The move by parents towards high-quality online learning to provide a best-in-class education for their children is not a new phenomenon. Pearson believes the future of learning was already digital, but Covid-19 has accelerated that transition which is why now is time for the Government’s duty of care for learners to be updated to transcend the location of learning.
We believe that a more comprehensive approach to ensuring well-being and learning outcomes for students in home education is critical. The regulation and inspection of service providers as well as enabling parents to access funding support are just a few of the areas that must be updated as part of a new approach.
We know that complete online schools, such as Harrow School Online, are increasingly a choice for families seeking a home-based alternative to traditional education provision. This is because for an increasing number of children, the traditional schooling method is not appropriate and is failing them. A high-quality online provider enables a more personalised approach to learning which enables children to progress at the rate that suits them. This helps tackle the important fact that not all children progress at the same speed. In addition, the current pandemic has meant many children have been able to try online learning and found they prefer it.
So, what needs to happen to ensure well-being and learning outcomes for students in home education?
First, it is left to the families of the home-educated to navigate the fragmented and often poor quality of current provision. A mechanism for quality assuring provision and enabling families to access funding support could address this issue together. Funding for a child’s education should be universal, with the spending tied to the child regardless of how they are educated. Parents choosing to home-educate their child should therefore receive access to the same funding level their child would receive from in a maintained school.
Second, a more comprehensive approach must be based on it being a discretionary choice for families. That is why we continue to believe that a statutory regulation of the full-time online schooling market would be in the best interests of all parties, particularly families who are seeking a reliable and trustworthy online partner while self-isolation and lockdowns continue.
Finally, as part of the drive for quality provision, online schools should have to ensure they are offering all of the support a child needs to progress through their education. This includes accessing exams accessing exam centres, something which parents of home educated children struggle with.
The Education Select Committee is currently considering evidence on home education, and now is the time for policy makers to do the same. The pandemic has demonstrated the power of digital solutions at home, and so consideration needs to be given to how best harness the potential of quality home education and bring it into the mainstream, alongside traditional schooling.