After announcing the launch of a new Online Education Accreditation Scheme in mid-2020, the Department for Education has officially announced the appointment of Ofsted as its Quality Advisory Board for the accreditation scheme and inspection process, for a better future of education.
The accreditation scheme is being developed in response to the growing numbers of online schools in the United Kingdom, and is now expected to launch in 2022, following a pilot of the inspection framework, which is now underway. The DfE has recently launched an Online Education page on its website which outlines its plans for the Accreditation Scheme. A small number of providers are currently working alongside the DfE and Ofsted on the programme during the testing phase.
Trial visits, undertaken by Ofsted during June and July 2021 on a small number of providers, will inform any refinements necessary to the scheme before it commences.
The rise in unregulated online education providers in the UK has meant that parents often do not know what truly matters when looking for an online school. This confusion has been further accentuated by the fact that some online education providers have been claiming that their establishments are accredited, even though the British Government will not provide accreditation for online schools until next academic year. It is hoped that this accreditation scheme will help to reassure children, parents and local authorities of the quality of education and safeguarding arrangements offered by these providers.
DfE is establishing the Online Education Accreditation Scheme (OEAS) to incentivise online education providers to meet high standards of education and care for their students and, through public reporting, to share best practice across the sector.
The scheme will consist of 2 essential elements:
- the establishment of non-statutory standards for online education provision
- inspection of providers against those standards by Ofsted, acting as the quality assurance body appointed by the department
The scheme will work in a way which is broadly similar to that outlined in the consultation response:
- Providers will apply for the scheme by submitting relevant information online to DfE. Note: the application process will be made clear in due course.
- DfE will pass application details to Ofsted to carry out due diligence checks.
- Subject to the outcome of due diligence checks, Ofsted will carry out an accreditation visit to assess compliance with the standards.
- Following an accreditation visit, DfE will decide whether to accredit the provider. The provider may then use the term ‘DfE accredited provider’.
All inspection reports will be published by Ofsted and accredited providers will appear on the (GIAS) register of schools and colleges in England.
The scheme will be open to providers that:
- teach online only on a permanent basis
- provide a full curriculum or represent a child’s main or only source of education
- have at least one full-time pupil of compulsory school age on roll based in England (irrespective of the number of learners based overseas)
- have a physical presence in England, registered with Companies House or the Charity Commission
All qualifying providers are invited to apply for the scheme once it is operational.
The educational leadership team at Sophia High School, who share over 50 years of leadership and teaching experience in outstanding independent schools in the UK and British Schools abroad, welcome this exciting initiative. David McCarthy and Melissa McBride comment:
“Bringing regulation to the online education sector will finally provide parents with tangible proof that their online school is meeting the highest standards of education, including but not limited to teacher qualifications, safeguarding measures, and curriculum”
At Sophia High School, we strongly support this move towards stricter regulations. Since day one, we have been fully committed to ensuring that consistent effective safeguarding procedures are in place for our students, families, and teachers, and that our students receive the highest standards of quality in education.
This is why we uphold the highest standards of Safer Recruitment in Education for the appointment of each member of staff and provide teachers with annual safeguarding training and support in working with students online.
As written by Melissa McBride, Chief Education Officer at Sophia High School, in a recent article: “It is time to reward innovation and protect not just our present but our future.”
We look forward to being part of a Future of Education that is regulated and safe, as well as adapted to 21st century learning.
This is Education Reimagined.
To find out more about our Pioneering approach to education at our online school, be sure to visit our website at www.sophiahigh.school