Home schooling in lockdown: Why some Gloucestershire parents will never send their children back to the classroom
SOARING figures have revealed Gloucestershire schools have lost more pupils to home education as dissatisfied parents worry that their children are being “scarred irreparably”.
For all except keyworkers, the Covid pandemic unwittingly propelled families across England into a compulsory home education ‘trial’ seemingly overnight. Remembered by many as traumatic, the school closures marked an impossible time, a balancing act between the conflicting demands of work and school which left some families desperate as they struggled to cope.
While it’s accepted that everyone’s experience of lockdown was different, what united home schooling families across Gloucestershire and beyond was their ability to adapt. Wriggle room was found, subjects were prioritised, activities were dropped and parents were reminded to consider their children’s mental health in a time of unprecedented uncertainty.
More than a term later, supportive parents had seen first hand what and how their children were learning, getting to know their children’s teachers and their respective teaching styles along the way.
While the majority of families rejoiced at the re-opening of schools in September 2020, some found lockdown offered a window into their child’s education that caused them concern.
Corina, mother of Philip, aged 5, said she started to question if school was the “right fit” for her son having educated him at home during lockdown:
“It’s collaboration that makes us successful in the workplace, its knowing how to work with other people, it’s no longer about competition…I would strongly encourage everyone to revisit education for their children because I don’t think the current mainstream prepares them for a successful and happy life as an adult”
A Freedom of Information request concluded that Corina was not alone in reviewing alternative options. The number of Gloucestershire school children who deregistered rose sharply in September 2020, with more than eight times as many Year 3 children opting out of school as in 2019.
Chris Spencer, Director of Children’s Services at Gloucestershire County Council, said:
“In line with national trends we have seen a rise in the number of families choosing home education…Since March 2020 and up to April 2021 we have had 643 new referrals…”. Gloucestershire county Council say when it comes to Elective home education they are committed to a “respectful partnership with parents”.
While these figures illustrate those who have made the decision to de-register their child from school, it does not account for those considering it.
According to the Elective Home Education Survey 2020, it is estimated that there are currently over 75,000 children being educated outside of school nationally. It is thought that more prospective home educators than ever before are considering de-registering, saying they feel worried that school is curbing childhood curiosity.
Sharon, mother to 8-year-old Eddie from Newent, says,“although she is still in school I am researching our alternatives… the teachers do an amazing job, but lockdown showed me the current education system is really out of date…for the most part Eddie just isn’t interested in what is being taught, it’s like they are killing her curiosity.”
Concerns over provision are not the only reason families are diversifying. Liz Jenkins of Educational Freedom said,
“we are finding the majority of families deregistering enjoyed spending time with their children during lockdown and have chosen to continue by home educating”
Families considering alternatives understandably have many questions and logistical challenges to overcome. A mother on a Mumsnet home education forum said, “I was completely unaware that home education is even legal”.
Home education is and always has been legal in the UK, so long as your child receives, “…efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude… either by regular attendance at school or otherwise”. (Section 7 of the Education Act 1996)
Ok, so it is legal, but how can parents considering home educating quell concerns that what they can offer is good enough? In 1985 (R v Secretary of State for Education) Mr Justice Woolf said, “Education is suitable if it primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member…so long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years…”.
According to Schools week some schools admit to feeling concerned at the steady rise in the amount of parents choosing to de-register, with teachers even citing a move to home education as a possible, “safeguarding concern”.
Perhaps schools are right to feel concerned, for without fixed curriculums, regular assessments, exams, grades, and age segregated peer-to-peer competition, how can they be sure that children are learning at all? Philosopher Noam Chomsky thinks having trust in the child as an individual is key.
So what exactly is wrong with the educational provision that stands; is the current system really that bad? England’s educational system was designed over 150 years ago during the industrial revolution. The values that were important then are a world apart from those valued today, and yet very few changes have been made. In a digital age where information can be acquired instantaneously, are children being failed by an out-dated curriculum and antiquated values?
“The modern world values those who can be creative, communicate their ideas and collaborate with others, but our children do not get a chance to develop such skills in a system that is based on industrial aged values” (Next School).
Newly appointed Children’s Commissioner, Rachel De Souza, has recently launched ‘The Big Ask’, the largest ever survey of children and young people in England. ‘The Big Ask’ gathers children’s responses on a variety of questions including their opinion on education.
The survey offers a real opportunity to asses how effective our current education system is, offering an opportunity to address why so many parents are deciding that their child’s school ‘experience’ just isn’t good enough. It will be interesting to see what they say.
Did you know?
A different approach to education has been a factor in many iconic figures’ lives. You would not believe how many famous people did not attend school!
Try our ‘Famously home educated’ Quiz here and test your knowledge:
Famously home educated
Which famous Royal was home educated ?, Which Famous singer was home educated?, Which famous author did not go to…
Billie Eilish is an award winning singer songwriter, and attributes her success to her parents decision not to send her to school. Watch the documentary below.
For more statistics on Global home education figures click here.