A game-changing online tool to identify educational needs has been awarded a £415,000 grant by Innovate UK.

UK technology start-up Cogs AI is working with the University of Cambridge to develop a 15-minute online test to identify educational support needs in secondary school-age children.

This software will help parents, educators, and health professionals assess children for special education and mental health services more efficiently.

Waiting lists for autism assessments have risen 40 per cent in the past year and the online test will ease pressure on schools and NHS services.

Cogs AI is a London-based technology company founded in 2021 by Zareen Ali and Felix de Grey.

It has received funding from Europe’s largest tech-for-good venture capital fund and Innovate UK, the UK’s national innovation agency.

Its first consumer app, a mental wellbeing coach for young people with autism and ADHD, is available to download on the App Store and Google Play Store.

Zareen Ali, co-founder and CEO of Cogs AI, said: “There is a widening gap in provision for those children who have additional needs but aren’t being put forward for full SEND support, and those children who are spending months, if not years, on waiting lists.

Oto awarded £500k Innovate UK SMART Grant

“We are confident that this new technology will transform the way those additional support needs are identified and provide parents and schools with the information they need to support their children’s academic development and wellbeing.”

The current methods of assessing for SEND are time-consuming and costly, involving extensive face-to-face evaluations and coordination between under-resourced services.

The new software will use questions from existing face-to-face assessments but deliver them through a digital interface, offering a user-friendly and accessible experience capable of simultaneously evaluating a large number of children for additional support.

The software utilises Computerised Adaptive Testing (CAT) technology, providing a tailored set of questions from a larger pool.

A sophisticated machine learning algorithm selects only questions relevant to an individual based on their previous answers, allowing for a fast and personalised experience.

The project’s lead researchers, Professor Peter Jones and Dr Jan Stochl from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychiatry, have previously implemented this technology in a different field, creating software which assesses children’s mental wellbeing in just 10 minutes.

The collaboration with Cogs AI applies CAT technology to the field of special educational needs, covering four key domains: communication and interaction; cognition and learning; social, emotional and mental health; and sensory and physical needs.

Innovate UK launches £100m AI fund for UK business