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Sep 12, 2015 5:29 EST

Empiribox: to provide Primary Schools with a means to teach science effectively, which is a statutory obligation under the National Curriculum

iCrowdNewswire - Sep 12, 2015

Empiribox

Empiribox

 

The Idea

Empiribox aims to provide Primary Schools with a means to teach science effectively, which is a statutory obligation under the National Curriculum. 

This means not just scientific facts, but more importantly, equipping 7-11 year olds, particularly girls, with an understanding of the scientific method, coupled with excitement about science and enthusiasm to continue studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects throughout their academic career.

Not only do the children themselves deserve a proper science education, but the economy is dependent on significantly increasing the number of STEM graduates each year (“The State of Engineering” Report 2015 by Engineering UK), and many studies considering this problem recognise this can best be achieved by enthusing and enthralling children at an early age.

Empiribox is now in its second year of trading and to date has achieved the following:

  • 80%+ renewal rate of schools entering the second year with Empiribox
  • Over 75 schools are now using our service
  • Annual subscriptions of £450,000 have been sold from the commencement of trading until late July 2015
  • Buy-in from major academy chains (ARK, Elliot, AET) and individual schools
  • Subscribers in both the state and independent sectors
  • Smooth running of the operations of the business
  • In addition, we have been overwhelmed by the feedback from teachers, schools and pupils

Our Vision:

Every primary school child in the country deserves fantastic, exciting, practical science lessons every week of their academic year. Our vision is to facilitate this, thereby significantly increasing the number of students inspired to choose to study science at A Level and beyond.

The Issues:

  • Between 2010 and 2015, several major institutions, including the Royal Society, OFSTED and the CBI, all concluded that the UK’s science education system was not fit for purpose. Indeed, in her foreword to the CBI report entitled “Tomorrow’s World” (March 2015) on primary school science education, the Vice Chancellor of Brunel University stated that “far too few of our young people are studying STEM subjects at school and beyond. Our pipeline of scientists, engineers and technologists is simply insufficient to meet the needs of employers and is limiting our capacity to compete effectively in an increasingly competitive global market. We need an education system that inspires interest and enthusiasm for the sciences”.
  • These studies clearly identify the problem (the lack of proper science teaching from the earliest age) – and lay out the elements of a solution: better and consistent teacher training, practical science lessons and access to extensive sets of equipment.
  • In 2012, Engineering UK concluded that the UK will need 2 million engineering and science graduates to fill job vacancies by 2022.
  • There are tens of thousands of unfilled jobs each year due to the lack of candidates with the appropriate science and STEM qualifications.
  • Science is one of the most difficult subjects to teach.  Only 3% of primary school teachers are science graduates, and we know that teachers have minimal science equipment for teaching, with little time to review and use complicated lesson plans.
  • Schools face considerable budget pressures and therefore have very low budgets for science equipment and resources.
  • We know that teachers therefore face significant challenges in delivering consistently inspiring and well-resourced science lessons that genuinely develop true scientific skills and literacy.

The Implications:

Our research suggests that UK economic performance will suffer if we continue with the current level and nature of science and STEM education, with a massive loss of potential science knowledge and future innovation that the country so desperately needs.

The Solution:

Empiribox is designed to be a complete solution that directly addresses the key needs of generalist teachers at primary schools (who are required to teach up to 10 subjects every week) with a limited science background. We seek to equip them to become far more confident teaching investigative science = highly engaged pupils who love their science lessons and who all continually improve their science, maths and literacy skills sets and knowledge over the course of each academic year.

Empiribox is designed to offer extraordinary value for money, currently under £50 per pupil per year.  

Our objectives are to:

  • Provide an affordable system for schools that up-skills teachers and substantially reduces their capital expenditure and resource/storage requirements for equipment by sharing it between several schools over a 4 year cycle
  • Reduce the stress, time and anxiety out of planning the annual science curriculum and lessons
  • Engage students in practical science experiments every week that meets and far exceeds the new National Curriculum
  • Make teaching science by non-specialists easy and ‘fun’!
  • Improve the confidence of non-specialists in delivering effective lessons
  • Boost schools’ results in the core science skills they need, leading to improved league table results and greater popularity and funding for participating schools.

View an introduction to Empiribox and see teachers’ comments on www.empiribox.org

“I was observed in a science lesson when OFSTED came in, and they were really excited about it – they  hadn’t seen a primary lesson before where the kids had so much science knowledge.  Not only was it clear that they had knowledge, but they were also able to explain what they were doing to the OFSTED inspectors, who were amazed by the experimental and investigative skills that the children had.” Jennifer Iwantschak, Science Lead, ARK Globe Primary, London

Social Impact:

Since its launch in April 2014, participating schools have reported an extraordinary level of impact in their classrooms. Teachers regularly enthuse about our training sessions, and in particular, girls are being enthralled by science, which is vitally important.

We used all kinds of equipment I’d never seen before and did lots of different stuff with it. I had such a good time.  This is what I want to do when I grow up. Girls can be scientists too, I didn’t know that before!” Lucy (aged 9)

Proven Efficacy:

14 months after launch in April 2014, approaching 70 schools have subscribed to our system, and most of those that have been teaching the system for more than a term have reported significant impact on their science lessons.  One school, Freethorpe Primary in Norfolk, that has been using the system since launch in April 14, generated a 35% improvement in science knowledge and skills, starting from a base where they had already had significant impact from teaching our system over the previous two terms. This is indicative of the level of impact that can be achieved in a relatively short time, and validates the social impact that can be achieved through using Empiribox.

The most important validation of the system has come from the ARK Academy group of schools, who chose to subscribe to Empiribox only 6 weeks after launch, after assessing alternative science provision provided by companies including Pearson, Collins and Longman. Their decision was based on the fact we we were the only company they found that supplied comprehensive teacher training, together with all the equipment needed to deliver practical lessons.

One year later, their schools have just renewed their subscriptions, and 8 of them have chosen to commit to a 3 year renewal, so confident are they that Empiribox is helping them achieve their objectives for progression in science, maths and literacy skills and knowledge.

The company raised £371,000 of early stage capital (under SEIS and EIS tax relief regulations), in the period to January 2015, which was used for the initial investments in marketing collateral and funding the assets required for the initial sales. 

Next Steps – Securing Growth:

During the period from launch to end May 2015, the company has invested time and resources to demonstrate that its business model works effectively. In particular, the early stage period has proven that

  • our system meets the needs of subscribing schools, and is achieving substantially improved results and very positive user feedback
  • the sales pipeline for potential subscribers is growing rapidly as the business generates more marketing collateral highlighting subscribing schools’ progression in pupil learning and results
  • it has worked through a number of operational and technical issues and established a process to ensure that equipment can be delivered to schools, collected and refurbished for rotation to the next series of schools.

The company is now seeking a further £600,000 of investment capital in order to build on our successes to date and accelerate growth. By providing what we believe is a unique solution to an established problem, we expect to achieve a 15% market penetration within 5 years, generating forecast profits of £5 million p.a.

Based on the company’s successes to date, its future prospects and the last angel investment valuation in December 2014, the Board has valued the company for the purposes of this Growth round at £3 million pre-new money, with a forecast ROI of 11x after 5 years (based on 8x FY2020 EBITDA, excluding dividends and EIS tax relief).

Contact Information:

Dan Sullivan
Ivor Tucker

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