Friday 15 February 2019

On #HomeEducating and #Scaremongering

The above post has really got me going. I am so tired of the scaremongering surrounding home education and 'children slipping through the net.' The educational net has holes in it, can you not see them? - this is the educational new net in the UK. My eldest son attended a state school in London, where middle class children were tutored within an inch of their lives to get into the private schools. Those that were skinter became Christians in year 5 in order to get their kids into the top church school. It was the working class kids that 'slipped through the net.' They had no choice about the schools they went to, though the ones in North London where we lived were the best of the lucky dip that was state provision in the mid nineties. I know of a clever estate kid who is dealing now. I also know of a clever kid who went to Oxbridge and is now caning drugs and 'taking time out' from Oxbridge. Why? I won't pass on what I know as I haven't spoken to him personally, though my son has. He is not the only privately educated kid who is screwed up. I know many of them – this is not necessarily the fault of the school. I was a TA at a top North London private school where I helped in year one. These kids were ‘selected’ at 2. I was gobsmacked at what an emotional mess so many in the class were. Many of them were brought up by nannies. Some weren’t very bright, but they all passed into the upper years it was a done deal given these parents had helped bankroll the system since nursery, though I'll wager those kids were very stressed as they went along. Children need their parents to be actively involved in their education and their lives - some kids are in school from breakfast club to after school club - this is state care.

The clever working class kid might have done very well had his teacher been able to prepare him for a grammar school the likes of which are now nicked by people like Nick Clegg and Tony Blair - working class kids don't get a look in to those as they would need to be tutored for the exams and as teachers can no longer prepare them for the exams, these kids don't do them. Of course there are exceptions to all these cases, but this is what I have observed over my time of being a parent for the past 22 and a half years.

As for the cases of children being abused by non-state provision – where is the evidence for this? Is she referring to the unregistered Islamic schools, where girls are reported to suffer educationally? I have only heard of one case of a home educating family being abusive - the case of Dylan Seabridge– where a home educating family was done for abuse. But we all know of the many Victoria Climbie or Khyra Ishaq cases that slip through the traditional school nets

I began home educating when we were transitioning from London to Wales. As part of my research on home ed. I met other families whose older children impressed me with their emotional maturity and general all roundedness. My eldest who was gifted and thus way ahead in early years was bored out of his bracket by age 9. I couldn't get my son into the local state primary school. It was the late nineties and the population of London had swelled to an extent that the system was groaning. He went to a church school in North London. He thrived the most when I took him out of school for 3 months to take him on field work (and backpacking afterwards) when I ran a charity based on the Thai/Burma border in the camps. He played football with kids on crutches and mucked about in a boat who had landmine injuries and joined in with art therapy/language classes. He doodled his way (in both senses) and was later offered interviews at UCL, Goldsmiths and Chelsea. He chose Chelsea, despite my begging him not to and bored, dropped out after a year, but he is making music, and art and working as an extra on films and television and gardening in order to keep himself as an artist. He came out in the wash basically, though his T-Shirt may have come out tye dyed – not, he would never wear a ty-dye t-shirt – but you catch my Drift.

This statement is a wind up to an ex-rock and roller, off roller like me: In July last year, Longfield told the Observer that she was "conducting an urgent analysis of confidential government data" to "establish how many off-roll children are drawn into gangs", adding "some are educated at home while others go to pupil-referral units (PRUs) – both are associated with worse educational outcomes". I suggest an urgent rethink? Off rolled kids are more likely to be protected from both. My son, who began school in 2001, was offered a secondary school where the Asian and Somali gangs were clashing to the point that a police presence was necessary daily; and dangerous enough for me not to send my kid there as I was afraid he's be carrying a knife before long. Had he been a girl, I might have made another decision. I didn't know what to do. I won't wax on as I have written about this part before. Had I not found the academy that I did in the nick of time, I would have fought the powers that could have arrested me with my bare hands before sending my son to the school provided. They might have arrested me! How bloody dare they, given the provision at the time! See the retrospective mother-monster I would have been? From what I hear, things remain patchy in London, though better in Wales (less kids) though parents still move their kids around and complain about provision – particularly for special needs.

In her above quote Longfield insinuates that home educating is a ‘dangerous’ thing. Where is the statistical analysis to back this up? In my experience of being around home educating families, the children emerge to universities doing very well indeed. I suggest she couples up with an educational clinical psychologist pronto. She sounds as if she is making this up as she goes along. Are we, as home educating parents unable to make the right choices for our children? There is an underlying subtext that this is an abusive move. Longfield says that off roll educating is associated with "worse educational outcomes," I would like to see where her data comes from in terms of cultural and religious demographics – and I would like to hear her saying out loud what these demographics are in very varied field indeed. The home educating children I know  are all doing very well. My children are highly creative and thriving. We don't do targets, but I am confident they are ahead in most if not all things for their age group. My five year old who makes things that fly, radios and tinkers with circuit boards and other techy stuff (he has the time) is much quicker at mental maths and pattern recognition than me. He has been doing age 12 Lego since he was for years. Crucially, they have time and all limits are off in terms of learning. Children in early years need the right brain creativity, empathy, socialising and exploring side to be fully developed before the left-brain analytical, side responsible for numeracy and literacy takes off at age 7. Creative children (and all children should be creative, it’s part of being human, but without being themselves for a good 7 years they cannot be). My other son knows way more about the natural world than I do and draws beautiful, detailed pictures thereof; the 9 year old makes her own clothes, cooks, paints and generally makes stuff at an astonishing rate. Her painting is outstanding. All are highly creative and just get on with stuff: imagining, inventing, making, is all par for the course.

Kids need time to dream and explore before they are regimented by systems that too often crush creativity - as the mother of an artist this was my soapbox long before I discovered that home ed wasn't just for hippies or crazed witch hunting Christians – though it's people like Longfield who appear to be doing the 'witch hunting’ now.  My children are learning Welsh and other languages as well as history, geography, science and biology all taught with creativity, and can hold a conversation with an adult or any peer from 2 - 100. Crucially, they are not tested or bracketed, they benefit from tailored one to one education from their father and me and they have loads of time to explore their own interests. My children are kind and polite and they mix happily with other children across a range of classes, and they don't need to worry about bullying or not getting on with a teacher or peer, or being stuck in a class that may be duff for a year. We are also saving the tax payer hundreds of thousands of pounds. Time for a rebate? It’s certainly time for a rethink and a longer view Longfield (oh the irony) and co.