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Schools Out Forever?

author:PETER TAIT Telegraph

As we debate whether the increase in the number of grammar schools will improve social mobility, or even if selection at the age of 11 is a good thing or not, education elsewhere in the world moves on.

In a presage of the future, last month the New Zealand government outlined legislation that will allow any school-age students to enroll with an accredited online learning provider who will have the responsibility for determining whether their students will need to physically attend for all or some of the school day.

The radical change that allows any registered school or tertiary provider such as a polytechnic or an approved educational body to apply to be a "community of online learning" (COOL) has met with an equally cool response from the primary teachers’ union. 

The idea of young children learning some or all of their lessons out of school has prompted educationalists to revisit the question ‘what are schools for?'

As well as potentially undermining their own livelihood, the idea of young children learning some or all of their lessons out of school, has prompted educationalists to revisit the question ‘what are schools for?

Online learning is hugely important in making available subjects that schools could otherwise not offer, or for those unable to access school or university, for social, health or geographic reasons.

Yet while a part of everyday life, its extensive use in schools, particularly primary schools, has been greeted with caution. Not surprisingly, therefore, the suggestion that children not be required to attend school for part or all of their learning has been seen as having huge ramifications for families concerned with the monitoring and supervision of their children. 

 Schools do a lot for pupils' social, physical and emotional well-being

While one assumes commonsense will prevail and that the government will insist that most remote learning takes place in a supervised physical community - perhaps dependent on age - it invariably poses the question about what will be the role of schools in the future as more and more subjects and courses, delivered with increasing levels of sophistication, will become available online.

Schools will argue, rightly so, that they are not only about learning, and the imparting of knowledge and skills, but provide a holistic view of education, with other equally important priorities, mainly linked around the socialisation of pupils, developing their EQ, social and communication skills and team work and community.

And yet, clearly the idea of a school offering ‘blended learning’, where students spend part of their school time accessing specialist subjects online, already well-established and growing exponentially, needs to be managed.

Peter Tait Telegraph September 2016 2012