Online Schools Accreditation Scheme

Closed 8 Nov 2019

Opened 5 Sep 2019

Feedback updated 10 Jun 2020

We asked

As part of the Government's commitment to all children in education in England, including those already being placed in online provision, we published the consultation document: Online schools accreditation scheme in September 2019. The consultation recognised the growing market of online education services for children in England, many of whom offer a full curriculum and may represent a child’s main or only source of formal education. As this type of provision is currently unregulated, the department sought views on an accreditation scheme to reassure children, parents and local authorities of the quality of education and safeguarding arrangements in using such services.

The consultation made two key proposals:

  • the establishment of a voluntary online education accreditation scheme
  • the establishment of non-statutory standards for online education provision

As part of the proposals, we consulted on the appointment of a Quality Assurance Body (QAB) to provide an inspection service for the online settings that join the accreditation scheme. The consultation document also included the draft standards; views were requested on their suitability and practical application.

The government response to this consultation can be viewed on

You said

There is substantial support for an accreditation scheme – with over 90% of respondents supporting the principles of the proposed scheme. Below is a summary of areas where we found significant support:

  • 94% of all respondents agreed that there is a need for a quality assurance scheme in some form – 96% of providers, 100% of local authorities, 86% of parents and 100% of the broader education sector;
  • there is 91% support overall for the principles of the accreditation scheme we have proposed – 96% from providers, 94% from local authorities, 93% from parents and 83% from the broader education sector;
  • there is also strong support for basing standards on the Independent School Standards (ISS) – 83% support overall, including 100% support among local authorities. Although there was less certainty about whether we had identified the correct standards, 68% of respondents overall felt that we had, including 80% of local authorities;
  • 89% felt that it is appropriate for online providers to have regard to Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) guidance.
  • there is strong support for the department to appoint a QAB to inspect online settings and providers (94% overall, 96% from providers, 92% from parents, 92% from the broader education sector and 100% from local authorities);
  • there is strong support for publishing all reports – whether standards have been met or not. This found 89% support overall, including 100% of parents and local authorities;
  • there is strong support for giving providers four weeks to submit an action plan if an inspection found they were not meeting all required standards. 83% overall said that this was an appropriate timeframe, including 79% of providers, 81% of local authorities, 90% of the broader education sector and 92% of parents.

Other substantial issues raised are summarised below:

  • 75% of respondents overall were concerned about the inclusion of overseas-based providers in the scheme, including 94% of local authorities;
  • questions relating to safeguarding showed a greater level of uncertainty relative to most other consultation questions. 41% of respondents overall said they were unsure if we had identified standards that would adequately safeguard children, although 52% answered ‘yes’ and only 8% ‘no’. 60% overall said they were unsure that safeguarding arrangements would work in practice, including 73% of local authorities. However, only 8% answered that they would not work, including just 7% of local authorities;
  • there was some uncertainty about whether remote inspections are likely to work in practice. 44% overall said that they were ‘unsure’. 44% also answered ‘yes’ and 12% ‘no’;
  • we detected some misunderstanding about possible sanctions for non-compliance, in the context of a non-statutory scheme.

The government response to this consultation can be viewed on

We did

Based on consultation feedback, we will make the following substantive changes to the initial proposals:

  • due to concerns raised relating to the inclusion of overseas-based providers, we will restrict the scheme to providers with a physical presence in the UK only;
  • whilst not prohibiting remote inspections entirely, we will indicate a strong preference to the QAB for physical inspections. All initial inspections will be carried out in person;
  • the degree of uncertainty relating to safeguarding suggests that there is a need for better definition and guidance from the department, particularly around a provider’s responsibility and how it will keep children safe online. As such, we will provide clear guidance, highlighting the distinction between the roles and responsibilities of those for the online safeguarding and the roles and responsibilities of those for the physical safeguarding. The term 'physical safeguarding' is intended to cover a wide range of safeguarding aspects – not only those limited to preventing physical harm or abuse. The exact definition of physical safeguarding will differ depending on the individual circumstances and location of the child. In practice, this will signify that the online provider is responsible for the online safeguarding only; the physical safeguarding will rest with the adults present at the site where the online education is being provided;
  • we will change the name of the scheme to the ‘Online Education Accreditation Scheme’. This is to more accurately reflect the difference between providers in this sector and traditional school settings. We will therefore avoid the use of the term ‘school’ altogether and refer instead to ‘online education settings’, ‘online education services’ and ‘online education providers’. The standards will also be amended accordingly;
  • we will assess to what extent it is workable to add additional information requirements at the registration stage;
  • we will make a technical change whereby due diligence is carried out by the QAB, rather than the department. The QAB will report the outcome of due diligence checks to the department;
  • The uncertainty relating to possible sanctions for non-compliance suggests there is a need for guidance from the department to ensure that all parties are clear about how the scheme will work. This will be provided for the commencement of the scheme.

The government response to this consultation can be viewed on


We are seeking views on a proposal to establish a voluntary accreditation scheme for online schools.

Why your views matter

There is a growing market of online school providers for children in England, that offer a full curriculum and/or represent a child’s main source of formal education.

As this type of provision is currently unregulated, the Department for Education is looking at how children, parents and local authorities can be assured of a quality education and appropriate safeguarding arrangements.

To address this issue, this consultation makes two key proposals: 

  • The establishment of a voluntary online schools accreditation scheme
  • The establishment of non-statutory standards for online schools 

We are also consulting on inspection arrangements for online settings wishing to join the accreditation scheme.


  • Teachers
  • Headteachers
  • Local authorities
  • Virtual school heads
  • Parents
  • Foster carers
  • Adoptive parents
  • Those evaluating programmes for children in need
  • Social workers
  • Directors of children's services


  • Education
  • Health and wellbeing (Looked after children)
  • Programmes and initiatives (Looked after children)
  • Social care standards and guidance
  • Support in education
  • Keeping children safe in education and other settings
  • Preventing neglect, abuse and exploitation
  • Safeguarding disabled children
  • Alternative provision