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The Best Place to Educate a Child

This campaign is about protecting our right in law to choose to home educate our children, and against unnecessary changes to the law which would infringe our current freedoms.

Perhaps we don't wish to compare what we do to what happens in schools, but we should be aware of the Government's position on home education, voiced through one of its departments:

"We believe the best place to educate a child is actually in school."
This quote came in the BBC News article on Friday 23rd February 2007, when a spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills (now the Department for Children, Schools and Families) summed up the Department's policy.


A quick trawl of the media might help to counter this claim:

"Standards have never been higher." say the DfES. But just how high? And for whom?

500 schools would fail to meet proposed new GCSE targets
"Five hundred state secondary schools in England - more than in one seven - would fail to meet a proposed government target aimed at ensuring that at least a quarter of their GCSE pupils get five good grades in subjects including maths and English, official league tables reveal today."

"The Conservatives said the new benchmarks did not go far enough. They said that once results for vocational qualifications were stripped out, the picture was worse than it appeared. For instance, the percentage of pupils getting at least five good grades including English, maths, science and a foreign language had dropped from 29.5% in 2001 to 25.7% last summer. "

Maybe in some over subscribed schools which parents are fighting to get their children into?
Parent power wins in school places fight
"Tens of thousands will desperately search the net for help when they are offered schools with a poor academic or behaviour record and which was not their first choice..."

"...One website, www.schoolappeals.org.uk, received 35,000 hits in two weeks last year..."

"...A group of head teachers runs a company, School Select, which charges 800 to write an appeal statement or more than 2,000 to accompany parents to a hearing..."

and schools are failing the poorest...

Schools 'failing poorest pupils'
"Researchers from Manchester University have studied school results and attendances nationwide to look at barriers faced by low-income families." "Prof Mel Ainscow claimed the findings showed government policy had emphasised internal competition between schools over equality of access. He said: "In 1997, New Labour had the confidence to set about a programme of radical reform and centrally-driven initiatives to deliver high standards and equity. Our contention is that, as far as equity is concerned, the programme has failed to deliver."
Test results at what cost? Their childhood?

Tests 'stopping children playing'
Five-year-olds are being prevented from engaging in traditional play as they are under too much pressure from the national tests, teachers have warned. With lessons geared towards assessment, children are bored from the moment they begin formal schooling, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers warned.
Losing a year and gaining ... nothing
"In theory at least, his final year at junior school should be an exciting, fulfilling, broad-ranging, educational adventure. But, of course, it won't be. For my son, and for most 10-year-olds in the country, the next nine months will be the exact opposite: a sterile, narrow and meaningless exercise in drilling and cramming. It's nothing to do with the skills of his teacher, who seems outstanding. Nor do I blame the school. It's called preparing for key stage 2 Sats."
For some, the cost is higher still..

Boy, 16, hangs himself over GCSE fears
A grieving mother whose teenage son hanged himself as his GCSE exams approached has spoken movingly of the unbearable stress that drove him to suicide. Robert McAllister, 16, was so terrified of failure that he took his own life just days before he was due to sit his first mock exam last December, an inquest into his death was told. Fighting back tears Melanie Crawcour, 39, said: "I want others to learn from this. Today's teenagers are under so much stress - much more than we were. "I told him exams were not everything and I would love him whatever grades he got."

and its recognised that...

Testing regime for 11-year-olds 'puts pupils off education'

Dr Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers: "Recently, a primary school headteacher said to me it is a pretence to suggest that, in year six classes, the period from September to May is spent doing anything other than test preparation. The consequences are catastrophic. They lead to a period of exhaustion, not only for the teacher, but also for the pupils who are route-marched through to level (the standard expected of an 11-year-old and by which league tables rank primary schools). We know that real learning does not take place in boot camp year six classes."

Headteachers agree..

Head teachers demand test reforms

Head teachers are calling for changes in the way children are tested, following the UK's poor standing in a survey of children's well-being. The National Association of Head Teachers attacked the government for setting a "target-obsessed and test-driven agenda". It said this was reducing children to fodder for "statistical bean-counting". The NAHT said schools should have time to cherish children and produce "happy and emotionally balanced adults".

And what for?

"I have discovered that I am not alone. I cannot find one parent who thinks that Sats in general, and key stage 2 Sats in particular, have any value. "

"It is no great surprise that new research by the Children's Society finds that 58% of young people are worried about exams, and 47% "often worried about school work". " "The NUT doesn't bother to conceal its contempt for Sats. "They are entirely worthless," says a spokeswoman. "They test nothing other than a child's ability to sit this particular test. They have no diagnostic or developmental value. They don't even tell you anything useful about the school. If you want to gauge the individual pupil, teacher assessment is far more accurate, and if you want to measure the school, inspections give a more holistic and accurate picture."

""They are so prominent that teachers teach to the test rather than providing a broader education," says the NUT."

