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Firefly Learning, an Edtech business started from scratch by two London school boys to help them revise for exams, has secured the biggest series A funding that the UK Edtech sector has ever witnessed. The online tool, which can be used by teachers, students and parents, has raised £4.5 million from BGF Ventures and Beringea, with BGF Ventures’ contribution of £3 million making it the leading investor.

 The idea for a tool like Firefly hit founders Simon Hay and Joe Mathewson when they were teenagers and students at St Paul’s School in West London. Hay said:
Joe and I were friends at school and we first started developing this idea for a business when we were 13 or 14 and staring at a pile of revision notes on a bedroom floor. We thought there has to be a better way to organise school work, which has hardly changed since Victorian times. We started experimenting with programming and built a new intranet for our school, so we could access homework and resources from our computers.
Now, Firefly has been taken up by schools to save their teachers time, let students learn in ways that they find easiest, and also to involve parents in their child’s school journey. Firefly can set homework, create resources, and track progress, and has been proven to raise attainment and help schools achieve their increasingly demanding targets. Created specifically for schools, rather than adapting a model designed for businesses or universities, Firefly can integrate easily with the software they already use.
Today, Firefly is used by 480 schools in 32 countries, making its sphere of influence some 400,000 students. From its very inception, the business has proven profitable, with 98 per cent of schools renewing their contracts each year. Revenues at Firefly Learning have doubled with the years. Planting strong roots in the independent sector, Firefly has seen significant recent growth in the state sector as well, an area identified as holding significant sway in the UK. Internationally, Firefly will invest to expand its Australian operations and growth in other countries. Simon Hay, co-founder of Firefly Learning, said,
Firefly Learning has developed a way to connect students, teachers and pupils so that they can collaborate even when they are not face to face, so that resources can be made available easily and curated properly and so that teachers can set and mark tasks quickly and easily, while allowing parents greater participation, which has been shown to improve results overall.
Co-founder Joe Mathewson explains the rationale behind the easy workings of the system; it is as simple as sending an email, enabling all staff to use its features quickly. Mathewson said:
Some teachers are still quite wary of using technology as part of their job, but we’ve always been incredibly focused on making it as easy to possible to use. If they can write an email, they can create a learning resource for their pupils on Firefly.

The money raised from this latest round of funding will be used to develop the Firefly product through research and development and expand the sales and marketing team. Firefly currently has 50 staff in offices in Hammersmith and in Sydney and in the next stage of growth, they plan to double the size of the company.

With the move to push responsibility for school budgets down to head teachers and away from local authorities, there is an opportunity to introduce lots more schools across the state sector to the Firefly platform.

Simon Calver, founding partner at BGF Ventures, said:

There are lots of apps and platforms for schools out there but Firefly has created a complete platform that integrates reminders, messaging, homework setting activities and learning resources. Firefly is already an international business operating in over thirty countries and we think this product has the potential to be the foremost platform in the global Edtech space.

Stuart Veale, managing partner at Beringea, also added:
We are delighted to be investing in Firefly alongside BGF Ventures. Simon, Joe, and the Firefly team have built an exceptionally strong product, as demonstrated by its high loyalty amongst teachers and schools.

Schools in the UK are currently spending £900 million a year on education technology, and are being encouraged to focus it on ways to improve their pupils’ performance. Simultaneously, however, schools are also under pressure to raise educational standards even as budgets are being squeezed.

Firefly hence swoops onto such a scene, bringing excellent value for money (it charges schools on a per student basis, with schools typically paying between £7–12 per student), giving annual access to a multi-featured platform for little more than the cost of a homework diary per pupil, and saving the day. As a testament to this, the edtech startup today is used in more than 400 schools across the UK – including Charterhouse and Sevenoaks School and an increasing number of state schools.

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