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Supporting disadvantaged students to overcome barriers to effective remote learning

The EdTech R&D Programme has awarded £420,000 in grant funding to six EdTech organisations and will test improvements in partnership with 58 schools this academic year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust EdTech into the spotlight. With schools partially closed or children forced to isolate at home over the past year, most teachers, parents and students are reliant on technology platforms to continue learning remotely. Whatever the long-term damage of partial school closures to children may be (and they will be significant), EdTech has been a lifeline for thousands of children and families.

However, experiences of remote learning (and the pandemic more widely) are not equal. This has grave consequences. Sutton Trust research shows vast differences in access to technology devices and the internet. Initial research by the Education Endowment Foundation suggested that school closures could undo a decade of progress to close the attainment gap. And the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests implications for our long-term economic health too, arguing school closures could lead to £350 billion in lost lifetime earnings across the 8.7 million children in the UK.

In August 2020, as part of our ongoing EdTech Innovation Partnership with the Department for Education, we kicked off the EdTech R&D Programme, offering support to EdTech providers and schools to fund and test improvements to remote learning for disadvantaged students. We’re generating new insights into how EdTech providers can improve their platforms and training for schools to meet the needs of pupil groups with particular barriers to remote learning. By supporting specific pupil groups to learn more effectively from home, we hope to identify good practice and practical solutions that can contribute to more equitable outcomes in remote learning.

Below is more information about the six EdTech organisations and 58 schools collaborating through the programme. Through the programme we are awarding £420,000 to EdTech organisations for targeted product improvements and £80,000 towards supporting participating schools directly. We’re pleased to be working with ImpactEd to design and carry out ongoing evaluations of product developments, and Teacher Development Trust to support school staff with remote learning through professional development. We are working with 58 school groups from KS1 to KS5 from across the UK - a huge thank you to all those teachers!

Interim insights and resources for schools will be available after the spring term, with further findings and resources after the summer term.

Introducing the EdTech R&D Programme grantees

Integral - Awarded £70,000

MEI will be improving the mobile device functionality of Integral, its mathematics virtual learning environment, to better support home-learning. The organisation will be exploring offline access and improving teacher training and implementation for specific student needs, as well as producing a new set of interactive resources specifically designed to support A-level Mathematics.

Learning with Parents - Awarded £85,000

Learning with Parents will be making its programme more accessible for all parents by introducing phone number logins, and exploring the use of text message nudges to increase parental engagement.

Pobble - Awarded £70,000

Pobble is improving its award-winning writing platform to make it more accessible to students and parents with EAL or ESOL. As well as making it easier to access and improving the user experience, Pobble will explore translation functionality and provide multilingual training resources.

Seneca - Awarded £40,000

Seneca will be improving its Smart Homework feature to support students with independent learning, particularly Pupil Premium students.

Sumdog - Awarded £85,000

Sumdog will develop an assessment library to help teachers understand student progress quickly, and so direct their catch-up support more effectively. The team will also research which metrics are most helpful, and explore effective ways to engage teachers with them.

Texthelp - Awarded £70,000

Texthelp is developing new features designed to support EAL students to build their vocabulary through use of WriQ.

A huge thank you to our EdTech Partner Schools


Hannah Owen

Hannah Owen

Hannah Owen

Analyst, a fairer start mission

Hannah worked in Nesta's education team and focused on helping our education system make more effective use of technology and data.

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