Sunday, 17 November 2013

Motives for traditional education, as opposed to home education

I was last night reading the Scoping Research Project on Elective Home Education in Bridgend, Vale of Glamorgan and Neath Port Talbot, which was commissioned a couple of years ago by the Welsh Assembly Government.  Yes, I do realise that this was a colossally sad thing to be doing on a Saturday night; especially for somebody who hasn’t been a home educator for over four years! I was particularly struck by the fact that, at least according to this report, I must be practically unique among home educating parents. 

Nearly all the parents in this country, well over 99% of them, send their  children to school. There are two basic choices about types of school; which boil down essentially to independent or maintained. Those who give any thought to the matter, who are not content with just any old school for their kids,  usually make their choices on educational grounds. Perhaps they want their children to go to a school which is high in the so-called ‘league tables’ or maybe they choose a secondary school which has a good record of getting children to universities in the Russell Group. Those who can afford it, pay enormous sums of money to give their children an educational advantage in this way, by sending them to an independent school. Those forced to depend upon maintained schools will feign religious devotion, lie to the local authority about their address or even move house in order to get their children to the ‘right’ school; that is to say one which seems academically excellent. In other words, for parents who send their children to school; education is by far and away the most important motive in selecting their educational setting.

I was precisely the same. I was determined that my daughter should have the very best education that I could cause her to receive. After weighing up carefully the merits of traditional schools and considering the matter for five years, I then plumped for individual, one-to-one tuition as being the most effective way of providing her with an education. My motives were never anything other than educational. Mind, that accorded perfectly with my religious views, but  education was the prime consideration.

Looking now at the Welsh survey, I was reading the four main motivations that the researchers found. Here they are:

Response to behavioural /attendance issues
The extreme stance expressed by some authorities that the majority of HE parents choose HE to avoid prosecution when they and/or their children simply disengage with education is not endorsed by this initial scoping, but it is the primary experience of the EWS in relation to HE and, as such, is perceived to be a much more significant motivation than it is in actuality.

Lifestyle choices
At the other end of the spectrum, the political position of some home educators is that the family unit and not the state has primary responsibility for the education of the child and therefore that education is most suitably and efficiently delivered in the family context. Other ‘alternative’ lifestyle choices include those of the traveller communities, or various religious perspectives.

Curricular/structural issues
Between these two poles are children and families opting out of the mainstream, not to disengage from education, but after struggling with, and giving up on, the curriculum or structural difficulties of school life, be it the size, the length of day or the interaction with some teachers. 

Special social, emotional, health or learning needs
Towards the choice of HE as a lifestyle are those opting out of the mainstream because of social, emotional or other learning challenges, delicate health issues, difficulties with transition, or, most particularly, the experience of bullying. This appears to be the largest group in the spectrum. Many of these, though originally choosing reactively away from school, do seem to find HE particularly suitable to meeting, or allowing for, those particular needs and come to embrace this alternative educational experience as a proactive and positive decision.

We did not, 'struggle with and then give up on’ school, we had no  ‘political position’. It was a simple decision based upon nothing but the desire to give the child the best possible education. I don’t fit in anywhere among home educators, at least according to this survey!

Other research, by people like Paula Rothermel and also Education Otherwise, has found the same thing. When Education Otherwise sent out 2500 questionnaires, they found that the commonest reason for home education was family lifestyle, rather than education. 

I am not drawing any sort of conclusion from all this, other than to point out that for parents sending their children to school; educational considerations seem to be paramount. For home educating parents in general, on the other hand, they appear to be insignificant. I find this interesting.


  1. Although many reasons contributed to our decision to remove our children from the school system and educate "at home", educational considerations were paramount, closely followed by welfare/safety.

    However, I've noticed that - particularly in official Welsh accounts - it doesn't do for the quality of education provided by schools to be held in question; the authorities are very happy to accept lifestyle and philosophy as an excuse for HE, but they bury any notion that there might be something wrong with schools.

    I've no doubt that many - perhaps most - HEors might make their choice for reasons other than education standards, but it's difficult to make any conclusions when state estimates have the bias I've described.

    1. 'it's difficult to make any conclusions when state estimates have the bias I've described.'

      True, but in 2003, Education Otherwise asked all their two and a half thousand members the same sort of question and came up with much the same answer.

    2. "True, but in 2003, Education Otherwise asked all their two and a half thousand members the same sort of question and came up with much the same answer."

      Can you post the details (or a reference) please?

    3. 'Can you post the details '

      The details are that in 2003, Education Otherwise asked all their members about their reasons for choosing to home educate their children. A fifth of those who received the questionnaires responded; which is fairly typical of such surveys. For those who had deregistered their children from school, the commonest reasons given were bullying and school phobia. Respondents could give more than one reason for their decision and over a third said that the strongest influence on their decision to home educate was family lifestyle. Hardly anybody gave, 'education' as the main reason for home education!