First state-funded virtual school in UK soon? Implications

The Sunday Times reported on 1 July 2012 that  the Secretary of State for Education (England) Michael Gove "is expected to sign off on a further 80-100 schools in the next 10 days under the Tory policy to let parents, teachers, charities and other groups set up state schools. They will add to the 92 free schools so far approved of which 24 are already open." One  at least is expected to be a virtual school.

The long article (not available publicly on the web) later states that: "Among those planned is a "virtual school" in Staffordshire, based on an American model, where pupils would mostly study online from home". So far so good, and long overdue for the UK in the minds of several UK experts. The UK, or at least England and Wales, has had no state-funded virtual schools, despite some thriving private non-profit virtual schools and several commercial providers of online teaching to GCSE and A levels.

However, in line with traditional fears and misunderstandings of online learning common in Europe, the article then states: "This will be sensitive for Gove, as it requires far fewer staff than conventional schools and could be a pointer to the future as use of technology grows". While one cannot rule this out, there is a wide range of virtual schooling models across North America and Europe and many of them replicate the main aspects of the traditional classroom with various types of online interaction. The teacher is still firmly at the centre of the system, maybe not always the "sage on the stage" but certainly the "guide on the stage". Old-fashioned distance learning it is not. Teacherless open educational resources it is not.

Fortunately for our readers, maybe now including some newspaper reporters, local councillors, teachers and anxious parents, a large amount of material relevant to virtual schools in the UK and the wider Europe has just been made available by our VISCED project. The materials include clear descriptions of how the virtual schools actually work. We think that this will be reassuring to many enquirers. See


Paul Bacsich, VISCED Project Manager



To those commenting on the posting... The situation with virtual schools in the UK is described in our country articles - see eg for Wales The individual virtual schools are all indexed from Our Handbook can be downloaded from Finally, even more information on virtual schools round the world will be released in a few weeks. Paul


I read the same article and a Google search brought me to your site. I work for an education charity and we have been running a virtual school in the UK for the past year. Would be interesting to make contact - this looks like an interesting project.

On another note have you managed to find any further information on who the American company is?



I'd love to hear more about virtual schools in the UK. I am currently teaching 3rd grade at a very big and successful virtual school in the USA.

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