Thursday, 14 February 2013
Identifying children missing from education; Part 2
This will be a brief post, for I am very busy today. I am constantly enchanted at the way that asking simple questions of home educators provokes such bizarre responses by some of those who comment here. Apparently, asking open ended questions like this is symptomatic of great fear and narrow mindedness in those asking them!
I am glad that I had an opportunity yesterday of seeing what readers thought when confronted with a genuine case of a child missing from education. Not one felt that anything should be done about the child and many seemed to think that he was actually better off as a long term truant than he would have been if he had remained at school. One person even thought that getting up at one in the afternoon, spending the next few hours playing computer games, before hanging out with a bunch of kids who were drifting into petty crime, actually constituted an acceptable education! I can see that most readers feel that such children should be left alone, because the alternative might involve them personally in some slight inconvenience, if, that is, local authorities began trying to sort out genuinely home educated children from long term truants and those missing from education.
I was asked yesterday by more than one person what I would do about such children; those who drop out of school in this way. The general feeling seemed to be that the local authority was somehow responsible for children like this who truant. This is unlikely. Most children do not truant or drop out of school. There are a few who do, even in the best schools. We need to ask ourselves why most pupils remain at school and a few do not. Often, there are common factors in the home lives of truants; it is more likely that these are responsible for the problem than that it is the fault of the school. As I am sure readers know, academic success or failure has far more to do with home background than which school is attended; five times as much, according to some research. From this perspective, truanting is more often than not a sign of something wrong at home than a problem at school.
What can be done about such children? Making the process of becoming a home educator a little more complex would be helpful. Many of the sort of parents like Jack’s mother, whom we met yesterday, would think twice if they knew that they would be interviewed before being able to deregister their children from school. I have seen a few parents who would be discouraged from sending off that letter if they knew that they would be visited regularly and have to explain to somebody just what they were doing about their son or daughter’s education. True, this would be irritating for genuine home educators, but it would only be a minor inconvenience for most.
Some children simply do not wish to learn about photosynthesis or 19th century poetry. Often, this too says something about their home background, but what can we actually do about it? A local college has a scheme now where ‘disaffected’ boys of fourteen and fifteen can learn about vehicle maintenance for a few days a week. A deal is struck with the boys whereby if they attend school on the other days, they get to muck about with engines for two days a week. This approach is worth expanding.
Already, this post has eaten into my time and so I must call a halt for now.