"But our tick-box approach to education is beginning to stifle creativity, the very thing that makes us successful. A primary school deputy head says: "The problem is that Sats preparation means good writing is equated in children's minds with the Sats criteria. So you can walk into any school in the country and every child will be able to produce a surprisingly polished story. "

If schools are doing so well why are...
Pay as you learn
"More than a quarter of 11- to 18-year-olds are tutored at some point during their schooling, according to research by the Institute of Education. And the fastest growing area is in the primary sector."
And some schools are promoting private tutors....

State schools being paid to promote private 1,000 home tutoring
"Schools have been criticised for helping to promote a private tutoring scheme that can cost parents thousands of pounds to boost children's maths and English skills."

"Mr Brookes (the former headmaster and now general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers,) admitted there were limits to what schools could do to help struggling pupils. "Head teachers have to be pragmatic," he said. "Some parents use private tutoring, it is a cold fact of life. Schools operate according to the capacity they have."

Is success determined by what schools do?

It's official: class matters
"A study by academics at University College London (UCL) and Kings College London has given statistical backbone to the view that the overwhelming factor in how well children do is not what type of school they attend - but social class. It appears to show what has often been said but never proved: that the current league tables measure not the best, but the most middle-class schools; and that even the government's "value-added" tables fail to take account of the most crucial factor in educational outcomes - a pupil's address."

"The report, which uses previously unreleased information from the Department for Education and Skills, matches almost 1 million pupils with their individual postcode and exam scores at 11 and 15. This unprecedented project has revealed that a child's social background is the crucial factor in academic performance, and that a school's success is based not on its teachers, the way it is run, or what type of school it is, but, overwhelmingly, on the class background of its pupils."

"Put simply, the more middle-class the pupils, the better they do. The more middle-class children there are at the school, the better it does. "

""For schools the message is clear. Selecting children whose homes are in high-status neighbourhoods is one of the most effective ways of retaining a high position in the league table. ""

What about class size?..

Primary schools have 29,000 pupils in classes of over 30
"David Willetts, Conservative shadow education secretary, commented: "Labour made a promise to parents that they would abolish infant class sizes of more than 30. Tony Blair even claimed last year to have delivered on it."

"New figures will show that there are 30,000 infants in classes of more than 30, and the trend is moving in the wrong direction. The prime minister may have claimed victory, but this is yet another battle he has yet to win."

Then there are children with learning difficulties and special needs...

The dyslexic's magic spell
Miss Murray, now teaching at Fairley House, Pimlico, a private school where the fees are "an eye-watering 7,550 per term."

""Before I came here, I was special-needs co-ordinator at a huge north London state school, and I saw how little actually gets done for children with learning difficulties," she says. "You could recommend a child for special-needs tutoring, but it would be months before that was acted on. And, in the end, all they'd do was sort of Velcro-on a learning support assistant to that child. If you were lucky, the assistant was trained; if not, it would be the dinner lady."

The inadequacies of special needs provision in mainstream schools leave vulnerable pupils bewildered and ignored.

This charming vision of inclusion isn't working
"Under the theory of inclusion, adopted by all parties some two decades ago, the vast majority of children are expected to attend mainstream schools, where the appropriate support will be provided to enable them to be educated alongside their peers. "

"But this charming vision, of children of different needs learning happily together, has foundered on the harsh reality of resources and targets. Far from bringing children together, it has too often left vulnerable pupils friendless, bewildered and jeered at as oddities in a system still geared to the abilities of the mainstream."

"Sue ... worked for 18 months for a local authority... preparing statements from the evidence assembled by schools, parents and experts. She would read desperate accounts from teachers and parents of children whose education was happening in a haze of incomprehension or disturbed behaviour; pupils who couldn't read or write at nine or 10, or who had suffered years of bullying for being unable to speak properly, and she would be told to dismiss almost all of them. She says the overwhelming message from the senior managers and finance officers was the necessity of avoiding giving statements wherever possible.

If a statement was unavoidable, the imperative was to issue one written as vaguely as possible, so as not to commit the authority to any actual expense. So a child with emotional disorders, who had been suspended several times for attacking other children, might get a statement recommending, among other things, that "care must be taken to build up X's self-esteem". She was never allowed to recommend speech or language therapy, even if a child's principal problem was an inability to communicate, because the authority had almost no speech therapists available. Nor could physiotherapy be promised, even for the physically disabled, because that came from the health budget. This reality is replicated across the country."

About 1.5 million children have some form of special educational needs (SEN), and only 3% get statements. Two months ago the education select committee investigated special needs education, and was horrified at what it found, describing it as "not fit for purpose".

Then there are the reports on child welfare...

Children's welfare has to be the top priority
Unicef study says that the welfare of British children is among the lowest in the developed world. "Teachers... are, increasingly, dealing with anxious, unhealthy and disaffected children..."

"Primary schools see young children whose language skills are negligible because no one has talked to them in their pre-school years, and older ones who are worried because they can't remember if they are supposed to go home to their mum's or their dad's that night. Secondary-school teachers commonly deal with children who are drunk, drugged, depressed, pregnant, aggressive or asleep in class. "

and bullying...

