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The Future of Education: A New Era of Online Schooling

By: Alex Gray, Head of Science, Dubai British School Emirates Hills

Online schools are no longer a thing of the future; they're very much part of our present. As the Department for Education in England starts to formalise the role of online education providers through accreditations and inspections by the school watchdog Ofsted, a new wave of legitimacy is being cast over the online learning landscape. In this piece, we will explore the future implications of this development and what it means for both mainstream and alternative educational systems.

The Rise of Online Schools

With an estimated 25 online education providers in England and 13 already applying for accreditation, it's clear that this new form of schooling is gaining traction. It's especially appealing to a segment of students who find mainstream education insufficient or inappropriate for their learning styles. But why is this?

1. Personalisation: Online schools allow for more personalised learning paths, enabling students to learn at their own pace and focus on subjects that interest them.

2. Accessibility: Students who live in remote areas, have special needs, or face other challenges that make traditional schooling difficult can benefit from online education.

3. Innovation: Online platforms can integrate various technologies like virtual labs, interactive tutorials, and real-time assessments, offering a potentially richer educational experience.

A Prime Example: Synthesis School

One notable example of this innovative approach to online education is the Synthesis School. Developed at SpaceX, this program aims to nurture creative problem-solving and teamwork among children aged 7 and above. Instead of adhering to traditional teaching methods, Synthesis focuses on cultivating traits such as creativity, collaboration, ambition, and a love for complexity. Designed to foster student voice and strategic thinking, this curriculum is available globally, serving as an alternative to mainstream educational approaches. With its emphasis on unlocking hidden abilities and encouraging children's natural potential, it epitomises the direction in which online schooling can evolve.

The Call for Accreditation

The government's move to accredit online schools could be a game-changer. Accreditation not only legitimises online education but also ensures a minimum standard of quality. Parents, students, and educators alike can have greater confidence in the system. Inspections by Ofsted will hold these institutions accountable, ensuring they adhere to educational standards and best practices.

Funding and Financial Implications

Advocates for online education, raise important question about funding. Currently, the money allocated for a pupil's education in a mainstream school doesn't transfer if the pupil opts for online education. However, tens of thousands are already being spent on private tutoring for children missing school. Shouldn't a portion of the traditional schooling budget be allocated to online education, especially when it could cost significantly less and potentially offer a complete educational experience?

Addressing the Elephant in the Room: Teacher Attrition

One significant concern in the educational sector is the high attrition rate among teachers. A startling 10% of teachers are reportedly leaving the profession. Online education could alleviate some pressures on teachers by offering them more flexible working conditions, reducing classroom management stress, and enabling them to reach a wider audience. This could potentially make the profession more sustainable and appealing.

Government's Stance: A Balanced View

While the Department for Education acknowledges the potential of online schooling, they also emphasise that face-to-face education is still the best way for children to learn. This brings us to the point that online education shouldn't necessarily replace traditional schooling but should complement it.

Hybrid Models: The Best of Both Worlds?

As we look to the future, a hybrid model combining the best elements of both online and in-person education seems increasingly plausible. A 'blended' approach could offer students the personalisation and innovation of online platforms while retaining the socialisation and hands-on experiences that a physical classroom provides.

Challenges Ahead

While the future seems promising, there are challenges that need to be addressed:

1. Quality Control: As more providers enter the market, maintaining high educational standards becomes crucial.

2. Digital Divide: Not all families have access to high-speed internet and high-quality devices.

3. Social Skills: Concerns about the potential lack of socialization in online schooling environments need to be mitigated.

4. Regulatory Framework: Creating a policy environment that supports innovation while ensuring accountability is a complex task.


The move to accredit online schools is a significant step toward modernizing education for the 21st century. With 1.7 million children missing large chunks of school and teacher attrition rates on the rise, innovation isn't just desirable; it's essential. As the government, educators, and stakeholders navigate this new terrain, the key will be to find a balanced approach that serves the diverse needs of all students. Online education is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but it's certainly becoming an indispensable part of the educational landscape.