Sun 09 Jan 4 min read

FlexEd – a new shape of schooling

Kai Vacher

British School Muscat and British School Salalah were shortlisted for the 2022 International School Awards, Digital Technology in Learning category.


Just prior to the pandemic, in November 2019, British School Salalah(BSS) and British School Muscat (BSM), working in partnership across a distance of 1500km, created FlexEd: an innovative iGCSE  curriculum for a small group of students in Salalah. FlexEd combines in-school face to face learning, online teaching and independent study at an affordable price point for less than 10 students.  

 

British School Salalah before FlexEd

There are enough students in the primary school at BSS to support a traditional educational model. However, prior to FlexEd, with only 17 students in the senior school, it was impossible to support students learning past KS3. Families seeking KS4 provision would have to leave Salalah.

A combination of teacher ingenuity, collaboration and technology combined to create FlexEd to   provide education to children in Key Stage 4 where previously none existed. FlexEd works like this:

  • Five days a week in school at BSS.
  • Face-to-Face teaching for English, Mathematics and Arabic GCSE as well as specialist subjects in Art & Design, PSHE, Music and PE, delivered by two dedicated full time teachers and two specialist teachers.
  • Remote learning via timetabled online tutoring from BSM’s world-class team of UK-qualified teachers in Muscat, for iGCSE Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Computing and French, supported by a member of staff in the classroom at BSS.
  • Century’s online personalised learning platform supports students in Science and Maths.

How does technology support the FlexEd curriculum?

A Google Chromebook, software and unlimited storage for school and home use are all included  as part of the programme. Students are taught digital responsibility as part of their PSHE lessons, run in person and face to face at BSS. They make particular use of this digital responsibility when they are learning independently online, which they do for 30% of the programme with Century, an award-winning online learning platform used by thousands of schools across the world. It combines the latest AI technology and neuroscience to build individual student programmes of study for iGCSE English, Maths and Science.

How successful has FlexEd been?

In our parental survey at the end of the first term of FlexEd, 100% of parents agreed that their child was making good progress, they could see the progress being made by their child and  would recommend the programme to others.

When FlexEd was first proposed to BSS parents, the idea of signing their child up to complete their GCSEs online was a big decision.  However, as COVID arrived, travel was restricted and online teaching became the norm. What we were proposing in Salalah became the ideal solution for our families.

How does FlexEd compare with other online education providers?

An increasing range of online schools now exist. These online schools offer a range of courses at a broadly similar price point to FlexEd. So why do BSS parents want to buy in our own modest home grown FlexEd model and not choose one of these global providers?

COVID highlighted how critical the social aspect of learning is, and that something extra happens when students and their teacher share a physical space. What is unique about FlexEd within the online schooling market is that we require our students to attend school five days a week. When we were initially discussing the model with prospective parents, they were insistent that any model that involved online learning would require their children to attend normal school hours full time.

The face-to-face lessons and support provided in Salalah are critical components that stand us apart from other online schools. Even when students are online, they are supervised in-person by a member of staff, so the benefits of both online learning and face to face support from a teacher can be realised.

How could FlexEd be adapted for post-16 students?

Following the success of FlexEd to support students in Years 10 and 11 to study iGCSEs, 7 students have now expressed an interest in studying at BSS through a post 16 FlexEd model. What could FlexEd look like for these students?

With an initial cohort of 7 students in Year 12, we would limit the curriculum to 4 or 5 subjects.  Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Computing and English Literature are the most popular student choices at present. Mathematics and English Literature could be offered face to face at BSS, with the other subjects offered online, taught by BSM staff. Century could also support independent study with some of the A level Mathematics modules.

FlexEd was not about overcoming a pandemic, but something more fundamental: about international schools and their staff using their skills to help broaden access to education for young people in a relatively remote area of Oman. With most schools and teachers now well versed in the type of model we created, it’s a route that could become a lot more popular across the globe to extend educational opportunity where it is currently limited or non-existent.