From education to employment

Policy-makers need to wake up to the benefits of online education

Policy-makers need to recognise the benefits that an online education can bring to children who find mainstream schools challenging, an award-winning educator said today.

Hugh Viney was commenting after a study found the mental health of pupils with additional needs actually improved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

STEER Education, which specialises in young people’s mental health, spoke to almost 11,000 students in 52 mainstream state secondary schools. The study’s authors suggest that many pupils with special needs find busy classrooms a challenging environment and may have benefited from the flexibility of studying partly at home during lockdown.

Mr Viney, who founded Minerva Tutors, set up Minerva’s Virtual Academy during lockdown because he recognised that many pupils struggled with the traditional school environment.

“The pandemic was challenging for everybody, but particularly for our children,” said Mr Viney.

“But one positive that did come out of it, was that it accelerated our tolerance of, and receptivity towards, online learning.

“The pandemic made it crystal clear that traditional school is not good for all children, and this report from STEER Education is further evidence of that. Some young people flourished at home and that is not because they are lazy, but because, for a significant proportion of children, school can be a really challenging atmosphere.

“There are almost 2 million children who are persistently absent from school and for many, mental health issues are a big reason for this. And yet, despite these frankly terrifying numbers, still not enough is being done to really address the issue.”

Mr Viney called on the Government to work up legislation to accredit online schools in order to improve accessibility for children across the country.

“Online schooling is not just a solution we should have in our back pocket in case of another pandemic,” he said. “I truly believe that the Government will come to see how, in the long-run, online and hybrid schooling can help children back into education and give them the best experience possible.

“Within the next 10 years, we will see state online schools and by 2030, around 1 million children could be at state funded online or hybrid schools. But the first step needs to be acknowledgement of the issues facing school refusers and others who do not flourish in mainstream schools and the will to do something to address it.”

Related Articles