Opportunity EduFinance readies for launch in “miracle” Nicaragua

LONDON, 30 June 2017 – Adding one more country to its twelve-country portfolio, Opportunity EduFinance (OEF) is set to launch in Nicaragua, where teachers and school directors are performing “miracles” daily.

Operating in the Latin American country since March 2017, OEF has been collaborating with two microfinancial institutions (MFIs) – FDL and

Fundenuse – to launch products such as School Fee Loans and School Improvement Loans for schools and parents.

The loans will enable Nicaragua’s schools to build better infrastructure, expand teaching capacity, and upgrade education quality too. Parents will use the loans to smooth their income levels and pay for affordable schooling.

“I’m excited to see this country project move forward, consolidating our presence now on three continents,” said Nathan Byrd, who manages the OEF project.

“As in Africa and Asia, we expect to demonstrate how microloans offer an innovative and invaluable means of channelling funds to education and increasing access to education around the world,” he said.

Economic stability in Nicaragua has allowed the government to focus more on the long-term reduction of poverty, dropping it from 42.5 percent in 2009 to 29.6 percent in 2014.

But poverty remains high. With a population of 6.1 million people, Nicaragua remains one of the region’s least developed countries, where access to basic services can be a daily challenge.

“Nicaragua’s schools are working hard to keep pace with the ever-tightening education standards, at the same time they must also operate as businesses in a very competitive environment,” said Juan Vega, OEF’s Senior Advisor for Latin America.

“On a daily basis, they are performing miracles,” he said.

Besides working with the two MFIs to finalise details of the financial products to be offered, OEF will also offer to train school directors in financial management skills and education quality.

Final details of the loans include compliance with Nicaragua’s regulatory requirements, before they go on offer at the end of 2017.

The non-profit is also preparing for launch in Mexico.

Spirulina set to become an affordable superfood

The superfood Spirulina – a green microalgae rich in protein, iron, vitamins and antioxidants – is set to become more affordable thanks to a start-up team from Université Paris-Saclay.

The start-up, Spiris, is working to increase the productivity of this functional food.

Classified as one of the most complete foods on earth by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, spirulina has been proven to fight malnutrition and prevent cardiovascular disease. It’s often added to smoothies as a nutritional boost, but it’s an expensive supplement.

Technology developed by the team reduces production costs by decreasing water consumption, and land space needed, to produce a quality microalgae.

“Today, spirulina is mainly produced in the US or China,” says Bernard Sacy, co-founder of Spiris. “European production is either on a small scale or highly technological. Combined with imports, this maintains a high price. With our innovative technology, we can provide affordable microalgae – not just a product for the elite.”

Spiris was founded by Bernard and Vincent Nicolas, a biotech engineer from AgroParisTech, a member of Université Paris-Saclay.

Having built successful prototypes, they are now working with the university and raising funds to build a large scale demonstration to achieve commercial proof of concept.


Starting Blocks, the official education programme of the World Para Athletics Championships and IAAF World Championships London 2017 and supported by NASUWT, has passed a significant milestone with more than 1,000 schools now signed up.


The digital hub provides schools with a free, online resource platform suitable for pupils from five to 14 years. Schools not yet using the resource, which is aimed at inspiring and engaging young people in the classroom to get involved with the biggest sporting event in the world in 2017, can still do so via: www.schools.london2017athletics.com


The resources are specially designed to open young people’s eyes to new opportunities and experiences through classroom activities and whole-school ideas connecting pupils to the Summer of World Athletics.


In support and part of the build up to the summer, a number of the UK’s top Para athletes have visited participating schools including double Paralympic T44 100m champion Jonnie Peacock and fellow Rio Paralympic champions Kadeena Cox and Libby Clegg, the latter with guide Chris Clarke.


Other athlete visits included Stef Reid, Sam Ruddock, Stephen Miller, Andrew Small, Kylie Grimes, Polly Maton, Gemma Prescott, Laura Sugar and Ben Rowlings. In addition, of course, to the official mascot of the World Para Athletics Championships London 2017 Whizbee the Bee.


In addition, NASUWT – the largest union representing teachers and headteachers throughout the UK is supporting the Starting Blocks programme, which will help further advance the goals of increasing access to sport for children.


