London calling

The next level of live online teaching?

Approaches to live online teaching are becoming more sophisticated and ambitious. In September 2022 live broadcasts commence from a school in London to partner schools in Europe and East Asia. David Boddy reports.

Pilot scheme

A unique international school development project by City of London Freemen’s will launch this September with state-of-the-art technology linking teachers from the Surrey-based school with students in partner school classrooms across the globe. Freemen’s, which is one of three independent schools overseen by the City of London Corporation, will teach A-Levels and GCSE subjects to students in Korea, Germany and Italy in a pilot scheme, thought to be the first of its kind.

Freemen’s is also in discussion with schools in the Gulf and other European countries in anticipation of the pilot programme expanding further in 2023. Students joining the programme will graduate with a City of London Freemen’s certificate, plus their British IGCSEs and A Levels and be supported in finding top university places. They will become part of the Freemen’s Alumni.


The technology used is based on an innovative immersive digital learning platform, developed by US-based X20 Media for Harvard University Business School, alongside Microsoft’s 365 One Note which creates digital text and exercise books. This blend of digital solutions allows live teaching from Freemen’s classrooms into the partner schools. Freemen’s will provide all of the academic learning and the local partner school will provide the co-curricular, pastoral care and any other learning required by education authorities in the local area.


Head of Freemen’s Global, a new division established to deliver the international development, is Paul Bridges.  Commenting on the pilot programme, Mr Bridges said: This  initiative allows our teachers to work directly with international students through live lessons delivered in their time zone. For our partner schools it is an opportunity either to expand their GCSE and A Level offering, or in the case of IB schools, to offer a second curriculum without the risks and costs that this normally involves.”

Classroom to classroom

Freemen’s has taken the decision not to teach students in their homes but instead to reach them in their schools.  According to Paul Bridges, “ The whole experience of going to school is very important. We would like students to have the actual company of others to learn with, both virtually and in real-time space in their own school. In our view this is the best of both worlds. They also are taught by some of the best teachers in the UK which is a real bonus for schools abroad who struggle with international recruitment.”

Partners can also see the marketing advantages they have in their local markets by associating with a brand as significant as the City of London Freemen’s.

Cultural understanding

Freemen’s headmaster, Roland Martin, is enthusiastic about young people from across the world learning together at the same time.

“ The educational benefits of taking, for example, an economics or geography lesson with students from the East Asia, the Gulf and Europe, all looking at the same problem, are immense. Not only will there be growth in subject knowledge, by sharing different experiences, but there will be growth in cultural understanding. We think the world needs this,”

‘Much more than Zoom on steroids’

According to Freemen’s Digital Services Director, Paul Hykin, said the technology to be used is far more than just  “ Zoom on steroids”.

“Transformation of digital learning was already underway before Covid but it has now moved a long way forward,” he said. “ The X20 solution offers freedom for the teacher to move around the classroom and teach in the normal way; the teacher is not locked behind two-square inches of glass. The student has multiple camera views, access to whiteboards and polling and because their image is life sized on the bank of screens in the teaching room, the teacher can directly inter-act either on a one-to-one basis, with a small selected group or the whole class. In fact, there are things – like differentiated learning – which some teachers believe are easier in our Digital Immersive Classroom than in a normal classroom.”

He added that Microsoft OneNote is playing a major supportive technology role. “ The teacher can observe and mark work in real time. With students in different parts of the world and in different time zones, it would be a real impediment if students could not have their work commented on like this. We know from our trials that the students appreciate this a great deal,” he said.


Since the start of 2022, current Freemen’s students have been trialling the technology and feeding back their reactions.  They comment that the technology is easy to use, gives a real sense of being in a class and the multiple camera angles and ways to get involved keep them fully focussed.

City of London Freemen’s plans to use any profits emerging from Freemen’s Global to support additional bursaries and development projects on their Ashtead site.


David Boddy is a former Headmaster and Chair of the UK Society of Heads, Chair of ASIS Education and Director of International Development, City of London Freemen’s. Schools interested in joining the partnership should email him, in the first instance, at :



Feature Image by: Henri1407 on Pixabay

Support Images kindly provided by City of London Freemen’s School