The government plans to launch an accreditation scheme for online schools in a bid to regulate the growing market.
Under the plans, such schools would volunteer for inspection against measures similar to the independent schools standards. Those who meet the grade would become accredited Department for Education (DfE) providers.
Online schools are typically used by children educated at home or not in traditional settings because of parental choice, special educational needs or exclusion.
The DfE estimates there are now more than 20 such schools in England.
Academies minister Lord Agnew said: “There are few more significant choices for a parent than their child’s education, so it’s absolutely right that they have all the information they need when making those decisions.
“That’s why it’s important that an accreditation scheme exists for online providers, so parents can make informed decisions about issues that could shape their child’s life.”
He said online schools play a “growing part” in making sure the most vulnerable pupils can access a “rich curriculum, high quality teachers and one-to-one support”.
“Online schools can be a significant player as we continue to look for ways to maximise the use of technology in education and today’s proposals will only accelerate that, helping parents differentiate between the strong and the weak, and meaning more pupils have access to the high quality education they deserve.”
The body set to inspect online schools will be appointed through a bidding process. Further details of the government’s plans will be revealed in a consultation due to be published today.
The government said it will be the first step in “gaining greater oversight” of these settings with any future steps informed by the “willingness of providers to engage with us on a voluntary basis”.
Around 60,000 children are currently education at home, with a minority of these thought to use online schools. The consultation will also help further understanding of the scale of the market.