Interview with Bloomberg Westminster

On Wednesday March 9th, Jeremy Waters CEO and founder of Elastik was interviewed by Yuan Potts and Caroline Hepker at Bloomberg Westminster about how Elastik can support the levelling up agenda by providing the tools that enable teachers to identify and bridge the gaps in childrens’ learning.

You can listen to the podcast here (it starts at 14:29) or read on for the transcript of the interview:

Bloomberg Westminster interview with Elastik founder and CEO Jeremy Waters:

Caroline: Now, let’s talk about education here in the UK and actually a hangover from the pandemic. Between March 2020 and April 2021, children across the UK missed an average of half a year of normal, in person schooling – with Ofsted warning of significant delays in education development. As a result – the government has been putting more than a billion pounds into England’s flagship Covid Catch-Up initiative. The so-called National Tutoring Programme.  But some of the feedback now on that scheme has been highly critical. It’s been called ‘costly’, “disastrous’ and ‘failing’.

Yuan: Well, the man who drove the idea of a National Tutoring Service Lee Elliot Major from the University of Exeter told the Independent recently that the programme is failing. Robert Halfon from the Conservative chair of the Commons Education Select Committee said the Government should seriously consider breaking its contract with Randstad – the Dutch company which is hired to deliver the project. Head teachers now also have permission and cash to directly hire their own tutors.

Caroline: So can other technology help to make up for that learning loss?  An analytics and assessment platform called Elastik which has been used in Australia is launching in more than 100 schools here in the UK. It’s designed to pinpoint individual but also classwide learning needs and therefore to cut down on teacher admin.  Well, joining us now is Elastik CEO Jeremy Waters. Jeremy – welcome to the programme. Thanks for being with us,  First of all, what evidence is there that your computer system worked for teachers in Australia and that it will help here in Britain?

Jeremy: Caroline, we work with over 500 schools in Australia. As a former teacher myself, I’ve been instrumental in making sure the system was designed and built by teachers for teachers. So we’re a very hands on organisation, and work closely with our client’s schools to ensure that we’re identifying gaps in student learning and supporting teachers in filling those gaps. The one thing that Elastik does really well is support teachers and understanding the needs of individual students and groups of students. And we’ve learned across the journey that the number one impediment to student progression is unidentified gaps in the learning journey.

Yuan: Now there are all sorts of tech solutions already used in schools aren’t there – all sorts of programmes. What’s different about your one?

Jeremy: Yeah, as I mentioned Yuan that our system is designed by teachers and built for teachers. So what’s different is its simplicity. So teachers are able to uncover gaps in students learning in one click, one touch: it saves them time. And also we offer expert learning content to support the teachers in filling the gaps. We’re a very hands-on organisation and we ensure we do a lot of on site work with teachers as well to support students.

Caroline: Now, the reason that the National Tutoring Programme came about was that teachers alone couldn’t deliver the catch up hours really needed. Does this system remove the need for extra tutoring hours?

Jeremy: We believe so Caroline. Every student has the right to progress. And the system quickly identifies gaps in student’s learning and what we need to do to rectify them. When a teacher is staring in front of a class, and the 30 students are teaching her different remote learning situations and experiences, it’s difficult for a teacher to pinpoint and focus on areas of need. The system quickly identifies where the teacher needs to focus, and helps them to address those areas with wonderful support.

Yuan: And how does it work with the national curriculum? How does it tie in with what kids are supposed to be learning?

Jeremy: We work on the premise “big bubble, big trouble”. And if a teacher sees a bubble, a large bubble is linked back to a code in the UK national curriculum. That code is listed. And the skill within that quote code is listed as well with the names of the students that are struggling in that particular area. So everything we do is through the lens of the national curriculum, to ensure the gap is relevant to code in the curriculum to support the teacher. 

Caroline: Okay, so I mean, I’m a parent of young children in primary school education here in the UK, in the state system. So I’ve got some kind of firsthand knowledge. What would you be doing with kids then in the classroom to identify that kind of learning loss? Is it a computer based system that then feeds into the teacher? Is it a kind of an assessment online that then feeds into perhaps if you know they’re lacking in number bond knowledge or timetables, whatever it might be?

Jeremy: Yes, it is a computer based system that’s delivered in an online portal. So the portal allows students to log in simply and quickly, in an enjoyable process that actually puts a smile on their faces. Because I work with many schools on site, particularly in the United Kingdom. They do a simple assessment or pre-test, that allows us to understand the gaps that they have. And then the teacher quickly identifies those gaps that are classroom, cohort or individual level, and helps them plan their lessons from there. The students are then re-tested or what we call a gap review, to check on their level of understanding. And when they have fulfilled certain areas of requirement, they are able to move on to the next level.

Yuan: It sounds relatively straightforward. This sort of stuff doesn’t exist already?

Jeremy: Not like Elastik. So Elastik is unique in its ability to link back to the UK national curriculum, but it also uses clever algorithms to support the teacher in marking the students work. And to come up with the exact content required to help the personalised learning journey of the student. The issue that we’re uncovering is that if student’s gaps aren’t identified now, the challenge they face when they’re going through their primary school journey – particularly in year 4 – is it becomes difficult to learn new content. When they go from Key Stage Two to Key Stage Three and begin their secondary journey, if students have gaps from a primary level it’s difficult for them to learn new content. That impacts on how they enjoy school, and also impacts on the choices they make in terms of career progression. So we want students to stay at school, to enjoy school and feel successful and having a foundation for new learning is critical.

Caroline: Just lastly, Jeremy – where’s the money coming from this? Is this part of that billion pounds I talked about, or is it separate?

Jeremy: That could form part of the funding, Caroline. In terms of the work we do with schools, we’re very reasonably priced. Being a former teacher myself, it’s certain that I’m certain that product is affordable. But it can come from funding sources as well. That’s correct.

Do get in touch to see how Elastik can help your school.  You can book a demo here.