15 Dec 2016

Online schools a positive step, MPs told

7:42 am on 15 December 2016

Online education providers have told MPs that proposed online schools could be a positive development, if done right.

Teenage students using computers, generic

Photo: 123RF

The Education and Science Select Committee is considering the Education Update Amendment Bill proposes creating the online schools, or COOLs.

The concept has been criticised by some teachers, as well as chief ombudsman Peter Boshier, who said earlier this month that he feared they could become "dumping grounds" for children with disabilities.

But Virtual Learning Network Primary Online Schools e-principal Rachel Whalley told the committee her organisation supplemented the learning that children get at regular primary schools.

Schools that used the network could offer a bigger range of subjects to their students, she said.

"Rural and remote students are the students that need it most, but there's more and more opportunities for students in any school in New Zealand to access learning opportunties."

Online learning was not socially isolating if it was done right, Ms Whalley said.

She told the committee the bill would help bring the network into the official school system and that would help with funding and regulations.

However, she urged the committee to ensure online schools were run by registered teachers.

The committee also heard from Net NZ, which was set up by a group of 60 schools, most of them in the South Island, to provide online teaching of secondary school subjects.

Net NZ operations leader Ken Pullar told the committee it provided full-year courses to between 800 and 1000 students.

"We don't apologise for being online, it isn't a second-best option," he said.

"It is a highly personal form of education where classes of 12 to 15 students come together and it is a very personal and rewarding form of learning for those students."

Net NZ was almost a prototype for the sort of school the bill was trying to set up, Ken Pullar said.

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