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Monday, 6 November, 2000, 17:09 GMT
'Notschool' approach to learning
Girl using internet
Notschool will step in where traditional methods fail
A new online learning scheme has been launched to reach out to children who are outside the education system.


These children have to be given a chance

Jean Johnson, notschool.net
Notschool.net is aimed at youngsters who are unable - through sickness, exclusion, disaffection or teenage pregnancy - to continue in the traditional education system.

The website - run initially as a pilot project - gives an alternative approach to learning and, with no physical environment or time restraints, it is hoped the scheme will re-engage children with their studies.

Curriculum materials have been drawn from a range of subjects, tailored by individual needs and mediated by the tutors in partnership with the students and their families.

Undergraduate mentors

Each student is assigned his or her own personal mentor, who will befriend, motivate and guide the student throughout the project.

The mentors are undergraduate students committing five to seven hours per week.

Jean Johnson
Jean Johnson hopes the idea will target long-term absentees
The project will be piloted for a year among 100 children in Essex and Glasgow, with a view to being rolled out to schools, local authorities - even other countries - in the next academic year.

"These children have to be given a chance," director of notschool.net Jean Johnson said.

The website will help local education authorities with the problem they face when trying to provide education for long-term absentees, she said.

"I get lots and lots of education authorities, schools and individuals who want to find out more about notschool.net and we are giving many presentations on it," she added.

'Non-threatening'

"Notschool.net is a non-threatening, protected environment where learning can be approached from a different perspective.

"Early signs show this project being a cost effective, successful alternative to traditional methods," she said.

Colin Salmon
Colin Salmon: "It gives people a chance"
Actor Colin Salmon, who appeared in James Bond films, is a governor of notschool.net and a role model for its pupils.

"I became involved in notschool.net because I believe its ethos is similar to my own. I got thrown out of school when I was 16," he said.

"I am behind this project because it gives people a chance, a chance that they deserve and have a fundamental right to."

Widespread support

The scheme is the brainchild of Ultralab, a learning technology research centre at Anglia Polytechnic University.

It has won the backing of the BBC, the World Wildlife Fund and the Science Museum.

Private companies have contributed to the initiative and the website itself runs on and is supported by think.com.

Sick children

The launch of the notschool.net pilot scheme came as the government announced plans for a public consultation to review the way sick children are taught.

Jacqui Smith
Jacqui Smith is looking for innovative ideas on teaching sick children
Speaking at a conference of the National Association for the Education of Sick Children, Schools minister Jacqui Smith said sick and injured children can suffer educationally from time spent in hospital and when convalescing.

"Their education must be kept alive and where possible their progress maintained," she said.

"Children with life threatening or terminal illnesses equally have a right to continuing learning suited to their needs and health at the time."

She said it was necessary to learn about innovative educational schemes that could be spread across the country and adapted to local circumstances.

Laptops

One such idea might be the introduction of laptop computers for sick children.

GCSE pupil David Quince - who has a spinal condition - swears by the laptop he was awarded by the National Association for the Education of Sick Children.

"Although I have been in and out of hospital the computer is always available to pick up and continue with my current work," he said.

"Having direct access to the internet has allowed me to explore a vast range of subjects.

"Certainly without the one-to-one facility of the laptop and the internet, I would not have been able to have the wonderful worldwide educational information at my fingertips," he added.

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