Poor Families in the UK to Benefit from Free Early Learning Apps

Low-income families in the United Kingdom are expected to benefit from technological advancement, particularly from free early languages and literacy apps. On February 20, the Education Secretary Damian Hinds announced that families from disadvantaged backgrounds will be given free access to children’s educational apps for smartphones and tablets. The apps are normally paid for by subscribers but the Education Secretary hopes that struggling parents utilize the screen time constructively, to give their children a headstart in education.

Children from disadvantaged families are four months behind in their overall development age on average and it continuously grows by an additional six months by age 11. By the time they take their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSEs), taken by students aged 15-16 after two years of study, these children are 19 months behind their peers in overall attainment.

Hundreds of educational apps are available on the app markets that parents can select from to support their children’s early education. The Department of Education will then buy subscriptions to high-quality apps that promote early language and literacy development. Children aged two to four, and even in up to 12 pilot areas across the country will benefit from the policy.

The Education Secretary also confirmed that around 6,000 families in the North of England will participate in four new programs that assist families by giving them practical tools and advice. Programs like parenting group sessions, educational toys, books or text message tips will be sent directly to their mobile phones. Around 375 schools and nurseries will also be partnered with for the projects, run by charity organizations like Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and SHINE.


Utilizing Education Technology

The programs are part of the government drive to reduce illiteracy among young students starting school by half. According to Department of Education statistics, more than 28% of children, aged 4 to 5, lack early communication and literacy skills expected from them. The new partnership of businesses, charities, tech companies, and media groups seeks to solve this problem using Educational Technology, exposing young learners to apps that promote the said skills.

Trials will be made for the said program which will include:

  1. Making-it-REAL: Around 960 families in 120 schools in Greater Manchester and Yorkshire will train early years professionals to visit families at home and getting parents to directly participate in their children’s education- getting involved in drawing, singing songs, and counting with their children, and using every day activities for learning.

  2. Group Triple P (Positive Parenting Program): Experts will demonstrate to parents how to improve their children’s language, and social and emotional development through activities like role-playing, homework exercises, and showing them video clips of positive parenting techniques. Around 1,800 families are expected to benefit from this program in the northwest area, across 150 schools and nurseries.

  3. Parent Child Home Program: Experts will facilitate reading activities, as well as conversation and play activities, providing books and educational toys to enhance the learning environment at home. Around 320 schools with children aged 2 are expected to benefit from this program.

  4. Tips by Text: Disadvantaged families with children aged four to five are sent three texts each week to facilitate activities that promote literacy, numeracy, and socio-emotional skills. Over 2,700 families from 105 schools in the north east area will participate in this eight months study by the Behavioral Insights Team.

The Education Secretary hopes that technology will facilitate the bridging of the learning gap between disadvantaged children and their peers. “While there are legitimate worries about screen time, media and modern technology can also help to raise awareness and build parents’ confidence around what they can do to help their child’s early language development,” Education Secretary Damian Hinds said.

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