Teachers call for new curbs on schooling in the home

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Stricter controls on the growing number of parents who educate their children at home were demanded by teachers yesterday. Education Otherwise, the self-help group for parents wanting to take that option, estimates that up to 170,000 children are being taught at home.

Stricter controls on the growing number of parents who educate their children at home were demanded by teachers yesterday. Education Otherwise, the self-help group for parents wanting to take that option, estimates that up to 170,000 children are being taught at home.

Their ranks have been swelled by 20,000 in the past two years, largely as a result of bullying at school, pressure of tests and exams, or the crackdown on truancy, with some parents being jailed. But delegates at the Professional Association of Teachers' conference demanded tougher monitoring procedures "as a matter of urgency" to ensure that all children get a proper education.

Kim Tomsett, who monitors home education for West Sussex county council, told the conference in Bournemouth: "These are the only group of children who have no consistent level of monitoring or inspection, yet they are the only group taught, in the main, by those with no qualifications." She agreed that many home-educated children had "a happy experience" but added: "Others have little formal education and some can be used in their family businesses or in other work." Some children were working with parents at 12 or 13.

Some education officers were also encouraging parents of truants to deregister their children from school, so they could meet new government targets for increasing school attendance. At present, parents have to register with their local education authority that they intend to teach their children at home, if they want to take them out of school. If they decide to opt for home education before their child reaches school age, they are under no obligation to inform the council.

If they do register with the authority, it is legally obliged to ensure the child has an education up to the needs of their "age, aptitude and ability", with a "broad and balanced curriculum". But parents have the right to refuse a home visit or, if visited, to refuse to show the child to the monitor.

Mrs Tomsett said she had a case load of 225 homes to visit and could spend only one day a year with each family. Calculations showed that if the number of children was divided by the number of hours in a working day, the average visiting time for a home-educated child was four minutes a year. "It is impossible to assess which cases are in difficulties without visiting them all," Mrs Tomsett said.

"Often, those who succeed at primary level fail later, particularly at key stage four [those aged 14 to 16] when preparation is needed to use external candidate exam boards. In the main, families are succeeding but those that aren't are desperate for help."

The move for stricter controls was opposed by Ruth Taylor, a supply teacher from Hampshire and a member of Education Otherwise, who educated both of her children part of the time at home. "The main reason parents do this is because of government intervention and constant changes at school," she said.

Comments