UK gov launches £300,000 SEN EdTech initiative

The pilot scheme will run throughout this academic year in the hope of identifying how technology can 'level the playing field' for students with disabilities and special educational needs

This April, nearly 100 UK schools will receive ‘ground-breaking technologies’ designed to support pupils with educational and learning disabilities.

That’s according to a statement from the UK government, which has earmarked £300,000 to fund the designing and developing a technology-backed educational trial.

Funding for this research is part of the Department for Education’s £10 million EdTech Strategy, which is aiming to implement innovative technologies across schools nationwide in order to optimise student learning and performance. 

The study’s primary objective is to identify the most efficient and practical technologies for everyday classroom use. Software is expected to take centre stage,  including ‘text-to-speech’ and ‘speech recognition’ programs, which may be particularly helpful to students suffering from dyslexia. According to the NHS, one in ten people in the UK are thought to be affected, to some degree, by dyslexia. 

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The technology could also “level the playing field” for students with more complicated, limiting disabilities, the government said, particularly students afflicted with severe motor impairments. Eye-gazing technologies, which track eye movement across a monitor, allowing individuals to communicate without physically producing speech, are set to be rolled out in the pilot trial.

The CEO of the British Dyslexia Association, Helen Boden, welcomed the news of the initiative, but tole IT Pro technology “is not a replacement for the early diagnosis of dyslexia and specialist support”, adding that “government cuts to education funding mean that availability of these vital services is poorer than at any time in recent memory”.

The trial will run for the duration of the 2020-21 school year. 

In a speech at BETT announcing the initiative, Minister of Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Chris Skidmore, told delegates: “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.”

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