Thursday, 4 August 2016

Live online schools, tutors & MOOCS - updated

Live Online Schools – Primary

Lessons are live, which means they are scheduled for set times. Most providers will offer a month’s trial if you ask nicely.
Children are admitted at 9, the earliest that developmentally they can cope with the intensive focus and concentration needed to successfully participate in learning via this format.  If your child does not yet have the focus for learning this way, it may be worth waiting a few years and trying again. One of the joys of homeschool is that children can be allowed to progress naturally, rather than according to arbitrary targets.  It is worth noting that this learning format is best suited to structured or semi-structured families and is unlikely to suit completely autonomous families.
Some schools will admit children with additional learning needs, others are unable to cater for them.
At this level all schools will take children for single subjects or for the whole curriculum. Curriculum wise they start at UK Year 4/5.  One of the joys of Internet school is that it is easy for a child to accelerate or decelerate their studies, so a 12 year old can join Year 5 without being made to feel sensitive about it if that’s what they need academically. Another child might be accelerated in their favourite subject without fuss.

http://www,  This aims to be a supplement to your own homeschooling programme, not a complete packaged solution.  It is aimed at keeping children up to date in the core subjects + a foreign language if desired. It is popular with ex-patriate parents who know they may want their children to rejoin the school system upon their return to the UK. To this end it offers preparation classes for the common entrance exam at 13+. Children join the class that best suits their academic ability, not their chronological age.   All aspects of the lesson are recorded, which is ideal for children who may wish to revise the lessons in their own time. This is a unique service, and ideal for some additional needs pupils. Fees for the core curriculum are approximately £333 per term. Modern Foreign  Languages are £47 a month.  The timetable of 3 mid-week afternoons a week is ideal for those who would like lots of long weekends free for family field trips/to attend hospital appointments etc.  The school is kept small in total numbers, which means staff know their pupils well. It is expected however that parents will provide adequate socialisation activities offline. Offers a rigorous academic schedule, including Latin if required. Single subjects can be taken and the website is easy to navigate.  It can be considered a complete curriculum, so ideal for parents of bright children who want to hand over all teaching to someone else.  Lessons are spread across the week. Fees are approx £1000 term, or £180+VAT for a single subject. This is a supplementary programme to your own homeschooling efforts, not a complete packaged solution.  This has a very nurturing ethos, and so can be an excellent choice for children who are nervous or healing from school bullying. Social activities are very tightly monitored, which may offer reassurance to a nervous child. The proprietor is a Pagan.  There is considerable flexibility as to which year group your child joins – very helpful for children with delayed or asynchronous development. Subject matter experts are recruited in favour of trained teachers, which means it may not be the ideal choice if your child intends to return to school at any point.  The common room is moderated and offers an opportunity for children who might have limited socialisation options (often for health reasons) to do so.  The school has a strict policy to keep total numbers small, which means staff get to know their students well. 
Fees are approximately £333 per term.

 Live Online Schools – Secondary 

Note that it is increasingly common for children to join at 14+ having previously been autonomously educated or mainstream schooled for support in obtaining their iGCSE’s.


The choice of provider widens at KS3. Do check which exam board the school is aligned to so that you can verify that an exam  centre will be within reasonable travelling distance when the time comes. It is not unusual to be enrolled with different schools for different course options particularly at KS4. You’ll find that the providers do not mind. Some students even combine college and or flexi-schooling at this stage of their educational career. 
This is the current market leader and aims to replicate a comprehensive school online as a complete package. It enjoys the closest links to LA’s, some of whom fund children with a statement and additional learning needs to attend. The school works well with LAs for these pupils.  Lesson slides may be available in some subjects, but not recordings for revision. Offers double science and an extensive virtual social experience.  Single English award. You need to sign up for the whole curriculum. Single subjects are not offered in KS3/4 for those who only want to enroll in order to learn a MFL etc. . Children may join the school at 11+ Offers a good choice of subjects for A level. The school is now about 700 pupils strong, & you should be aware that the fee arrangements are quite inflexible, based as they are on a standard private school contract. Based here in Wales with their own dedicated exam centre. (Useful for those needing complex access arrangements).
See Primary providers. The Sciences are offered as single subjects. Is unusual in that both English Language and English Literature are offered as GCSE options.  Also offers Latin to iGCSE.  No modern language option at iGCSE. French and German offered at KS3. Possible to take single subjects. Children may join the school from 9+ onwards.
See Primary providers. Often accelerates students so it is typical to stagger GCSE’s. Offers common entrance exam prep as an optional module for 13+. Offers science as a choice of a double iGCSE award or as 3 separate subjects. Single English award. French, German and Spanish offered at iGCSE. History only offered as a recorded option a present (free to all enrolled students).  Pupils may choose between Foundation level and the Higher level Maths iGCSE options, which can be very helpful to some additional needs students. Fees approx £2500 per year. Children may join the school from 9+ onwards (though the occasional gifted 8 year old is admitted).  Offers the ECDL course in lieu of iGCSE ICT and a very limited range of A level courses.  It is also possible to enroll just for a single subject.
Everyone we’ve spoken to has had high praise for this provider. Most people have been LA funded to attend. However fees are roughly competitive against Interhigh and Brightschool.
A dedicated post 16 option!!!!!! Fees are approx £1500 per subject. Intended student intake is those whose SN’s or illness makes college attendance difficult. Most pupils are LA funded.
Models itself on an old fashioned village school in a virtual context. Prides itself on providing a nurturing environment so worth a look for anxious children or those in recovery from being bullied at school.  Based here in Wales which is very useful for exam centre know how! For bullied children and school refusers. So far we’ve only been able to  locate LA funded users of this option and the end goal has usually been for eventual reintegration into the state system as a result

Pembrokeshire College Online

This provider offers a great range of A level subjects including the sciences. The Science A level courses are worth a special mention, as there is the facility to do practical workshops. They also run their own exam centre which is useful for those who may need access arrangements to accommodate disability or Additional Learning Needs. A small range of iGCSE & GCSE subjects are also on offer including Computer Science, which is often very tricky to locate an exam centre for here in Wales. Pricing is competitive against other providers. This provider is one of those that accepts LA funded pupils via their statement of special educational needs and works well with LAs. As an exam centre it is also very helpful for those pupils who need access arrangements. If these are required, as always you should aim to organise these 18 months before your child is due to sit the exam in question. 

