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19 November 2009

Education, education

By Sonia Poulton

These are testing times for parents who educate their children at home. Five months after Graham Badman’s report was published, the inclusion of some of his findings in the Queen’s speech makes it clear that the system faces changes.

The overriding concern for many home educators is that local authorities will wrest educational control away from parents. The end appears nigh for anyone seeking autonomy over their children’s learning.

I did not send my daughter to secondary school this July, unconvinced that mainstream education would help her to fulfil her potential. I believe the same is true for many children. The target-driven atmosphere of schools is demoralising, and fails to inspire or inform.

In Badman’s view, home educators are (mostly) well-meaning – if misguided – but institutional settings are better for children. Any alternative may conceal all kinds of abuse. But attending classes doesn’t remove risk, as any teacher who has taught the bruised and broken knows.

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Local authorities’ “hands-off” approach to home education means some children slip under the radar. So I support compulsory registration. But Badman clings to the worst stereotypes – children are ill-prepared for the real world, parents are unrealistic. Ed Balls may yet make home education an extension of school.

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