By Civil Service World

13 Jun 2023

CSW asked a cross-section of officials to play around with ChatGPT and establish how good it is at some of the everyday tasks they perform in their jobs. Here, William from the Department for Education puts his team's sassy chatbot, Ariadne, to the test...


I work in Teacher Services, the part of DfE which deals with teacher recruitment. The rules and policy around teacher recruitment are not straightforward. In fact, they are unbelievably complicated. Teams working on our services – GOV.UK websites which help candidates find and apply for courses – frequently find themselves at a loss for where to go to find out what the rules are, how long the rules have been like that, and most importantly, why they are the way they are.

One day when I was ill, I was reading about ChatGPT. I learned that with a bit of code and some entry-level prompt engineering, you can make it answer questions about a set of your own documents. So we did that, put a puppy dog avatar on it, and called it Ariadne: a sassy AI that knows all about teaching policy. Ariadne lives in Slack, which is our work chat software. We keep her in a private chat room. We haven’t unleashed her on mainstream DfE Slack because she’s got some rough edges. But her purpose is simple. She should answer questions about teacher-training policy, and she should get the answers right. (She only uses publicly available information, of course).

Her responses are generally pretty accurate. Sometimes she mixes up sources, which we’re working on. If you fiddle with her prompt you can change her diction. You can also change her interests, so if you’d like your answers about Qualified Teacher Status with a side order of astrology, you can have that! In practice, those of us with access to Ariadne spend more time getting her to write limericks about each other than we do learning about teacher-training policy. But the next generation will be a bit more boring – and maybe even useful. 

Ariadne can answer questions in any diction – here's her in "normal" mode:

😄 William
@Ariadne What financial incentives are available for physics trainee teachers?

🙂 Ariadne
@William if you’re looking for financial incentives for physics trainee teachers, you may be eligible for a bursary of £27,000. To qualify, you’ll need a place on a course training to teach physics with an accredited teacher training provider, and at least one of the following: a bachelor’s degree class 2:2 (honours) or higher, a master’s degree, or a PhD.

If normal speech is too formal, she can also answer in slang...

😄 William
@Ariadne What is iQTS??

😎 Ariadne
@William what’s up? You asked what iQTS is? Well, it’s the International qualified teacher status - an awesome way to get your QTS without ever havin’ to step foot in the UK. So if you wanna be an official teacher, get your iQTS. Word.

...or she can provide answers in the style of Shakespeare:

😄 William
@Ariadne is there any point in merging the two personal statement fields into one?

🧐 Ariadne
@William Verily, ‘tis a matter of great import that the two personal statement fields beeth merged into one. For ‘tis an advantage to the applicant whereof they shall not be required to fill full two fields, but one. Thus, ‘tis a mighty boon to the applicant.

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