Ofsted has announced a consultation process on how it intends to regulate online education providers in the future. Currently the industry is completely unregulated which means anyone could set up a platform and offer online lessons to children.
Clearly online education has become a hot topic over the last couple of years, with schools right across the country setting up online provision for pupils who were required to stay at home during the lockdown periods or are isolating as a result of positive tests. The bulk of schools have done, and continue to do, a wonderful job in this regard and this proposal does not affect them.
Who it is aimed at however are the private companies and organisations that provide online education to children who are at home due to illness and other health conditions and children whose parents have made special arrangements for them to be educated at home. This provision is very different to online classrooms set up by schools, largely because the providers will never meet the children and because they are currently completely unregulated.
As a resut the DfE are setting up a new accreditation scheme for online education providers, due to come into effect in 2022. You can find out more about the new scheme here.
Ofsted has been appointed to oversee the regulation for the new scheme and is asking for opinions and views from both parents and current online education providers, on how they should administer this regulation. They have published a draft handbook alongside the consultation document to give a clearer idea of what the quality assurance process for the scheme is likely to involve. This will allow providers to express their views and to prepare to apply for accreditation once the scheme launches in 2022. See the Consultation document here.
One of the stand-out headlines from the consultation document is the fee Ofsted will charge providers for an accreditation visit – which could be as much as £10000 if the provider has 250 students or more.
The consultation will run from 24 November 2021 to 26 January 2022.