A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Funtech's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Funtech is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Sheineez Barber, founder and
Advanced coding session
Founded in 1996, FunTech established its first centre for
teaching computer technology to children in Maidenhead,
Berkshire. Since then, FunTech has helped tens of thousands
of children – not just in the UK but also worldwide – become
masters of their technological world. To give a sense of what is
arguably the most dynamic and vibrant aspect of our children’s
education, Sheineez Barber, FunTech’s founder and CEO, gives
an overview of the company and its journey.
Our world enjoys its revolutions. The industrial revolution fashioned community
lifestyles and international trade, and the electrical revolution built on this
while providing the platform for where we are now – just a little way into the
Back in 1996, CDs were out of reach for most families and operating systems were
installed courtesy of a dozen or more floppy disks. The internet, too, was still in its
infancy. Now, however, the developments of our latest revolution have already led
to the unleashing of new opportunities with phones, wifi, Bluetooth, the web and
much, much more. Moreover, there is no sign of this progress either slowing or
coming to an end.
Scope of learning
We therefore have a responsibility to ensure that we give our children the technology
skills that they need. But to further use a much overused word, we need to do so
holistically. From the very beginning, FunTech has not only taught a broad scope of
computer skills, but has done so while thinking outside the proverbial educationalbox.
»Founder and CEO:
»Established in 1996
»Based in Maidenhead,
»Services: Specialist computer
training for children
»No. of employees: 95, full and
»Leaders in virtual learning
Highlighting best practice
Our challenges today are the same
as they were 22years ago: namely,
our children are ahead of much
of what mainstream technological
education can provide, and the need
to constantly update and rewrite the
curriculum in a way that appeals to our
technology-aware kids puts a stress on
the educational system that is barely
visible in other subjects.
Holistic innovation is the key here. In
1996 a group of FunTech students
created a working scanner using
computer controllable Lego; in 1997,
all FunTech students produced movies
Star Wars
-style special
effects; in 1998, FunTech was teaching
A level computing using Java – this
was the first time a school used a
commercially relevant language. By
2000 FunTech had introduced smart
technology and developed what was
arguably the UK’s first virtual learning
environment (VLE).
Along the way, we had introduced
our first holiday camps – a whole year
before our American competition.
We were also the first to introduce a
UK-based residential technologycamp.
And the fact that all this was done
concurrently with the development of
custom-made touch-typing software
that helped FunTech become a beacon
for learning needs training, helps
demonstrate what it is that makes
FunTech genuinely different.
But all of this was achieved
independently of mainstream
education, which continues to struggle
to cater for the needs of our modern
technological youngsters. An example
of this is the relatively recent push
for coding in schools. This of course
is a good thing, but it shouldn’t be
at the expense of delivering a fully
rounded computer science curriculum.
For example, we have many talented
children who want to improve their
coding skills who have no knowledge
of directory structures, file types or
database syntax. These are all relevant
and practical skills that good coders
will need to develop.
The FunTech way
There is nothing complicated about
this. FunTech’s success is founded
upon its curriculum, its investment in
technology and its people. And the
curriculum is arguably the key as far
as FunTech students are concerned.
If we think of the curriculum as
FunTech’s R&D about one third of our
expenditure is invested in this area
alone. The quality of the curriculum,
precisely formulated and orchestrated
by a goal-orientated tutor with
multimedia visuals, student-friendly
exercises and modern hardware
and software ensures the maximum
learning in the minimum time. How
else can we deliver a full iGCSE in
computer science with less than
two hours a week of teaching time?
Indeed, as technology advances and
we all enjoy the benefits of more
advanced and complex technology,
either our children will have to learn
more efficiently or study for longer.
FunTech tends to the former.
Getting ready for
FunTyper in Kampala
Imagine the
effect if the level
of enthusiasm
shown by a child
while playing a
computer game
is focused on
Furthermore, if we look at holiday
camps as an example, we capture
the enthusiasm shown by children
who game, and let them concentrate
this energy and enthusiasm while
immersed in a structured but fun
holiday learning course. Once again,
the key is in the innovative R&D
approach to curricular development.
The FunTech environment
In the early years, FunTech was class-
based and supported a student’s
learning by authoring and publishing
supportive CDs, which was at the
forefront of what education had to
offer. As soon as bandwidths allowed,
we developed the online VLE to enable
supportive home study. But modern
bandwidths now allow comprehensive
teaching and learning to the extent
that over one half of FunTech’s term-
time students login and study in a real-
time environment from home. Neither
distance nor scale are now hurdles as
genuine virtual learning is accessible by
the many and not just those previously
lucky enough to live close to a centre
of excellence.
As our summer and other holiday
camps have expanded across England,
their appeal is recognised worldwide
with families planning their holidays
with the FunTech holiday camps
schedule on their screen, travelling in
many cases from countries like France,
Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Russia,
America, Venezuela and Singapore.
When people perceive high quality
supported with passion, they want to
enjoy that experience.
The whole world is now FunTech’s
environment, actively working with
agents in many countries and exploring
international opportunities with
the British Chamber of Commerce.
Ultimately, though, it is we who
govern our success and, if we continue
to marry core values with new
technological opportunities and
innovation, prospects will be bright.
A student perspective
Many of FunTech’s early students are
now successful in their chosen field of
technology and happy to affirm that
FunTech had a part to play in that
process. As one of our ex-students
(now a leader in national cybersecurity)
said: “At first I was wowed with
technology because it was new,
colourful, sometimes loud and perhaps
brash. That was all very well, but
FunTech helped me understand that
far from letting technology dictate
to me what my reactions should be,
I should turn this around and use
technology in the way that I wanted, in
order to support myambitions.”
It is often us as
adults that limit
what our
children can
achieve. Let’s
see what we
can do to
change that!
Centre-based or virtual

This article was sponsored by Funtech. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister