I have the same concerns as with all Free Schools, insofar as Expressions of Demand don't (and can't) translate into firm commitment to take up a place and reciprocally that even after the school has been accepted as sufficiently viable by DfE this still doesn't mean there will be enough students on board when it comes to the crunch, and therefore NOTHING is certain until it actually opens; I've seen Free Schools fail at the last hurdle in getting sufficient numbers.
Having said that though, here's the Expression of Demand which I do think everyone should fill in if it's something they would seriously consider for September 2015.
1. Please indicate that you have read and understood the information about the Virtual Sixth Form College provided in the PDF document
Name Date of Birth I am a resident of x country
6. What is your preferred email address?
7. Please indicate which of the following statements apply to you. (Note that this does not commit you to studying at the college)
The Virtual Sixth Form College would be my first choice of institution for studying A Levels/ I am interested in the idea of studying at the VSFC but need more information
8. Following on from No.7, I have the following questions about the Virtual Sixth Form College.
(We will respond to your questions by email, if you are happy with the answers and then feel able to do so, please complete this survey again and check the first option for No.7)
9. I am interested in studying the following AS / A level subjects at the VSFC: Please Select a Maximum of 4 Subjects.
(This does not commit you to study these subjects, but gives us an idea of the likely demand)
I am interested in studying the following AS / A level subjects at the VSFC: Please Select a Maximum of 4 Subjects. (This does not commit you to study these subjects, but gives us an idea of the likely demand) Accounting
Archaeology Biology Business Studies Chemistry Chinese Citizenship Classical Civilisation Communication & Culture Computing Creative Writing Economics Economics & Business Electronics English Language & Literature Environmental Studies Film Studies French Further Maths Geography Geology German Government & Politics History History of Art ICT Italian Latin Law Mathematics Media Studies Philosophy Physics Psychology Religious Studies Russian Sociology Spanish World Development Other (please specify)Following on from No.7, I have the following questions about the Virtual Sixth Form College. (We will respond to your questions by email, if you are happy with the answers and then feel able to do so, please complete this survey again and check the first option for No.7) 1)
I thought it was a very interesting talk, though I think a few bumps still need ironing out. I agree with Julie about the set video conferencing times. I was struck by the relatively late end to the day planned - 4.30pm or later. Currently DD2 has ballet starting earlier than that on some days and I'm sure that might be an issue for others. Having said that I know some "real" colleges go on this late. I wasn't so keen on the implication they would try to tell DD what to do in between tutor groups and sessions - she's perfectly capable of motivating herself! I think they need to clue themselves up a little more on home educated children.
However, I've filled in the evidence of demand form as DD2 is in their target age (ie 16 at the beginning of Sept 2015) and there is nothing to lose by doing so - it doesn't commit you to anything at all. Anything that broadens options for home educators, especially those who may not suit going back into school or college at 16, is useful in my opinion. We may still end up doing OU or even attempting A levels ourselves, but the free aspect is tempting!
Yes, when people at the Hesfes workshop asked about a graduated start or greater flexibility it did keep coming back to the terms and conditions of Free School funding.
However, because of the Government's new-style funding for 16+, students won't actually have to sign up for full-time college because there will be four bands of funding http://www.education.gov.uk/aboutdfe/executiveagencies/efa/a00210682/funding-formula-review
We did ask whether they needed 350 full time students when it opened and whether if half were part time they'd need twice as many, but didn't get an answer (I think this was seen as an odd question!)
It will be free to students who live in England aged 16 to 19. I am not sure if it will be free for young people who live in Wales. It may be that students need to be based in England to get a Government-funded place. The college is looking to attract overseas students as well.
Robert Ellis comes from 6th form teaching background. He hasn't talked to the Department for Education but has been talking to the New Schools Network which helps people looking to set up Free Schools. NSN always tells people there'll be no problem, but that they have to sign up a minimum number to get off the ground.
The downer for me was that the actual teaching will be done by video conferencing in real time, so it will be like getting up every day and going to college except that the student will be at home on his/her own.
The student will log on for the morning session, have a break, and then log on for the afternoon session. At set times the teacher will not actually be teaching but will be available to answer questions. The student is expected to be signed in so the teacher can contact the student during these times.
This may be a consequence of the Free Schools funding, rather than for example using the model of a training course for adults with downloadable lessons plus the option to contact the tutor for feedback.
Of course this may not necessarily be an issue for other people.
I got the impression that exams would also be taken during residentials at the college, although this is not stated on the website as far as I can see.