Angela suffered from school phobia: she found the environment hostile, experienced frequent colds, sickness and eventually agoraphobia. 'It isn't about hating school,' she explains, 'it's a genuine fear of it.' Studying didn't present any problems. 'I did very well academically,' she recalls. What was making her increasingly withdrawn and depressed was the atmosphere.
Her mother Sue, a part-time dinner lady, was happy to remove her daughter from what she felt was a repressive institution. 'Angela described it as a 'hell on earth' ', she says. 'There was constant noise, hordes of people pushing and shoving . . . even the social life was mean-spirited and competitive.'
Sue believes that for quiet and sensitive children school life can be an isolating rather than a sociable experience. 'I've seen some of the loneliest children on earth in a playground.'
After two years of home-based education, with extra teaching from her mother and a tutor, Angela now feels self-reliant, independent and increasingly confident. Sue also felt confident about helping Angela with her GCSE subjects: 'There are various ways of teaching the subjects and, at this stage, parents don't have to play such a big part.'
Angela also feels happier about her social life. As her mother says: 'She can choose her own friends, rather than be part of some little school clique.' Depending on her GCSE results, she hopes to take A-levels in politics and law at a sixth-form college. 'I haven't missed out on anything,' she says. 'I've become a better person.'
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