People’s Champion finalist 2018: Bedrock Learning

Could this edtech firm using 21st century tools to reduce the attainment gap that blights poorer pupils get your Peoples's Champion vote?

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Start-up name: Bedrock Learning
Founders: Aaron Leary and Olivia Sumpter
Started in: October 2014
Based in: Norwich
Business description: E-learning systems designed by former English teachers to improve students’ vocabulary

Shortlisted categories:

The Start Up Loans Company Inspiring Entrepreneur of the Year

The Bedrock Learning story:

Researchers in the US have found that, by the age of three, children from disadvantaged or ‘welfare’ backgrounds have heard on average 30 million fewer words than the children of professionals. The disparity is similar in the UK: by the age of five, a child from a low-income household will typically have a vocabulary that is one year behind their middle-class counterpart.

The so-called ‘word gap’ exists before children even start school, and it only widens over time; in fact it is both a symptom and a cause of the wider ‘attainment gap’ of UK schoolchildren. But the divide is now being bridged by two former English teachers, Aaron Leary and Olivier Sumpter, who are using e-learning to help lower-income children improve their vocabulary.

Aaron and Sumpter note that “vocabulary age four is a reliable predictor of academic attainment at 18 and as educators, we should be doing all we can to level the playing field for students.” Their levelling tool of choice is Bedrock Learning, an online e-learning system packed full of engaging activities that expose students to new vocabulary in many different ways. The digital curriculum devised by Leary weaves new words into stories and non-fiction texts in such a way that students learn them intuitively, at the same time boosting their overall reading skills.

The innovative platform also allows teachers greater insight into their students’ progress using tracking software that closely monitors students’ understanding at word level. Harnessing the power of modern technology, the application includes a sophisticated algorithm which ensures that learning is more personalised and therefore more effective for every student they teach. The platform is accompanied by audio narration – “we built a sound booth in our office!”, the founders reveal – so that students who might not be such confident readers can access the content orally.

With a fixed, low-cost pricing structure of £4.99 per pupil, per year for UK schools and £6.99 internationally, Bedrock Learning now supports 250 schools around the world. Since launching in 2014, it has seen average year-on-year growth of 340%, with a projected turnover of £530,000 this year. However, Leary and Sumpter judge their success not only in growth figures but in the depth of their social impact on the seventy-five thousand students they have reached, the ripples of which are truly incalculable.

Why Bedrock Learning made our shortlist:

Bedrock Learning’s ability to pinpoint an issue in society and apply pedagogical talent and experience, together with modern technology and the desire to foster relationships both in their local community and worldwide is nothing short of inspirational. With funding of just £186,000, the founders have built a business model that is not only sustainable but flourishing in a global market, as well as having an amazing social impact within and beyond the education sector.

Where to find out more about Bedrock Learning:


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