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April 2021 / Education / by Sophie Hampton

Online Schooling – The Next Big Thing?

We meet the staff of Harrow School Online, to discover why online schools are growing in popularity.

Benefits of online schools

In today’s uncertain landscape, online schooling offers stability and security for pupils – something which is particularly important during those school years when they are preparing for crucial exams.

Online schooling can reach students wherever they are located and give them the flexibility to fit learning around their lives. The ability to personalise learning to individuals is incredibly powerful too – pupils can be stretched where possible and supported when required. Students at a well-designed online school can thrive academically while developing the skills and mindset to become better independent learners, which they will need in order to excel at university. In recent years the sector has grown hugely, and it is expected that it will continue growing as more students discover the benefits and flexibility of online learning.

Introducing Harrow School Online

Harrow School Online is the first of its kind – a fully online sixth form school offering a world leading independent British education. It brings together the richness and heritage of a Harrow School education with leading online learning technology and teaching practices. Heather Rhodes, Principal, tells us: “Planning for the school began several years ago and we opened our virtual doors to the first cohort of A Level pupils in September 2020. We believe that online education done well can be as effective as classroom-based teaching, but that the key is not to try and translate what works in a traditional bricks and mortar school directly into an online environment. Each environment has its advantages, and virtual schooling should be organised to make the most of its innate strengths.”

Flipping the classroom

Online teaching works particularly effectively with a ‘flipped classroom’ teaching methodology. This involves students working through interactive self-study materials to develop an understanding of subject content, and then having targeted lessons in a virtual classroom where teachers explore their understanding of that material. Class sizes are small – no more than ten pupils – so teachers get to know their pupils well. Lessons are highly interactive, and teachers make use of tools like polling, interactive whiteboards, and break out rooms where pupils work with their peers.

Laurie Phippard, Mathematics and Further Mathematics teacher explains how it works in practice: “One of the fantastic benefits of studying maths at Harrow School Online is that you can access the mathematics content at your own pace. You can revisit it as many times as you wish. Your tutor will also support you with topics that you might find daunting, but in addition, enrich or extend as needed for other topics, and of course provide encouragement.”

Pastoral care

Alongside this focus on academic excellence, through regular meetings with a Success Coach, the school ensures that all pupils are safe, happy, involved and able to perform to their potential. Additionally, a House system forms the backbone of the school community, providing the chance for peer support and encouragement.

The school’s Success Coach Dale Krause brings a wealth of experience of supporting high achieving pupils and co-ordinating support for pupils who require additional assistance. He tells us: “From day one, I coach pupils on university selection and provide carefully tailored career planning. I develop in them the skills and mindset for success, both at our school and beyond. In fortnightly one-to-one coaching sessions, and small group workshops, I provide students with careful guidance on how to become effective independent learners.”

Prospective pupils and parents can learn more about Harrow School Online and get a flavour for what the sixth form experience is like by watching an On Demand Open Event, which provides the opportunity to hear from the teachers and pupils at the school. For details, see harrowschoolonline.org/openevent

Harrow School Online