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Are on-line schools the future?

Painted glass obscuring the view beyond is becoming an increasing feature of shop fronts throughout Britain’s towns and cities. Above them remains evidence of once famous names, amongst them Top Shop, Top Man and Miss Selfridge. Citing these and other retailers recently forced out of business, some say the high streets are dying. Blame is often placed at the door of high business rates, but a viable online alternative which is increasingly viewed as meeting the needs of the customer is likely to be the most significant factor. Shops have not adapted, and the pandemic has further cruelly exposed their traditional model. Given their importance in contributing to a sense of community, talk by civic leaders is now of reimagining the high street, reinvigorating the vacant lots in the hope of appealing once again to the populace. Is this a taste of what is to come with our schools?

Recently, I attended a zoom meeting with the leader of an international online school. He presented evidence that suggested it is a burgeoning success, with significantly increasing numbers of students and teachers from all over the world being attracted to its model and high rates of satisfaction. He stated his belief that Covid has exacerbated this trend. Many students had experienced fully online learning for the first time and realised that they quite like its flexibility, something that our education system simply does not have. 

Back in 2014, the World Innovation Summit in Education (WISE) laid out some predictions for 2030. Significant was the move from the current reliance on bricks and mortar schools to the increasing presence of online schools. Schools do not currently see the potential of this threat, much in the same way as shops did not foresee the emergence of online retailers like Amazon and Asos. 

It seems that we have two options. Continue to do the same thing in our schools – one-size-fits-all curriculum, teaching to the test and high stakes testing – and risk further alienating many young people, or we create something more responsive, meaningful, engaging and authentic.

At Rescue Our Schools our beef is with the system and those that impose it. Rescuing our schools is about changing this system. It is about unleashing the human capital lying dormant in our schools to make something better, something that will the benefit all our young people. The alternative? It might just might be painted windows obscuring empty classrooms. 

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