Online schools are growing in popularity among children who say mainstream school is not for them with up to 125,222 pupils in Autumn 2022 were away from the classroom more often than not, compared to 60,244 in Autumn 2019.
Despite the government spending more on education since 2019, rising costs and soaring inflation have cancelled out any funding increase.
The law requires all children of school age to receive suitable full-time education, but last year 141,000 children spent more time out of class than in – up by 137% since the pandemic.
Cllr Louise Gittins, chair of the children and young people board for the Local Government Association (LGA), said: “We have long raised with government that councils lack the powers to ensure that children who are missing school don’t slip through the net.
While the figures show an improvement on last year, the absence rate is nearly double what it was before the pandemic. Local councils blame funding problems for not being able to keep track of missing pupils well enough.
Studying online is a new way of learning that could represent one of the biggest shake-ups of education for generations. Hugh Viney is the founder of an online education school that boasts a roll of 500 pupils.
In an exclusive interview with Sky News, he said the online school’s GCSE results were significantly higher than the national average.
But he added: “We don’t care about results, we care about happiness.” He welcomes the government’s move to inspect online providers, but he wants more.
Mr Viney wants the money that schools get per pupil to be able to be spent on his online school if that pupil opts out of mainstream education:
“Councils are already spending tens of thousands on private tutoring for children who are missing school,” he says.
“Why can’t they spend £6,000 a year on a child getting a full schooling experience?
“We need to innovate. There are 1.7 million children missing huge amounts of school. Ten per cent of teachers are leaving the teaching profession. We’ve got to come up with ways to solve these issues and we’re saying we’re part of that solution.”
Ministers say there is no system currently available that would allow pupil funding to be transferred to an online provider. A Department for Education spokesperson told Sky News: “We know face-to-face education is the best way for children to learn – but this isn’t always possible and high-quality online education can be a practical option to cater for a child’s specific needs.
“All education, whether it is online or in person, should meet the highest possible standards and our Online Education Accreditation Scheme will give greater confidence to parents, carers and pupils accessing education through this route.”
Online schools are growing in popularity among children who say mainstream school is not for them. Now, the government is asking online providers to apply for accreditation, which means they will be inspected by the schools watchdog Ofsted. Such a move could be seen as legitimising this type of education.
The Department for Education says there are an estimated 25 online education providers in England and so far 13 have applied for accreditation, with inspections starting soon.
(Source: Sky News)