Supporting pupils with anxiety and mental health concerns through online learning

Written by: Gareth Lucas-Howells | Published:

Online learning is helping hundreds of young people with severe mental health issues to access education and reach their potential. Gareth Lucas-Howells explains

Anxiety disorders and mental health can interrupt mainstream schooling or in many cases lead to long term school refusal for some pupils. It is important to recognise these challenges and provide a learning environment in which anxious learners are in absolute control of how they communicate in class, both with their teachers and their peers, for however long they might need it.

At Academy21, our online provision supports hundreds of young people each year who may be suffering from general or specific anxiety and mental health disorders through the medium of online learning.

Learner-focused provision

Consulting with and advising our clients to agree the best fit timetable for each individual's needs. Continually monitoring progress and adjusting their timetable if required, with minimal disruption to learning and to the established structure of each learner’s day.

Pupils learn in a safe and secure environment

Learners are in control of how and when they communicate within the classroom, with their peers and teachers and without the need for web cams. This provides a degree of control over their classroom environment that they cannot achieve in a mainstream setting.

In most cases, schools are already aware of the pupils who need supplementary provision, however, other learners including those who are in and out of care, have anxiety disorders or those suffering from complex medical and mental health conditions may be harder to plan for.

These learners are all likely to only be in school for part of their key stage 4 study which naturally has a negative impact on GCSE exams and results. Whether it is for long-term provision or flexible short-term teaching support, Academy21 provides consistency, quality and structure to vulnerable pupils with diverse needs, delivering the opportunity for them to progress and achieve.

A supplementary provision you can trust

With a 98 per cent pass rate at GCSE level in 2018, predominantly focusing on the core subjects, our specialist teachers support over 250 schools and PRU’s in over 100 different local authority areas to deliver cost-effective, academically focused provision. Pupils referred to Academy21 remain on school roll and our courses can be attended from home, school or learning centre.

Transferring excellent classroom teaching practice to an online learning environment underpins our approach to delivering academic success for the young, vulnerable learners we support. All under the guidance of our senior leadership team and in response to the challenge of our Academic Advisory Board.

Dame Erica Pienaar, chair of the Academic Advisory Board at Wey Education said: "We have developed our provision to meet the needs of the local authorities and schools we support – responding directly to the challenges they face."

Working in small groups and providing additional tutorials every week if pupils are struggling with specific topic work, we utilise leading virtual classroom technology, delivering engaging lessons and leverage the best available content, whilst delivering differentiated learning.

Monitoring progress

Academy21 gives 24/7 online access to our reporting and monitoring system. We provide a comprehensive reporting system for nominated staff and agencies around each learner to continuously monitor their attendance, engagement and academic progress. Irrespective of where in the country they may be accessing their lessons from, progress, engagement and attendance data is easy to access and available 24/7.

Our system provides real-time attendance monitoring, lesson by lesson engagement marks and weekly summative reports for each learner. It also records formative assessment outcomes and provides a full detailed termly report including target and working at grades. Reports can be downloaded to different formats and key staff can use it to notify us of any authorised absences for the young people in their care.

A cost-effective solution providing a low financial risk

With a range of commissioning options from short trial through to annual pricing, we can support you to budget more effectively and reduce costs, from as little as £8.20 per hour.

  • Gareth Lucas-Howells is head of school partnerships at Academy21 and has worked with local authorities and schools since 2004 to actively promote the tangible benefits of live online learning for vulnerable pupil groups. He is an advocate for virtual teaching within alternative provision and his efforts have delivered the opportunity for thousands of young people to achieve recognised outcomes and progress to employment and further education.


For more information on our supplementary provision or to explore whether we might be an appropriate solution for other vulnerable pupils in your care please visit


Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Sign up SecEd Bulletin