Essential Digital Skills CPD programme

The Department for Education (DfE) has introduced a new Essential Digital Skills (EDS) framework and associated national standards, which set out essential digital skills for life and work.

Young people aged 16-19 and adults with no or low digital skills are now entitled to take EDS qualifications free of charge, in line with existing entitlements for English and maths.

The new standards cover five areas:

  • Using devices and handling information – using devices, finding and evaluating information, managing and storing information, identifying and solving technical problems
  • Creating and editing – creating and editing documents and digital media, processing numerical data
  • Communicating – communicating, sharing and managing traceable online activities
  • Transacting – using online services, buying securely online
  • Being safe and responsible online – protecting privacy and data, being responsible online, digital wellbeing.

ETF Enhance EDS Diagram
ETF Enhance EDS Diagram

In 2019, DfE commissioned the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) to deliver the start of blended a CPD programme to prepare teachers, trainers and leaders to deliver the new qualifications based on the standards. The ETF commissioned a team led by Sero Consulting with DESQ, Angela Sanders and SkillsLogic to deliver the programme, which was designed around the following:

  • An interactive self-assessment tool to identify training needs
  • A series of 20 short online learning modules with teaching exemplars and advice on teaching contexts, as well as digital badges to recognise achievement
  • CPD events to build confidence and share practice related to different teaching contexts
  • An online community of practice to offer peer-to-peer support.

All online elements of the programme are hosted on the ETF’s Enhance Digital Teaching Platform alongside the ETF’s Educational Technology (EdTech) offer based on the Digital Teaching Professional Framework.

The EDS workforce development programme was fully launched on 17 February 2020 and has successfully evolved in response to feedback from the sector. The third Phase of the programme is now underway (click below for more information).

Essential Digital Skills CPD programme

A rich and diverse programme of training and professional development has been designed including the following core elements:


  • Introductory workshops on ‘Understanding Essential Digital Skills’
  • Cascade training support for lead trainers and managers
  • Practical skills development workshops covering the most challenging areas
  • Interactive workshops on how to embed and teach Essential Digital Skills

Peer-to-peer support:

  • An online community of practice on the Enhance Digital Teaching Platform
  • Six Essential Digital Skills Champions who will share practice and provide thought leadership for specific aspects of teaching EDS
  • Weekly live Q&A sessions
  • Meetups for those working with ESOL learners, in SEND provision, or in prisons and the probation service
  • Face-to-face events sharing the learning from six Essential Digital Skills Reflective Exploration projects

Online resources:

  • Self-service CPD resources to fit round your schedule
  • A self-assessment tool which will give you a bespoke capability profile signposting relevant training
  • Digital badges to reward and recognise your training progress
  • A fun, interactive role playing game to help you assess your knowledge and confidence

Essential Digital Skills programme 2021

To see full details of the CPD events currently available, please visit the ETF booking system and search on ‘essential digital skills’.

All elements of the programme are fully funded by the DfE and are therefore free to the sector.

EDS support resources – Scenarios and learning guides

Our EDS support resources provide information about support resources for the Essential Digital Skills CPD programme such as the scenarios and learning guides which complement the EDS training modules. All training and resources were fully funded by the Department for Education so are free to users.


The aim of the scenarios is to embed practical and contextualised activities for life and work into the support offered through the online training modules. Each Scenario draws on the subject matter and ideas from several training modules across the five skill areas. They can be seen as learning ‘in action’ from a teaching and learning perspective and provide exemplars of how to apply the module content.

Scenario 1: Searching and Evaluating Returns

Skills Area: Using Devices
Related modules: Finding and evaluating information

Scenario 2: Using the Cloud

Skills Area: Using Devices, Being safe and responsible
Related modules: Managing and storing information, Protecting privacy, Protecting data, Digital wellbeing

Scenario 3: Working with digital media

Skills Area: Creating & editing
Related modules: Creating and editing documents, Creating and editing digital media

Scenario 4: Devices – planning for efficiency, managing problems

Skills Area: Using Devices
Related modules: Using Devices, Identifying and solving technical problems

Scenario 5: Communicating and Sharing online

Skills Area: Communicating, Creating & editing
Related modules: Communicating and sharing online, Creating and editing digital media

Scenario 6: The digital footprint and online identity

Skills Area: Being safe and responsible
Related modules: Managing traceable activity online, Protecting privacy, Behaving responsibly online

Scenario 7: Use and interact with online services

Skills Area: Transacting
Related modules: Using online services

Scenario 8: Transacting and buying online

Skills Area: Transacting
Related modules: Buying online I, Buying on line II

Scenario 9: Protecting personal privacy, devices and data online

Skills Area: Being safe and responsible
Related modules: Protecting privacy, Protecting devices and data

Scenario 10: Promoting wellbeing in using technology

Skills Area: Being safe and responsible
Related modules: Digital wellbeing

Learning Plan Guides

During the prior research for this programme, four groups were identified who would need additional support either because of the particular needs associated the learners and/or the constraints of the learning environment:

  • ESOL
  • Offender Learning
  • Preparation for Life and Work
  • SEND

We are therefore creating four Learning Plan Guides to address these contexts which will:

  • Identify parts of the national standards and elements of the online training modules that are particularly appropriate for the learner group, as well as those that are challenging and, in some cases, those that cannot readily be delivered in the particular context
  • Suggest teaching approaches and identify materials and resources that are effective for this context.

