Just 3% of EdTech Innovation funding goes to resolving timetabling issues

The first wave of EdTech Innovation funding has been dished out – but just 3 per cent of the cash will go towards resolving flexible working timetabling issues.

Thirteen edtech firms from across the UK (full list below) will share £1.2 million of funding to develop products aimed at revolutionising education through the use of technology.

It’s the first round of funding under the £4.6m partnership between Nesta and the Department for Education, launched in April, to find solutions in schools for four “challenge areas”: assessment, essay marking, parental engagement and timetabling.

But of the grants announced this week, just £38,975 (or three per cent) is going towards resolving timetabling issues that are said to be a major obstacle to schools rolling out flexible working.

October Resolutions has been given the funding for its Timetabler software, which it claims makes part-time working, staggered hours and job sharing easier to schedule.

The cash will fund a pilot to test the software’s flexible working features in 20 schools. The findings will be shared with the sector.

Earlier this year the DfE, in its recruitment and retention strategy, called on headteachers to “transform” their approaches to flexible working as it is “more important than ever that teaching is compatible with having children and a family life”.

A government study found flexible working in schools tends to be confined to solely part-time opportunities, which is generally attributed to “the nature of school timetabling and the requirements to be onsite”.

While it says that a shift to flexible working “ultimately comes down to headteachers”, a new “Match.com”-like website to help teachers to find job-share partners has yet to be launched by the government.

The new strategy pledged to fund firms that would “create innovative solutions to promote and facilitate part-time and flexible working patterns”, including timetabling.

But the largest chunk of cash dished out was for firms tackling the issue of formative assessment. Seven edtech firms received £689,365, or 50 per cent, of this first round of funding.

Three firms addressing issues with parental engagement have been chosen, with two more for essay marking.

Joysy John, Nesta’s director of education, said applicants were judged on “specific selection criteria” to find the “edtech products with the greatest potential to improve, build an evidence base for what works and scale in order to have real impact”.

“We had fewer applications in the timetabling category to the fund, and so the funding which has been awarded is broadly representative of the proportions of applications we had for each of the four challenge areas.”

She said they are also working to include timetabling in the Edtech Innovation Testbed programme to help schools trail promising tech products for free. The firms to take part will be announced next year.

One of the firms to win funding this week is HegartyMaths. The firm, which publishes online videos of maths lessons, was recently acquired by education tech giant Sparx – which currently has over one million users in more than 1,300 schools.

In September Sparx received one of the largest ever investments in the UK edtech sector when it was given a £50m cash injection from Oxygen House to support and expand its services.

Full list of the winners:

Formative Assessment

Bolton College First Pass – £100,000

An online service enabling teachers to post open-ended questions to students. First Pass analyses responses and provides real-time feedback. Funding will support the development of teacher facing and student facing services.

Educake Ltd – £89,000

An online formative assessment platform which provides questions mapped to the curriculum, automatically-marked homework and revision tests for GCSE English, maths, science and geography.

Funding will support Educake develop questions and content for GCSE computer science and history.

Enabling Enterprise CIC Skills Builder – £99,765

An online tool that hosts resources to support the development of key employability skills and provides a quick assessment of skills and suggestions for future resources. Funding will support improvements to the user experience and an evaluation of the impact of Skills Builder.

HegartyMaths – £100,000

An online formative assessment platform which provides students with adaptive maths assessments. Funding will support Hegarty to grow their in-house training team and develop and evaluate a new training tool.

MangaHigh – £100,000

A KS1-4 maths platform providing gamified questions and quizzes for students. Funding will be used to adapt the platform to make it suitable for SEND students and improve the accessibility of the questions and games.

Pobble – £100,000

An online platform that supports the teaching of writing in English classes.

Funding will improve Pobble’s individual pupil functionality, including supporting self and peer-assessment, allowing pupils to access lessons outside the classroom and enabling pupils to publish their own work.

Seneca Learning – £100,000

Seneca is a homework and revision platform covering 95%+ of the exams taken in the mainstream UK education system for KS2, KS3, GCSE and A-level curriculum.

Funding will support the development of new diagnostic questions and a Multiple Choice Knowledge Assessments feature.

 

Essay marking

No More Marking – £63,768

An online platform that enables schools to use comparative judgement to assess student’s written work. Funding will be used to run a research project to validate comparative judgement as a method of marking.

Texthelp Ltd WriQ – £87,000

WriQ provides automated marking of student writing, assessing spelling, grammar and punctuation to provide an accuracy score, with teachers able to give individualised feedback. Funding will support developments to improve links with the English curriculum and improve efficacy of WriQ in English pilot schools.

 

Parental Engagement

Engagement in Education Ltd freeflowinfo – £99,400

freeflowinfo is a parental engagement platform that enables all parents to establish and maintain positive attitudes towards learning in the home and reduces teacher workload.

Funding will support freeflowinfo to undertake research in secondary schools and develop online teacher training resources to support workload reduction.

Firefly Learning Ltd – £100,000

Firefly is a teaching and learning tool which allows parents to access information about their child’s progress, attendance and behaviour.

Funding will support Firefly to build a new profile for each learner and to establish a more systematic research programme to establish the benefits of their current platform and future developments.

Studybugs – £100,000

A communications platform used by schools to engage parents.

Funding will be used to accelerate development, specifically a video-conferencing feature for parents to book a 5 minute video call with teachers, and engage more fully with schools and parents.

 

Timetabling

October Resolutions Timetabler – £38,975

An established timetabling software used by schools internationally to develop and adapt their timetables. Funding will be used to pilot and test their flexible working features and gain feedback with 20 schools in England.