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Online schools are an alternative to more traditional schooling, whereby children or young people learn either entirely or primarily online. So who do they suit and how do you find the best one for your child?

Who do online schools suit?

Online learning can be a great solution for families who travel a lot and/or who want to access the English national curriculum from overseas. In addition, online schools can work well for elite young sportspeople and actors with professional commitments that make the inflexibility of mainstream school challenging. Then there are parents who like the idea of their children being home schooled but feel unable to do all the teaching themselves.

Some children really took to the online learning provided by mainstream schools during lockdowns, and decided to continue down that route. Others with anxiety and other mental health problems prefer the idea of learning from the comfort of their own home. Online learning also suits some children with SEN.

Online schooling is not for everyone. It’s not even for most people. But for a growing number of families, it is deemed a valuable alternative to traditional school, particularly as some are achieving the kind of results that most bricks and mortar schools would be proud of.

Types of online school

Online schooling forms part of the wider home-schooling model but takes some of the pressure of parents by providing students with a structured learning programme with trained teachers. There are two main types, although some online schools provide a combination of both:

  • schools that provide a structured school day with live lessons (usually recorded so students can catch up later if required)
  • schools that provide a distance learning model with regular online input from trained teachers

Some families decide to top up the learning with tutors, either online or in person. A growing number of tutor agencies that we review provide this service either throughout the online schooling journey or at critical points eg coming up to exam time.

What can online schools offer?

When it comes to online schools offering the English national curriculum via live lessons, there are still surprisingly few options. Just as with physical schools, we only review those that demonstrate good results, have an established history and where parents and students describe mainly positive experiences.

For online schools and colleges offering distance learning, there is a great number available but as yet, we do not review these.

That said, we have an expert on our consultancy team who regularly advises on all the online options available and can provide detailed guidance about the subtle, and not so subtle, differences to help match the right one to your child.

Is online school right for you?

  • If the school provides live lessons, does the structure of the school day suit your time zone? And are the lessons recorded if you miss them? Are students expected to have mics and cameras on at all times?
  • Do you have to sign up to a full-time learning package (as you would in a physical school) or can you pick and choose the subjects you want?
  • What kind of training and experience do the teachers have – not just in their subjects, but of online learning which requires a different type of teaching?
  • How does the online school manage things like science experiments and art?
  • Does the school offer any extracurricular? You might be surprised to learn that some online schools offer music and even drama.
  • Online schools are not conducive to offering sport, so how do they help ensure the student gets enough fresh air and exercise?
  • Does the school encourage a sense of community eg through clubs, trips, tutor groups, form time, assemblies etc?
  • What kind of pastoral care does the school offer?
  • Does the school have a SENCo? And how does it support children with SEN?
  • What about discipline? What is the school’s approach, for example, to disrupting classes and non-attendance?
  • Does your child have the right personality for an online school? They will need to be self-motivated, an independent learner and happy in their own company.
  • Does the school organise relevant exams eg GCSEs and A levels – or are parents expected to take care of that side of things?
  • Who will be your contact at the school and can you contact them anytime?


For further information on any of the issues above or to help find your child the right online school or college course(s), contact us about our online schools service by emailing [email protected] or calling 0800 368 7694 (UK) or +44 203 286 6824 from overseas.

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