Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Possible free virtual school for home educated children

The day before yesterday, on May 24th, a new company was incorporated and registered at Companies House. It is called Periplus Home Education and the website may be found here:

Now it is true that the founder of this enterprise, John Edwards, has the misfortune to look and sound like a used car salesman, but this should not prejudice us against him. He was until last year the head of a failing school, details about which may be found here:

A number of local authorities have received this communication, touting for business for this company, which is essentially a virtual school:

A national internet based “Free School” for home educated students
Periplus Home Education* is currently seeking expressions of interest to demonstrate the viability and sustainability of an application for the first state funded ‘school’ for home educated students. Using the new government legislation, they are currently engaged in consultation with government ministers and potential partners with respect to opening an Internet based, nationally available “Free School” for secondary age children, which, if successful, would open in September 2012. A critical and urgent step however, is an indication of the likely demand for such a school.
Home education allows great flexibility and removes the need to follow a prescribed curriculum and these freedoms are important. Whilst the model currently being developed to meet the required parameters for a state funded school cannot provide unlimited flexibility, there would be vastly more than in a normal school.
If the proposal is accepted (and this is not guaranteed) it would allow your child to continue receiving their education at home, albeit with a likely increased structure and some regulation. It would provide access to GCSE and other examinations and most importantly, it would be fully funded by the government and therefore completely free to you. It would provide access to the very best live teaching over the internet by highly qualified professional teachers in small classes with access to the best education resources on the market. At the same time, you would maintain a certain degree of autonomy over your child’s education and preserve many of the advantages that home education can bring.
Whilst the target size of the 11-16 school is 300-400 students, given that there are some 20-80,000 home educators in the UK, this is possibly an underestimate of the number that may be interested, but the proposals can be scaled on the basis of the number who reply. The admission criteria to such a school will be based on parents having shown a commitment to home education over time. It is intended that the school would demonstrate that home education can be very successful.
Although the proposals are well advanced, a vital step is securing the commitment of a sufficient number of home educating parents to the principle of “sending” their child to this internet school from September 2012. Responses from students currently aged 8-15 are especially important.
If you would like to be part of this unique school and to receive a state funded home education for your child please respond by completing and submitting the questionnaire, as soon as possible on the following link
or follow the link on the periplus website
in order to help demonstrate the required level of interest. If you know anyone who home educates that might be interested, please direct them to the questionnaire. We will then complete the proposal in the tight timescale required. We will keep those who respond informed of the progress of the application, and will only use your information to consult you further or seek your views about the detailed planning for the school as necessary.
The proposal in its current form is to create a school for 11-16 year old students, If you are interested in a 5-11 version of such a school or wish to continue post 16 please also express an interest. We will then consider the viability of extending the current plan.
*Legislation prevents schools from being run for profit – this proposal is therefore wholly non commercial and is being undertaken as part of our commitment as a social enterprise organisation..

Although it is not the sort of thing which would have interested me, I suppose that there are parents who would like the idea and I am wondering what others think of the this.


  1. I am deeply sceptical - in fact I have just posted a "health warning " to my local group. Now I am all in favour of personal choice and I am only too aware of the burden that paying for HE material and especially exams is to many.

    Howver, leaving aside the fact that enrolment at such a state paid for virtual school will require registration and also tie a family to being at a PC for at least half every day, this has the hallmarks of a money making exercise. It is of course true that the existing virtual school (which is very expensive!) can't make a profit out of this free school, but there is nothing to stop the " head teacher" of the virtual school getting a fat salary out of this.

    I would be a lot happier too if this appeared to have arisen out of a background of HE; there is nothing in the man's blurb to suggest he has any personal experience of home ed (indeed he tells us his own children are at school) and he as part of that system until a year ago. This all smacks as something which is nothing more than a way to make money out of home education.

  2. 'This all smacks as something which is nothing more than a way to make money out of home education.'

    Wew of course this seems to be absolutely true. Having felt obliged to resign, this chap has evidently cast around for an idea for his own business. Home education has been in the news a bit in the last few years and he has seen a commercial opportunity. As Julies says, he seems to have no background or particular understanding of HE. And I too would think that many home educating parents would wish to think very carefully indeed before they registered their pupils at a state school of any sort.


  3. I share your concerns, Julie and Simon, and would also be unwilling to hand over the vast amount of personal information they're asking for in their 'survey'.

  4. It would be interesting to know a little more about Ignaty Dyakov, the Russian who is actually the owner of this project. According to osomething they sent local authorities a short while ago, they cater for :

    Excluded pupils fixed
    Excluded pupils permanent
    At Risk of Exclusion
    Pregnant school girls Teenage mothers
    School Phobics
    Medical needs

    Nothing here about elective home education! The stuff on their website about home education has been lifted from various other places. The section on famous home educators, for example has just been copied wholesale from elsewhere. My alarm bells are ringing pretty loudly about this place!


  5. My alarm bells were going as soon as I saw the 'enrol now' bouncy animation! Not something that fills you with confidence really...

  6. The UK really needs something like some of the more flexible (privately-run) 'umbrellas' that exist in the states and Aus. These allow families who opt in to make their own educational choices, but help with documentation, paperwork, and exam registrations where needed. Most also provide access to a trained teacher by phone or email if a parent wants advice on a particular question or help choosing materials or documenting less structred education.

    Instead of that, it looks like this guy is offering a state-funded programme/miney-making scheme. My concern, should this come into existence, is that it will bu used to support an argument that all HE families should come under this or a similar state umbrella. ("The option is available, and it's free, so why wouldn't you want to join...unless you aren't providing your children an education at all...")

  7. I've just looked at this company's website. I agree the Principal looks like a used car salesman, but he sounds one step away from a Pathe news commentator. I expected a Lancaster to swoop overhead and the Dam busters march to begin at any moment.

  8. ' but he sounds one step away from a Pathe news commentator'

    Ah suzyg, how you date yourself by that comment. Yes, I remember the pathe news. The last thing I actually remember seeing on it was the Torrey Canyon, way back in the sixties. You are right though, he has the same stilted delivery and forced cheerfulness. Although I tried to be fairly neutral about this outfit, I am bound to say that I cannot imagine any parent in her senses signing up to this.


  9. "I am bound to say that I cannot imagine any parent in her senses signing up to this."

    Why not? I spoke recently to a mother who has withdrawn her 14 year old daughter from school because of bullying. At 14, with the automatic 'wish' to gain the usual 5 GCSEs, it's a steep learning curve for someone who doesn't particularly want to home educate but wants her child to be safe. I suspect something like this, provided by the LA, would be very welcome indeed.

  10. We should get clear idea before we sign...