Online tutorial services for Home Educators

To find experienced tutors of Home Ed Students who are fully clued up on the need to follow the IGCSE programmes, and how things work for private candidates etc we advise you to join this facebook group -  HE APPROVED ONLINE TUTORS
These use a variety of software solutions to connect learners with their tutors, the most common being Skype.  Some of the online schools also offer one to one tuition on a case by case basis via their own software.  This is the most expensive method of learning online but can be a useful avenue to explore if for instance no specialist dyslexia support is available in your area. It is also useful for some gifted students and those who might want to study a subject not readily available via more popular options.

We believe giftedness is an additional learning need so wanted to include providers that can cope with the advanced end of our spiky profile children. Briteschool is fab for acceleration in maths, science and a few other subjects. Now we have a provider on board for English and the humanities too. Runs online courses for ages 11 and up for homeschoolers/educators all over the world. Using the Charlotte Mason method, I've designed 30 weeks of online webinars that work for both the US-style high school credit hours, and the UK's desire to prepare students for exams.  4 different courses in English for different literary periods, and have brought on board an OU tutor/former home-ed mum for Classical Civilization.  Run by a CIE examiner for IGCSE & A level. 

Online crammer courses for the CIE English Language 0500 exam (higher tier only). These are 8-session coaching courses which I've designed based on my experience as an examiner. I usually run one during the Easter break, but people are asking me to do one for this autumn, so it may be offered near the end of August. The website for that is here:

The Open University 

The Open University accepts students from age 12 subject to a long list of caveats. Due to the developmental and emotional maturity required, it is VERY unusual for a student to be accepted below 14 years of age. Fees have risen rapidly in recent years, which sadly may remove this option from many Home schooling families box of option. It remains however a great alternative to A levels, or even mainstream University for some pupils.
At degree level it is worth noting that several UK Universities, (including Russell Group) are now offering distance or online learning at degree level. This may be the best route to obtaining a degree for some students with additional needs, especially those with sensory issues that may become overwhelmed in the traditional lecture Hall.


Classes are delivered via a series of pre-recorded, audio, slide or video lessons. Assignments are submitted for peer review or marking by the lecturer.  Online forums provide the medium for class discussion. There may be thousands globally at anyone time studying a specific MOOC module so the format is by its very nature very impersonal.  So long as assignments are handed in by the deadlines MOOCs offer great freedom in terms of scheduling, so may be very convenient for families who wish to remain semi-autonomous and flexible in terms of their time.
The sheer range of breadth & range of topics offered means that if your child is suited to this format for learning, it is worth browsing the course indices every so often.  MOOCS are currently totally free, unless you require formal verification of course completion.
MOOCS alone should not be relied upon alone to gain entrance to College or University.  They are not a replacement for formal qualifications such as GCSE’s, NVQ’s and BTECs. No UCAS points can be awarded for completion. They do however show that a homeschooled child can learn in a structured manner, and are useful for extending subject knowledge. It makes sense if you feel you may want to demonstrate evidence at interview of extended learning in a topic to pay the extra for the certified or verified route on these courses in order to obtain the available certificate.
These certificates only provide proof of study and cannot as yet be used to accumulate UCAS points but it is perhaps worth the UK home ed' community lobbying?

 futurelearn – This is the Market Leading provider here in the UK, and is considered particularly valuable by UK home edders for its basic science courses. Certificates can only be issued in a child’s name at 14+,  This site has only very recently launched a range of High School courses specifically aimed at the 14-19 year old age group.  Some of these courses can be certificated. We look forward to seeing how this initiative progresses.  Some useful courses here for parents to take on educational topics such as positive behavioural support (ABA) & dyslexia.

Khan Academy - an amazing resource chock full of help with maths, science and many other subjects. Well worth a look!


1. We can only list those providers we have found bone fide Home Educators willing to vouch for. If you provide a service please email with the contact details of the parents of some happy Home Educating pupils that we can talk to. This is the only way to be included in future lists. 
2. We update this list in July each year so if you are a Home Educator using a provider not listed here - do sing their praises to us as we do our best to update the list periodically. 

3. All prices are approximate only and you should check with individual providers before selecting your final choice as they are subject to change. 

Also please note that the vast majority of providers expect you to make your own exam centre arrangements. Often it's easiest to work backwards and locate an exam centre before choosing a provider. Where relevant we've listed those Welsh providers who may be helpful due to their local knowledge, or because they run their own centre. There's also lots of help available for sourcing local exam centres available in our Face Book Group via our members. Work is constantly ongoing to persuade more existing centres across Wales, to accept private candidates and specifically those who need access arrangements due to additional learning needs at a reasonable cost. 

Author - Steph Shobiye

In the pipeline - ischooldigital - a specialist Welsh online ALN provider. We are watching this closely and will update as soon as we hear more. 

Dreaming Spires - will be running geography, history and biology courses from 2017.
Arts Award for Cymru ALN group members 2017. 

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