Are ‘Online Schools’ the Future? A New £6,000 per year Private Online School is Attracting Top Teachers and sees Sharp Rise in Admissions Amidst School Closures

A raft of pupils at one of the UK’s few ‘online-only’ private schools start their first term with live-streamed lessons, assemblies and after-school clubs, as parents switch from ‘traditional schools’. 

This week marks the start of the first term at of one of the UK’s first ‘online only’ private senior schools, costing parents just £6,000 per year in fees.  Minerva’s Virtual Academy has been created to combine the benefits of a private education with 21stcentury digital home learning.  Despite being less than two weeks since schools closed across the country, the online-only school has experienced a sharp rise in new admissions and enquiries with many parents taking their children out of traditional schools in a bid to avoid further disruption to their education and to benefit from state of the art remote learning.

Minerva’s Virtual Academy is the brainchild of teaching professional and CEO, Hugh Viney, who also owns popular private tutoring and home schooling business, Minerva Tutors.  Spearheading his new venture, Viney has also appointed a host of experienced subject teachers and specialist education mentors from both the state and independent school sector, including Lawrence Tubb, ex-Head of Music at Wycombe Abbey, a top ranked independent boarding school for girls in Buckinghamshire, who has been appointed as Deputy Headmaster of the new online school.

From a technological perspective, the school’s cutting-edge virtual learning platform will deliver high-quality digital education to pupils, who will benefit from interactive group lessons with a teacher and can interact and work together just as they would in a traditional classroom. The online school is also rolling out a wide range of after school clubs and co-curricular activities including art, film production and debating.

Children will enjoy the community spirit, traditions and benefits of being part of a first class private school, including whole-school online assemblies every week and one to one mentoring, which is also built into every child’s day, all in a bid to bring greater consistency and continuity to what has been a disruptive year for education.  The school has already enrolled its first wave of new pupils who will complete the entire GCSE and A level curriculum online, with many more set to follow as more parents look towards alternative options. 

Lawrence Tubb, Deputy Headmaster at Minerva’s Virtual Academy, who draws on more than 16 years’ experience in teaching and pastoral care at leading UK boarding schools, will help to oversee every child’s educational journey at the school.  He explained, “Combining the affordability and academic rigour of private schooling with the flexibility and accessibility of online learning, is something I am hugely passionate about. This last year has demonstrated the fundamental value of reliable, fit-for-purpose remote learning, which ensures continuity of education for children.  With that all-important school community at its heart, our school encourages pupils to thrive both emotionally and academically alongside their peers, while furnishing them with the skills and resilience they need to succeed in the modern world.”

Fostering the development of self-study skills, pupils are empowered to work at their own pace and schedule, nurturing a culture of independence and self-reliance.  Pupils have enrolled at the school from all over the world and are learning via one-to-one mentoring and interactive live group classes provided by subject teachers, mentors and digital content creators. The Academy also provides the traditional routines expected from a private school including regular wellbeing sessions, in-person meet ups and school trips.  Pupils also participate in a compulsory ‘World Changers’ session every week where they work on projects that help to make the world a better place. 

Hugh Viney, CEO at Minerva’s Virtual Academy explained, “We are very excited to be working with the International Space School Education Trust and NASA astronauts, to enrich our pupils’ education this term. As part of our World Changers programme, pupils will take part in the Stem-X Launch Prize, working in small groups with one mission: To better life for humankind, on or off this planet.”

The school has focused on harnessing the latest technology to provide the services of a top private school and with a focus on community and real relationships.  Viney added, “Traditional home schooling has long been criticised as isolating for some children, but times are changing and education is evolving.  Learning online doesn’t mean being alone, in fact the reverse is true in this case. Our school is all about instilling a love of learning, building friendships, inspirational teaching and a spirit of community – all from the comfort and safety of your home.  With the working from home revolution firmly underway and the likelihood of a prolonged period of school closures, our online school marks the start of an exciting new era of learning from home.”


Testimonials: What is it like being a pupil at an ‘online only’ school? 

Emma, from Hadlow in Kent, is a single parent to Alice age 15, she is one of the school’s new GSCE pupils.  “Alice struggles with severe anxiety and she was struggling at her mainstream school during years’ 9 and 10. But I noticed during the lockdown period last year, that she was far less stressed, less anxious, and she had showed a love for learning, which I had not seen before. She was predicted grades 7 and 8s, but something was preventing her from thriving in the mainstream. Towards the end of lockdown last year, it got to the point where my daughter was developing bad anxiety again and started to fret about returning to school.  It was at this point that I thought about online schooling.”

Alice says she feels much happier now, she commented, “I really enjoy school now. I am so much happier. I don’t feel as anxious about school and I can focus on my GCSEs and don’t have to worry about all of the other things that go on at school. The classes are small too and the tutors are friendly. Before I joined, I was feeling overwhelmed with my subjects being back to back, now I get time to breathe, reflect and to learn.”

Paul Lewis is father to Dan, who has also joined the school this term, he added, “I noticed that my son Dan really thrived during the first lockdown. He was also able to explore topics and learn at his own pace, without endless exam prep and lots of repetition. This, combined with him not being entirely happy at his school, prompted us to consider alternatives. Attending an online school offers a great combination of structure and flexibility. Dan has also been able to take new subjects, which weren’t available to him before.” 

Julia and Phillip de Greff Ball, from Dulwich in London have enrolled their daughter Mei at the school this term, they said, “We have been very pleased with how online schooling is turning out. Mei seems much more motivated than she was at regular school.’ A big part of this is, we think, is due to the fact that she gets immediate feedback from her teachers on the work she completes – she knows it will be seen and marked quickly.”

Minerva’s Virtual Academy is an affordable, online independent school, for pupils aged 12 to 18 years.  With its outstanding virtual learning platform, specialist teaching community and commitment to pastoral care, the Academy combines the best of private education with 21st Century home schooling. With a spirit of community at its core, pupils attend live, interactive lessons with specialist subject teachers, in a virtual classroom environment where they are encouraged to apply their learning and work collaboratively with peers. The school also delivers weekly assemblies online, a range of extra-curricular activities, wellbeing sessions and one to one mentoring, as well as optional in-person meet ups and whole school events.  Fostering the development of self-study skills, pupils are empowered to work at their own pace and schedule, nurturing a culture of resilience and self-reliance, while equipping them to succeed and flourish in an increasingly global and technologically driven world.

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