1. Can J16 oversee a whole VL package or 1 particular subject?
No. The work involved in setting up, overseeing and maintaining a VL package for a student who does not attend a school site for those lessons is huge. It is often unquantifiable and entirely based on the reasons for referral and personal circumstances of the student accessing the provision.
For a nominal fee, J16 can support in finding an appropriate VL supplier and confirm the initial QA checks and compliance as per our DPS.
Beyond this the referring school would be entirely responsible for the ongoing QA of the placement. Read on to understand the work involved to set up a successful VL package as the best option for a child not able to access education on site.
2. How do they work?
All virtual learning companies use an online platform or service to deliver a variety of subjects to students across a range of year groups.
Many companies specialise in offering a timetable of live lessons across the school week, ensuring the student has access to teaching input every day, with some complimentary challenges/homework to complete in between.
Schools choose the subjects that they want the student to have access to and the VL company will then offer either existing timetabled classes to join or 121 lessons that can be timetabled independently according to the teacher availability for that subject.
When logged on, the student listens to the teacher deliver a lesson and is encouraged to join in and contribute either by speaking with the mic or typing in a controlled chatbox. Often a flashplayer is used so the student has a visual of an interactive whiteboard where the lessons take place or videos and presentation tools deliver the content.
Some companies do use a webcam but will never enforce this for the student. The student may be able to see the teacher but does not have to use their webcam to take part in the lesson – this is more often than not seen as a safeguarding concern that is too difficult to control for the teacher.
3. How long are the lessons?
Lessons range from 30mins – 1hr depending on the company chosen and generally are timetabled either 3 or 4 times a week per subject. All lessons are recorded so that a student can access any lessons missed, however access to these are not monitored in any way by the company.
4. What does the student need in order to access a VL package?
For VL to be an appropriate and purposeful programme of education, every student must be confident and competent enough to use an electronic device to access their lessons. They must have good time keeping, a motivation to want to log on and access school and an ability to ask for help when needed. This is key to a successful start on a VL package as without this, attendance issues and lost learning will inevitably apply.
In addition to the above the student should have a responsible adult who is able at the very least, to notice when things are becoming difficult for the student and notify the referring school for help.
A quiet and uninterrupted home environment with a space to work from that is suitable (desk and chair rather than bed) and has access to power throughout lessons.
5. What does the school need to provide a student accessing a VL package?
A dedicated member of staff who is responsible for overseeing the whole VL package, monitoring attendance, progress, IT issues, home visits, exams registration and venues, ensuring all other aspects of school are offered and provided for the student and family throughout the period of VL.
IT software and hardware requirements are usually quite minimal and should all be provided by the referring school:
– Desktop/Laptop – with working mic and speakers (Ipad/tablet is possible but not as user friendly for completion of student work)
– Headset with mic (optional but preferred to give privacy and focus on lessons)
– Microsoft office or other free compatible software that replicates this
– Firewalls and Antivirus software
– Access to IT support when needed
6. Do they offer GCSEs or other qualificatons?
Yes and yes! Most companies will offer GCSEs or iGCSEs or both. Many offer other qualifications at KS4 such as Functional Skills or other vocational/technical qualifications that are possible to be delivered online in their entirety.
Most GCSE/iGCSE courses require full sign up to a 2 year or 1 year course to give best chance of an outcome. Many companies will have a cut-off date of December each year when students can be registered on such courses given the content of course material that may have been missed prior to registration.
7. How is attendance recorded?
Depending on the platform used by the VL provider, attendance is recorded by them on their own system which the referring school will have a log in for.
Absence alerts are sent out to the referring school’s nominated staff member/s who are then responsible for following up on these and carrying out first day response.
The nominated staff member will have a log in to the provider platform where they can download an overview of attendance marks for the day or reports that cover the whole period of VL.
Some companies offering 121 tuition only on a platform such as Microsoft teams, may prefer to contact the school directly with attendance.
8. How is progress measured?
The online platform used by the VL company will have a progress reporting section. The nominated member of school staff would be able to log on and collect day to day reports or termly reports from teachers.
VL companies will usually record snap shot progress from each lesson commenting on Behaviour and contribution.
The termly reports will be based on these snap shots over time and then also including the return of any assignments that show student ability, understanding and progress in the subject.
9. What about exams?
As VL companies are not registered schools and don’t have any physical venues in most cases, they also don’t offer to register and host any exams. The referring school remains responsible for this, including any exam access arrangements and invigilation that is required.
10. Do they follow the school terms/academic year?
Each VL company will follow an academic year pattern, however how this fits with the LA the referring school is in may differ slightly.
It is important to provide the student/parent/carer with the VL school term dates and to provide instruction and plans for any trouble shooting that may happen if the student is to attend lessons in what for everyone else may be a local school holiday.
11. How many companies have been successful on the DPS and can offer services?
There are currently 6 providers who have applied and been successful on our DPS for Alternative Education.
This means they have gone through the initial checks in terms of meeting the remit of AP in their offer of services, have passed/been approved as being financially stable, passed checks on their business and it’s history including references from existing and past customers.
Beyond this, their experience and success is based on the schools that use them. Kingsmead School have had experience of using 2 of these providers for VL packages – to gain further details on this then please contact Vicki Grainger directly. All other companies are yet to be trialled but we’d welcome feedback from anyone who has used them. The companies are as follows:
12. How much do they cost/how are they charged?
Costings are unique to the company providing the service and tend to have a range of options. You could be quoted a per lesson cost or a full academic year cost for 1 subject.
Some companies will offer credit based options to encourage to buy credits rather than a specific subject. This can then be used for any student from the referring school and gives flexibility for students to leave and join throughout a given period before the credits run out.
Cancellation periods can be long with either 6-12 weeks of commitment required.
All companies ask for up front payment before services have been delivered.
To give an idea of some costs given by some companies that are comparible, 1 lesson for 1 subject ranged from £20 – £44 per lesson (prices given at March 2022), with varying cancellation periods applying.