DfE approve ‘Early years apps’ to help kick start learning at home

Aug 6, 2020

London, 21st February 2020:

Today, the DfE have approved six ‘Early years apps’ to help parents and carers kick start learning at home.  The launch follows a competition to find the best quality educational apps for young children, where a panel of experts has approved six expert-approved smartphone and tablet apps to help parents support their children with reading, writing and speaking.

One of the apps approved, Kaligo, is a handwriting app which combines years of neuroscientific research with the latest AI technology.  Children use a stylus and tablet to trace letters through colourful and intuitive screens, which most children are already familiar with.  This makes the task of handwriting more exciting, Kaligo then stores the data so parents can easily monitor their child’s progress. 

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“The first few years of a child’s life are crucial in equipping them with the skills needed for the classroom, and we are working with families to make it easier to weave early learning into daily activities.

“We know that the majority of families are using technology in fun and visual ways to support their child’s early education, but it can be difficult for busy parents to work out what content is best.

“This list of expert-approved apps helps them make confident decisions that benefit their child’s language and literacy skills.”

This new development is set to revolutionise how younger children learn the fundamentals of handwriting and they receive immediate feedback and correction so handwriting improves quickly.

Talking about the apps, the Department for Education’s Independent Expert Panel said that Kaligo is “A really good app to support a child’s handwriting development!”

The six successful apps have received a quality mark from a panel of educational experts appointed by the Department for Education. The approved apps all meet agreed criteria, including elements of play, interaction and ranging levels of difficulty. The list of accredited apps builds on the Hungry Little Minds campaign, by helping parents across England choose from among the hundreds of apps already available on the market.

Faisal Hamid, Director at Kaligo explains: “The research from the DfE today shows that over half of parents surveyed (52%) played pretend games together or took turns in fun activities with their child every day.  It’s wonderful for the Kaligo team that our app has been recognised by the DfE.  Many users are already witnessing the great improvement in handwriting, as well as the joy and fun Kaligo brings to the children.  We look forward to seeing the benefits Kaligo can bring to children across the UK.”

The expert panel*, chaired by Professor Jackie Marsh of the University of Sheffield, brought together a range of professionals within the early education sector, including children’s digital media consultants, early learning charities and researchers at universities, drawing upon their expertise to select the most engaging and educational apps for children.

The Hungry Little Minds scheme by the DfE is part of the important work by the government to tackle the barriers some parents face in supporting their child’s learning at home, including time, confidence and ideas of things to do.

For more information on Kaligo visit www.kaligo-apps.com


Background Information for editors:

  • Families encouraged to support children’s literacy and language skills from the home
  • New data reveals three-quarters of children aged five and under have used apps to learn
  • Builds on Hungry Little Minds campaign, encouraging families to support children’s literacy and language skills from the home

Other contributor quotes for use:

Chair of the expert panel Professor Jackie Marsh, Professor of Education at University of Sheffield, said:

“The panel is delighted with the approved apps, as they all offer valuable opportunities to support children’s early literacy development. Apps that are of most educational value to children contain a number of features, such as a design which makes the app easy to use and also offers guidance and support for parents, enabling the content to be adjusted for individual children. Apps should also be engaging and fun to use, with clear learning goals and the use of feedback that can be reassuring and motivating for children. All of the approved apps contain these features, and we are confident that they can have a positive impact on children’s early literacy learning.”

Jonathan Douglas, Director at the National Literacy Trust, said:

“Early language skills are the foundation of all literacy and learning and parents have a uniquely powerful role in developing these skills in their children through talking and reading together. Technology is now such a powerful component of the home that it’s important to recognise the powerful resource it can be in enriching these interactions. We believe that the apps which we have chosen will help parents feed their children’s hungry little minds with great stories, exciting and fun experience of language and offer the support for the early reading experiences which provide the foundation for a lifetime of learning.”

The DfE’s expert* panel included:

  • Professor Jackie Marsh – Professor of Education, University of Sheffield (Chair)
  • Olivia Dickinson – Digital Consultant at Digital Olive Ltd – Sky Kids, Turner, Discovery Education, Nickelodeon (Deputy-Chair)
  • Peter Robinson – Chief Operating Officer, KidsKnowBest
  • Antonio Gould – Executive Director, Teach Monster Games Ltd (The Usborne Foundation)
  • Dr Rosie Flewitt – Reader in Early Communication and Literacy, UCL Institute of Education
  • Sandra Mathers – Senior Researcher, University of Oxford Department of Education
  • Jonathan Douglas – Director, National Literacy Trust
  • Jane Lewis – Head of UK Programme Development and Quality, Save The Children UK

The 6 apps published on the Hungry Little Minds website include:

  • Kaligo (For children aged 3 -5): The first digital handwriting exercise book using a stylus and tablet, built using AI and co-created with teachers, occupational therapists and neuroscientists.
  • Lingumi (For children aged 2 -5): Sets of learning games, speech recognition games and video-based games to help with a child’s grammar and getting them speaking their first words early on.
  • Phonics Hero (For school-aged children): Over 900 fun, varied and motivating games to take a child step by step through the critical 44 phonetic sounds of the English language.
  • Teach Your Monster to Read (For school-aged children): Covers the first two years of learning to read, from matching letters and sounds to enjoying little books, designed in collaboration with leading academics.
  • Navigo Game (For school – aged children): Focuses on developing skills that underpin reading, including phonics, letters and sounds, designed by UCL Institute of Education. 
  • Fonetti (For school-aged children): The world’s first ‘Listening Bookshop’ interacting with children by giving visual cues in real-time as they read aloud and highlighting where the most support is needed.

As new data reveals three quarters of children aged five and under have used smartphone or tablet apps to learn at least once in the last six months to learn, the six apps – published on the Hungry Little Minds website – are part of the government’s drive to help parents make informed decisions about the use of technology in creating a positive learning environment at home before children reach the classroom. 

The Hungry Little Minds campaign gives parents access to video tips, advice and suggested games to help with early learning for their children from age 0 to five. This also includes work with businesses and organisations offering a range of initiatives to drive vital early skills, part of a national, society-wide effort.

The campaign is one part of the government’s work to give every child the best start in life, adding to a record investment in childcare and early years education – reaching £3.6 billion in 2020-21 – and giving parents the flexibility they need to be able to balance their work and family lives.

Press contact for more information contact Claire on 07870 808 166.

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