Plans for an online school could change the way children are educated but is there really a future without classrooms?

Get Bucks has an interview with the founder of an online school  – Wey Ecademy – that is reapplying to the DfE for free school status…

This radical new school is bound to raise eyebrows among teachers and parents and could herald the biggest change to our education system in centuries.

For this school is based entirely in virtual reality.

A free school called Wey Ecademy allows children to learn entirely via e-learning modules on a computer. The child can choose for themselves when to start their studies each day. If the weather is bad they need not brave the elements, or even wear a school uniform.

If they have a question for the teacher rather than risk embarrassment by raising their hand in class they can send a message across the worldwide web to a teacher, who can send a typed response back instead.

The move is bound to do wonders for cutting school traffic, playground bullying, the spread of headlice and coughs and colds. But is it really healthy in a child’s development to be locked away in front of a computer screen instead of mixing with peers and teachers?

The online school, registered in Buckinghamshire, recently applied to the Department for Education for free school status. It is hoped it will give parents the opportunity to home school their children even if they are not confident of teaching youngsters themselves.

They were refused, but given advice and are now aiming to apply again for 2015.

Businessman and former teacher Tom Scott is part of the board pushing forward with the concept.

He has already helped set up free schools in Southwark and Harpenden after 25 years in business and a career as a science teacher.

The board also includes Dame Erica Pienaar, an executive headteacher until her retirement.

The group boldly state they hope to ‘reshape education in England’.

Mr Scott said: “The concept of the Wey Ecademy is to create a school entirely online…

The school may be based online but there will be qualified teachers presenting lessons in the morning and checking on pupils as per a normal school day.

The difference is all interaction is done by online messaging.

Mr Scott said: “They can decide to approach the teacher direct but there’s no embarrassment when asking questions because they can just send a message.”

…The school argues by using the online method in their morning lessons, students learn twice as quickly.

“You spend half as much time than you would in school, because there’s no burden of travelling,” said Mr Scott. “We found by doing that we could teach in the morning so they are free in the afternoon to do other things, whether that’s go over the lessons, homework or sport.”

Sport poses an interesting dilemma. When a child is not based at school, but alone there is no face-to-face interaction or chance to get away from the computer.

Mr Scott argues this is not the case, as sport is delivered in the afternoon and the concentrated morning teaching means pupils can focus.

Wey has teamed up with SportEngland and professional clubs and societies in the area too…

As for exams, Mr Scott says GCSEs wold be taken at a nearby centre, possibly a school, while A levels which include coursework may have to be completed at residential centres or schools, as would the exams themselves.

Lessons include video streaming and there is a closed social media experience where Wey students will be able to post messages and have a status – similar to Facebook. Though Wey will monitor and keep everything on a system to make it a safe place…

Wey Ecademy now is preparing for the next round of applications…

 

Well, what do you think of this? Is it something that would work well in conjunction to more traditional types of homeschooling or do you have concerns? Could it be a glimpse at the future of schools? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…

 

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Comments

  1. NorthernCell1

    SchoolsImprove Yuk! A terrible idea. It will make the loners more lonely, the lazy lazier. No social skills, fresh air, school dinners??!

  2. NorthernCell1

    SchoolsImprove Yuk! A terrible idea. It will make the loners more lonely, the lazy lazier. No social skills, fresh air, school dinners??!

  3. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove I must admit that I’m surprised that this hasn’t happened before; relies on a good broadband connection though!

  4. shortcutstv_cjl

    SchoolsImprove This is what happens when ppl who don’t understand the purpose of education are allowed to set-up “schools”.

  5. Ex_Inc

    SchoolsImprove I’ve worked with online ed for years for children with med needs. Mainstream need interaction and promotion of social skills

  6. Janet2

    Providing education via the internet has its uses for, say, school refusers, children in remote districts (providing the broadband is up to it) or children who are sick.  But providing full-time education via the internet is unacceptable.  School provides friendships, getting on with other people and school dinners.

    Would a teenager left alone have the necessary maturity to work unsupervised at a computer for a long period of time?  Or would s/he get a few mates round and all whiz through the ‘teaching’  together before getting down to other things teenagers might prefer doing?

    In any case, the DfE makes it clear that children under the age of 12 ‘are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time’.

    https://www.gov.uk/law-on-leaving-your-child-home-alone

    But Wey Ecademy’s website says the education will be offered to 10-19 year-olds.

    http://www.weyecademy.com/

    Perhaps the DfE should bear its own recommendations in mind before allowing anyone to offer on-line education to children.

  7. Janet2

    Providing education via the internet has its uses for, say, school refusers, children in remote districts (providing the broadband is up to it) or children who are sick.  But providing full-time education via the internet is unacceptable.  School provides friendships, getting on with other people and school dinners.

    Would a teenager left alone have the necessary maturity to work unsupervised at a computer for a long period of time?  Or would s/he get a few mates round and all whiz through the ‘teaching’  together before getting down to other things teenagers might prefer doing?

    In any case, the DfE makes it clear that children under the age of 12 ‘are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time’.

    https://www.gov.uk/law-on-leaving-your-child-home-alone

    But Wey Ecademy’s website says the education will be offered to 10-19 year-olds.

    http://www.weyecademy.com/

    Perhaps the DfE should bear its own recommendations in mind before allowing anyone to offer on-line education to children.

  8. Janet2

    Wey Ecademy is proposed by the Wey Education Schools Trust.  The company behind this trust is Zail Enterprises Ltd.  Zail told its shareholders it had established a ‘vehicle’ in the form of Wey Education Schools Trust which would help the long-term sustainability of Zail and provide a ‘return to shareholders’.

    http://www.investegate.co.uk/article.aspx?id=201305310700089451F

    Remember, as ex-Gove adviser Sam Freedman said in 2008, when for-profit firms get involved in education it’s not altruism but investment.

    http://www.theguardian.com/education/2008/apr/14/schools.newschools

  9. bridgetmck

    There are already online schools like this. We tried two when my daughter was a school refuser. It was a really poor experience for her – far too much time chained to a desk peering at a screen every day. The way this is conceived falls between two very different stools – full time state education and home education. I don’t think this will appeal to home educators because they organise social and educational activities most days with other parents. Structured online learning is definitely useful for some children who are excluded, sick, school refusers, and home educated etc but not synchronous daily instruction. It has to be more like a MOOC, giving challenges that can be completed in their own time, and enabling learners to explore through peer interaction.

  10. pippamint

    SchoolsImprove this model already exists – excellent way to supplement the offer made to vulnerable groups eg medical.

  11. susanreed24

    SchoolsImprove Not new/radical. In UK InterHighEd is 10yrs old & there are others inc my #NetSchool. Provides an option for home-eders.

  12. InterHighEd

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove we’re surprised too, and as we started on dial up and most students manage with a bit of 3G ….

  13. ClairePacino

    Janet2  No one said younger children would be left alone. Please do some research before posting ignorant comments! Their website says children need to be supervised, especially those under 14. It seems like a brilliant idea I’m jealous we didn’t have this. It means they don’t have to spend hours travelling to/from school & can be done studying by lunch time. Freeing up valuable time to get involved with local extra curricular activities. They have the rest of the day to play with friends. This means evening time can really be family time. Conversation can extend to a bit more than what did you do at school today, to how did you enjoy your life today.

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