Thursday, 28 February 2008

Home Schooling in England

Because we’ve moved around a lot – by choice I may add, not by necessity – my daughters have been to a number of schools. Some people have inferred that I’m a bad mother for dragging my kids “from pillar to post” but when asked, they’ll tell you that they’ve lived an adventurous life with lots of experiences they otherwise wouldn’t have had, met lots of people and had a whole lot of fun. Sometimes, preconceptions of how things ought to be aren’t always right. People – families – we’re all different.

Sadly, after moving back to England, both girls were badly bullied at school. No doubt because they were Scandinavian and therefore different and we all know it doesn’t take make to stand out from the crowd and become a victim. That the lads were drawn to them didn’t help; I doubt the girls liked that much.

DD1 eventually moved back to Norway to live with her dad and DD2 was miserable. I could see she was becoming depressed and a young teen shouldn’t have to live like that. After speaking to various members of staff and listening to empty promises I finally made the decision to take her out of school and give her a home education.

Plenty of people were against it; the people from the local education authority certainly were and although most friends understood and supported my decision, a few were clearly perplexed. “Drag her to school kicking and screaming – don’t let her have her own way” I was told. Well I’m sorry but I don’t treat my children that way; there’s no respect in that.

The LEA threatened me with court action for keeping her away from school but I knew my rights. The law of England and Wales states clearly that “all children of school age shall receive sufficient full-time education in school or otherwise.” They had to admit defeat; there was nothing they could do about it. I promised that they would be allowed to monitor her education to ensure that she was indeed being educated and in return they were willing to provide us with a qualified tutor who would visit DD2 for an hour, four times a week, something that was in fact very generous of them; most local authorities don’t do this.

Contrary to what some people believed, she wasn’t being lazy or just ‘trying to get her own way’. She knuckled down and got on with her work. We bought curriculum books to follow so that she’d have a chance of passing her GSCEs and eventually gain entrance to higher education, and we made up projects of our own. Our own local surroundings gave us lots of opportunities for geography and history projects; we have canals that date back to 1791; we live in a historic railway town; we have a park just a few minutes walk away with a well stocked lake (both fish and birds), a woodland walk, formal gardens and more. Lots could be learned about the environment just by walking around the town and I’m sure she learned a whole bunch of stuff that she would never have learned at school.

To our frustration, when the time came for her to sit her GCSEs, we were told that because she was home educated, she wouldn’t be allowed a mark higher than a ‘C’ as she could only sit what’s called the foundation tier rather than the higher tier. She was devastated. She’d worked hard and knew she could manage ‘A’ passes. I tried discussing it with them, practically begged them; her tutor tried talking to them (she also believed DD2 could achieve grade ‘A’) but they were adamant; that was the way things were.

She did get her ‘C’ passes in Math, English Language, and English Lit, the three exams she sat, but she wasn’t sure whether that would be good enough to get her onto the college course she wanted. Her dream was to be a photographer but for that she’d need at least two ‘B’ grade passes. We went along to the college, spoke to the head of the department and luckily, after a long chat with DD2, he said that he believed she had potential and didn’t want to see it wasted so would accept her on the course. I could have kissed him.

She’s now in her final college year and is planning to go to Uni although she is considering taking a gap year. She's very stressed at the moment, what with college, holding down a part-time job and helping me so I do understand her reasons. People also grow tired of ‘school’ and sometimes need a break. But whatever she chooses, those who insisted she’d never make anything of herself, that she was just being lazy, and so forth were definitely wrong!

Home schooling appears to be more widespread in the US than it is here but if your child is unhappy in mainstream education, maybe home education would be the better alternative. Stick to your guns and don’t let the LEA or anybody else intimidate you. Everybody doesn’t fit the standard mould (does anybody?) and only you know what’s best for your child.

Sharon J xx

I’ve never let my schooling interfere with my education ~ Mark Twain


More information on home schooling can be found on the DirectGov website

[Photo credit: banafsh3 at]

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happyhippychick said...

" because she was home educated, she wouldn’t be allowed a mark higher than a ‘C’ as she could only sit what’s called the foundation tier" ... outrageous, I almost shouted aloud in the office, that is so wrong

But well done both of you, and from the sounds fo the lessons etc it seems to you both benefitted from a bad situation in the long run by taking your own route to a solution

Oh, and I so understand about needing a break from schooling, my son left 6th form and took time off for a year ro so and is now happily working towards a computer degree after having said he was just totally fed up with learning stuff! After the break he has regained the pleasure of learning new things

Pru said...

I'd just like to say that my son was also bullied at school but nobody ever told me there was an alternative to school and whenever I kept him home I was threatened with the police and social services. The end of the story was that he tried to kill himself at 15 by hanging himself in a tree in the garden in the middle of the night but my OH happened to be in the loo at the time, heard noise and looked out thinking it was a fox. He's 23 now and dad to a lovely little boy but he never went to college or anything and I do think that the school ruined his future for him rather than gave him one which is what they're supposed to do.

Well done you for putting up a fight and well done to your daughter for proving the naysayers wrong.

Sharon J said...

I should really have fought it, Rae, but it was during the time while she was being home schooled that I became ill and just didn’t have the fight in me. If I hadn’t been ill I would have taken it to the newspapers and my local MP and tried my hardest to get that rule changed. It IS unfair and, I’m sure, just another way of the system making it less attractive for parents to home school their children.

What a dreadful story, Pru. I’ve heard of young people taking their lives because of their fear of their school situation so many times that you’d really think that head teachers and the likes would inform concerned parents of the alternatives. They don’t like children being taken out of school, though. It doesn’t look good when Ofsted visit.

A friend of mine used to be a teacher at an ‘alternative’ school. It was a private school but not one of those hugely expensive public schools. He absolutely despises the mainstream education system in this country and the way they churn out sheeple instead of free thinking individuals. It’s a pity there aren’t more schools like that.

Anonymous said...

How rotten - why should there be 'tiers' at all - glass ceilings come to mind!
Pru I am so sorry for the experience your family had to suffer.
Binky and Bob were also home schooled,(there was a 'smacking' incident in the tiny local school - long story) for their primary years and then went into secondary school with the ease and aplomb, which I put down to their having been able to become 'themselves'. They both have strong, stable, personalities and have done well academically and socially. I look back on those precious years with great warmth and nostalgia. We were skint, but we had a lot of love!!!!

Sharon J said...

"We were skint, but we had a lot of love!!!!"

And that's the only thing that really matters, isn't it?