What are the advantages of virtual learning for pupils in alternative provision in the UK?

Online AP provides supplementary education to schools, PRUs and local education authorities. When done well, it can support settings to meet the needs of those vulnerable learners, and address the points raised by the Centre for Social Justice 2020 manifesto.

  • Pupils accessing online AP with Academy21 can have access to a broad, aspirational curriculum which allows them to close learning gaps and access the same educational opportunities as their peers.
  • Our online AP teachers are experienced in supporting learners with their emotional needs as well as their academic needs. They are subject specialists who can deliver tailored learning in small groups.
  • Online AP teachers can track and report on the progress of the pupils they teach throughout the learning programme. Academy21 provides access to a Mentor Portal which gives access to data on attendance, progress and engagement.

Pupils in AP need academic and emotional wellbeing support. Many settings find a blended approach to be most beneficial to their students (though this will not be possible in certain circumstances).
Virtual learning delivered by experienced teachers in structured sessions can take place in an AP setting with staff available to support learners face-to-face as they learn or follow up with activities after the online session.

vulnerable student happily studying at home

The Landscape of AP in the UK

Many different versions of alternative provision exist. There are various settings across the UK, including pupil referral units (PRUs), AP academies, AP free schools, independent  providers, further education colleges and voluntary sector providers. There are also hospital education providers.

Across the range of provision, there exists vast inconsistency and a huge variation in standards.

Online AP can provide a solution to address consistency, safeguarding and standards, with schools and providers working together to ensure the best provision and outcomes for individual pupils.

Among its recommendations for system improvement, the Centre for Social Justice 2020 manifesto suggested:

  • Children in AP should have access to the same broad, aspirational curriculum and educational opportunities as their peers.
  • AP needs highly trained people.
  • Improve data collection


Girl studying on a laptop

Benefits of Online AP for schools and other organisations

Organisation and Administration

Online AP can be used to support learners at any time in the academic year. Students can join part way through a year and continue their studies. Academy21 manages the enrolment process and builds timetables for each learner to suit their needs.

Continuity of Provision

Online AP can be implemented as a short-term solution or can be used to support pupils for much longer periods of time. Some pupils in particular need the stability that this type of solution can offer while experiencing periods of change or upheaval in their personal lives.

Flexible Support

Online AP can fit in around school timetables and be tailored to suit individual learners' needs. Ongoing monitoring and reporting, as well as regular communication with a designated member of staff in the education setting means that provision can be adapted as needed.

Standard of Teaching

No matter where a student is based, they are able to access the same high-quality content. All students, regardless of location, attend classes delivered by experienced, fully qualified teachers who are subject specialists. This consistency of quality can be particularly useful for larger organisations who use Academy21 for pupils that would usually attend different schools, in different locations.

Reporting and Monitoring

Schools and Local Authorities can keep track of their AP pupils via online reporting and monitoring systems. Through our custom-built mentor portals, data can be easily be accessed relating to attendance, engagement and progress allowing staff to track the progress of individual students.

A Partnered Approach

Online AP is often used as a solution for pupils to remain on their school roll and still feel part of the school community. Working together with Academy21 ensures that pupils continue to receive academic support while away from the school grounds. In many cases, this partnership approach can aid the reintegration of the learner back into mainstream education.

Benefits of Online AP for Learners

Virtual learning provision is a great solution for many pupils. Where feasible, the direct intention of the intervention is to support learners to return to their mainstream school or college.
Time and Place
Confidence and Social Skills
Additional Support
Familiarity, Consistency and Security
Teacher-Pupil bond

 More information on all of these themes and more is available in our comprehensive guide.


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0800 208 8210 or email us at [email protected]

If you are interested in finding out more about Academy 21 and our alternative education provision, or wish to discuss the individual needs of your pupil(s), then please call our friendly team using the telephone number above or fill out the form below.