Niels de Vos, Championship Director for the World Para Athletics Championships and IAAF World Championships London 2017, said: “We want the magic of London 2017 to act as an inspiration for young people and I am delighted that so many schools have signed up and pupils are using and enjoying Starting Blocks. The resources are a great way for young people to learn and feel motivated to enjoy the Championships even more.”


On top of 1,000 schools being signed up for Starting Blocks, more than 100,000 schoolchildren are expected to attend the World Para Athletics Championships London 2017 taking place at the London Stadium from 14 to 23 July.


Six-time Paralympic gold medalist, David Weir CBE said: “It’s a massive chance to go to a fantastic stadium like the London Stadium to see some fantastic Para athletes. It’s going to be a great day for them. I would have thought I was dreaming if someone had offered tickets at school to go to an amazing stadium to see world-class athletes. I’d have jumped at the chance. It might inspire them to get into sports so it’s a great, great start for youngsters to go and see something special.


“I think the big stadium and the loudness of the crowd helps to inspire. Once you experience that you think you want more. You think ‘I want to be the new David Weir or Richard Whitehead. Or I want to be Usain Bolt.’ It just inspires you more when you see it live. You can feel the atmosphere and realness of it all and the fire that burns in the stadium and on the track.”


Starting Blocks was developed in partnership with leading educational consultancy EdComs, who are responsible for Get Set, the British Olympic Association and British Paralympic Association’s youth engagement programme, with support from leading teachers’ union, NASUWT.



-66% would like to see software used to speed up marking process-

-50% welcome online learner quizzes-

More than half (54%) of educators in further education (FE) colleges list having to work out of office hours among their biggest challenges in their current role according to a new report.

Resource issues such as heavy workloads also featured among the most concerning aspects of their current role for 62% of FE professionals, according to findings published in the Unlocking the Potential of Digital Learning by YMCA Awards.

However, educators are clearly enthusiastic about the potential of digital tools, with 70% welcoming benefits that they bring to help them meet these types of problems.

Two thirds (66%) are keen to see software used to increase efficiency and ease the burden of marking, while more than half (58%) would like greater support in course delivery, helping transform FE classrooms.

Half (50%) of FE teachers would also like to see digital learning tools such as online educational quizzes used to help enhance the learning experience for students.

Commenting on the findings, Adam Williams, YMCA Awards’ Head of Products and Services, said: “Easing challenges for FE professionals and reducing time spent on admin allows great support and face-to-face time with learners. Implementing digital tools doesn’t mean dumbing down education or its delivery. Digital tools allow education providers to keep standards high while freeing up large amounts of time that can be spent supporting and engaging directly with learners”.

44% of institutions admitted having access to digital tools, but using them infrequently. While 12% reported not using digital tools at all.

Williams continued: “Tools must be well designed and intuitive, so teachers and tutors can get to grips with them quickly and efficiently. YMCA Awards has launched a package of teaching tools designed to meet the needs expressed by FE college staff to support their daily routines. Y-Mark is our online auto-marking digital workbook software, which makes assessment more efficient, and therefore frees up valuable staff time to better support learners.”

The Unlocking the Potential of Digital Learning Report from international awarding organisation YMCA Awards is based on a survey carried out with staff in 26 FE colleges in May 2017 and accompanies the launch of a range of digital learning tools designed to address the needs expressed by FE colleges.

Other free tools included in the YMCA Awards package include an online assessment platform for online booking and sitting external examinations, as well as mock assessments to help prepare learners for their exams.

More details on transforming teaching delivery in FE colleges can be obtained by visiting the website, www.ymcaawards.co.uk/promo/transform-your-delivery

Science clubs celebrated at Buckingham Palace

The British Science Association, with support from new Royal Patron, launches Great British Science Club to honour 30th anniversary of flagship education programme

The British Science Association (BSA) has launched the Great British Science Club at Buckingham Palace one week ahead of the main celebrations on 5 July 2017.

Great British Science Club is a nationwide celebratory event to mark the 30th anniversary of the British Science Association’s hugely successful education programme, CREST Awards. Celebratory events will take place across the country over the next few days, culminating in hundreds of schools participating on 5 July 2017.

Yesterday (Tuesday 27 June), students from three local schools were invited to the special, science-themed launch party at the Palace. They met the BSA’s new Royal Patron, HRH The Duke of York, and took part in hands-on science activities, including live demonstrations from TV science presenter and Great British Science Club Ambassador, Fran Scott.

