Government launches competition for early years edtech app

The winning apps will be offered licence-free to families in deprived areas of England to encourage early years literacy

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched a competition to design an early years edtech app.

The scheme aims to find the best apps that can support pre-school children to develop language, literacy and communication skills.

The winning designs will be offered licence-free to families in 12 deprived areas of England as part of a DfE pilot scheme.

We want to help parents make confident, informed choices about the resources they use.
– Kemi Badenoch, education minister

The DfE says it wants to encourage parents “think about how to use screen time constructively and provide meaningful learning activities for their young children”.

Tech companies will need to develop apps that meet an educational standard, include elements of play and stimulate interpersonal interaction. Designers will also need to create different difficulty levels into the apps to stimulate progression.

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Kemi Badenoch, minister for children and families, said: “Digital technology means there is a wealth of fun activities at parents’ fingertips, but the content of these is important too.

“That’s why we want to help parents make confident, informed choices about the resources they use, so they can help inspire a love of learning in their children.”

The pilot will target the one-in-four children that leave reception year without “key communication skills”, the DfE says.

In a report published in July 2019, the Education Policy Institute estimated that disadvantaged students’ development is four-and-a-half months behind their non-disadvantaged peers at the end of reception year.

The areas selected for the pilot were chosen based on the proportion of children achieving below the national level for literacy, and include Brent, Enfield, Halton, Leicester, Luton, Middlesbrough, Oldham, Peterborough, Plymouth, Sandwell, Stoke-On-Trent and Tower Hamlets.