New online learning platform

A new online learning platform, developed and launched in Mid and East Antrim, is set to benefit hundreds of thousands of children across the UK as home schooling continues during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Launched this week, www.homeschoolondemand.com has been developed by Ballymena-born woman Deborah Fitzsimmons and her team of 11 other self-employed tutors, with the support of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council's Kickstart programme.

Homeschool On Demand Ltd provides a platform for qualified teachers, tutors, industry experts and coaches to be able to offer their courses for children in an educational-focused and collaborative space. The business creates affordable access to structured courses for home schooled children and provides opportunities for young people to extend their learning beyond the classroom setting. It will also support school revision for key examinations and provide essential support for parents.

A former teacher for over 17 years, Deborah is also the founder of Go2Educate, an education and training organisation which provides resources, online courses and tutoring for children studying Business Studies and IT/Computer Studies.

"I had always wanted to expand the Go2Educate business further to include a more extensive range of subjects," she explained. "By taking it fully online, I knew I could sell engaging and interactive virtual curricular and extra-curricular courses that would benefit the 68,000 children permanently home schooled across the UK," she explained.

Deborah set about developing www.homeshoolondemand.com in November 2019 by bringing together a group of 12 self-employed tutors initially, who would offer a wide range of subjects for children and young people aged 7-18.

Although originally intended to be launched in September this year, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year has seen the team greatly accelerate these plans, bringing the launch forward by four months.

"Over the past couple of months millions of parents across the UK found themselves having to home school their children all of sudden, with no experience of having done so before," she continued.

"Without the right support, this can be a hugely daunting prospect for parents, who are doing their very best to ensure that their children can continue their education and don't fall behind in important subject areas. This was the experience of a friend of mine, who was aware of my plans for the business and urged me to make the platform available much sooner if I could.

"The past few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind in preparing for a much earlier launch than planned but, thanks to the collective effort of our amazing team, we now have fantastic courses from 12 outstanding teachers, tutors and coaches online already, with three more to follow in the coming weeks.

"We also currently looking for experienced self-employed teachers and industry experts who can offer courses where there are currently gaps in expertise – benefitting families across the UK not only during the pandemic, but right across the school year when normal circumstances resume."

Deborah applied to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council's Kickstart Programme for guidance and support around search engine optimisation (SEO) for the www.homeschoolondemand.com, together with advice around the e-commerce aspects of the new website.

"The Council has been hugely supportive in recent weeks, providing lots of useful advice and guidance, as well as assigning me an expert who can help me with some of the technical and commercial considerations that come with running an online business."

The Kickstart Programme offers specialist mentoring support to local start-ups and businesses in their first years of trading. To find out more please visit https://amplifymidandeastantrim.com/business-support/kick-start/email amplify@midandeastantrim.gov.uk or phone 028 2563 3363.

To find out how Mid and East Antrim Borough Council can support your business during the pandemic, visit https://www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/covid-19/supporting-ourmea-businesses

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