The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable-
(a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and
(b) to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
So what’s a suitable education?
1.5 There is no absolute definition of what a suitable education is. An interpretation was provided by an appeal case brought in Worcester Crown Court in Harrison & Harrison v Stevenson (1981). The parents appealed against their convictions for failure to comply with school attendance orders. The Court held that education is suitable to a child’s age, ability and aptitude “if, and only if, the education is such as:
(i) to prepare the child for life in modern civilised society, and
(ii) to enable the child to achieve his full potential.
Hm. Full potential? How precisely is that judged? Think an awful lot of school headteachers would be quaking in their boots if that was the standard they were held up to!
This one seems more workable.
1.6 In another Court case DfES, ex parte Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass School Trust (1985) a definition of suitable education was offered as follows:
” education is ‘suitable’ if it primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so.”
So, needing to equip a child for life in their community. Tbh, that sounds fairly basic. I also read an article in the Guardian – synchronicity as I’d been pondering all of this in the car on the way home yesterday, and then found this Drop GCSEs. We should be teaching our children to think in the evening.
I’m not sure about teaching our children to think. I think maybe encouraging them, giving them space, allowing them to form opinions, having conversations, asking and answering questions, providing opportunities for debate and exploration will probably suffice. Although I suppose you could call that teaching. I’m just afraid of the idea of having a timetabled lesson in the art of thought, which I suspect would achieve precisely the opposite.
But I do think that equipping them for a life in their community is fairly reasonable, and probably what parents through the ages have aimed for. Preferably a happy life at that. So my responsibilities as I see them (and I refer to my moral responsibilities as a parent, rather than any legal version of it all) are to encourage/ require my children to develop basic skills. Reading, writing/ typing, arithmetic. Tool use – pens, pencils, scissors, oven, sewing machine, hammer, washing machine, computer. Which mainly comes out of involving them in every day life. I don’t view computer time for the sake of learning to use a computer to be a particularly effective way of doing it, although I am also aware that my children are net literate without being particularly competent at installing software for example, but I’ve got my eye on that.
But the thing that seems most important to me is the learning how to learn. So finding out how to research something on the internet *and* how to question what you’ve found. Evaluating information you are given by other ppl. Using a library. How to find an expert in something you want to learn more about. Very few of these things are an integral part of a school education as I understand it, from what I’ve seen of my young relatives in schools. There is still too much sitting and waiting for knowledge to be delivered. It’s the aim of our education system after all. First of all you’ve got to control the children, then you’ve got to impart information to them so that they can pass a test on what they’ve been taught, and if you don’t get that done properly, your school is marked as failing.
If children are allowed space and given encouragement, I think they’ll just go on learning. They learn to walk and talk from the examples around them. They are set up to be little learning machines if you don’t interfere with that. Education experts know that, but there isn’t any money in it, and you don’t get to control the output. Which I think scare the ppl in charge of education in this country, which is why they are now trying to control us.