The Rise of Online Schooling

None of us as parents went to an online school – so why should we consider it for our children?

It is very hard to imagine something if you haven’t done it yourself. Online education is a relatively new concept, which many people haven’t even heard of yet. Nonetheless, it is a way of learning which is extremely fast-growing, rising from 1.2 million to 2 million students in the last five years. The majority of those learners, around 90%, are actually in the US where online schooling provision has been a core part of the education system for around 20 years and is supported by state funding.

Pearson predicts that the market will more than double again in the next 5 years. Global mobility, the drive for studying in English and the increased availability of high-quality online provision are the main factors driving the rise.

Heather Rhodes, the founder and principal of Highgrove Education, first set up an online English language tutorial school over ten years ago, while working at Harrow School as Head of English as an Additional Language. She soon noticed that the pupils being taught online were making more progress in less time than equivalent pupils learning face-to-face, and it was clear that studying online opened opportunities for many without the expense of travelling.

She had been running the tutorial school online for some years when Pearson approached Harrow School with the suggestion of collaborating to set up an online sixth-form teaching A-levels. In 2021 she became the founding principal of Harrow School Online, a school which went on to become the most academically successful online school in the world, with an outstanding 78% of A levels at A*-A – better results than the famous Harrow boarding school itself. Those results put the school in the top 1% of schools globally.

Having been an early adaptor to online education, Heather has seen a shift in expectations for online provision. She notes that “pre-pandemic, online education tended to be a last resort for families, for families who were desperate for whatever reason, because either the traditional education didn’t suit them or they were moving, they needed flexibility in their location, flexibility in the timing of the lessons. Because families tended to be looking for this as a last resort, anything felt acceptable. There wasn’t really a focus on extracurricular provision or the community aspect of schooling. The support wasn’t really there for students to perform consistently well in online education. And yet my experience has been that it’s easier to do well studying online than face-to-face. There are fewer distractions. You can focus more. The lessons are slightly more intense, but you kind of get more out of them because of that”.

Harrow School Online delivered outstanding results for three years before Heather Rhodes and her excellent team of teachers moved on to set up their own independent school – Highgrove Online School under the umbrella of Highgrove Education.

Highgrove Online School adapted the same successful approach to learning that had been tried and tested with Harrow School Online, relying on a combination of live lessons and a flipped learning self-study model, along with one-to-one support available as required. Traditional GCSE and A-level programmes are complemented by an extensive extracurricular program with an emphasis on the community aspect of education and strong pastoral support. Heather was delighted to see her teaching team keen to continue with their online roles. “
Almost every teacher moved on to join Highgrove Online School, basically continuing what they had been doing at Harrow School Online, but with a different name and a different ownership.”

For parents, one of the main concerns about online education is that it might be difficult to develop friendships. Heather is adamant that a good online school should pay as much attention to the community aspect of schooling as to the academic provision. In Highgrove Online School there is a house system which gives students the chance to meet up socially and get involved in inter-house competitions. There’s a wide range of student-led clubs and societies, offering the opportunity for leadership and teamwork. There is a Skills and Mindset course, which promotes the development of independent learning and interpersonal skills. Finally, there is an elective program, which offers courses like sports psychology, an introduction to investment, and nutrition, as enjoyable extra-curricular courses on which students can meet others with shared interests.

For many students, traditional schooling really works – but not for all. By offering an alternative to traditional mainstream education, online schooling helps widen the chances for students to excel. Online schools do not fit everyone, just like traditional bricks and mortar schools are not enjoyed by everyone equally. The key is to have options. Highgrove Online School’s provision is for students who are willing to take on the responsibility to learn and who are relatively academically minded and ambitious. Unless l you’ve been involved in online education, you may well think that it’s impossible to achieve top grades online, or to have the full breadth of a school curriculum online, or to give students opportunities to socialise and take on leadership roles online. Schools like Highgrove Education are proving that it’s possible not just to survive, but to thrive, studying online.

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Highgrove Online School

Highgrove Online School

Highgrove Online School is a haven for ambitious pupils who want the very best all-round British education wherever they might be in the world. We offer a warm school community, an academic programme that supports pupils to achieve to the very best of their ability at GCSE and A level, and an extra-curricular programme that is second to none.

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