A private tutoring company has hired former Prime Minister Sir John Key for its board and unveiled ambitious plans for a global online high school.

Key will follow his son Max Key into the company, Crimson Consulting, where Max worked from 2015 until 2017, helping students get into top American universities through excellence in sports.

Company founder Jamie Beaton, 24, said the former Prime Minister would be an "advisory member" of the company's board.

Sir John Key, right, pictured on election night in 2014 with his son Max Key, who joined Crimson Consulting in 2015. Photo / File
Sir John Key, right, pictured on election night in 2014 with his son Max Key, who joined Crimson Consulting in 2015. Photo / File

He has also announced that the company will start a "highly selective" online Crimson Global Academy in February, targeting several hundred students studying towards Cambridge exams, NZ Scholarships or entry tests for American universities.

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Former Auckland Grammar headmaster John Morris, 69, will be executive principal and the school is advertising for a principal and about 100 teachers of English, Mandarin, Spanish, maths, biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, business, economics, law, history, sociology and psychology.

Former Auckland Grammar headmaster John Morris has been appointed the first executive principal of the online Crimson Global Academy. Photo / Supplied
Former Auckland Grammar headmaster John Morris has been appointed the first executive principal of the online Crimson Global Academy. Photo / Supplied

It was registered by the Ministry of Education in August as a private school and Morris said teachers would need NZ registration, but would be able to work from anywhere.

"They could be working from home," he said.

"It's not like Te Kura [the Correspondence School], which has no direct teaching. This will be teachers teaching interactively online in subjects that they know well.

"It could well be that at 2pm on Wednesday there's an A-level physics class and students will log on from anywhere."

Jamie Beaton says Crimson is investing more than $10 million into its global online high school. Photo / File
Jamie Beaton says Crimson is investing more than $10 million into its global online high school. Photo / File

Beaton said Crimson was investing more than $10 million into the new school out of $31.5m of new capital that it raised last month, which brought the company's total value to US$260m ($410m).

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"We think this can become a really significant contributor to the NZ education system and don't plan to do this on a small scale," he said.

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Students will have to be NZ domestic students initially but the longer-term plan is to open new branches globally. Crimson already provides tutoring in 20 countries.

Students will pay between $2000 and $5000 per subject, or $15,000 to $20,000 for a full courseload - in the same range as other private schools. The online school will save on physical premises but will have better staff/student ratios with "truly personalised instruction".

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"There will be two components - group classes, typically very small with three to 20 students, and one-to-one tutors," Beaton said.

Jamie Beaton says his online academy will let students progress regardless of their ages following the example of Tristan Pang, above, who graduated from Auckland University aged 17. Photo / File
Jamie Beaton says his online academy will let students progress regardless of their ages following the example of Tristan Pang, above, who graduated from Auckland University aged 17. Photo / File

Students will be enrolled in classes based on their ability, regardless of their age. Beaton cited students such as Tristan Pang, who graduated with a degree from Auckland University this year aged just 17.

As well as targeting bright students, the school also hopes to enrol homeschoolers, students in remote areas wanting subjects not available at their local schools, and top performers in sports and the arts whose commitments mean they can only study at odd hours.

It will open in February, only for part-time students in Years 11 to 13, but will take in full-time students from mid-2020 and will eventually accept students from Year 9.

Keisuke Shibata will be chief executive of the new Crimson Global Academy. Photo / Supplied
Keisuke Shibata will be chief executive of the new Crimson Global Academy. Photo / Supplied

A former managing director of Auckland International College who is now developing international schools worldwide, Keisuke Shibata, will be the academy's chief executive and will serve on the academy's governance board with Beaton, Morris and Crimson executive Kevin Park.

An advisory board will include Christchurch's Student Volunteer Army founder Sam Johnson, former Montessori teacher Todd Rigg Carriero, and Stanford Online High School head Tomohiro Hoshi.

Tomohiro Hoshi, head of Stanford University's Stanford Online High School in California, is advising Crimson Consulting on setting up the new Crimson Global Academy. Photo / Supplied
Tomohiro Hoshi, head of Stanford University's Stanford Online High School in California, is advising Crimson Consulting on setting up the new Crimson Global Academy. Photo / Supplied

Morris, who has been an education consultant since he left Auckland Grammar in 2012, said he would continue consulting work in addition to his part-time role as executive principal.

"My role as executive principal is helping with appointments and curriculum and assessment development," he said.

"We are advertising for a principal who we want to get started straight away."

He said the venture was "futuristic" and had been welcomed by the Ministry of Education, even though the current Labour Government repealed a law promoted by former minister Nikki Kaye to facilitate "communities of online learning" (Cools).

"What is amazing is that the ministry has been so supportive of this and excited about the possibility."

Meanwhile Beaton said Adrian Cheng of Hong Kong's Chow Tai Fook group, which invested US$10m in last month's Crimson funding round, had joined the company's board. The other directors are Beaton, his partner Sharndre Kushor, Jason Lenga (Tiger Global Management) and Janine Manning (ICE Angels).