ARE ONLINE SCHOOLS THE FUTURE?
Plans for an online ‘school’ could change the way children are educated but is there really a future without classrooms?
There are many parents who feel the frustration of the school system from time to time with some opting for home schooling. But what about those who do not feel they can teach their child themselves?
JO-ANNE ROWNEY speaks to Tom Scott from Wey Ecademy, an online free school, about why he feels that is the answer
THINK back to when you went to school and there
be a few familiar memories – struggling out of bed when the alarm goes off. Dashing to catch the school bus. Meeting friends and socialising in the school playground. Hurrying from class to class as the wind howled in the depths of winter.
Yet all those memories could be consigned to the history books if a trailblazing new school gets the go-ahead in Bucks.
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.
“They can log in wherever they find themselves.”
Mr Scott feel this concept fulfils a need, specifically for children who struggle in the mainstream environment but also for parents wanting more choice.
“We knew that there were parents who think about home schooling but perhaps don’t feel able to provide it,” he said.
“Where is the option for them? We think Wey provides that option. There’s that need.
“There are areas where schools are just not as good as, say, a grammar or private school, why should a child have less of an education? This way there’s another choice.”
So why Buckinghamshire? An area praised for its grammar schools.
“We have to have a base and Buckinghamshire made sense,” Mr Scott said. “London is expensive, but Buckinghamshire is near and also has a great reputation for schooling.”
The Ecademy makes the entire curriculum available all the time so children can catch up, go over a lesson, or work ahead.
It begs the question of what the incentive is to get up on time, but Mr Scott does not see this as an issue.
“They may have been unwell or unfocused. We know teenagers struggle more.
“They may have slept in or