Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Difference? Home ed and illegal schools

Branwen Jeffreys on BBC Radio 4 Today spoke clearly: an illegal school is a setting where more than five children are present 'full time' (I assume the boundaries of school guide her education reporting, so she means kids are at the setting between 9am to 3pm).

Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools - who quite rightly is concerned about public money being used to place vulnerable children in unregistered centres with poorly-qualified staff - then went on, at the end of the piece, to gloss it all, home education.

I would just like to point out that Home Education is NOT the same as an illegal school.

Here are TWO DIFFERENCES. They are Great Big ones.

1. Home educators draw no public money to home ed our kids.

2. Home educators do not send kids to a centre for 6 hours a day Monday to Friday.

Michael Wilshaw knows what he is saying, when he uses the term 'home education' to mean all education provision that is not mainstream. He knows the difference between home ed and illegal school settings. But he hopes that you don't.

Because what's on his immediate wish-list is Registration for every child. You may want this approach or not - it's up to you to argue your point of view - but to advance his agenda, Wilshaw should have the decency not to lie to you. There is a difference, and he knows it. But he would like to make you think that home educators are doing something illegal, dirty, dangerous, and wrong.

Now, if you want to know more, then know the debate in home ed land about the use of public money to fund home ed.

Some home educators argue that we should receive state help for exams, text books, syllabus provision, tutors, invigilation fees. It can be frighteningly expensive, depending how you do it. Seven hundred quid to get three kids through their Global Citizenship course, and roughly a hundred pounds each child for each exam, means I haven't bought a new pair of shoes since 2002. (Barnardos charity equips us all at £1.99 a pair.)

In my view, if we accept state money for exams, then we also allow the state to scrutinise us in our home, tell us how my kids are to learn stuff, and dictate their rates of learning. That would cut a fundamental freedom of choice - which we all enjoy - about how to live our family life. My kids have learned most of their stuff autonomously, with some structures as they've needed: they study for an exam in one year, not two, and if their study means spending most of the day in a field, then that's what they need to do. I trust my kids to learn the way they need.

Let's just say, the debate about whether home educators should accept state money will continue, for sure.

The second point - sending kids to a centre for 6 hours a day and assuming this is 'home education' - is frankly a bizarre thing for Wilshaw to claim, and it shouldn't stand up to any scrutiny at all. One of the reasons people pull kids out of school is to free them from this constraint. This blog has been fairly typical of many home educating styles, and how many days were there for Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to see the same setting?

But Mr Wilshaw, you know we use the mantra, The World is our Classroom. It is about as far away from the concept of school setting that we can get. You know this. My request to you is, whatever your aim, to get it, at least be decent. Don't lie.

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