Saturday, March 03, 2007

Home education on Today

Here is my transcript of an interview on this morning's Today programme between the normally adversarially hard-hitting John Humphrys, and Tony Mooney, an Islington-based retired headteacher who now seems to split his time between private tutoring, 'inspecting' home education provision for local councils and cultivating a media presence, if this Google search is anything to go by. (Conflict of interests was the phrase that crossed my mind which is often the case, I think, for part-time, self-employed HE 'inspectors'.)

[Pre-recorded interview with home education family at home comes to an end.]

JH: [laughs]: well there we are. That’s the Ayres family. With me in the studio is Tony Mooney, who is the home education inspector for a couple of different Local Education Authorities. A good idea or not? I mean, obviously they were getting along terribly well, those little kids, they were having a lovely time, but is it a good idea?

TM: With some families it can be a very good idea. But mainly, you get white middle-class families on these programmes or in the papers and they’ve got the money and the time..

JH: And the education themselves..

TM: And the education themselves.. But my experience is that I go to mainly working class estates where youngsters have been pulled out of school because they’ve been expelled or they’ve been bullied or the parents just can’t get them into school and don’t want to go through the courts so they say they’re educating at home. Now..

JH: But can they say that? I thought we had a legal obligation to send our children to school? I thought we had to, by law!

TM: If you’ve never registered a child at a school then the local education authority has no responsibility at all. It has no right to go and examine whether that child is being educated or not.

JH [dramatically incredulous]: Really?

TM: I just have to go once a year if it’s satisfactory. If it’s not satisfactory I go sometimes every two or three months. But that’s few and far between. The bar is very low, in terms of proving that you’re educating at home.

JH: But put aside those problem families that you describe, and as you say there are a lot of them, if we’re talking about the increasing trend, it seems, for middle class families, for mothers and fathers to educate their children at home , can they do a good job of it? When you compare that with what’s happening at school and putting aside obviously that they’re not getting the social mix that they get at school, but put that aside, can they do a decent job of educating their children?

TM: Some people do a decent job of educating their children. But even middle-class families tell me, after a year or two, it is really taxing to keep up the effort and get the knowledge that they require to pass onto their children.

JH [laughing]: They’ve got to be ahead of them all the time.

TM: They’ve got to be ahead of them all the time. Believe me. I’m an ex-teacher and I would have never have tried it. Even though I teach maths, science.. and I can go and get the information I need in other subjects I would never have tried it. It’s a really taxing job.

JH: But – it’s happening and more of it is going on. What do you put that down to, the fact that it’s trebled in the last few years?

TM: It has trebled, yes. I would put it down to the fact that, you know.. parents don’t like their child being bullied, and that’s one major issue. Another major issue is that they can’t get them into the schools of their choice.. Erm. Things like that. And also they can’t get them into school sometimes, they’re truanting so they just opt out of the system not to get prosecuted.

JH: Right. But if you were advising somebody – somebody comes to you – educated person says I’d like to educate my kids, your – in a word, your advice to them, or in a sentence would be?

TM: Be very careful. It’s hard work. I personally wouldn’t do it.

JH: And you’re an ex-teacher. Tony Mooney, many thanks.

TM: Thank you.


My thoughts about the above:

Tony Mooney didn't even need to be there really. John Humphrys made sure he put all the negative points across about home education all by himself. He was amazingly friendly, agreeable and helpful to his interviewee, in startling contrast to his usual combative questioning style. This had to be a staged event, orchestrated as part of a multi-pronged and centrally-directed media compaign which is seeking to manipulate public opinion against home education, as a precurser to the upcoming 'consultation' (I use the word laughingly) and new monitoring guidance.

Mr Mooney is WRONG about home education. It is not hard work. If the facilitator truly respects the child's innate sense of curiosity about learning and developing skills, home education is a pleasurable, rewarding and absorbing way of life. Mr Mooney speaks about teaching and learning as if they're merely methods of conveying information, when the only truly effective kind of education is one that enables the child to find his or her own information, from their own intrinsic motivation.

Children are not blank pages, or empty vessels. Each child has its own rightful, unique place in the world, for which its education should enable it to prepare. This has nothing whatsoever to do with statistics, exams or qualifications.

And his racist, classist comments were downright insulting, as well as being wholly negative, unhelpful and mistaken.


Blogger Merry said...

*smacks head on desk*

11:12 pm, March 03, 2007  
Anonymous clairemagnolia said...

Thanks for transcribing that - it really beggars belief!

3:42 pm, March 04, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

Some of his comments in the Independent ( link on Carlotta's blog ) were steam from the ears making too.

6:41 pm, March 04, 2007  
Blogger Allie said...

That Tony Mooney is a one-man smear campaign. Did you hear him on that London radio station phone in show? It strikes me that he wouldn't be hard to dismantle in an argument but you'd need someone media savvy to do it.

11:54 pm, March 04, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

No I didn't Allie - will look for it now though.

From his accent he sounds like a Yorkshireman, I'm ashamed to say. He obviously hasn't got the first clue about home ed.

Does anyone know which LEA employs him? I'd be taking action if mine did.

8:53 am, March 05, 2007  
Anonymous Tech said...


3:29 pm, March 05, 2007  
Blogger Lin said...

What a moron that chap is!

4:46 pm, March 05, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

Sheffield? Now that surprises me , I thought they were doing fairly well over the border (*another* thing to add to my list of questions for Fiona today :)

11:36 am, March 13, 2007  

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