Norfolk e-learning keeps sick kids in class

It used to be that illness was enough of an excuse to miss school or an exam, but thanks to a new e-learning programme, that's no longer the case - news that may or may not make students happy.

The programme, run by Norfolk County Council, helped nearly a 100 children kept from class by illness, pregnancy or other reasons to gain their GCSE qualifications and sit their exams at home using one-on-one online sessions with teachers and web-based classrooms on a variety of subjects from maths to art.

The interactive classrooms allow students to virtually raise their hand in class, by speaking to their fellow students and teachers via a handset. The programme has been extended to local hospitals, with internet-enabled laptops for children to use while in beds.

"For some, continuing education from home has literally turned their lives around and the benefits can be seen in far more than just their exam results," said Jackie Thompson, manager of the e-learning service, in a statement. "It is a tribute to these young people, and to the e-teachers who work so well with them, that we are seeing such success."

One 14-year-old student, Coral Pierpoint, has a congenital heart defect and lives in an isolated spot, making attending school difficult. Another student, Zoe Walker, recently sat her exams using the programme, after being excluded from school. She now wants to become a teacher. A third student, Matthew Hanson, has Asperger's syndrome and is unable to attend school. He has taken three GCSEs through the programme and is set to attend college next year.

"Norfolk County Council is committed to supporting children like Coral, Matthew and Zoe and helping to make sure they can look forward to a bright future," said Thompson. "Coral, Zoe and Matthew are just three of so many amazing youngsters across Norfolk who have struggled against illness or difficulties to make progress in their education through e-learning."