Highgrove Education

How are students supported to integrate well into our online school community?

Student using online learning

Our online school is dedicated to delivering outstanding academic outcomes, but we take even greater pride in watching our pupils develop deep, long-lasting friendships with their classmates from around the world, and we believe that being part of a welcoming community provides a healthy support network for our pupils. The starting point for this is a comprehensive admissions process.

Our online school admissions process is straight-forward and supportive. Our aim is to get to know families thoroughly as they join our online school, and ensure the provision they enrol in fully matches their needs.

We offer open events and taster lessons to allow prospective families to find out more about Highgrove Online School and meet members of the teaching team.  We also offer webinars on choosing your GCSEs and A levels to support children as they make these important decisions.

Applicants and their families are given the opportunity to meet our Principal as part of their journey into the school. We ensure pupils understand the nature of the provision and are fully on-board with the need to adapt to a more independent way of working.  We check that online learning will meet their needs and ensure that their subject selection is well thought through.

We also like our prospective pupils to meet a current pupil, so that they can hear what it’s like to study with us from a student’s perspective. Some of our pupils volunteer as ‘school representatives’ to take on this role, usually because they found it so useful themselves when they joined the school.

Applicants to our GCSE and A level programmes are required to take online entrance assessments to check that they will be able to thrive on our academically rigorous courses, unless they already have proof of ability (for example, GCSE grades for admission to A level courses). 

These entrance assessments aren’t pass/fail tests. If a pupil doesn’t meet the standard we’re looking for, we invite them to an interview with the subject lead who will probe potential and gaps in learning, and check what would make the course accessible to the pupil.  We look for potential as much as performance, and take into account the full picture of a pupil’s background and ability as part of our interviews and screening.

Pupils who do not meet our course entry requirements may be invited to take a pre-GCSE or pre-A level access course or academic tutoring with us prior to starting their programme or full time online school to aid the transition onto the course, or are directed to alternative courses or one to one provision.

Most of our pupils entrance test several months or weeks in advance to join academic year courses starting in September, but if pupils apply to join us mid-year we review their application with extra care.  We only take pupils onto group courses where we feel they have a strong likelihood of success in catching up on any gaps in learning. This will normally mean they have covered some of the provision in another online or traditional school. Where a pupil is unable to slot late onto our group courses, we offer individual tuition as an alternative.

Once we’ve taken our prospective pupils through the entrance process and they’ve accepted a place at Highgrove Online School, we arrange for the pupil and their family to meet their Learning Coach, and in the event that the pupil has a SEND, additionally invite them to meet the SENDCo. Building relationships with their key support staff prior to starting the school can help with pupils who have anxiety about joining the school, and ensure they know who to reach out to. 

We also arrange some optional online social events for new pupils to meet each other as they join the school. These are run by members of our student council, and normally involve some ‘getting to know you’ discussions facilitated by our council members.

We run an induction week for our students in September during which we hold sessions introducing pupils to their House, each of their classes, our platform and tech support, our electives and societies, an overview of our programmes and the pupil support available at the school.

In this induction week we also introduce pupils to a buddy from an older year group within their House, who offers peer support and advice.  Part of our weekly house meetings across the first half term is dedicated to buddy support, so that as our pupils settle into Highgrove Online School they have a mentor to help them find their feet.

Our admissions process and onboarding programme ensures that the transition to joining our online school is as smooth as possible and that pupils are set up for success from the very start of their time with us.