Cost effectiveness of Virtual Schooling, a UK Perspective
George Watley, University of Northampton, UK
Summary of presentation
In his presentation George began by explaining the difficulties faced when trying to make a direct comparison between the costs of traditional schooling and virtual schooling. This led him in his research work to work with a cost range rather than specific figures. Even working on the basis of examination fees can be challenging as these too can be hard to determine and vary a lot. He also explained how it had been difficult to gather information about costs from virtual school providers.
The figures and comparative material that he used in his presentation were based on comparisons made for three different scenarios, in the first for a student who took a bare minimum of 6 GCSCs, the second for a student who took 8 GCSCs and one A level and the third for a student who took 4 A levels. Much of his comparative work was made between traditional school offers for these three scenarios and the costs associated with the Scottish initiative SCHOLAR which is run by Heriot-Watt University and the local educational authority as they were able to provide the information he required. Using the figures from SCHOLAR, George found there to be considerable savings for the virtual school model. Furthermore SCHOLAR, which is based on a blended model, has managed to cut costs by 25%, the failure rate by 50% and increased attainment by 10% - so managing to pay for itself within several years.
However it is difficult to assume the results he gathered can be generalised to other virtual schools given the lack of concrete information available for virtual schooling more generally in the UK.