Belfast Telegraph

Janet Street-Porter: Home-schooling just an insidious way that pushy parents have for exerting control over their kids

Some act like rebellious children railing against all attempts to impose any sort of discipline

Nadia Sawalha and Angelina Jolie have both been advocates of schooling children at home
Nadia Sawalha and Angelina Jolie have both been advocates of schooling children at home
Nadia Sawalha and Angelina Jolie have both been advocates of schooling children at home

By Janet Street-Porter

The huge rise in the number of children being home-schooled is really about who knows best. Thousands of parents are convinced they - not teachers, or experts - know what a child should be learning and how to achieve a good education.

These helicopter parents are turning their backs on classrooms, set books, any sort of structured curriculum. They want their kids to be educated by private tutors, learning through "experiences". What sort of citizens will this produce?

Last week, I clashed with Stacey Solomon (whose two sons are home-schooled) on ITV's Loose Women. Our debate was heated, but friendly. Thousands of people commented online afterwards.

My fellow Loose Woman, Nadia Sawalha, home-schools her children and so does the musician Paul Weller. Angelina Jolie has proudly announced that her eldest son, Maddox, has been accepted at college this coming autumn. He was home-schooled.

Advocates claim it's a last resort, because they cannot enrol their children at any of their first choices and local schools have poor ratings. Across the UK, a record number (one-in-five) of pupils was not allocated their first choice of secondary school for next autumn. The number of appeals has doubled in the last six years.

This week, EDSK, an education think-tank, said that Ofsted grades are misleading and wrong in up to half of cases. Instead of focusing on the overall performance of a school, they say it would be more accurate to look at a pupil's behaviour, the quality of the curriculum, careers advice and out-of-school activities. The current system clearly needs improvement if so many parents don't trust it.

Another reason for the boom in home-schooling is the rising number of teenagers with mental health issues. The idea is that schools are not responding adequately, so parents intervene. Home-schooling is a radical choice, but do the benefits stack up?

Sign In

Critics (like me) say that unless parents work together to help schools improve, we are fostering a two-tier system which favours the middle classes. Why can't these parents become school governors and classroom assistants and work towards improving the education experience for all children?

The number of home-schooled children has almost doubled in four years and is thought to exceed 60,000. Some are known to local authorities because they have been formally deregistered from school, but some were never registered in the first place. Others attend schools which could be illegal.

There isn't a system in place to monitor, or check, private tutors, which is lamentable.

One proposal is that all home-schooled children be registered, as a first step towards protecting their interests. Militant parents are outraged, insisting they are legally entitled to educate their children however they want.

This is as arrogant as posting your children's pictures on social media before they have reached the age of consent. Parent power is out of control.

Another factor in the rise in home-schooling has been the imposition of fines for taking children out of classes during term time because holidays are cheaper then. But why should children be "entitled" to go on foreign holidays anyway? Now, it's regarded as tantamount to child cruelty if you can't take the family to a luxury hotel in a hot climate.

Some parents are behaving like rebellious pupils; determined to rail against a system that imposes any kind of rules. I can understand why teachers do not want children removed during term time. A class is a cohesive unit. Why should some kids be taken out of it because their parents are prepared to pay fines?

The one part of education that these parents seem reluctant to embrace is discipline, the notion that you can't always get what you want, when you want it. That's one of the most valuable life lessons a school can teach, invaluable if you want to hold down any kind of a job.

The only kind of acceptable home-schooling is for people with special needs, whose local authorities cannot provide alternatives without extensive travel.

Some advocates of home-schooling say they have resorted to it because their kids were being picked on and bullied.

Yet the only way to change that is to fight back, not to retreat back home.

School is where you learn resilience, to cope with unpleasantness, to make friends with people outside your family group.

Sadly, too many modern parents want to control every aspect of their children's lives; monitoring their movements via special apps, calling them every few hours to make sure they are "safe".

Home-schooling is just another form of insidious control.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph