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New UK High School Totally Internet

S. Jayran | 11.09.2005 05:40 | Education | Health | Technology

Interhigh School opened its nonexistent doors Mon. 5 Sept. 2005: 09.30 hrs. Students went straight to work without fuss in small classes. Aged 11 - 16, mainly UK resident, with a few internationals, many have escaped bullying, or boredom, or feel they just don't fit the standard schooling system.


Students attend small classes online during weekday mornings, leaving the afternoons free for outings, practical activities, and ordinary family and social life. Classes concentrate on core subjects: English, Maths, Sciences, History, Geography and a language (currently French, Spanish to be added as an option). The monthly fee is £165/ £38 a week, equivalent to a bit under £4 a one hour lesson.

Classes are delivered in private online classrooms, interactively. Teacher and students can communicate instantly as a group using both voice and text chatroom software. Teachers can instantly display any web page to illustrate a point, whether spontaneously or as a prepared presentation. Powerpoint, Word documents or custom html and image files can also be used as class displays.

A student concentrates on no more than two subjects each day. The senior class has begun preparation for GCSE exams. Younger students have lessons that check the general recommendations of the National Curriculum but are not restricted by it. All classes set homework.


A high proportion of the students registered were identified by their families as suffering from the effects of bullying, or as "shy", or as struggling with significant confidence problems. Several have serious health problems. Yet Interhigh teachers have found them, after only a little initial hesitation, to be a remarkably lively bunch, bubbling over with enthusiasm and excitement in this new kind of school.


The school Head, Paul Daniell has strictly directed his staff to "make the lessons as fun as possible, there is no reason why learning can not be fun".

The main problem teachers have found so far is that many students are not at all used to the lost tradition that learning is fun. There has had to be a good deal of careful explanation - and demonstration - of the school policy. Students showed signs of shock! but already by the end of the first week students are saying "Cool!" and "I really enjoyed that lesson" and are busily comparing notes on how to tackle a wide range of creative homework projects.


About half of the first Interhigh students are already familiar with being home educated. UK minors are not required legally to attend school as long as a suitable education is provided at home. Home education has grown enormously in the UK over the last ten years, in common with the USA, Europe and other countries. Home educated children are by now well known for their academic success and high social skills. However, home education is at its most popular among families with younger children. Although it is perfectly possible for families to prepare older children for GCSEs or other qualifications, parents do find this later stage more challenging, and the option of support from Interhigh through secondary years has been welcomed.

The school plans to help its students socialise both through supervised online chat sessions within the school itself, and by exploring the wealth of clubs and projects available later in the day in their local areas.


As repeated studies have proved it is crucial that online teaching technology is used thoughtfully, to embody the best type of attentive, small scale, student-centred learning. A good teacher is enhanced by new technical tools; a poor teacher exposed by them.

There is a regrettable exploitation of cml (computer mediated learning) where adminstrators cut costs by contracting good teachers to design an online course, then dump the teacher, and employ a cheaper course graduate totally untrained in teaching or groupwork, to run it unchanged, thereafter. This kind of degraded education is becoming infamous for its poor results. But good quality cml is proving its worth as a friend to good teachers and to a great variety of non-standard students, alike.


Only time will tell whether this explosion of enthusiasm by Interhigh students will carry through beyond the novelty stage. It is certainly well past time for school education to leap out of the crowding and stress of 19th century methods into the freedom of 21st century technology. 21st century young people respond very positively and productively to the keyboard and internet methods that will, after all, dominate their future. But Interhigh will still need to ask for old fashioned virtues like self-discipline, and patience, as well.

For Paul Daniell and his Interhigh teachers it has been a challenging, and exhausting week - online teaching is not a soft option, and any new pioneering project needs a lot of extra work to get it up and running. But all the recent effort is totally worth it to see these young minds perking up as they realise there is nothing to fear, and a whole universe to explore.

S. Jayran
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Hide the following 6 comments

A good Idea

11.09.2005 08:32

The LEA's should have to pay for this, and pehaps offering a range of social outings in the afternoons for children (optional) ) on the scheme if they want to socialise.


Indymedia advertising private schooling?

11.09.2005 09:19

Why not have a free, state funded equivalent, that socially excluded children can use?

If the argumnet is that LEA's should fund children on this then sod it I'm applying for mine to go to Eton and the LEA can bloody pay for it!

Silent Bob


11.09.2005 10:12

although there is a fee mentioned, if you do th maths thats cheaper than school is anyway and so 'they' would pay in the correct state / free people circumstances. also it could be used to support home ed. for parents and family's with the appropriate skills networks and social/ collective infrastructure.

: )


A mistake

11.09.2005 11:56

Yet another example of poor educating. Children need to be told what to do and then to do it.

Respect and obediance should be the core of good education not the latest technology driven "bright" idea.


Response from author

12.09.2005 02:05

INvestigat and Silent Bob: I'm doubtful if Interhigh was run as a completely state funded project if it would be able to be as creative as it is. At the same time I am unhappy that so many families could not afford even the low fee asked. Possibly later some lower cost places could be created. Negotiations have already begun for LEAs to send excluded children to this school.

The children are very scattered across Britain and some across three continents. So organising outings in the afternoons isn't practical. However families will be helped to find local projects and activities with other local kids - this isn't terribly hard to do in the UK as the local library has lists. Possibly later Interhigh could organise a few national gatherings on a residential basis.

Educator: In 30 years of (very successful) teaching and home educating, I haven't found your suggestions work at all well in hard, down to earth practice, although they sound simple and effective in the abstract. If commands are backed, military style, by fear and unpleasant punishments, yes, it's possible to bash very basic learning into a kid's head. But they learn incredibly faster and better if they choose when to do things, which things to do etc for themselves. It's not really different to how adults operate. I've seen kids ignore something like writing for ages, then suddenly they realise WHY they need it and ZIP! they WANT it, and they suddenly learn in a few weeks what took others years to learn through obedience and drudgery.

I do however agree with you that technology can be a flashy toy that performs a sleight-of-hand conjuring trick, distracting us from good teaching. As I said in the article, cml expands a good teacher but exposes a poor one.

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Agree with educator

13.09.2005 00:22

I don't think this is a good idea. If it catches on you'll inevitabley end up with a lot of socially retarded children who don't know how to handle themselves in the real world. Instead of these trendy ideas we should be going back to traditional methods of teaching, where there is more of an emphasis on discipline and turning out solid and reliable citizens, with the use of corporal punishment to penalise troublemakers.

Humpty Dumpty