even if at a basic level they discussed the importance of effective professional development that incorporates spaced, and retrieval practice to ensure effective use of AI which could involve multiple training sessions throughout the year to reinforce learning and application, it would have been helpful. Beyond that, they could easily have shared some of the guidance from the EEF on this topic or the work of the Teacher Development Trust.

The Importance of Metrics

4. Metrics for Success: If you don’t measure and define success then you don’t know if you’ve been successful. Therefore consider and define both qualitative and quantitative metrics to measure the success of AI implementations. This could include student performance improvements, feedback from staff and students, and regular reviews of AI usage.

5. Guidance on AI Ethics Beyond Bias: Building on the work of experts like Dr Mhairi Aitken, explore broader ethical considerations, including data privacy and the impact of AI on student behaviour and development and incorporate that thinking into your policies, documentation and training.

6. Supporting Accessibility and Inclusion: AI should help make learning accessible to all students, including those with additional needs so some guidance on practical tools such as AI-driven aids like Immersive Reader or Read&Write from Texthelp, would have been beneficial. Consider your cohorts and the tools and benefits they would bring and incorporate these into your digital strategy.

Getting the Parents On Your Side

7. Parental Engagement: Parental engagement has always been a key driver for successful implementation; it’s why I’ve always held digital parenting evenings. By developing these further, even with a rebrand to ‘AI Parenting’ (although that might have some interesting connotations with its name!) sessions designed to help parents understand how AI is used in education and how they can support their children’s use of these technologies would be an event I’m sure many parents would be delighted to attend – I know I would!

8. Staying Updated: Schools must stay informed about the latest AI developments while ensuring their compliance with data protection and privacy laws. This could involve regular training and updates for staff. Having someone in the school who has as part of their remit, staying on top of these things and sharing them with staff will be a surefire way of helping to keep on track of the latest concerns and ideas around this fast-paced landscape.

Think Before You Buy!

9. Budgeting for AI: Guidance on budgeting for AI would have been very helpful, but given that most AI tools worth using involve costs, think before you purchase and consider what potential costs AI might require and if possible, any funding opportunities. You’ll have to consider initial setup costs and ongoing expenses like software updates and licenses, so bear these in mind, particularly as they may be an additional cost.

10. Environmental Impact: Being mindful of the fact that sometimes, the use of AI is a bit like using a sledgehammer to tap in a nail, we should consider the environmental impact of AI, such as the energy consumption of data centres. Remember, for each query made using a Generative AI tool they estimate it takes 500ml of water to cool the processors in the data centres. Using AI responsibly means ensuring that the benefits justify the ecological costs and is something worthy of consideration.

We Can Help - Just Ask

We think Mark is, as ever, on the button with his views and advice here.

And if you would like Mark to work with your school or organisation on its AI strategy, as well as all other aspects of IT, then please get in touch by calling us on (0)1267 211432 or dropping us an email.

*And if you are looking for the answer to Ian Gilbert's famous Google Question, check out this post which includes some quite jaw-dropping videos showing what AI can do.

About the author

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson is an international authority on helping schools improve their teaching, both inside and outside of the classroom, to get the most out of all young people through the effective and realistic use of learning technologies.

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