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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Homeschool under attack in the U.K.

In the U.K. Telegraph, an article about homeschooling in the U.K. recently ran. Here’s the article, and then my comments:
New legislation is required to close a loophole which means that councils have no idea how many school-age children are being taught at home, the report advises.

While schools generally alert local authorities when a child is withdrawn from formal education, there is currently no way of knowing how many young people have never been enrolled at a school.

The report by Ofsted, the education inspectorate, also says that councils should do more to help parents whose children are being bullied at school keep them within the system.

Although some parents opt for home schooling for religious or philosophical reasons, the majority of those interviewed by the inspectors said they decided to act out of concern for their children's education and wellbeing.

The report recommends: "Local authorities should ensure that when parents express a wish to withdraw their children from school to educate them at home, the reasons for the decision are explored and that support, advice and mediation are provided to retain the child in the school if this is the parents' true preference."

Between 20,000 and 50,000 children are thought to be taught at home in Britain, with numbers growing amid concern about failing state schools.

The inspectors found that the nature of the education they received varied greatly, with some parents enforcing school-style timetables while others took a more flexible approach, giving children freedom to choose what they studied.

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, said that local authorities could only ensure that the teaching was of a reasonable standard if they had a database of all home schooled children.

She said: “The report found that current legislation around elective home education means it is extremely challenging for local authorities to meet their statutory duty to ensure children have a suitable education.”

As well as obliging parents to register their intention to home-school, Ofsted also called for legislation enabling local authority officers to undertake annual home visits to monitor the children's progress.

The report was based on interviews with more than 250 parents and children with experience of home schooling, and consultation with schools and local authorities.

Fiona Nicholson, trustee of Education Otherwise, a home schooling charity, described the report's main recommendations as intrusive and unnecessary.

The independent Badman Report, published last summer, had also called for a register of home schooled children but its proposals were not passed into law under Labour after savage criticism by MPs.

Ms Nicholson said: "This report seems an irrelevance. I don't think there's the political will to push the changes through.

"We have always said that obliging parents to register for home schooling would be the first step towards forcing them to ask for permission."

Okay, my comments: Required registration of every homeschool student? WHY? Why would it matter how many people are homeschooling, unless schools were concerned (as they are) with their classroom head counts – as they get paid by the student?!

Why should regulation of homeschoolers be necessary? As the article states, state schools are failing. Homeschoolers could not possibly do a worse job than a school that has failed or is failing. Those failed schools were run by the state, and they used state mandated requirements. They’ve failed or are failing. The requirements were an instrumental part of those schools failures – yet the government would consider enforcing them on others? Why – must failure be universal?

The state has once again proven that it should not be in the education game, not at all. Yet parts of the British government insist on their right to register homeschoolers, to regulate what homeschoolers are taught – and to even step into the private residence of homeschoolers to police their activities? Bless the MPs who screamed “no”! The Magna Carta lives (for a while longer, anyway)!

The government inspector, in looking over 250 homeschool situations, found that “the education” of homeschoolers “varied greatly”. Yes, that’s because children vary greatly, as do their individual needs and wants. Education should vary greatly from child to child. Homeschoolers can tailor their efforts for their children. Schools cannot, and instead must rely on incredibly limiting generalities. In simple terms, a school needs to make a child “fit in” to a set and rigid pattern. If they fail, the teacher cannot handle the 30-40 students in their classroom, having only about 1 minute or so per student per school period. But a homeschool family can tailor their curriculum and methods precisely to the needs of a growing individual. Of course, whether or not government wants true individuals is a matter for a real discussion.

Schools live and die by the numbers, and your children are their numbers. Schools get paid by a head count; this is true of public and private schools. And if they ever claim otherwise, then they are lying. Hence schools must kill homeschool to get paid for the students who have fled their clutches.

Look at the reasons parents cited for homeschooling, folks! They were afraid for their children’s safety, and for the education (or lack thereof) that their children were receiving. And they have every reason and right to fear. Their schools have failed them, and this is not the case only in the U.K. – this is an almost universal malaise. As schools fail worldwide, more and more people determine to go the homeschool route. As they do, more and more governments attempt to intrude and force children back into failing and dangerous schools!

Do you see something terribly wrong with this picture?

Shouldn’t a government long for its young to be superbly educated, as a guarantee of the nation’s survival? And if schools have failed to deliver such a product, shouldn’t government be the first in line supporting those going another route, those families willing to work and walk the extra mile to see to it that their children will be an effective part of their nation’s future? Instead, we see many governments treat homeschool with distrust – homeschool where students almost uniformly score better on every test – and support schools that they fund and that have failed so many. The ultimate cost of this back-asswards approach to education will be (and often already is) a nation in education ruin.

Recently, I understand there was an interesting election in Australia. A very contentious vote was taken regarding schools. But it did not focus on the educational needs of the students there – it focused on school uniforms. Uh-huh, right – uniforms – that’s where we want our attention and resources dedicated. Not on improving in some substantive way the educational experience received by our young – but on what they wear to school.

Really, we don’t need to worry about public schools. They are run by governments. And nearly all government is clueless when it comes to education. They invariably lock onto the wrong issues – such as uniforms, or the constricting of the last bastion of educational freedom, homeschooling. If you are waiting for political answers for your children, political solutions to the education disaster of our times, then please, for the sake of your children, stop waiting and start homeschooling. And INSIST, with as many homeschoolers as will unite in the cause, on your right to homeschool without government oversight. This is probably our last, best hope to educate our children.

I invite your comments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As parents we all need to step up and let all governments around the world know our children are not political pawns that they control. They are our children whom we love dearly and are willing to fight for to keep them safe from government controls that threaten to destroy our families. Our children are the most precious resource we have as a family and society and they deserve to be educated by those who truly care about them and not used as a statistic in the politician’s political games.

Kim Kelsey