Absent enemies
"Today 55,000 young people will be absent from school because they are being bullied - that is one-third of all truancies. These shocking figures are findings from research published this week by the charity Beatbullying (BB). "

"During the research, BB collated a number of case studies of young people with whom it has worked that are "fairly typical" scenarios. One such case is Karen, who experienced chronic bullying and was terrified of going to school. When the bullying escalated, Karen had to choose whether to go to school and face a torrent of insults, kicks and punches at the hands of her bullies, or stay at home and risk her mother being sent to prison for failing to ensure her attendance. "I would cry myself to sleep some nights knowing that I might have to go back to school the next morning," says Karen, "and that any day they could take me from my mum and put her in prison." "

Pupils 'should penalise bullies'
"Pupils should be able to suggest suitable punishments for bullies in their school, according to an MPs' report into bullying. The Commons Education Select Committee also said schools should have to record all bullying, including homophobic. But the government said this would be too bureaucratic for head teachers.... "We are concerned to hear that some schools are excluding the victims of bullying on health and safety grounds," said the report."
with tragic consequences..

Hanged boy 'was bullied on bus'
An 11-year-old boy hanged himself from his bunk bed after being subjected to months of bullying on the school bus, an inquest has heard. Ben Vodden was found unconscious by his father, Paul, with shoelaces wrapped round his neck and tied to his bunk bed on 12 December last year. His mother, Caroline, said the bullying began on Ben's second day at Tanbridge House School in Horsham, West Sussex.
then there's classroom violence...

Attacks on teachers rising, says survey
"Violence in the classroom is worsening, according to a new survey that reveals 92% of teachers have been verbally abused by pupils and 49% have been physically abused. "
[But this is encouraging in view of the York Consulting sample:]
"A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) said: "We would challenge a self-selecting sample of 433 teachers out of 427,000 as an accurate national picture.
.. and racism..

Racism and assaults soar in English schools
Suspensions at schools in England for racist abuse went up by 29 per cent to more than 3,300 in 2005, according to Department of Education figures. There was also an increase in the number of pupils suspended for attacks on adults and other students, while suspensions for verbal abuse, bullying and sexual misconduct also shot up.
If school is the best place for children to learn.....

The excluded
"..10,000 children permanently excluded from school last year, deemed officially too bad to teach. What happens to a child who falls through the cracks in the education system? "

"The law says all these pupils should receive a full-time education, but the reality is that many do not. One recent survey found only a quarter of local authorities were able to provide properly for all their out-of-school pupils, with most citing lack of resources as the main reason. The official reasons for permanent exclusions are often simple: a third are barred for persistent disruptive behaviour, according to Department for Education and Skills statistics; a fifth for threats or abuse to an adult; a further fifth for an attack on a fellow pupil. But most, like Peter, have a more complex history. "I've got attention deficit hyperactivity disorder," he explains. "And I don't like discipline. I get angry and shout."

One child under six is expelled every week
At least one child aged five or under is expelled from school every week and dozens more are suspended as bad behaviour among pupils soars. Official Government figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that increasing numbers of children are being barred from primary school for offences as serious as sexual assault, theft, racism and even drug dealing. In an alarming disclosure, it is revealed that 230 pupils are suspended and six are permanently excluded from primary schools in England every day during term time.

Of course pre-schools and schools are SO good now that parents involvement isn't so important?

Proof that parents are teachers too
"The results of tests taken by all four- and five-year-olds as they start compulsory schooling appear to back up the picture painted by Unicef in its report last week on children's wellbeing. In 13 assessments - ranging from testing skills in maths and reading to observing emotional development - the young children scored less well last year than in 2005. Why is this?"

"Dr Portwood may be right that too many parents believe that the availability of universal pre-school education somehow reduces the energy they need to put into their children's development."

"and with record funding in our schools we believe the best place to educate a child is actually in school." - DfES

Then there are the politicians who seem to feel their local school is not fit for their children or cannot provide for their needs.

Kelly accused of hypocrisy over son's private education
"The former education secretary Ruth Kelly clashed with her local council yesterday as she defended her decision to send her dyslexic son to an independent boarding school. "

"Ms Kelly said she was doing "the right thing for my child" in paying the 15,000-a-year fees for her son.

"But in echoes of the controversies that surfaced when Tony Blair chose an elite Roman Catholic school outside his home borough for his children, some backbenchers accused her of hypocrisy for using her wealth to obtain an education denied to poorer parents with children with similar needs."

Some used local schools but had to supplement them:

My dyslexic boys never went private, says Blunkett
"Blunkett said ... he chose to keep his boys at their local comprehensive in Sheffield, and pay for private tuition twice weekly from specialists at the Dyslexia Institute (now Dyslexia Action). "
And Ms Kelly...
Ms Kelly said: ".... we all face difficult choices as parents and I, like any mother, want to do the right thing for my son - that has been my sole motivation."
So they will be supporting our campaign then....

Food for Thought:
Home Education for Teenagers

In the News

The DCSF thinks school is the best place for children.
Here at Education Otherwise Campaign Website,
we beg to differ

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