Skidmore announces funds for SEND edtech trials

In his speech at Bett in London today, the science and research minister has announced £300,000 for trials of edtech to help students with disabilities

Science and research minister Chris Skidmore will use a keynote speech at Bett today to pledge funding to trial edtech for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The investment of £300,000 from the Department for Education (DfE) gives the go-ahead for trials of pioneering technology at up to 100 schools and colleges in a bid to “level the playing field for disabled pupils”.

In his speech to global edtech leaders at London’s ExCeL centre, the minister will say: “Harnessing the power of modern technology can help us change lives and unlock the potential of every child.

“With technological advances happening at increasingly breakneck speed, it is only right that we ride the wave so pupils in our classrooms with special educational needs are given all the support they need.”

Read more: Bett Show 2020 highlights revealed

The hundred-thousand-pound investment in SEND edtech trials is part of the DfE’s wider £10m edtech strategy, which aims to “transform the use of technology in education to support innovation and raise the bar in schools, colleges and universities across England”.

The pilots – which are expected to include new ‘text-to-speech’ and ‘speech recognition’ software – will run from April until July 2021 and assess the impact assistive technology has on students with conditions like dyslexia.

The trials are also expected to include early testing of eye-gaze technology, an advancement which could prove transformative for pupils with severe motor impairments.

The government’s edtech strategy has identified 10 educational challenges – which include supporting SEND students, reducing teachers’ workloads and improving literacy skills for disadvantaged students – that it hopes digital teaching and learning solutions will alleviate.

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