The Secretary of State for Education visits Emerge

Damian Hinds MP comes to Edspace to hear from our startups and talk edtech opportunities

What role should government play in the edtech market? That is a question likely to get some people fired up, whether on Twitter or in real life.

Whatever your stance on the issue, there’s no denying that in the years since the end of Becta, the edtech market in the UK saw significant growth, even if it did not appear to feature highly on the policy agenda.

2017 saw renewed government focus on edtech, with a dedicated policy team within DfE adopting a highly consultative approach and building relationships with the many organizations that have supported the development of edtech — including Emerge.

If the ministerial reshuffle at the start of the year had made some people nervous about whether this approach will continue under the new Secretary of State, Damian Hinds MP, so far the signs are positive. Early on in his tenure — following a speech at the Education World Forum and a visible DfE presence at Bett — the Secretary spent a Friday in February visiting schools and colleges in North London known for their exemplary use of technology, like New Wave Federation’s Woodberry Down Community Primary School, and attention to developing digital skills. To cap the day off, he stopped by Edspace, to hear Emerge Education CEO Jan Lynn-Matern and four of our founders talk about early-stage edtech and lead a roundtable on some of the challenges startups face.

The visit started with a brief chat to some of the Edspace residents.

Edspace co-founders Jan Lynn-Matern and Ed Fidoe with the Secretary of State

Emerge CEO Jan Lynn-Matern kicked off the proceedings by telling the story of Edspace and Emerge and talking about how our selection process is informed by joint research into challenges faced by educational institutions and evidence-backed approaches to these challenges. He was followed by some of our partners in edtech, Prof. Rose Luckin of the UCL Educate initiative and Caroline Wright, Director General of BESA.

The real meat of the event came next, with presentations from founders of Emerge companies, showcasing some of the innovative solutions in early years, primary, secondary, and higher education backed by Emerge.

EasyPeasy’s Jen Lexmond talked about the role of the home environment in reducing the school readiness gap. Pobble’s Jon Smith showcased the platform that gives primary schoolchildren the confidence to write and saves their teachers time to find the right materials. Eedi’s Ben Caulfield stumped the audience with the diagnostic questions that help maths teachers identify specific gaps in the students’ knowledge. Finally, Anders Krohn from Aula spoke about building new communication infrastructures for universities to increase student engagement and retention.

Jen, Jon, Ben, and Anders in action

After the presentations, the Secretary led a roundtable with the teams from each startup and Emerge, BESA, and UCL Educate, showing a keen awareness of the business challenges faced by early-stage edtech startups, from finding sustainable business models to breaking out into the export market. Thus concluded what we hope is just the first of his many interactions with the edtech community in London and the UK.

Prof. Rose Luckin (UCL Educate), Anders Krohn (Aula), Jon Smith (Pobble), Jen Lexmond (EasyPeasy), Jan Lynn-Matern (Emerge ), and Damian Hinds MP, Secretary of State for Education.
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