Plytime Learning has won a Smart Grant – co-funded by Innovate UK – to further develop its online learning platform’s AI-tutoring capability.

The £205,000 grant will enable the EdTech and tutoring firm to develop an ‘AI tutor’ to sit between the student and their 1-to-1 tutor to enhance the learning experience. The tech innovation will provide intelligent and interactive responses to students based on answers to questions and knowledge gaps.

The grant will be used to develop and integrate a bespoke AI-tutor prototype focused on experiential learning and a growth mindset. It will provide issue resolutions to students quicker than waiting for human intervention and will reduce the cost burden on human support. 

The prototype will initially be developed for primary school-level maths learners, and the project will establish the framework for Plytime’s future subject expansion.

Plytime will collaborate with AI experts INEVITABLE on the EdTech innovation project which will commence in early February 2024. The businesses met as part of the Exchange tech scaleup programme based at Department Bonded Warehouse, and both featured on our sister publication TechBlast’s Manchester Startups 2.0 list last year.

Building Our Startup: Ian & Lisa McCartney, Plytime Learning

Building on recent research from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) that proved Plytime Learning’s Focus Tutoring concept to be more effective than traditional methods.

During a six-week study, 91% of primary aged students who received online Focus Tutoring showed a significant improvement in maths (+27%) compared to the control group. Students who received tutoring in shorter 15-minute chunks showed a 25% greater improvement than those with more traditional, longer length sessions.

Plytime is recruiting an additional developer to its team of five people following the funding. It aims to commence early trials with partner schools and individual students before the start of the next academic year. It currently has partnerships with 10 primary schools and over 1,000 students across the UK.

“We’re on a mission to provide the most effective and affordable learning support to students in the UK, and this funding moves us a step closer to achieving that,” said co-founder Lisa McCartney. 

“Our AI innovation has the potential to revolutionise the way primary-level pupils learn which is a very exciting prospect. The funding from Innovate UK will allow us to develop the technology at a faster rate and enable students to benefit from it sooner. 

“Our approach to improving children’s numeracy skills through tutoring, is very different and the MMU research shows it has the potential to transform the way we study.”

Her husband and co-founder Ian McCartney added: “Each year billions of pounds are spent on education, but the system is fundamentally flawed because it’s built around the providers rather than the students. That’s why almost 40% of students in the UK seek supplemental support such as private tutoring, but that is unaffordable and out of reach for too many. 

“Over the next decade, we believe education will be transformed and Plytime Learning’s technology has the potential to lead that change with a new, online approach to personalised learning that will drive schools into the future.”

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