Red Balloon is delighted to be applying to be accredited as an online education provider under the Online Education Accreditation Scheme (OEAS).
What is OEAS?
OEAS is the Online Education Accreditation Scheme set up by the Department for Education (DfE). It’s a voluntary scheme for online schools and education providers – those which offer a full curriculum to students online and/or provide a child’s only or main source of education (like Red Balloon of the Air does as part of its blended in-person and online programme).
This accreditation is based on the standards for independent schools in England (“the ISS”), but adapted to take account of the online nature of such schools.
Why is there a new scheme?
Existing school standards, such as Ofsted and the ISS, are specifically for schools that have physical buildings where students attend daily. For online schools students do the majority, or all, of their academic sessions online and may not come to a physical building at all, so these existing schemes aren’t a good fit for online schools.
The new OEAS scheme has been made specifically with online schools in mind – in fact RBAir had been keenly awaiting the development of the scheme since welcoming representatives from the DfE on a fact-finding visit in 2019.
Is it good or bad?
It’s great! There are lots of online schools out there, and their number has boomed since the pandemic. Some of these schools are doing absolutely wonderful things, but others might not be doing the best they can for their students. As these schools can’t be inspected by Ofsted or receive DfE accreditation, there’s been no official way to show which schools are doing a great job and which aren’t providing the education you would expect them to.
The new accreditation is designed specifically for online schools; they can choose to apply and those that pass then have the OEAS accreditation as a mark of quality that the educational service they are providing is safe and of a high calibre.
We’re excited that RBAir, and other online schools, will soon be able to formally evidence that we are meeting the DfE’s high standard of education provision.
How will OEAS impact current RBAir students?
here won’t be any impact on our provision for our current students. We have always set our standards of curriculum delivery, pastoral support and safeguarding very high, and our staff have always been, and continue to be, fully qualified teachers, therapists, social workers and specialists in their fields. The experience of our students will remain the same as before OEAS accreditation, with the same high standard of care. OEAS accreditation will act as a mark of quality to the provision we already provide and will continue to provide.
There will be a small change for some students in terms of their official enrolment. Pre-OEAS, all students were required to either remain on their school roll or be on a nominal Local Authority held EOTAS roll (Education other than at School). Once OEAS accreditation is granted this will no longer be necessary, and where appropriate students can instead be directly on roll with RBAir. This change will make some administration easier for parents and staff, and will have no impact on the provision RBAir provides.
How will OEAS impact future RBAir students?
There won’t be any impact on our provision for our future students. However, OEAS accreditation will open up the option for more young people out of mainstream school to be referred. Once RBAir is accredited we will be an Alternative Provision option in more areas of the UK and so able to offer our unique provision to even more young people in need of help.
How will OEAS impact schools and local authorities seeking suitable pavements for young people out of mainstream education?
Under OEAS we will be issued with a DfE number and so be able to hold our own school roll.
Commissioners (LA’s, schools and parents) will be assured that the standard of provision, safeguarding and support will be of the same high standard of any other DfE registered school and that we will have undergone all Ofsted checks needed to gain accreditation.