Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How 'Ecademy' May Make Virtual State Education a Reality

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How 'Ecademy' May Make Virtual State Education a Reality

Article excerpt

Plans for online free school pique interest of home educators

The free-school programme has led to the creation of institutions backed by pop stars and others where children can learn in multiple languages. And, from next September, students could attend a free school without ever needing to leave their homes, under plans submitted to the Department for Education for the first state-funded virtual school in England.

The Wey Education Schools Trust (West) wants to open the Wey Ecademy, an all-through school that would provide an entirely web-based education accessed by pupils from their homes. The group wants to offer greater choice to parents who are unhappy with their local schools, but the vast majority of interest has come from parents who choose to home-educate their children.

According to a spokesman for West, home educators have signed up "in their hundreds" to enrol their offspring.

"Currently, these families have very little choice with regards to formal education, do not have the means to pay for private tuition and are faced with trying to create a curriculum from scratch," the spokesman said. "The ecademy gives children access to lessons delivered by a fully qualified teacher, which will be genuinely interactive and hugely beneficial to students as every lesson would be recorded and available to revisit."

Under the plans, children would log on to their computers at 9am for a register to be taken. Classes would have no more than 20 students, who would follow the lesson via an audio link and a connection to an interactive whiteboard. Students would be able to speak to the class using an instant messaging service and questions could be posed to the teacher via private messages.

"Ofsted has said that 20 per cent of lesson time is lost due to pupil behaviour, but this is totally eliminated in the ecademy," the spokesman added. "Up to half of a child's day is taken up by getting to and from school as well as breaks and moving between lessons, whereas there is no such issue with a school like ours."

A fee-paying virtual school, called InterHigh, has been in operation in the UK for nearly 10 years. Last year, plans for an online-only sixth-form college were abandoned after the project failed to get the green light from DfE officials, but West is confident that its plan can succeed. …

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