Minvera’s Virtual Academy is, as the name suggests, an online independent school for students aged 12 to 18, which currently offers Years 9, 10 and 11 (offering IGCSE qualifications) and which will add A Levels in September 2022.
Minerva's Virtual Academy was founded in October 2020 by Minerva Tutors, one of the UK’s leading providers of online tutoring and mentoring services, with multiple National Business and education awards to their name, as well as a strong reputation among school reviewers. Since its inception in 2014, Minerva Tutors has won many awards and attracts high quality teachers from around the UK.
Both organisations were set up and are run by Hugh Viney, runner up in the Duke of York Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the National Business awards in 2016. An ex-tutor himself, Mr. Viney’s founding vision was to help professionalise the tutoring industry and to offer parents an alternative approach to the norm - complementing the standard methodology of "exams-based" tuition with a broader educational approach that would benefit students for the long run, and would not be solely focused on helping students pass exams under the more traditional 'tutoring' approach.
Mr. Viney’s own style of teaching focuses on pupil confidence (his mantra has always been to "motivate, encourage and inspire" his students to success), and together, Mr. Viney and his tutoring team have been able to produce outstanding results in their students’ academic performance and personal development.
Headmaster Lawrence Tubb has been instrumental in developing Minerva Virtual Academy's online learning experience and is responsible for the day to day running of the academy. Prior to joining Minerva, Mr. Tubb was Director of Music for nine years at highly-regarded Wycombe Abbey private school and led a team of 45 full-time teachers, taking on ambitious projects across multiple departments including leading several international concert tours. Prior to his time at Wycombe Abbey, Mr Tubb taught at Leweston School in Sherbourne as Head of Music.
The Academy’s teachers and mentors have been handpicked from Minerva Tutors' top tier educators. Each is experienced in supporting young people to succeed, both in the exam room and the world beyond, and to enable them to become happier, more motivated and more confident individuals along the way. Students learn at their own pace, through a mixture of live group lessons and online modules, with the support and care of a personal mentor.
Minerva’s Virtual Academy students follow the iGCSE (International GCSE) curriculum set by Cambridge and Pearson Edexcel Exam boards. Students study six core subjects for Years 9, 10 and 11, including Maths, English Literature, English Language, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. In addition, they can also take up to three further iGCSEs, choosing from Business Studies, Computer Science, French, Geography, History, Psychology and Spanish.
The Academy does not necessarily offer all of these subject options for all year groups – availability will, to some degree, be driven by demand. However, private tuition can be arranged for students who wish to take extra subjects, or need extra help with subjects they find challenging, through the sister Minerva Tutors platform. For example, currently, the Academy has students studying for additional iGCSEs in Mandarin and Economics.
The Academy’s A Level programme will be launched in September 2022. A Level students will typically study 3 subjects alongside a programme of enrichment, and preparation for further study and adult life. Subject options include Biology, Business, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, English, French, Geography, Government & Politics, History, Maths, Further Maths, Media Studies, Physics, Psychology, Spanish and Travel & Tourism.
In terms of the delivery of its curriculum, Minerva’s Virtual Academy has based this on four key areas of focus: Virtual Learning Platform, Mentoring, Collaborative Learning and Community.
These ‘four pillars’ are designed to allow MVA to deliver a highly effective education whilst equipping students with the skills needed to thrive in the modern world and to enable them to benefit from the advantages of a private education. The Academy aims to provide a bespoke and enriching education which is as affordable as possible, taught through a curriculum that is as relevant as possible for the modern world.
Students learn through a combination of interactive, small group live subject lessons taught by specialist teachers, and modules of self-study work on Canvas (Minerva’s Virtual Learning Platform).
Students receive support from an academic and personal mentor whose subject specialism is linked to the students' subject choices. Students following three A Level courses will have six hours of live subject lessons per week and all have a dedicated hour of 1-to-1 time every two weeks with their mentor - after which the mentor writes an update report for parents. Students are able to form 'Study Groups' with their classmates, and structure and complete their self-study work via Canvas around their live lesson schedule.
If a student wishes to study other subjects, or requires on-going extra support in a specific subject or for special education needs, Minerva Academy can organise 1-to-1 tutoring as a separate arrangement through Minerva Tutors. This means it is possible to create a bespoke support package that best suits the individual student.
In addition to their subjects, all Sixth Form (Year 12 and 13) students will take part in an enrichment programme, which will include:
Lastly, the "World Changer" programme is an extracurricular, project-based learning programme, developed exclusively by the Minerva team, to enrich and support the Academy's core curriculum. By partnering with select outside institutions, and tutors with specialised interests, MVA aims to deliver highly-creative, cutting-edge learning experiences that are relevant to today's world, stimulating students to think beyond what they might have thought themselves capable of.
Programmes to date have included the International Space School Education Trust Stem-X Launch Prize in Spring 2021, where MVA partnered with the International Space School Education Trust. Students learned about life and conditions on the International Space Station, how to make hypotheses and conduct reliable experiments, and worked in groups to design experiments to test these hypotheses.
Prior to this, in Winter 2020, the Academy partnered with Clemily M, a former human rights researcher at the UN, on a Human Rights project where Year 9 and 10 students learned about the origin and nature of human rights and grappled with complex issues such as how certain issues and cases can be prioritised over others. The mission of the programme was to challenge students to think big, to prepare them for the future, and to be rewarding, thought-provoking, and fun.
Students also have the opportunity to participate in one or more clubs (for which there is an extra termly charge) with options such as debating to art, chess, film production and app design. There are also regular online social events, termly opportunities for students to meet up in person, and school trips.
We asked Lawrence Tubb, Headmaster, Minerva’s Virtual Academy, what makes MVA unique. His response was as follows:
"In a nutshell, we combine the experience of attending a bricks and mortar independent school with the flexibility of homeschooling and deliver it all online. We combine self-learning, group subject classes, and 1-2-1 mentoring to ensure each pupil receives a quality education."
"We teach with real talent - having no physical premise means we can attract the brightest and most inspirational teachers in the country; we think outside the box - our all-round curriculum includes the unique 'World Changer' programme, weekly wellbeing lessons, and after school clubs like art and film production; we're effortlessly flexible - you can live anywhere in the world and learn with us - and unlike traditional schools, our pupils are encouraged to learn at their own pace!"
"Finally, we're safe & affordable - More than a third of the price of traditional private schools; never compromising on pupil well-being or safeguarding."
There is no doubt that with the ever-growing experience of on-line learning - largely imposed since early 2020, as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic - more families are considering whether this is a viable long-term option for their children. There is no question also that the fees offered in this environment are significantly lower than will be found in any 'bricks and mortar' school.
For students who need perhaps greater support or a less hurried approach to learning, programmes such as that offered by MVA are attractive. In addition, students have no option other than to become self-sufficient and independent learners, as they largely manage their own schedule and workload - valuable tools as they move on to tertiary education or the workplace.
Fees - for the 2021-22 academic year for students studying 6 core subjects plus 3 additional subjects at iGCSE, together with a choice of one of MVA's extracurricular clubs are £6,500 Per School Year (3 terms) or £2500 per term if paid termly.
For the 2022-23 Academic Year, fees are £6,950 Per School Year (3 terms). An Early bird offer of £6,500 will be available for anyone who registers their child before 31 July 2022.
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