Virtual School … I have a dream

The new government’s (I wonder when I will stop using the word ‘new’) ideas on education are getting me excited … in many ways – some good, some bad. I have always thought that institutionalisation and politicisation of education is not a good thing and i can see in the concept of ‘Free Schools’ an opportunity to open up teaching and learning in a way not available before.

I am adamant that education should not be subject to tethering by geography, religion, time, gender, finance or age and that it should be available whenever, whatever and wherever there are people wanting to learn. The NHS in England has long been struggling with the concept that treatments should not be subject to a post-code lottery … neither should access to education. Nevertheless, in the likes of the United States of America students are having to take out student loans to settle tuition debt for education, having to use financial services such as SoFi to make education financially viable…

The current proposals for Free Schools seem to me to close down rather than open up options for choice as they all seem to be localised and therefore restrictive and restricted. This not withstanding the high ideas of the teams developing their philosophies.

What I propose is something different … well, a 21C version of ideas that have been tried before using modern technology and an open vision. Why shouldn’t there be Virtual Schools? In areas around the world where children have difficulties through travel these are already the norm and they seem to be successful in generating enthusiasm and quality learning.

My school will have no buildings. It will find its resources in the communities both on and off line. If it is good that pupils want to swim then groups using social media sites can arrange to meet at the pool. If it is art that is interesting the to the gallery and those that can’t get there can attend ‘virtually’ through other learners. If people are needed to teach then the best would be approached from the world in which they know best – Roger McGough perhaps for poetry, Jhonny Ball for maths, Simon King for natural history etc … this can be stretched up or sideways to include many who have lots to offer.

There would be coordinators and mentors all working online and F2F, where appropriate, to support and ensure personalised balance and context through creative engagement. Learners would not be isolated but would be part of a much wider community that would have the potential of growing and developing across wide age ranges and geographic boundaries.

People should not start to develop their Free Schools ideas from what they know of already – if the idea is to succeed then there is a powerful need for a radical rethink of what education should be for and what it should look like.

I have a dream … why not?

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