There are events planned in over 300 schools across the country on 5 July, involving up to 25,000 young people. There will be a flagship event at Thorpe Park which will include a science fair, self-led science activities in the Park and a free, live show where Fran Scott will again be performing science demonstrations and speaking to young people about her passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

On the evening of the 5 July, the British Science Association’s Chair, Rt Hon the Lord David Willetts, will be hosting a reception for education stakeholders, policy makers and CREST Award partners at the House of Lords. They will celebrate the achievements of the 400,000 students and thousands of educators who’ve been involved in CREST Awards over the last 30 years.

Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the British Science Association, said: “CREST Awards have inspired tens of thousands of young people to enjoy science, and to go on to further study and work in science-based fields. The Great British Science Club is a fantastic way to celebrate this incredible programme and honour the hard work of all those who have been a part of it. I’d like to thank Buckingham Palace and Lord David Willetts for their continuing support, and all the teachers, technicians, parents, youth leaders and young people who have been involved over the years.”

Speaking at the event at Buckingham Palace, HRH The Duke of York said: “Young children are constantly learning about the world around them through experimenting and trial and error. We sometimes fail to recognise this for what it is – using the scientific method. Life is about doing experiments, finding out how things work, and being curious about the world, so I am delighted to see young people being encouraged to cultivate their curiosity in science by the British Science Association.”

Fran Scott, BBC Science Presenter, said: “I love science, and try to pass on this love through my television and stage demonstrations, therefore being part of the Great British Science Club to commemorate the 30th anniversary of CREST is a huge honour. By celebrating science in this way we can highlight just how great and important it is, and I hope generations to come are inspired to get involved.”

Each year, around 30,000 CREST Awards are undertaken by 11-to-19-year-olds; they play an important role in promoting STEM enrichment activities and open-ended project work in schools and science clubs. Through CREST, young people explore the true nature of STEM through well-regarded, high quality and tangible project work.

Schools wishing to participate in the Great British Science Club on 5 July can sign up at www.greatbritishscienceclub.org.

Case study: Kellogg’s: Our Teens are hungry in the classroom

Mother-of-three Angel-Clare Grant, 35, struggles to get 13-year-old daughter Leah up for breakfast in the mornings and is frustrated by the lack of access to a healthy breakfast in school.

Angel lives with husband Alastair Grant, 37, and her children Leah, Emily, eight and Oliver, 18 months. The family live in Weybridge, Surrey.

Angel, who runs a play group, described how breakfast was a lost priority for daughter Leah.

She said: “One of my biggest issues in the mornings is getting our daughter Leah to eat breakfast. Throughout primary school this wasn’t a problem she would have it before school or at breakfast clubs. But with the earlier start for secondary school I struggle to get her to prioritise breakfast in the mornings.

“In primary school, breakfast club can be used as childcare for working parents. As they go to secondary they are getting themselves to school, by bus or walking, so the routine of breakfast slips.

“I will often hand her a cereal bar as she’s rushing out the door. But then she’ll be too embarrassed to eat something walking to school in front of her friends. I then worry she will fill up on the wrong foods.

“The education system needs to do more to work with parents to reinforce the importance of breakfast for teens. Children make a huge life changing step up to ‘big school’ when they start at secondary level, and they are expected to adopt the attitude of an older student.

“Between 11 and 14 they can’t be expected to have the same maturity as the older kids and therefore key messages- such as the importance of breakfast needs to be reiterated. It needs to be cooler among their peers as I’m sure many parents feel they are fighting a losing battle at home.

“I do my best, I am aware of what Leah is and isn’t eating and as she grows up I want her to make choices for herself but she needs some of those options to come from the school environment.

Speaking about the Kellogg’s findings she said: “To think Leah could be losing nearly an hours’ worth of learning every time she misses breakfast is frightening. The research is really interesting, while it highlights those kids in need, it also highlights a very real problem in that our teens aren’t learning how important breakfast is to allow them to grow, develop and learn. What they learn at secondary school level can be life shaping, we need to make sure our kids have the fuel to succeed and thrive.


Rise in young people using smartphones leads to ‘safe WiFi’ symbol awareness campaign

SOARING smartphone use in children and a huge hike in public WiFi hotspots has led to a campaign calling on businesses to let customers know their internet is filtered for inappropriate content.

