Could online schooling be right for your child? We chat with the Founding Principal of Pearson Online Academy UK Global, which launches in September, about how this kind of education can be a benefit, and what the new school’s first cohort can expect.
About the Founding Principal
Nigeria-born JO VIGNERON moved to UK for Senior School before completing her BEd (Hons) at London University and embarking on a teaching career. After the birth of her triplets, the family moved to Hong Kong.
“They were five very happy years,” says Jo. “We loved exploring the islands and villages; also, one of my favourite runs – and I believe the most beautiful in the world – is from Shueng Sze Wan along the clifftops to Clearwater Bay Club.”
After a stint back in the UK, she moved to Abu Dhabi, working in founding and leadership roles at the British International School and also Brighton College, and, more recently, as Vice Principal of Amity International School.
Now, Jo takes on her new role at Pearson Online Academy UK Global, which aims to offer students a unique opportunity to pursue studies in a truly 21st-century learning environment.
Was the idea for the school a direct response to COVID-19?
No, the planning was underway long before the pandemic. Pearson already operates Connections Academy and Pearson Online Academy in the US, serving over 100,000 students who do online schooling, as well as Harrow School Online. Pearson Online Academy UK Global is a natural addition to the team, offering high-quality British education to students globally.
What the global pandemic has demonstrated though, is the absolute necessity for the provision of high-quality education online – education that offers uninterrupted consistency so students can achieve their very best regardless of the change and prohibitions around them.
The school’s first intake begins in September; will students from Hong Kong be among them?
We’re anticipating around 500 students in our founding class and Hong Kong is likely to be home to a good number of these. Traditionally, students in Hong Kong are aspirational high achievers, with their eyes set on entrance into top universities around the world. For many of them, our online schooling offers the very best of options. They’re able to access their learning from anywhere and manage their time, taking on additional options, if they wish, without interruption.
The role of our Success Coach, who focuses on supporting their academic and pastoral aspirations, plays a key part in ensuring they maximise opportunities and are well prepared for their university and future work choices.
How is the day-to-day learning of online schooling structured?
Students’ days consist of both self-study sessions and LiveLessons with teachers and classmates. Students are free to choose when they complete their self-study sessions but this must be prior to their LiveLesson. Our innovative technology uses data from online work to inform teachers of exactly where each student is; that way, teachers can plan and prepare bespoke and tailored lessons accordingly. Misconceptions are addressed quickly, accelerated progress is facilitated and the individual needs of each student are met. This ensures everyone moves at their own pace without wasted time or interruption.
During LiveLessons, and beyond, students can work together with our teachers ensuring full participation, collaboration and lively discussions.
What is the curriculum and how are students assessed?
The curriculum is British and we follow Pearson Edexcel International GCSEs and International AS and A Level courses. As our school grows, we may include lower year groups; for now, though, we are placing all our energies on providing the best of the best for our 14-to-18-year-olds.
Assessment is ongoing as we are able to secure up-to-the minute data and information from everything our students do in both their self-directed time and their real-time lessons. This puts us at a massive advantage as we can accelerate pace and depth for those students that need it, or slow down and plug gaps quickly to ensure no student is left behind.
Give us a bit of background to the teaching staff.
Passionate teachers ignite curiosity, open minds and engender success – and this describes our teachers to a tee! They all have Qualified Teacher status, with impeccable backgrounds and a passion for the subject they teach. They have proven success and are British-trained with international and, in some cases, considerable online schooling experience. Each one has been recruited from a field of several hundred applications, based on their ability to communicate their subject and engage students from the outset.
Are there extracurricular offerings like you’d find at a “regular” school? Yes, absolutely. We have an increasingly wide number of extracurricular programmes, which include languages, book and film club, debating, yoga and fitness as well as societies and clubs such as AI, Biology and more.
What does the application process involve?
We welcome applications from everyone wishing to access our high-quality British education. Students will require a certain level of English – we offer personalised advice on this, as it will vary from student to student. As a benchmark, IELTS at 5.5 and above is advisable. For those entering at A Level, a sound result at GCSE, or international equivalent, in the subject they wish to study is needed to ensure success; again, we will consult on a one-to-one basis to ensure we offer a personalised experience and the right fit solution.
4 advantages of online learning
Jo outlines a few of the benefits of the Pearson school model.
#1 One of the most important is that it prepares students for the real world of university and work, as they learn organisational skills and how to manage their time far sooner than those in a brick-and-mortar school. Supporting our students as they navigate their way through this more independent and disciplined mode of learning is a key part of our Success Coach’s role.
#2 The world is increasingly driven by technology and online experiences and in many ways our students’ experience puts them ahead of the game. By the time they graduate they’ll be technology savvy, adept at chairing and participating in meetings online, and able to present, schedule and use technology to their own advantage, all key skills in the working worlds they’ll be a part of.
#3 Another advantage is for those who frequently travel, including elite sportspeople and performers; they can adapt and use their time to best suit them. This has become even more important during the pandemic, with families spending longer times in different countries as travel is significantly more complex to navigate. We offer students and parents the comfort of knowing that, no matter where they are in the world, the academic aspirations and needs of the student aren’t compromised.
#4 Online education is also of huge benefit to students who learn differently or who thrive in a more flexible space. A student who has anxiety issues and for whom face-toface learning is difficult and painful can work in the comfort and peace of their own home and open up to others in their own time. Those who need to get up and move and those who require spaces free from distraction benefit from being in complete control of their environment.
For more information and enquiries, visit ukglobal.pearsononlineacademy.com.
Written in collaboration with:
Pearson Online Academy UK Global
This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.