? Government pandemic response grant awarded to Birmingham Tech company to help disadvantaged learners catch-up lost learning.

In response to COVID-19, FlashAcademy®, a digital English language platform, has been awarded a significant grant from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, as part of a Government initiative to help learners catch-up lost learning due to the pandemic.

Millions of children and adults who do not have English as a first language have lost critical learning time over the last few months, creating a concerning Education divide and further disadvantages for employment opportunities amongst this community.

FlashAcademy®, developed by Birmingham-based EdTech company Learning Labs, delivers digital English language learning from 45 different home languages via interactive lessons, games, and quizzes.  The company will use grant funding to further develop its technology by incorporating a digital English assessment, helping schools and colleges to better understand the learning gaps for their students and help them catch-up as quickly as possible.

The Learning Labs company was originally funded by Birmingham Local Authority, with a goal of exploring how technology can be used to accelerate language acquisition.  The company is also part of a unique Inclusive Economy Partnership programme, bringing together business, civil society, and government to tackle the UK’s most pressing social and economic problems through cross- sector partnerships.

Baroness Barran, the Minister for Civil Society, commented:

“The Inclusive Economy Partnership – convened by the Cabinet Office and DCMS – is supporting 18 front-line organisations to scale and deliver impact in our communities through mentoring, workshops and access to new partners. We are thrilled that Flash Academy, one of these organisations, will be able to support more young people through this grant. FlashAcademy® is an excellent example of how innovative UK tech companies can help support our recovery and resurgence out of the coronavirus crisis, supporting our young people to catch-up lost learning and improve both their education and employment prospects.”

Fluency in the English language has been shown to dramatically improve education and career outcomes, and with the level of current disruption to the Education system, it’s clear that Education technology will play a vital role to ensure that learning can happen from anywhere.

With FlashAcademy®, teachers can set assessments to remotely track pupil progress, while learners can engage independently on smartphone, tablet, and PC. During the current pandemic, FlashAcademy® has been used by hundreds of schools in the UK, as well as by schools in China and Italy.

The Innovate UK funding will help the Learning Labs team to develop a fully digital ‘English Proficiency’ assessment platform to assist teachers with their ability to maintain learning progress outside a classroom setting. The project is seeking to save a proportion of the c.2m hours of teacher time spent each year using paper-based assessments, whilst also providing real-time access to data and reporting.

As a second step, the project will also launch assessments and learning platform for business, working closely with manufacturing association, MAKE UK. FlashAcademy® Workplace will support businesses whose employees do not have English as their first language. This new form of digital training will focus on Health & Safety and remove language barriers to technical vocabulary. Migrant workers are twice as likely to die on site due to their lack of English proficiency, so this is an important innovation for the construction sector.

Veejay Lingiah, CEO of FlashAcademy®, commented:

“We’re delighted to be one of only 800 UK companies to be awarded a Government pandemic innovation response grant, especially after 9,000 companies applied.  We’re determined to make a significant social impact with our digital English learning platform, for all age ranges and to better support educators across our school and College network too.”

About Learning Labs:

Learning Labs is an EdTech scale-up team developing innovative technology to help more people remove ‘English proficiency’ as a barrier to their life prospects.  In 2018, the team launched FlashAcademy®, a multi-award-winning app to help school children with the independent learning of English from 45 different home languages. FlashAcademy® is already used by over 55,000 UK school pupils and over 500,000 learners worldwide learning a second language.  The app is currently being used by schools in China, Italy and across the UK to support the continuation of learning during periods of school closure.  Expanding on this work, a new workplace version of FlashAcademy® is now being launched together with MAKE UK to assist with vocational English, for those adults seeking employment and those in employment that wish to improve their career prospects.  For more information, see: https://flashacademy.com

About Innovate UK:

Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. We connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth. We fund business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D. Our support is available to businesses across all economic sectors, value chains and UK regions. Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation. For more information visit www.innovateuk.ukri.org

About IEP

The Inclusive Economy Partnership (IEP) brings together business, civil society and government to tackle the UK’s most pressing social and economic problems through cross- sector partnerships.