Government must ‘speed up and scale up’ AI in education – Lord Hague

The Government must “speed up and scale up” the rollout of artificial intelligence (AI) in education, former Conservative Party leader Lord William Hague has said.

Lord Hague stressed the need for greater investment in the area while speaking on a panel at the Times Education Summit in London on Thursday.

AI has been the subject of huge debate over recent weeks, with the US and European Union now considering measures to regulate its usage.

Stark warnings about the risks it could pose have come from leading tech experts, including Matt Clifford who is advising the Prime Minister on the development of the UK Government’s Foundation Model Taskforce and has cautioned that AI could have the capability to be behind advances that “kill many humans” in only two years’ time.

Anthony Seldon interview
Political biographer Sir Anthony Seldon told the summit AI represented “the biggest threat” to schools “but also the biggest opportunity” (PA)

But others have stressed its potential benefits and Rishi Sunak announced on Thursday that the UK will host the first global summit on AI in the autumn.

Lord Hague, who led the Conservatives from 1997 to 2001, said: “(The Government) are moving on it, but they still need to speed up and scale up.”

He added that the technology could help to even out the geographical disparity felt by teachers in different areas of the country, and revealed he had spoken at length with former political enemy Sir Tony Blair on the matter.

Alongside providing a laptop or tablet for every child, greater use of artificial intelligence was one of the 12 recommendations made by the Times Education Commission.

The commission aimed to examine Britain’s whole education system, from early years through to lifelong learning, and consider its future in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, new technology and the changing nature of work.

Speaking at the same event, political biographer Sir Anthony Seldon said AI represented “the biggest threat” to schools “but also the biggest opportunity”, adding there had been “nothing bigger since the printing press”.

He added: “We still don’t have an education secretary who knows what the word means.”

Lord Hague also made reference to spending more money on education than HS2, saying: “I would spend a lot less on building railways.”

The high-speed rail project has been beset by delays and ballooning costs, with the original £55.7 billion budget set back in 2015 now far higher.

In contrast, the entire UK educational technology sector is now valued at £3.2 billion, according to the commission.