Education: Elizabeth gets the best of both worlds

Click to follow
Elizabeth Turner, 11, is just settling into her second term at St Paul's Community Project, a small, grant-maintained school in Birmingham which she attends as a part-time pupil. Every Wednesday her mother, Paula, drives her to the 40-pupil school, which is 30 minutes from their home, to spend the afternoon studying English in a classroom environment. In addition she attends a fortnightly class tutorial on personal and social development, when she has the chance to get to know her classmates better.

The rest of the time Elizabeth is educated at home by her mother, along with her three younger sisters aged nine, six and three-and-a-half. She has eight hours of formal education timetabled a week, plus extras including museum trips and swimming.

Flexi-schooling is a new concept for Elizabeth and St Paul's Community Project. The arrangement began in September on a trial basis.

Paula Turner, former co-ordinator for West Midlands Education Otherwise, says: "We had reached the stage at home where I felt Elizabeth needed to be answerable to another adult. Once you reach the age of 11 or your early teens everything that mum says is wrong or is taken as a personal criticism, and it's good to have another independent adult on board.

"English is Elizabeth's strongest subject, and I felt I needed the professional back-up of an independent person who could assess her level and advise me whether I should be pushing her more or perhaps holding back.

"One of the hardest things about home education is that you don't have a touchstone or a yardstick by which you can make comparisons and assess the level of your child, especially when you are breaking new ground with the first child.

"Elizabeth likes going into the school. If she asked to increase the hours she spent there, we would always consider it.

"The reason we chose home education was that we didn't want the children to spend the best six hours of the day outside of the family in an environment in which they seemed to drop the values they learnt at home."

Dr Anita Halliday, director of St Paul's Community Project, sees flexi- schooling as a way in which schools and home educators can work in partnership and share resources which are not always available at home.

"When we were approached by the home-educators about flexi-schooling one of the main problems expressed to us was the difficulty and expense of resourcing all the subjects, particularly science. Financing GCSE exams was another financial drain."

Nicola Swanborough