The ‘It’s Good to Know’ campaign has been launched by Friendly WiFi, the UK Government-initiated certification scheme – the only one of its kind in the world. It supports the Government’s ambition for the UK to become the world’s safest place to go online.

Friendly WiFi was initiated in July 2014 to ensure public WiFi meets minimum filtering standards, particularly in those areas where children are present.

In 2014, there were around 5.6m public WiFi hotspots in Britain and this is estimated to triple by 2018. Last year, figures showed that nearly half the population regularly use public WiFi hotspots.

Currently, it is estimated that more than half of the world’s WiFi remains unfiltered for adult content.

Venues displaying the Friendly WiFi symbol have WiFi filters which deny access to pornography and webpages known by the Internet Watch Foundation to host indecent images of children and advertisements or links to such content.

The service has already been adopted by high street giants Tesco, Starbucks and IKEA as well as hundreds of venues across the country.

Now children’s campaigners and online safety organisations are calling specifically on UK businesses who have children and families regularly using their public WiFi to show they are ‘friendly’.

Friendly WiFi director Bev Smith said: “Just looking at the three years we have been in service is to witness a huge rise in young people owning and using smartphones.

“More than 40% of children aged 5-15 own a smartphone. Ten years ago, that number was effectively zero.

“Now is the right time for all businesses which provide public WiFi to prove they take the same care for their customer’s online safety as they do for their physical wellbeing.”

Friendly WiFi was launched following a speech by then Prime Minister David Cameron to the NSPCC and in partnership with the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS).

NSPCC head of child online safety Claire Lilley said: “The Friendly WiFi symbol can help parents feel confident that their children are protected from harmful content when they are accessing the internet in public spaces.

“We’d encourage all business to sign up to the ‘It’s Good to Know’ campaign to give their customers the reassurance that their WiFi is safe for children to use.”

The awareness campaign will focus on the benefits to specific business sectors but also examine attitudes to public WiFi safety.

Carolyn Bunting, General Manager of Internet Matters, which helps parents keep their children safe online, said it is important that public WiFi plays a role in filtering age-appropriate content.

She said: “Children’s online safety is one of the top concerns facing parents in the digital age and we support anything which can re-enforce the steps they are taking at home to enable young people to explore the internet safely.

“We applaud the work being done by Friendly WiFi and urge businesses to heed the call and back the ‘It’s Good to Know’ campaign by making the symbol visible on their premises.”

Get involved with the campaign by using the hashtag #ItsGoodToKnow.

The ‘Facebook for Education’: Frog wins groundbreaking national bid to support Danish education

This London EdTech Week, Frog Education, the UK based education technology company, has won a government contract alongside Danish IT business consultancy, Netcompany, to develop a bespoke school communication and collaboration platform for 2 million people across the whole of Denmark

Aula by KOMBIT, the project house that creates joint IT solutions for the Danish Government, is a 10 year long, £24 million country-wide project displacing the current incumbent collaboration system, SkoleIntra by ItsLearning. Aula will support easy communication and collaboration between home and school, in a way not yet in existence, through its own built-in features and integration with existing school and municipality platforms and systems. From timetabling to organising parent’s evenings, quick and easy messaging systems, media galleries and registration systems, Aula will be a one-stop-shop for everyone involved in a child’s education, and has been referred to as the ‘Facebook for education’.

Frog is no stranger to nationwide government deals, having successfully won a 10,000 school Malaysian Government contract, whilst also being a market leader in the UK and with a presence in 23 countries globally. With their experience in this field,  Frog are well placed to partner with Netcompany and deliver this bespoke platform to 2 million users across schools and daycare centres in 93 Danish municipalities. Gareth Davies, Managing Director, says: “This project marks our successful transition from learning platform company to Operating System for Education, which alongside our ongoing Malaysia contract cements Frog as a Global Platform business.”

Frog was chosen for partnership in this project by Netcompany, Denmark’s largest and fastest growing IT company. Gareth remarks: “Denmark is known for its progressive attitudes to education, so it’s a real privilege to be working alongside such a great partner, to create this transformative platform for KOMBIT, Denmark, and ultimately all our existing users in the UK and across the world.”

