Listen again here on BBC sounds (you need a BBC login) From 33.55 ish. My comments in italics. Presenter Emma Barnett. Be aware that incoherencies and typos will be due to my inability to type as fast as people speak.
Emma: Now, children all across the UK are returning to school this week but an increasing number of parents are choosing to educate their children at home.
Note that education is devolved in the UK, and therefore the rules are different in each country
Emma: It’s been a growing trend over recent years, but the latest statistics show some regions have seen a huge increase in numbers and yet it’s unregulated, there’s no government database monitoring the exact numbers of children being educated in this way. To shed some light I’m joined by Gail Tolley from the Association of Directors of Childrens Services departments in English councils, and also by Hannah Titley who runs the Home Schooling Association, one of many bodies which advise
woparents on how to educate children full time away from school.
The Home Schooling Association was a new one on me, and when I looked it up, it appears to be basically a way of organising tutors. I can’t see that it’s run by home educators at all. And take their checklist with a pinch of salt, do your own research on the legalities of deregistration in your area of the UK, and how it applies to different children and different schools. For example, the process in England for children in special schools is different to mainstream state schools.
Hannah, if I start with you, just to be clear here, we’re not talking about people home schooling in the way we’ve been doing or people have been doing I should say across the UK during the pandemic are we?
Hannah: No no, that’s absolutely right. So over the last five years we’ve seen that home schooling has become increasingly popular. It’s estimated that there are around currently 75,000 being homeschooled in the UK, up from 37,000 in 2015 and Covid certainly seems to have accelerated that trend.
Emma: And what does it look like for most people. You know I nearly had a slip there to say that you know to educate, women educating children full time away, do we know if it’s mainly women who do it?
Hannah: So I think, traditionally, em when people are thinking about home schooling they see it as a parent led activity, so parents teaching their children, however now there are so many different ways to homeschool than there have been before which has made it more accessible to families so lots of families consider online schools like InterHigh which are becoming increasingly popular and some children choose to learn in small groups called micro schools and others have one to one tutors. So there’s no rules on what a home school schedule should look like and parents can take their own approach.
this didn’t answer the question as to whether it’s mainly women who home educate. And if your child is signed up with an online school full time, I’m not sure that’s considered home education. If they’re on a school register, that’s being a pupil I think. Interhigh bills itself as an independent online school.
I’ve not come across the term micro schools. We usually call small groups either tutor groups, if they’re tutor led, or home education groups if they are mainly parent led. And the majority of home educators that I know are still mainly facilitating their children’s education themselves, not employing tutors, using online schools, or forming micro schools.(Again, there is legislation around what constitutes a school, be very aware of that, unregistered schools are illegal.
Do you think it should be better regulated here though? We’ve got a statement here from Baroness Berridge, the minister for schools systems, she was unable to take part in today, sorry, this statement, excuse me, is from the Dept for Education, which says for the vast majority of children, particularly the most vulnerable, school is the best place for their education. Home education is never a decision that should be entered into lightly and now more than ever it is absolutely vital that any decision to home educate is made with the child’s best interests at the forefront of everyone’s mind, any parent who is considering home education on the grounds of safety concerns should make every effort to engage with their school and think very carefully about what’s best for their children’s education, the protective measures in place make schools as safe as possible for children and staff. Do you think it should be better regulated, do you support a database?
H: So we certainly support a national register of homeschool students. And I think it’s really important that safeguarding is a top priority. With regards to the amount of intervention, one of the benefits of homeschooling is that there isn’t a national curriculum, so there are children who need to learn at their own pace, or they have extracurricular interests where they need a flexible schedule I think it’s important that we understand that balance, you know it’s very important that safeguarding is put at the top of the list, but then also that parents are given the autonomy to teach in a way that suits their child best.
?? Again with not really answering the question. This doesn’t sound like a parent’s answer, and as both the websites Hannah is linked with describe tutoring and professional home schooling, I don’t think she is home educating children of her own.
Interviewer: And does it result in good results as it were? I know it’s all different and it’s quite a surprise to some that they wouldn’t know necessarily that there’s no national curriculum.
The national curriculum doesn’t apply to academies or free schools or independent schools.
H: Yeah, so children need to achieve a satisfactory level of English and Maths. Lot of parents do follow the national curriculum to a certain extent or they teach parts of it. But lots of parents that have recently joined the homeschooling population, they are going beyond the national curriculum, they have chosen home schooling because their child would like to learn coding, current affairs, entrepreneurship and develop skills that aren’t necessarily being taught at schools so
Interviewer: So no exams, is that right?
H: So lots of children, there isn’t a requirement to take exams, however lots of children do sit exams their GCSEs and A levels as private candidates at exam centres, which keep higher education options available to them.
This would be a great place to mention how difficult that has been for private candidates over the last year?
Oh, I guess not then.
Interviewer: The point is you don’t have to do that, but many do. Let’s bring in Gail at this point, what do you put the increase in families choosing to do this down to Gail?
Gail: Good morning, thank you. Well, as Hannah said, there has been a steady increase, about 20% a year since the Association of Directors of Children’s services started collecting and reporting this information. But last september we saw, Last October, when we checked on census day, we saw an increase of 38% and a number of local authorities as reported, saw comparative figures from last september to the september before with increases well over 100%. So the link to the pandemic and parental anxieties around that is part of that explanation we believe. And of course we are looking very carefully this week, next week the coming weeks as to what/ whether there might be an increase again. Because we also think that some parents did confuse what I might describe as home schooling, that is delivering the school’s curriculum at home, with elective home education which is the legal position parents have to either ensure that their child attends school or elect to home educate. And we felt that some parents felt that they would still have access to the online learning and curriculum provided by schools and in terms of perhaps some of their own anxieties have opted to say that they will home educate but some are certainly now realising that that does not bring with it access to ongoing support from schools online, and so we do know that there have been some returns to school from a number of those families and children that elected to home educate in the early autumn. Nevertheless there’s been an increase.
Interviewer: Gail, yes, and it will be interesting to see if it sustains with some of these families. But you are also I understand in support of a national database. But some parents are not, some carers don’t want that. Why don’t they want it.
Gail: I think there are a number of families and organisations that have been positively home educating and don’t see the need for a mandatory register. As directors of children’s services where we have responsibility for oversight of wellbeing and safeguarding as Hannah has alluded to as well the importance of us knowing, because there is no requirement at all if a family for example might elect to home educate, tell the school if their child perhaps is in year 5 that they’re going to home educate. If that family then moves local authority, there is no requirement on that family to notify either the local area from which they are moving or the one to which they are joining so and if that family’s circumstances change such that the circumstances either where the child is learning and the conditions at home or the safeguarding elements of their lives change, no one has sight or support of that child, so as directors of children’s services we feel that a mandatory register is really important. If I may I could also support something that you’ve alluded to and that Hannah has suggested. We do not then want to interfere in curricula or you know the choices about learning, but having sight of that there is effective learning provision and a safe learning environment and that the child’s needs are prioritised as being paramount is where we think that a mandatory register would be essential.
Gail Tolley Association of Directors of Childrens Services department of English councils and Hannah Titley who runs the home schooling association, of course if you have experience of that do get in touch.
As usual, so much to unpick in this short segment. Once again, we return to the idea of a mandatory list of children to keep them safe. This has been tried before, see ContactPoint on wiki. The problem is that of course a list doesn’t keep anyone safe, and you would have to use the list. So how would you use it in such a way as to safeguard children without causing more problems that you solve? Or would you end up with a situation in which to justify having all the data, people on the list were subject to increasingly intrusive contact?