The education group behind one of the UK’s largest virtual fee-paying secondary schools and who advised on a failed online free school application is to float on the London Stock Exchange’s junior market.
Led during the Coalition years by former Ofsted chair Zenna Atkins, Wey Education plc told investors in 2011 that reforms such as free schools would “create increased opportunities for private sector companies to manage and run state-funded schools at all levels”.
Four years later, however, these opportunities have not materialised and the company is taking a different approach.
The company acquired online independent secondary school InterHigh Education Limited (InterHigh) in April. The group also includes Wey Consulting Ltd, which assists prospective free school and academy sponsors.
InterHigh offers iGCSEs and A-levels and had 435 students aged between 10 and 19 at the end of the summer term. The company describes it as an interactive school with classroom participation between teacher and student, with teaching delivered via a “resilient, cloud-based platform”.
Director of development at the virtual school, Jacqueline Daniell, told Schools Week in August that the virtual school was expanding because of “fewer options for students” in local sixth forms as many cut language offerings following budget cuts.
Non-executive chairman of Wey Education plc, David Massie, said the fees for InterHigh students were “roughly £2,500 for either eight IGCSEs or three A-levels”.
He said he had been pleased by the growth of InterHigh: “The new generation is more digitally aware than any generation has ever been and we think they welcome and embrace the idea of online education. We think there are significant growth prospects in the UK and overseas, both in traditional time zones and in Asia.”
Mr Massie was also a member of the team behind the Wey Education Schools Trust’s (WEST) free school application for a virtual, online school Wey Ecademy. Virtual schools are a part of the free school landscape in the US and, in most cases, are granted the same level of government funding as other schools. When the free schools programme opened in England, several US companies were tipped to open similar schools here. But the Department for Education (DfE) turned down WEST’s application last year.
Mr Massie said that WEST was originally created by the plc but had now moved out of the group to give it independence. A decision on whether WEST would re-submit an application for the “ecademy” would “depend on discussions with the DfE”.
Ms Atkins, chair of Ofsted from 2006-2010 and chief executive of Wey Education from 2010-2013, sold her 1.4 million shares in the plc in October.
In 2011 Wey Education applied to be the day-to-day for-profit managers of Breckland Free School. IES trumped them to the post but the company has yet to turn a profit.
Wey Education plc’s unaudited interim results for the first six months of 2015 showed a group turnover of £353,000, a significant increase on 2014’s turnover of £27,000. This included sales of £347,000 from the InterHigh business. The plc overall made a consolidated loss for the period of £187,000 (reduced from £313,000 in 2014).