Monday, 2 September 2013

Is School a Realistic Alternative to Home Education?

I wanted to share with you today this article that I found in popular national publication, The Daily Flail...

"As fewer and fewer parents make the choice to fulfil their Section 7 duties by sending their child to school, we feel we must ask the question, is school even a realistic alternative to home education? We spoke to schooling parent, Glenda, to find out...

Often the first question parents ask is, is sending them to school even legal? Surely the fact that it's our legal duty (in Section 7 of the Education Act) to cause our children to receive an education suitable to them individually, means that we legally must educate them ourselves?

Glenda: Actually, if you read that bit of legislation further, it does in fact make allowances for you to send your child to school. You do remain legally responsible for their education though.

Gosh! How on earth do you know they're learning what they need to learn, though? When children are home educated they have the opportunity to learn what they individually need at a juncture suitable for them, and in an individualised manner. How does this translate to a school setting?

Glenda: Well, with so many in each class, even the smallest schools have bigger numbers to work with than in home education, and such an individualised approach just wouldn't be practical. The schools instead take an approach called 'broad and balanced' where everyone is told about a wide range of things. It's more of a top down approach, telling them what they think they should know.

Ah ok, interesting. How does this work when the child isn't interested, or the delivery of the material is unsuitable for their learning style?

Glenda: It doesn't tend to really, they base a lot of the curriculum on current government concerns or what has been traditionally taught, and ways of teaching are individual to the teacher, but parents choosing the school approach tend to be happy that the same things are being presented to every child at the same age. The focus is different from home education.

The question remains, though, how do parents know their child is learning what they need to if they're not there for most of the child's day?

Glenda: Ah, interesting one. The school pedagogy is based not on meeting the individual child's learning needs, as I explained before, but on delivering the 'broad and balanced' curriculum to them all. This means two things, firstly that all children can be assessed in these things and compared child to child, class to class and school to school. Secondly, it means that inspectors can assess the people teaching in the schools against certain targets which they can practice with the children to achieve. As all parents are paying for the school service, either through taxes or independent school fees, the parents are then privy to this information. It means they can keep track in some way of the performance of the people and the service they are paying to educate their children.

Ok.  How about socialisation? Isn't it a problem that for most of the school day children are confined to same-age groups? I guess that the delivery of the curriculum combined with ever increasing amounts of homework means that there's not much time left for the kind of real world socialising that home educated children are used to.

Glenda: That's right, they do get allocated break times where children might choose to talk to other age groups, but in general the age grouping aspect is something most schooling parents just take as read.

Thanks for sharing with us about your approach Glenda!

Glenda makes some interesting points, however, even with more and more people turning away from the school system, concerns are still being raised that those children still in the system are just not learning. Couple this with the high numbers of attacks and bullying between pupils, much publicised abuse, and shocking levels of child suicide, and you can see why people are worried. We asked mainstream home educating parent and home-educating-website-president Bob (who relies on subscription payments from home educators to pay his bills) for his thoughts.

"It's just unacceptable, children are being failed in their thousands and government need to step in and say No. More. School. It shouldn't matter if the parents need childcare, or if they haven't realised they can home educate, or whatever. It's time all these schools were shut down and all the parents were mandated to sign up to my website and pay the subscription. Shocking that parents can still be allowed to claim they are legally educating their children when in reality they don't even know what they're being taught, or whether it's suitable for that child."

So as you can see, valid points on each side of this. School might not have the benefit of an individualised education suitable for each and every child, but they do provide free (at the point of use) childcare, plus there are some children who, for one reason or another, do choose school. The question still remains though, should the government legislate to put a stop to this outdated practice that has been shown time and again to fail children?"