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Home Education and Online Schools: What’s the difference?

Home Education and Online Schools: What’s the difference?
Rachael Hobbs

A recent BBC article reported that home education in the UK rose by 75% last year. 40,000 pupils were taken out of formal school. Some say it’s down to ‘covid anxiety’. Some parents don’t want to risk their child’s health, or are worried about bringing the illness back to vulnerable members of the family. Others are looking for a way to mitigate the interruptions to education caused by self-isolation and school closures. 

But home education (or ‘home schooling’) isn’t the only way to educate a child at home. Several online schools offering a British curriculum also allow for remote learning. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, and it’s easy to see why – both home schooling and online schools involve studying flexibly from home without attending a physical school. 

The Good Schools Guide states: “online schools promise to develop into a potentially brilliant resource.” 

These are the major differences between the two. 


The parent’s role 

In home education, all lessons, tests and formal assessments are the responsibility of the parent. Some parents join forces with other home educators, or employ tutors, as well as teaching themselves. 

At an online school, qualified teachers are experts in their subject area, and take responsibility for all teaching and assessment. Parents play more of a mentoring or coaching role and are involved day-to-day to keep their child motivated and on track.  

Many parents that teach their children pause to rethink their strategy when their child begins preparing for high stakes GCSE or A Level exams. 


The curriculum 

With home education, parents can devise their child’s education with as much creativity as they like and be led by what interests their child. They source all the texts and materials. 

In an online school, the curriculum has been designed by educational professionals and subject matter experts. This can be particularly important in the years prior to taking GCSEs and A Levels, to ensure success in these exams. 


Social opportunities 

In home education, the parent and child are responsible for creating social opportunities – such as local sports clubs, societies, and volunteering. A child attending an online school may also want to seek these out, but in addition many online schools weave social activities into the curriculum. Pupils see each other in live lessons, and may work with others on projects and in competitions. They can make friends through online school clubs and societies. There may also be field trips. 



In some countries, such as Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, home education is illegal. Online schools are not.