After much deliberation, we are proud to announce the six finalists of our inaugural Cool Initiatives competition.
When we launched our competition back in January, we were looking for innovative and creative ideas that have potential to help schools function better or drive new ways of learning, allowing teachers to spend more time teaching.
We've been amazed and delighted by the standard of applicants. Our finalists range from a well-established timetabling software company to the kernel of a school trip-planning platform, a rapidly-expanding lesson-planning community to a job-matching site for teens, a language support service for asylum-seeking children, and a school app design company led by three entrepreneurial A-level students. While these businesses are diverse in their aims and focus, all our finalists are united by their passion, offering practical solutions to real problems in UK education.
Our shortlisted EdTech concepts are outlined below. Each company or entrepreneur will next present their projects in person to a panel of judges at our Grand Final at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln on 18 May 2018. One of our finalists will then win the £10,000 first prize, with £5,000 going to the runner-up, and £500 awarded to each of the other finalists.
Cool Initiatives Managing Director, John Sedgwick, says: “We’re very excited by the fantastic ideas put forward and look forward to working with the finalists to make a real difference to teachers and students”.
Tim Collins and his colleagues, Ben Harland and Tom Dee, are no ordinary A-level students. The young EdTech entrepreneurs have developed Studentnomic, an app that aims to simplify and rationalise school communications.
“It's about bringing everything together in one place,” Collins explains. “Other EdTech companies might have a stand-alone website or app. We integrate those into a school's own app, delivering the same functionality and service but contained in one system. That helps improve engagement and keeps everything streamlined. You don't end up with parents having one system for dinner money payments, another for parents' evening, another with a message about a non-uniform day – everything is centralised”.
Following 12 months in development, Studentnomic started trading in January 2018 – but the boys built their app expertise with a revision app they launched when they were in Year 11. “We developed that for our class and it worked well, so we rolled it out nationally. At its peak, it got 3,000 active users a week”.
They're now focused on Studentnomic – and feedback is good. “Many parents say their biggest problem with school is lack of communication and difficulty staying on top of all the different things they need to do. With our apps, they can see what's going on, so they are more likely to follow news feeds and look at the gallery. They can get as many push notifications and inbox messages as they want free of charge too, with important messages highlighted in red until you've read them, so you know they need your attention.”
It's easier for schools too. Collins and his team are on-hand to provide support where required, and overall “Parents' perception is that schools are communicating more actively with our apps, even though the school's actual effort and output is the same”. And ultimately, Collins smiles, the apps mitigate the need for letters in book-bags. “A letter for parents means paper planes! They never make it home”.