Learning Plan Guide English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

Learning Plan Guide Offender Learning

Learning Plan Guide Preparation for Life and Work (PLW)

Learning Plan Guide Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND)

Communication tools

The following assets are available to help you raise awareness about the Essential Digital Skills professional development programme in your organisation:

Exploring digital tools

If you are keen to explore EDS Digital Tools, there are sixteen videos shared on the Excellence Gateway EDS Exploring Tools YouTube Playlist.

Essential Digital Skills webinar recordings on YouTube

Fifty recorded webinars can easily be accessed on the Essential Digital Skills YouTube Playlist.

EDS Thought pieces #EDSThoughts

Jo Dixon photo
Jo Dixon 

We talk a lot about digital skills, but digital skills are a means to an end: they enable people to engage in digital practices. Our own digital practices – the ways in which we habitually use digital technology ourselves – can lead us to make assumptions about how ‘everybody’ should be taught to use digital technology.

In the first of a series of Essential Digital Skills thought pieces by authors from across the sector, Jo Dixon draws on her own experience supporting digital skills development amongst teachers and adult learners of ESOL to show how exploring learners’ current practices can help learners develop digital skills in small steps.

Read ‘Supporting digital skills: the importance of understanding and valuing everyday digital practices’ and join the conversation on social media by using #EDSThoughts.

Helen Milner headshot
Helen Milner 

The Covid-19 pandemic has both exposed a deep digital divide that has existed for decades and it exacerbated inequality by leaving millions of people cut off from essential services and support as well as human contact with loved ones. In the second of a series of Essential Digital Skills ‘Thought Pieces’, Group Chief Executive for the Good Things Group in the UK and Australia Helen Milner OBE argues that digital inclusion can no longer be seen as a nice to have – it’s now a need to have.

Read ‘Learning digital skills and closing the digital divide’ and join the conversation on social media by using #EDSThoughts.

Photo of Mel Coleman
Mel Coleman

When thinking about teaching digital skills, whether directly as an Essential Digital Skills (EDS) course or embedded into other courses and subjects, it is also important to think about the skills and experiences of the teaching staff who will deliver these qualifications and develop these skills in our learners. In the third of a series of Essential Digital Skills ‘Thought Pieces’, Mel Coleman of South Thames Colleges Group explain what she has discovered.

Read ‘Upskilling staff – a cultural shift’ and join the conversation on social media by using #EDSThoughts.

Emma Weston Portrait
Emma Weston

In the fourth of a series of Essential Digital Skills ‘Thought Pieces’, Emma Weston OBE of Digital Unite argues that not only do practitioners need to think about how developing their learners’ digital skills will develop their learning capacity overall, they must also address the more pressing pandemic-provoked question of how they do this remotely. Looking ahead, she considers what other opportunities the pandemic-influenced digital skills response might provoke for practitioners and for learners.

Read ‘What can we learn from the experience of Digital Champions working remotely? How have they continued to engage and support learners?’ and join the conversation on social media by using #EDSThoughts.

Mary Moss
Mary Moss

This article, by Mary Moss, a member of the ETF’s Essential Digital Skills CPD support programme delivery team, reviews some of the current literature to gain an understanding of what constitutes effective digital practice.

Read ‘Effective practice in teaching essential digital skills – an account of a rapid literature review’ and join the conversation on social media by using #EDSThoughts.

Steve Grix
Steve Grix

In the fifth of a series of Essential Digital Skills ‘Thought Pieces’, Novus Digital Learning Lead Steve Grix focuses on the importance of digital skills to learners in the Prison Education Framework.

Read ‘The Third Functional Skill: We should embed digital skills in all learning activities’ and join the conversation on social media by using #EDSThoughts.

Dr Sue Pember CBE
Dr Sue Pember CBE

Dr Sue Pember CBE, Policy Director for Holex, considers the increased importance of digital skills for adult learners as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the challenges that must be overcome, including how and by whom they can be most effectively taught.

Read ‘Entitlement for Essential Digital Skills (EDS) Qualifications – Adult and Community Education’ and join the conversation on social media by using #EDSThoughts.

Emma Langlois
Emma Langlois

Emma Langlois, Digital Skills and Preparation for Work Curriculum Manager at Manchester Adult Education, reflects on the lessons that have been learned during the implementation of its Digital Skills for Beginners course.

Read “Delivering foundation digital skills to beginner learners” and join the conversation on social media by using #EDSThoughts.

Sarah Knight
Sarah Knight

Sarah Knight, Head of Learning and Teaching Transformation at Jisc, looks at the findings of its recent research on learners’ experiences and expectations of digital learning and asks what can be learnt from them.

Read “What is an effective digital experience for learners?” and join the conversation on social media by using #EDSThoughts.

Alex Stevenson
Alex Stevenson

Drawing on research with ESOL practitioners in formal and informal settings, Head of Essential and Life Skills at Learning and Work Institute Alex Stevenson reflects on the links between basic digital skills and other basic skills, including literacy and ESOL.

Read “Effective digital skills teaching in the context of digital exclusion: ESOL and non-formal learning” and join the conversation on social media by using #EDSThoughts.


EDS case studies #EDSpractice

Find all our EDS case studies on our new case studies page.

To keep in touch with the programme developments, please contact