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More parents choose to educate children at home (UK)

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  • Jane Evans
    More parents choose to educate children at home Polly Curtis Friday July 30, 2004 The Guardian Families are rejecting the state school system in favour of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 30, 2004
      More parents choose to educate children at home

      Polly Curtis
      Friday July 30, 2004

      The Guardian

      Families are rejecting the state school system in favour of educating their
      children at home at a rate of more than 100 per month, as worried parents
      seek to avoid the pressures of Sats and bullying, a leading advocacy group
      for home education said yesterday.
      The rising numbers are a cause of concern for traditionalists who say that
      some children receive inadequate lessons or are even pushed to work in the
      family business.

      Yesterday the Professional Association of Teachers (PAT), debating the issue
      at their annual conference in Bournemouth, called on the government "as a
      matter of urgency" to upgrade its monitoring procedures for children
      educated at home.

      Kim Tomsett, a local education authority official who has worked with home
      educating families in west Sussex for three years, said that she had
      witnessed children being taken out of school on the premise that they would
      be home educated, only to start working in the family.

      "In the main it is very successful, but there are families that are
      completely lost from supervision, either because they want to be or by
      accident," she said. Members of PAT want the government to introduce closer
      monitoring and support for parents.

      Last week, parent representatives met officials from the Department for
      Education and Skills to discuss plans to develop guidelines for all LEAs on
      dealing with families who have opted out of schools.

      But home educating parents are nervous of state intervention, fearing that
      they could be inspected by people who do not understand the different styles
      of teaching at home.

      Belinda Harris Reed has worked with Education Otherwise for 16 years after
      opting to educate her two sons at home. She said: "We are getting 100 new
      families a month. I don't think that people take on home educating lightly.
      Now most people take their children out of school because of bullying, not
      like me for a philosophical viewpoint."

      Membership of Education Otherwise, the oldest group for home educators, has
      almost doubled in the past two years, to 6,000. Studies show that anything
      from 25,000 to 150,000 children are being taught at home for some or all of
      their school years.

      Parents have to register with their LEA if they intend to take their
      children out of school. LEAs can choose to inspect them and samples of their
      work, but families do not have to "present" their children. And the
      authorities are only responsible for those who have been in the system; if a
      child has never been registered at a school, they have no jurisdiction.

      Miriam Alcaraz-Stapleton, 18, was educated at home in Edmonton, east London,
      with her seven siblings until she went to sixth form college to do A-levels.
      She is planning to do physiotherapy or acupuncture at university.

      Her parents had themselves had bad experiences of school. "I had formalish
      lessons three times a week until I was 12 in Spanish, French, English and
      maths, taught by my parents and other family and friends. My mum got work
      books and text books and we had trips to museums and outings.

      "I believe that I've been part of the real world since I was born and that
      people in school are going to have more difficulties making decisions when
      they get into the real world. I know that some of them do.

      "A lot of people - including teachers - don't realise it's legal. People
      always ask whether I have friends of my own age. Yes, we do. Some people
      have asked whether I was disabled. The other question is whether we are rich
      or very poor, or very clever or very stupid, or were you expelled?"

      A DfES spokesperson said: "We believe that for most children school is the
      right place in which to receive education. However, parents have the right
      to educate their children at home if they so wish."
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