New start-up business teaching children to read

Sophie Cooper is a Key Stage 1 Primary school teacher and whilst working with her Year 1 students she realised just how crucial the ability to read to an appropriate level was for her students. At the end of Year 1, students take the first test of their school career, testing their ability to read 32 out of 40 words correctly. In 2014, one in four children failed to pass, resulting in these students falling further behind than the students who pass. Sophie knew that something needed to be done to address this, as the start of a child’s education is crucially important. As a result, she set out with the aim to create the best resource in the world for teaching students how to read - Read with Fonics.

Apps on smart phones and tablets are being used increasingly more in our everyday lives, but the education sector hasn’t quite caught up with the trend. Read with Fonics, the app created by Sophie Cooper under the company name Way We Learn, hopes to be at the forefront of this upgrade, looking to use the latest technology to make learning as efficient as possible. Designed for 3-6 year olds the app works by turning lessons into games to make learning to read fun. Each student has their own game, allowing them to learn at their own pace. It’s like having your own personal tutor with you anytime, anywhere. While the children play, Fonics is tracking their progress, allowing teachers to quickly highlight any gaps in a student’s knowledge. Teachers can then tailor upcoming lessons specifically to each individual student’s needs. The app has just launched and is already in the Top 30 free apps for kids in the App store, and it’s easy to see why.

For the product to be accessible everybody, the aim is to keep Read with Fonics free for home users. This isn’t an easy task but the group are determined to do it, which means them constantly looking into other ways in which the product can be monetised. The app now offers paid features designed for teaching professionals including pupil tracking features, quick assessments and lesson ideas. This approach will ensure faster growth, resulting in a much bigger profit further down the line for the investors involved in the project.

To kick-start the process of building the app, Sophie struck a deal with her team of developers who allowed her to have the first three months of development work paid for in the form of a loan from the developers themselves, which could be paid back through revenue.

“We are super lucky to have found developers who shared our vision and could see the business potential in creating the best resource in the world for teaching children to read.”

Sophie Cooper, Read with Fonics

The start-up loan that they received from Virgin StartUp has been put towards bringing their product to market. It allowed them to partner with another educational company, giving them direct access to 18,000 of the 22,000 primary schools in England, which will be their primary route to market. The hope is that the parent market stems down from the schools, but access to schools has been vital and there is hope for more of this as they are currently looking to partner with more educational organisations, with the hope that this will help them expand globally.

Alyson Eyval was Sophie’s Business West start-up advisor as part of the Start & Grow programme. Having Alyson guide Sophie through the various application processes has been a real help for taking Read with Fonics to the next level.

“Alyson has been a great help, especially putting up with us both as we work on this in the evenings and weekends! It’s taken much longer than most applications because of this, but we’re thankful she has stuck with us!”

Sophie Cooper, Read with Fonics

Sophie’s comments prove how invaluable Aylson’s support has been. With over 5,000 schools and parents registered or expressing an interest in Read with Fonics it is clear that the product has a very bright future.

Discover more about Read With Fonics

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