Online learning for school pupils has taken off in Lockdown – and a North Wales business is aiming to become a leader in the rapidly growing field following a £700,000 investment.
Development Bank of Wales and Tata Steel subsidiary UKSE have invested £490,000 and £210,000 respectively in Wrexham-based GLUU, which is aiming to create up to 20 jobs in the next three years. The investments are part equity and part loan.
The trend towards online education in the schools sector is both irreversible and desirable, according to GLUU Managing Director Sean Gardner. “Online learning was already important in schools before Covid and has been accelerated by the pandemic,” he said.
“Before Lockdown schools needed more persuasion to use digital learning combined with face-to-face teaching. Children, however, have always been keen to study and learn online and this change has, to some extent, been exacerbated in the education world.”
There is much excellent work being done in adapting teaching to the new techniques, and the challenge is to find this best practice, develop it and ‘scale it up,’ he says. With this in mind, GLUU has teamed up with major software and publishing brands to develop new online teaching programmes.
“Our approach is to form partnerships with big brands such as Hodder Education, Smart Technologies, Britannica Digital Learning and Shireland. These then provide the platform to scale-up our offering both in the UK and internationally,” said Mr Gardner.
Another important change over Lockdown is that parents are now far more involved in their children’s education as they become more used to using online teaching tools at home.
GLUU has secured a major contract with leading educational publisher Hodder Education to digitally re-construct the entire National Curriculum for Key Stages 1-4. Post-Covid, parents and families need to take more responsibility in supporting activities to recover lost learning, and also the topics covered need to incorporate wellbeing and mental health resources to help young people self-regulate and improve their resilience, according to Mr Gardner.
As education has adapted to the unprecedented problems of Lockdown, there have been challenges, he feels. “It has been very stressful for teachers, pupils and parents, and the disadvantaged have suffered most in this situation. We are doing what we can to address this imbalance and our teaching methods place an equal focus on attainment and mental wellbeing to support the whole child.”
In the next three years GLUU is planning to take on some 15-20 staff, who will be Wrexham-based. The aim will be, where possible, to retrain people from industries that have declined in the area and re-employ them in a fresh career.
The deal was structured on behalf of the Development Bank by Investment Executive Chris Hayward. He said: “GLUU is not only supporting children’s educational needs, but their mental and emotional well-being. It’s clear to see why they’re on such a positive growth trajectory with a strong product and management team. We are seeing more businesses choose a mixture of debt and equity to help their expansion plans and we’re delighted to partner with UKSE and support GLUU with our equity investment. We look forward to working with them and our coinvestors, over the coming years.”
The Development Bank can structure debt, equity as well as a mixture of debt and equity finance packages for Welsh businesses. This includes working alongside coinvestors providing debt, equity, or grants.
UKSE provides loan and equity investment for companies with growth potential in Wales, and around the UK, to support job creation and economic development. Martin Palmer, UKSE Investment Executive, said: ”We are delighted to support GLUU with this investment, working in conjunction with Development Bank. The firm is an innovator in a sector which is certain to grow in importance.
“It is encouraging to see that new jobs will be created and that the business plans to take on people from the local area and retrain them in new skills. We wish them every success.”