Education: 'I haven't missed out on anything'

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ANGELA WHITE, 16, from Exhall, near Coventry, is currently waiting for her GCSE results in English language, English literature, psychology and law. She studied with the help of her mother and tutor-support from a local college of further education after leaving school at 13.

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 What was making her increasingly withdrawn and depressed was the atmosphere.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.'

(Photograph omitted)