Girl using Immersive Reader in school classroom

The UK is getting more inclusive classrooms to ensure no child is left behind at school

More than a million young people in the UK will be taught in more inclusive and accessible classrooms as part of a new initiative from Microsoft.

Around 30,000 teachers across the country will receive training on how to ensure every child they teach is engaged in lessons and understands the topic, by helping them learn in the best way for that individual.

Educators will also be shown how to use free computer tools that improve reading and writing, including live captioning and Translate, as well as the Immersive Reader function that’s embedded in Microsoft Edge, Word, OneNote, Teams, Outlook and Flipgrid. They will pass these skills on, to create a culture of accessible learning and ensure no child is left behind.

Immersive Reader is a free Microsoft tool that reads out text, breaks words into syllables and increases spacing between lines and letters. While it has proven effective at helping students with dyslexia to learn, it can assist anyone who finds it difficult to understand text.

Microsoft announced today that the tool will be made available as an Azure Cognitive Service, allowing third-party apps and partners to add Immersive Reader into their products to help the students and parents who use them.

Chris Rothwell, Director of Education at Microsoft UK, said: “Teachers have an impact on the young people they interact with in schools every day; they know how to run their classrooms to ensure that every student has the opportunity to learn.

“We want to support their vital work by giving them tools that can foster a culture of inclusivity and creativity, ease their workload and help inspire the next generation. Technology can reduce isolation and help young people gain independence. By listening to teachers and working with them, we can ensure children have access to a broad and balanced curriculum, and have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released this week revealed that although 90% of teachers in England reported having been trained to teach in mixed-ability settings as part of their formal training, just 69% felt prepared to do so. The study found that an average of 41% of teachers in this country worked in classes where at least 10% of pupils had a special educational need – much higher than the average for the other countries taking part at 27%.

Many students with dyslexia, dyspraxia and dysgraphia find that they are struggling to learn in a traditional school environment. Dyslexia International estimates there are 700 million people around the world with dyslexia, including one-in-five students. However, 90% of children with dyslexia can be educated in a regular classroom if they are given the right environment and tools.

Immersive Reader will read paragraphs aloud, allowing students to follow the words – which will be automatically broken up into syllables – as they are highlighted. Pupils can also make the on-screen text larger, change the font and background colour and narrow the field of view to one, three or five lines to make it easier to focus. The tool can also use pictures to depict what a word means, so reader can easily understand what a piece of text is referring to. It can be used alongside Microsoft’s Translate tool, so any website can be translated into another language before being read aloud.

In October last year, Microsoft become the first company to sign a global pledge to help people with dyslexia. By signing the Made by Dyslexia pledge, the business promised to tackle a lack of resources and training in schools and homes that can hold back children who find it difficult to read, write and do maths.