But how can it be legal?
Section 7 of the Education Act 1996 states:
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable -
a: to his age, ability and aptitude, and
b: to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. So we as parents all have a legal obligation to ensure our children are educated (it’s where all those problems term-time holidays get their basis), however it can be by education otherwise - also known as home education.
They’ll never be socialised and won’t be able to deal with the Real World
As home educating parents we hear this cry again and again. Along with: “If they don’t go to school they won’t learn how to tough out bullying” - as if that’s actually a good thing. To this I counter - when else in your life do you spend the majority of your week with 30-odd other people with whom you have only two things in common: You live fairly close and you were born within a year of them?
And the joke “I’m so glad I didn’t learn about taxes now my Trigonometry Self Assessment is due” fits here too. And who hasn’t heard a teacher say “You’re here to learn, not socialise” or something similar?
Truth is the majority of actual socialisation at school happens on breaks, and in after school clubs. Home education children take part in clubs, sports groups, go on trips to museums and zoos. In point of fact many families are out attending one home education group or another nearly every day. As part of that, they are spending time with children of different ages, meeting different adults and talking to them (with appropriate supervision of course), getting involved with charities and even running small home businesses. Nope, that’s nothing like socialising or learning to live in the Real World. My mistake.
MORE: Home educators warn bill proposing more scrutiny could be ‘gateway’ to further regulation
What about abuse and neglect?
In a recent article for the Times, Lord Soley was a little bit naughty when he quoted the California abuse case involving the Turpin family as clear evidence of the need to protect home educated children from the risk of abuse. Here’s the problem with that - they weren’t home educating, they were running a registered private religious school. One the authorities failed to properly regulate and inspect. So how would his bill help that - it won’t.
I’m not going to pretend that abuse can’t happen in a home educated environment, but it also happens a lot in schoolchildren - and considering the level of contact with authorities they have it’s all too often missed. So where is the risk factor here? Are home educated children any more or less at risk? Easy - they’re not.
How can you be qualified to teach?
A no small part of gaining a teacher qualification is actually learning how to deal with and educate class sized groups of children. Teachers in independent schools don’t even legally have to have that. So why can’t a competent parent teach their own child? What special skills are needed to guide and educate and prepare a child for their life ahead? Another easy one - there aren’t any.
Oh, and that touted figure of 21 children ordered by Norfolk and Suffolk councils to return to school - that’s 21 over three years out of - currently - 2,500 home educating families. Now, how many children get expelled from school or effectively drop out due to the system failing them? Number isn’t so bad now is it?
They’ll never get any qualifications!
Well, apart from iGCSEs (much favoured by independent schools), GCSEs, NVQs, and apprenticeships, all of which enable access to A-levels, degrees and other higher learning. All of these are being gained by home educating children every year. No, you’re right, no chance of any qualifications.
They’ll have no job prospects!
Why not? That fabled lack of qualifications... Well, apart from the above, I have 10 GCSEs, three A-levels, an AS-level, a good degree in molecular biology from a top university, a postgraduate diploma, a BTEC, and multiple professional qualifications. Want to guess how many are actually relevant to my current well paid-job? Apart from the maths and English GCSEs and the professional qualifications... None. Same for my last well-paid job, and the one before that. They may have helped, but home educated children can get all of those too. Lack of Real World experience, yep, covered that too. So... Oh, nothing else missing there is there?
Truth is, none of us believe that home education is the right choice for every child, but it is right for our children. We invest time, money, sweat, and even a few tears (goes with being a parent that one) in our children. We work hard to educate them and raise them right just like you do. The only difference? You choose to have a school do most of the educating and we don’t. So let’s live and let live. We all want to raise our children the best way we can. I hope maybe now more people can understand our choice from a position of knowledge, not ignorance and fear of those mythical dragons.
Mr Patchett is a home educating parent from Norfolk.