I have been reading with interest what Tania Berlow has to say on the subject of the supplementary data which Graham Badman solicited from local authorities in September. On the matter of full-time education she says;
"many Home Educators cannot and do not segment their children's learning experiences into time units nor is it timetabled – However many Home Educators consider their children to be learning 24/7."
Presumably many parents of schoolchildren feel the same way and believe that their children too are learning all the time. Why would their education stop promptly when school ends in the afternoon? I have been mulling this over in my mind apropos of the horrifying statistic that a sixth of boys in secondary school score lower for reading at the age of fourteen than they did when they left primary school at eleven. In other words, three years of full-time education seems to have harmed their literacy skills! Is the situation any different with those educated at home? Is it better, worse or pretty much the same?
Of course, children taught at home do not have to do the SATS or take GCSEs and so there is no objective measure of their ability at reading, writing or anything else. We do know however, that the educational attainment of children and young people is inextricably linked with the amount and quality of teaching which they receive. This is why children in good schools with good teachers tend to do better than those being taught poorly in bad schools. The quality of the teaching being the key factor in whether children do badly or well when they are at school.
We also know of course that in many home educating families, teaching is not routinely provided; it is available "on demand" as it were, if and when the child specifically requests it. This means that structured education for such children is likely to be sporadic and intermittent. The onus really is on home educators to demonstrate that this type of on and off instruction is more effective than the steady, day after day teaching which is given to children in schools. It may be a more efficient way of educating children, but this is by no means certain.
A number of local authorities use as their yardstick a figure of twenty hours teaching each week and they categorise those children not receiving this amount as not being in receipt of a full-time education. Is this fair? In her commentary on the statistics, Ms. Berlow claims that many home educating parents cannot segment their children's learning into time units. I am guessing that by time units, she means hours. If so, I am a little puzzled as to why any parent able to count to ten or twenty should be unable to calculate the number of hours spent by their child on various activities. After all, most of us could easily count the hours spent by our children watching television or writing or reading. It might not be precise down to the minute, but it would surely be possible to the nearest hour. This reluctance to count the number of hours spent in various ways is curious.
It seems reasonable to me that local authorities should expect a certain amount of teaching each week for children, whether schooled or home educated. As I say, the quality of teaching seems to be the most important factor in children's educational progress at school and it is difficult to see why this should be any different for children being taught at home. few people would disagree with the proposition that twenty hours or more of high quality teaching each week for a child would be a good thing for the child's education!