Coinciding with London EdTech Week, Frog is championing British EdTech in export. “It’s a real testament to the quality of the UK’s EdTech scene that countries across the globe look towards us for world class education technology,“ says Gareth.

Next week Frog will be at ISTE in Texas with BESA, continuing to build bridges between the UK and abroad. Patrick Hayes, Director of BESA, says of the project: “This remarkable achievement by Frog is a paradigm example of how UK EdTech companies are taking the world by storm. Frog has already had a transformative impact on the education of millions of pupils in Malaysia, and look set to use their world-leading EdTech abilities and experience to help raise educational standards for millions more in Denmark.”

After a 16-month intensive development, built on the FrogOS development platform, the first pilots in schools will start in the Autumn of 2018, with the national rollout commencing January 2019. Further details will be released as the project develops.

Neath Port Talbot business screens anti-bullying film in Parliament


A Neath Port Talbot business has produced a ground-breaking film about bullying in schools, which will have its premiere in the House of Parliament on Tuesday 11th July, following MPs recognising the importance of the film in fighting against bullying in schools.

The film was produced by Firehorse Productions, a company producing educational drama for young people, with expertise in tackling bullying

Aimed at children from 7 – 13, a combination of both drama and ‘mockumentary’ style, My Life as a Bully, is a ground-breaking educational resource, now available to schools.

Firehorse Productions, a core member of The Anti-Bullying Alliance, has an established reputation of producing innovative bullying awareness and prevention work and My Life As a Bully has the support of Baroness Newlove, the UK Victims’ Commissioner, who provided the introduction to the film.

Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, picked up on the importance of the film and has arranged for it to be played in Parliament

Denise Francis, at Firehouse Productions, said:

“We are thrilled to have such great support for the film. Bullying is still an issue that pervades our schools, and for those that suffer from bullying, the after-effects can often follow them into adult life.

“Our message is that everyone; teacher, student, parent, bystander, can play an important role in tackling bullying, and we should all ensure that we do everything we can to support those who need us.”

Essential Seminar Announced – Collaborative Thinking: Counter-Terrorism for Professionals

A one-day seminar focused on counter-terrorism strategies for professionals is to take place on Thursday 5 October, in a Central London location. The day will feature expert speakers including Stuart Hyde QPM, Former Chief Constable of Cumbria Constabulary, who led on the Derrick Bird shooting incident, and former senior police officers, Rob Hoblin and Mark Corder, who are specialists in active shooters.

This interactive workshop will help organisations prepare against the threat of terrorism in a safe and educational environment.


  • Discover security essentials for your business; take corporate responsibility for terrorism risks
  • Receive practical advice and support from those with real world experience
  • Protect your employees and visitors; fulfil health and safety duties


The event will cover all aspects of counter-terrorism for businesses. With the horror of the UK’s recent terror attacks front of mind, this event will look at protection challenges for those running large venues as well as small operations. A panel of security experts will address the key challenges facing professionals in today’s volatile world, uncovering some of the often-overlooked resilience measures which businesses can implement to stay one step ahead of threats.


The recent high profile attacks on the Promenade Des Anglais in Nice, the Christmas Market in Berlin, Westminster Bridge and London Bridge in London, have brought the threat of vehicle attacks into sharp focus. This subject will be covered during the seminar, as well as how to deal with active shooters and knife attacks, and how to return to a state of normality after a major incident.


Aimed at any professional that has an interest in protecting office or retail environments, event spaces and tourist areas, this event will provide practical advice and support on physical protection, security management and operational planning.


Mark Walker, CEO of Cognitious Ltd, is looking forward to delivering this event on 5 October and comments: “Anyone that is responsible for employees, visitors or a building needs to be up to speed on the latest developments in security and counter-terrorism strategies. In the last decade, our business landscape has changed dramatically and we must all prepare for incidents to reduce risks and mitigate any impact if the worst should happen.”


Spaces for ‘Collaborative Thinking: Counter-Terrorism for Professionals’ are limited and are available for £155+VAT early bird until 05/07, £195 +VAT from 06/07 onwards.


To register interest in attending, please visit: https://www.cognitiousconsultancy.com/news/collaborative-thinking-seminar-counter-terrorism-professionals/

Once registration is approved, a ticket booking link will be provided. On booking confirmation, central London venue details will be shared with delegates.