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HomeNewsChris McGovern: For a balanced education, there’s no place like home

Chris McGovern: For a balanced education, there’s no place like home


It seems that more UK children are being home-educated as dissatisfaction with the state school system grows.

In the absence of any registration process it is not possible to be precise about the numbers. Ofsted recently acknowledged that a figure of around 30,000 reported in 2015 was a significant under-estimate. It was based on a freedom of information request to local authorities and recorded only those pupils who had been formally withdrawn from school. Since many home-schooled children never start school in the first place, such data is of limited value.

Matthew Coffey, Ofsted’s chief operating officer, has recently admitted as much: ‘We know it’s [now] significantly higher than the 30,000, but we don’t have any updated numbers.’

A survey of 106 councils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland by BBC Breakfast has discovered a 57 per cent increase over the past five years in children with special needs being home-educated. For England the figure is 64 per cent.

The educational establishment, the Blob, tends to be strongly antipathetic towards home education. It claims, in particular, that children need ‘trained’ teachers to maximise their potential. In addition, it is argued that formal schooling is necessary for socialisation and for the development of inter-personal skills.

Unsurprisingly, not all parents are persuaded. Home-schooled youngsters usually receive a great deal more attention than is available in the classroom. A motivated parent, deploying a bit of common sense and a modicum of subject knowledge, is likely to be far more effective with his or her own child than a stressed-out and over-worked teacher. Moreover, mums and dads are unlikely to have been brainwashed by bogus notions of political correctness through teacher training or feel compelled to use ineffective and undemanding teaching methodologies. High attainment is the norm for the home-educated.

As for socialisation, research in the US, commissioned by the National Home Education Research Institute, found that home-educated youngsters were, as adults, more than twice as likely to be involved in their communities. Tellingly, 59 per cent described themselves as ‘very happy’ with life as against 28 per cent of the general population.

Such conclusions do not go down well with the Blob. Vested interests outweigh the interests of children every time. Home education is an indictment of what is on offer from the professionals. It has to be resisted and denigrated. The Blob knows best!

Unfortunately for the educational establishment, UK law places the responsibility for educating a child on parents. This was reaffirmed by Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act. It reflects how most countries around the world interpret Article 26 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948): ‘Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.’

In part, this declaration of parental rights was a response to their loss under the Nazis. Ironically, Germany, with countries such as North Korea, Cuba, Belarus, Sweden and Turkey, continues to outlaw home education. It was judged a form of parental child abuse by a German federal court in Bremen in 2007. In contrast, home education is legal in both Russia and China. In the US a denial of home schooling is widely regarded, especially by Republicans, as valid grounds for granting asylum.

Those seeking asylum to the UK on such grounds, however, should not expect support from our educational establishment. Ofsted has made its position clear. It has described as ‘shocking’ advice to parents on a home education website about how to remove one’s child from school.

Its scaremongering centres on the danger of children being radicalised. I share that concern for a minority of home-educated children. The greater threat, though, emanates from Ofsted’s enforcement on schools of value relativism through so-called ‘British Values’. The requirement to respect the point of view of those with whom you might disagree is the perfect vehicle for promoting ‘understanding’ of extremism and terrorism.

At its worst this translates into the model lesson from the Tes website (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) asking secondary school pupils aged 14 to 16 to imagine they are members of ISIS and to write about the good things that membership brings, such as female slaves. A link to the ISIS in-house magazine was provided. Or how about the recently publicised case of 12-year-olds being required to write a letter to their family explaining why they have converted to Islam? All in the name of promoting British values and ‘in line with the National Curriculum’.

If Ofsted seeks evidence of radicalisation and, indeed, of other forms of indoctrination and brainwashing, it need look no further than state schools. Small wonder that more parents, if they can afford to do it, are concluding that home education is the only alternative. And it was, after all, good enough for Princess Elizabeth!

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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