The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has had a significant and potentially lasting effect on education, with edtech seeing accelerated adoption on a mass scale. On a global level, edtech companies saw VC investment grow by 22% in Q1 2020.
Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Digital, said: “Over the last six weeks the UK’s world-leading edtech sector has used its expertise to develop practical solutions and online learning tools for schools, parents and pupils during this challenging time. The work it is doing right now will pave the way for new technology to help shape the future of education in the UK and around the world. I thank the sector for all its efforts and urge it to keep it up.”
Edtech companies that offer technology platforms and apps for education and learning are seeing demand soar, as schools and parents seek help to deliver homeschooling. New figures compiled by Dealroom.co for the Digital Economy Council show that the UK’s educational technology sector is one of the fastest growing in Europe, with more than 1000 companies supplying products and services aimed at children of all ages and adults.
Gerard Grech, chief executive, Tech Nation, said: “With the global edtech sector seeing a 22% increase in investment in the first quarter of 2020, it is increasingly evident that Coronavirus is accelerating the adoption of EdTech, as both students and parents are looking for alternatives to continue with the education process. As the impact of the pandemic is felt across many business sectors, there is an opportunity for innovative solutions to help people find work, but also for education platforms which help people to acquire the skills they need throughout their life, including our own Tech Nation’s Digital Business Academy, which has seen record uptake in the last two months’.
UK at the forefront
The UK is a leader in the field, with its startups attracting 41% of all European investment last year according to data from our Data Commons. Edtech investment climbed 91% from 2018 to 2019. In contrast, investment in the US actually fell by 12% and European investment only grew by 8%.
Edtech companies in the UK are numerous but tend to be at an earlier stage in development than those in markets like the US. Companies have raised smaller sums of money than those in sectors such as AI, fintech and healthtech and are less well equipped to cope with the sudden demand from parents or schools.
Suzanne Ashman, partner, LocalGlobe, said: “It is not just schools, colleges and universities that have closed their doors during the coronavirus pandemic. Early years settings including childminders and nurseries have also shut. All of these children will sooner or later return to their classrooms, but remote learning will remain an important component of education for all age groups. This online learning can result in vulnerable children being excluded – due to limited access to devices or the internet – exacerbating existing inequality. We continue to look for ambitious founders building edtech solutions that work for all young people.”
UK edtech leans in
Faced with the challenge of schooling children at home, often while carrying on their own jobs, parents are using resources from large and small tech companies alike.
While the big-hitters like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, the BBC, Pearson are providing vital support, early stage UK tech companies are also providing innovative solutions. Rising Stars 1.0 winner Developing Experts has been offering out their edtech platform, focused on the science curriculum, for free to schools and now has over 1000 UK schools and 3000 schools in China signed up to the platform.
UK edtech Show My Homework from Satchel is providing a simple online system for distance learning that supports schools, students and parents, and Manchester based Wakelet provides a platform for educators to stay connected with their students and colleagues, and allows them to collaborate by sharing resources with one another while working remotely. Future Fifty 6.0 alumni Firefly Learning are giving free access to their platform to schools in need until the end of next term.
Lingumi are helping children aged 2-6 continue to learn English, MAMA.codes have coding lessons for kids aged 3-11, while Belfast-based Komodo Learning are providing effective, personalised mathematics learning support for kids aged 5-11.
Toby Mather, CEO of Lingumi said: “We’ve seen a huge surge in demand from parents around the UK who are worried about their pre-schoolers being school-ready in the autumn, without access to their nurseries or seeing friends regularly. At Lingumi we developed a huge, free resource site alongside our main speaking-focused app to support families in the UK and abroad during this crisis.”
Learning People are demystifying technology for those who want to boost their employability, and Fire Tech Camp is working to close the tech skills gap by inspiring and training kids to be confident technologists, creative thinkers and thoughtful leaders.
Edtech has huge potential around the world to democratise access to education, and UK companies are well-placed to provide services into the international market.
According to new figures from Dealroom.co, UK edtech companies attracted $289m in venture capital investment in 2019, up sharply on the $151m invested the previous year. Since 2014, edtech companies in the UK have raised a total of $857m in venture funding.
Global investment was already rising steadily at the start of this year, driven by a few mega rounds, notably Yuanfudao ($1B Series G), Byju’s ($200M Growth Equity), Unacademy ($110 Series E).
The Department for Education has committed over £100 million to provide devices and access to the internet for vulnerable and disadvantaged children and ensuring every school that needs it has access to free, expert technical support to get set up on Google for Education or Microsoft’s Office 365 Education. The DfE is also offering peer-to-peer support from schools and colleges leading the way with the use of education technology.
The government has also backed the Oak National Academy Initiative. Set up by teachers, the online academy delivers curriculum based video lessons and resources.