Sunday, 7 February 2010

Extremist views on home education

It is no particular secret that I regard some autonomous home educators as crazy extremists who have caused a lot of mischief to other, more moderate home educating parents. Indeed, I firmly believe that it was the behaviour of these characters and the advice they were dishing out to other parents which triggered the Badman review and the subsequent legislation. They are not however the only extremists in the field. I want to look today at some other fanatics; in this case, those professionally involved with education.

The National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers gave evidence to the Badman review. They said;

"The NASUWT maintains the existence of a right to home educate is anomalous with the clear emphasis in Government policy of ensuring that all children and young people can benefit from educational provision where teaching and learning is led by qualified teachers in well resourced and fit for purpose modern educational settings."

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said;

"ATL believes schools are the best places for a rounded education - including social education" .

Both these statements are, in effect, condemning home education and saying that it is not as good as being in school. I see this as indisputably the views of extremists and not very clear thinking and logical extremists at that! Let us look first at the NASUWT submission to the Badman enquiry.

A few points leap out at one when looking at this peculiar statement. By the way, how can human beings use language in such an appalling way, particularly supposedly educated people? By, "well resourced and fit for purpose modern educational settings." I assume they mean simply "schools", or perhaps "good schools". Why on earth not simply say so? The first logical problem here is that the assumption is implicit that all such "modern educational settings" are actually, "well resourced and fit for purpose". We know, and the government and Ofsted would agree, that this is not always the case. Secondly, the fact that some children are not taught in these settings, does not mean that they cannot be. The government has indeed tried to ensure that all children and young people can benefit from these "modern educational settings" They certainly have not said that all children and young people must benefit from them. The existence of home education is thus not in the least anomalous. Even if we granted that it was, as has been claimed, an anomaly, then what? An anomaly is simply something out of the ordinary, different from what usually happens. Anomalous situations and event are not necessarily bad in themselves. Some individuals devote their lives to others and live in out of the way places in the world trying to improve the lot of their fellow humans. In today's materialistic society that is an anomaly. Should we try and stamp it out? Displays of altruism and compassion can also be viewed as anomalous behaviour. Should these too be leveled out and eradicated? The very idea is preposterous. Whoever made this ridiculous statement was evidently no sort of logician!

The ATL claim is no better. "Schools are the best places for a rounded education". Do we mean all schools? Are all schools and only schools the best place for this activity? What is meant by a "rounded education"? Is this the same as a suitable education and if not, how does it differ? What has "social education" to do with the case? What evidence is there that schools are better than youth clubs or voluntary organisations like the Scouts and Woodcraft Folk for providing social education? We are not told and must simply take the Association of Teachers and Lecturers word for it!

It is clear that whatever the DCSF's view is on home education, and I am not at all sure about this, there are those in the field of education who wish to abolish home education entirely. I do not personally see how the Children, Schools and Families Bill 2009 is likely to achieve this end, but I am keenly aware that there are extremist elements in schools and colleges who are bent upon doing away altogether with home education. Let us hope that they will not succeed.


  1. They're simply trying to increase their income and sphere of influence. Like the National Union of Mechanics I made up for yesterday's garage analogy, their views are worse than worthless and should be treated with the contempt they deserve.

    The only 'good' thing I have to say about the NASUWT is that the frequent strikes they organised during my later school years left me with a considerable amount of free time where I was able to do some useful learning, due to school being closed.

  2. I wonder about the extent to which the unions represents the views of teachers; do you know anything about the views of teachers more widely on the subject of HE?

    I know only a very few teachers, of which two are home educators and another is very sympathetic. All are high school teachers and agree with one of our key motives (to answer your previous post) that school standards have declined dramatically (I'd agree with you that school education was merely inefficient - but thirty years ago. Now it's much more detrimental to children's skills).

    Funnily enough, the only negative comments we've heard have come from two people who are teaching assistants in primary schools.

    While I'm sympathetic towards the plight of good teachers working in a dreadful system, the problem I have with so many of them - as well as those in the local authorities and DCSF who wish to regulate home educators - is that they haven't the faintest idea or experience of the world beyond school in which children will eventually work and which generates the wealth that pays for schools and government.

    If they understood the requirements of that world, and the mismatch between those and the capabilities of children emerging from schools, they might understand what a terrible mess their system is in, and why a growing number of parents reject that system and its standards - including the attempts to interfere.

    Simply put, Simon, the school system is much worse and more damaging than you or the state can possibly imagine - and the union view, along with the authorities' attempts to bring HE into line - merely serves to confirm that.