DfE to pilot free learning apps for under-fives in deprived areas

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The Department for Education has launched a competition today to find the best educational apps for pre-school children as part of a drive to encourage disadvantaged parents to ‘kick-start’ children’s early language and literacy at home.

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The move follows plans to provide free apps to disadvantaged families in 12 pilot areas.

It reaffirms an ambition set last year by the Government to halve the proportion of children leaving Reception without the early literacy, language and communications skills they need by 2028.

The DfE said that families in 12 pilot areas will get free access to a choice of two of ‘the highest-quality apps’ focused on early language, literacy and communication.
These are designed to help parents think about how to use screen time constructively and provide meaningful learning activities for their children in the years before they start Reception.

Parents across England will be able to make informed choices about the apps they choose from among the hundreds already available on the market.

Tech companies putting forward apps to be considered must meet agreed educational criteria, including elements of play, interaction and ranging difficulty levels, in order to be approved.

Areas to take part in the pilot were chosen based on factors including the proportion of children achieving below the expected level of development in communication, language and literacy at the age of five, as well as a focus on some of the most deprived communities.

Announcing the plan, newly-appointed children and families minister Kemi Badenoch said, ‘A great education is the key to unlocking every child’s potential and ensuring no-one is left behind. We want to work together with families to give all children the best possible start and support parents to begin the learning process at home.

‘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.’

Last month, the DfE launched a three-year behaviour change campaign called Hungry Little Minds, giving parents access to video tips, advice and suggested games to help with early learning and helping to tackle the barriers some parents face in supporting their child’s learning at home, such as time, confidence and ideas of things to do.

It follows a partnership with the National Literacy Trust to bring together a coalition of businesses and organisations supporting parents to play a bigger role in their child’s early education.

According to the Government, on average, disadvantaged children are four months behind in their overall development at the age of five.

This grows by an extra six months by the age of 11 and by the time they take their GCSEs they are, on average, 19 months behind their peers in overall attainment.

Families in the following areas will be able to take part in the pilot of the apps for free from next year:

  • Middlesbrough
  • Oldham
  • Halton
  • Stoke-On-Trent
  • Sandwell
  • Leicester
  • Enfield
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Brent
  • Peterborough
  • Luton
  • Plymouth
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