I am and have for many years been, fanatically keen on home education. It is the one thing about me which most people probably know. Part of my work entails helping parents to de-register children with special educational needs from school and I am always happy also to lend a hand with this sort of thing in my private capacity. For the last fifteen years, since I withdrew my oldest daughter from school for part of the week, I have harangued anybody who will listen, with the virtues of home education, particularly as compared with the average maintained school. It is therefore the most delicious irony that I am regarded by a small number of other home educating parents as being in some way hostile to home education! When I mention this to people who are not themselves involved with home education, they are astonished.
I am not at all a fan of most schools. Many are absolutely dreadful and provide an atrocious education; unless that is you consider the acquisition by a child of cruelty, idleness, dishonesty, crude language and poor behaviour as a suitable education. In such a case, most schools excel! I have said before, and this is not figure of speech but the literal truth, that I would not trust any of the local schools in this area to look after my cat for the day. However, there are good schools. And this is the heart of the difficulty with home education. There are good schools which provide a first class education and there are bad schools which do not. Similarly, there is good home education which provides a first class education and there is bad home education which does not. Most ordinary, non-home educating parents would have no problem in accepting the truth of both these propositions. Some home educating parents however, will cheerfully agree with the first of the statements and become incandescent with fury at the second. As scripture says, they are like those who swallow a camel and then strain at a gnat.
I am just waiting now for some fool to say, 'Oh, I suppose you mean that all home educators should be forced to adopt your methods.' Nothing of the sort. Good schools use a variety of methods. The only thing which matters ultimately is not the methods, but the results. This is generally what schools are judged on; the results which they achieve. An independent inspectorate visits schools regularly and writes reports on them. What I am advocating is a similar inspectorate for home education, with home educating parents being at the heart of the process.
I really cannot understand how anybody could fail to see that just as there is good school education and bad, so too there is good home education and bad. To me and I have to say every other parent to whom I speak, this seems so self evident as to be hardly worth discussing. If we accept this, then it is clear that just as we try to identify failing schools and try to help them improve, so too we should be making an attempt to identify failing home education and aiming to improve that as well. I am sorry that a number of home educators do not get this. Quite a few do, but they tend to be the ones who just get on with educating their children and working in partnership with their local authority towards that end. I was amused to see the quotations from parents in the document which Alison Sauer has been circulating. These are clearly parents whom the local authority feels are failing in their duty to provide a suitable education for their children. Anybody involved with schools and teaching will at once recognise the sentiments expressed. Slack and inefficient teachers say the same sort of thing when they are criticised or as some would say 'bullied' for their poor performance.
In short, I am in favour of improving the standard of education in this country for all children, both those educated at home and those at school. I have little sympathy with either teachers or parents who are not dedicated to this end. As I have said before, all the rights are with the child when it comes to education. And yet once again, we are seeing reference being made to the wholly spurious 'rights' of parents. We even saw this in the document from the Department for Education yesterday. Parents' 'right' to home educate, indeed. I never saw more pernicious nonsense in my life.