Thursday, August 14, 2008

*More* at risk of not receiving suitable education?

In yet another public consultation relating to home education (Revised Statutory Guidance for local authorities in England to identify children not receiving a suitable education, closing date: Friday 24th October 2008) home educated children are quite bizarrely listed, along with children who have been bullied, children who have been trafficked to or within the UK, children at risk of forced marriage, looked after children/children in care, children who are privately fostered, young carers, teenage mothers and others, as being specifically more at risk of not receiving suitable education.

I suppose it depends on your definition of a 'suitable education'. The legal definition, as set out by the Judge in the case of Harrison & Harrison v Stephenson (appeal to Worcester Crown Court 1981) is as follows:

A 'suitable education' is one which enables the children ‘to achieve their full potential’, and is such as ‘to prepare the children for life in modern civilised society’.

(Although to me this looks oxymoronic, since life in modern society seems to demand that we do anything but achieve our full potential.)

Does sitting in a school classroom for 14 years enable children to achieve their full potential? It might, if they were allowed to study those subjects they were passionate about. On the other hand, if they were forced instead to follow a one-size-fits-all National Curriculum then I doubt very much whether many of them would achieve their full potential.

I'd like this 'full potential' test to be applied to school students, if it's to be applied to home educating ones. I'd like to see some proof that home educating students are "more at risk of not receiving suitable education" before the statement is carelessly bandied around in draft documents any more. Research by Paula Rothermel (Durham, 2002) proves in fact that home educated children are less at risk of not receiving suitable education than their school educated peers:

The results show that 64% of the home-educated Reception aged children scored over 75% on their PIPS Baseline Assessments as opposed to 5.1% of children nationally. The National Literacy Project (Years 1,3,5) assessment results reveal that 80.4% of the home-educated children scored within the top 16% band (of a normal distribution bell curve), whilst 77.4% of the PIPS Year 2 home-educated cohort scored similarly. Results from the psychosocial instruments confirm the home-educated children were socially adept and without behavioural problems. Overall, the home-educated children demonstrated high levels of attainment and good social skills.

Terms like 'vulnerable' and 'at risk' (as people have pointed out in list posts about this) are potentially dangerous ones with which to be tagged - ask any parents of children with Special Needs, or those who are unfortunate enough to have come to the attention of Social Services. They are gateway terms, which expose families to an avalanche of paid 'experts' with licence to provide 'help', with all its associated checks, structure, tick-boxes and sanctions. A legal minefield. An emotional nightmare.

I think this threatened change to our status will be resisted by home educators most robustly - and rightfully so.


Blogger Ruth said...

"I think this threatened change to our status will be resisted by home educators most robustly - and rightfully so."

I agree Gill. It is a worrying and scary trend that the government is hellbent on controlling all aspects of family life and HE are the one group they cannot regulate in a way that suits them and they are determined to change this by whatever means possible. From listening to other HE and views about this I would say that many think it is inevitable and sooner or later we are going to be regulated and our freedom to bring up or children and educated them in a way we think fit will be gone forever. Others are determined to fight. It is wearing and tiring but fight we must. Can you imagine what my old LA would do with any new power? It doesn't bear thinking about.

2:57 pm, August 14, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes I think many LAs would use this as an excuse to persecute HErs :-(

If it does get through, there will still be ways to feed them the right info in a way that fits the machine without suffering too much disruption to family life, but lots of people would struggle with that and suffer accordingly :-(

I've got into the habit of answering all their consultations about us - usually at the last minute - with the view that it probably won't change much but I'll say it anyway.

Sad that other HErs are even more defeatist than I am! But I'm optimistic that whatever rules they come up with, there's always some wriggling space - a little chink of light in which to find some freedom. And I'm determined to give my younger two the same freedoms the older three have had.

6:16 am, August 15, 2008  
Blogger Dani said...

Of course, I agree with your general gist, but I had to chip in and say that I don't like "full potential" at all!

*Nobody* reaches their full potential! We all make choices all the time about what path to take, and that means we don't follow another potential path.

I was told at school (or at least given the message somehow) that because I had 'potential' to achieve academic success in particular subjects, this gave me some kind of duty to study them. I found it irritating, and eventually decided to make my own decisions instead.

But I think it is a powerful idea in the current education system - one of the reasons I don't want to put my kids into it.

9:59 am, August 15, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes, it's a curious definition for the judge to come out with, isn't it? Very hard to pin down and ascertain, especially (I would have thought) for school pupils.

What exactly can a person's 'full potential' be said to be? And how on earth do you even begin to measure it? I think it can only be linked to aptitude, to which autonomous home ed lends itself very well but NC-based school ed doesn't, IMO. Because we only really apply ourselves in a very sustained way to those subjects in which we're naturally interested.

11:06 am, August 15, 2008  
Blogger Riaz said...

The definition of suitable education is getting 5 GCSEs A* to C grade, including English and maths, at 16. This is required to access most public sector jobs that do not require higher level qualifications.

Some home educated children move directly onto A Levels and others take vocational qualifications instead of GCSEs. The government considers this unsuitable education.

12:11 pm, August 25, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

That might well be the opinion of some people, but it isn't the legal definition of the term 'suitable' as it pertains to education in the UK.

The legal definition, as far as I'm aware, is still that set out in the Harrison case, the precedent of which has yet to be superceded.

12:21 pm, August 25, 2008  

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