Third Space Learning gets investment boost to scale education startup

Tom Hooper, an experienced EdTech entrepreneur, winner of The Big Venture Challenge and part of Telefonica’s Wayra accelerator programme, saw an opportunity to use technology and global connectivity to tackle mathematical underachievement in schools, particularly for the most disadvantaged students.

Recognising that a core component of the problem was the systemic shortage of numeracy expertise in our classrooms – less than 2 per cent of primary school teachers are maths experts – he founded Third Space Learning.

Third Space has built a technology platform that connects a global community of numeracy specialists to students in schools across the UK. Students work one-to-one with their tutor in Third Space’s online classrooms. Schools purchase programmes for individual students, allowing their teacher to select precise learning objectives for each student, reinforcing what is happening in class.

All sessions take place in school, in addition to normal maths lessons, accelerating what the children are learning in class. Launched in September 2013, Third Space is now used in over 70 schools across 30 Local Authorities.

Third Space is also part of a pioneering study by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). Recognising the scale of the social and academic problem, and the potential for Third Space’s model, the EEF are funding a 2-year Randomised Control Trial with Third Space and the Universities of York and Durham. This approach is still a relatively new concept in analysing innovation and education outcome studies. It will fund 600 pupils through the Third Space programme, tracking attainment of socially disadvantaged students at risk of failure.

To raise the investment they needed to scale their business and reach more pupils, Third Space worked with ClearlySo, which raises capital for businesses that create social value, and has now raised £745k, including circa £200k from the Clearly Social Angels network. This is a group of high-net-worth business angels who proactively invest into social business and enterprises, offering mentoring and support as well as capital.

Other investors include Charles Prior, Founder of BPP; Andrew Colin, Founder and Executive Chair of INTO University Partnerships; Will Hobhouse, former Chairman of Explore Learning and Jack Wills; and Telefonica, through their Wayra UnLtd Social Technology programme.

Meganne Houghton-Berry, a Clearly Social Angels investor, said, “I was attracted to Third Space Learning because it offers a scalable, affordable solution to a major challenge in primary education – developing key maths skills. The beauty of their approach is that is works alongside the classroom teacher, providing a level of individual support that is proving to dramatically improve children’s performance.”

Tom Hooper comments, “Our vision is to create a global community of talent, changing the means of supply so that every child can have access to the one-to-one help they need. This vision has been embraced by schools across the country, and now by the Education Endowment Foundation. We have been fortunate to receive the backing of talented angel investors who share our ambitions, and bring incredible experience in founding and building global education businesses. Their support will be invaluable in achieving our aims.”