The ex-teacher using tech to get families talking again
A former teacher who developed a software platform to help children speak and write more confidently has raised £250,000 from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund,
Chris Williams’ system Chatta is already used by almost 100 schools worldwide and has been named as one of the world’s best innovations of its type by the global education charity HundrED. Chatta, which is available free of charge to parents during the lockdown, uses pictures to engage children in conversation and develop their language and literacy skills.
The platform is based on techniques developed by Chris during his career as a special needs teacher, and later working with Hull City Council to find ways to improve children’s language skills. Around a third of children aged five are behind expected levels of attainment in spoken language, which experts believe is due to families talking less because of computer games and social media. Chatta helps overcome digital distractions and promote conversation.
Chris launched Chatta in 2013 and now runs the business with software specialist David Waring, who is company’s CEO. The funding will allow the company to further develop the software and expand in international markets.
Chris says: “Talk is the link between thinking and writing – if a child can’t say it, they can’t write it. Chatta creates opportunities to share stories and conversations within families and in schools. It gives children the confidence to speak to any audience and enhance their writing and vocabulary. In some cases parents tell us they’ve never before seen their child so strongly engaged with learning.”
Will Schaffer of Mercia added: “At a time when there are real concerns about the impact of digital media on children’s development, Chatta is helping to get families talking again and build children’s literacy skills. It is playing a particularly valuable role during the current lockdown, by helping teachers, parents and children to collaborate in remote teaching and learning.”
The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.
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About Mercia Asset Management PLC
Mercia is a proactive, specialist asset manager focused on supporting regional SMEs to achieve their growth aspirations. Mercia provides capital across its four asset classes of balance sheet, venture, private equity and debt capital; the Group’s ‘Complete Capital Solution’. The Group initially nurtures businesses via its third-party funds under management, then over time Mercia can provide further funding to the most promising companies, by deploying direct investment follow-on capital from its own balance sheet.
The Group has a strong UK regional footprint through its eight offices, 19 university partnerships and extensive personal networks, providing it with access to high-quality deal flow. Mercia has over £500million of assets under management and, since its IPO in December 2014, has invested over £84million across its direct investment portfolio.
Mercia Asset Management PLC is quoted on AIM with the epic “MERC” and includes the following wholly owned subsidiaries –
- Mercia Fund Management Limited is authorised and regulated by the FCA under firm reference number 524856
- Enterprise Ventures Limited is authorised and regulated by the FCA under firm reference number 183363
- EV Business Loans Limited is authorised and regulated by the FCA under firm reference number 443560
About The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund
- The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund will invest in Microfinance, Business Loans and Equity Finance sub-funds which will offer financing ranging from £25,000 to £2m, specifically to help small and medium sized businesses secure the funding they need for growth and development.
- The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund is operated by British Business Financial Services Limited, wholly owned by British Business Bank, the UK’s national economic development bank. Established in November 2014, its mission is to make finance markets for smaller businesses work more effectively, enabling those businesses to prosper, grow and build UK economic activity.
- The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund is supported by the European Regional Development Fund, the European Investment Bank, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and British Business Finance Limited, a British Business Bank group company.
- The NPIF covers the following LEP areas: Tees Valley Combined Authority, Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Warrington, Cumbria, Liverpool City Region, Lancashire, Humber, Leeds City Region, Sheffield City Region, York, North Yorkshire and East Riding
- The project is receiving up to £140,359,192 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.
- The funds in which Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund invests are open to businesses with material operations, or planning to open material operations, in, Yorkshire and the Humber, the North West and Tees Valley.
- The British Business Bank has published the Business Finance Guide (in partnership with the ICAEW, and a further 21 business and finance organisations). The guide, which impartially sets out the range finance options available to businesses and provides links to support available at a regional level, is available at www.thebusinessfinanceguide.co.uk/bbb