Homeschooling in the UK

A story in today’s Daily Mail was somewhat alarming:

‘Armed police turn up at family home with a battering ram to seize their children after they defy Germany’s ban on home schooling’

A cheerful-looking middle-class family from Darmstadt was understandably alarmed when state authorities turned up like stormtroopers and effectively kidnapped all the children who were being home-schooled. The children faced a prospect of being forcibly educated away from the family.

Thank goodness nothing like that is likely to happen in the UK where we have a far more enlightened attitude to home schooling and the benefits it can bring. In the UK, local and national authorities have no rights whatsoever to access the homes of families where the children are home-schooled, nor can they tell them what to do from a distance. There is no possibility of forcible abduction, thank goodness!

In the UK, homeschooling families are not required to follow the National Curriculum and indeed many choose not to.  As long as children are following a course of full-time education under the supervision of their parents (and possibly tutors), there is no need to justify the content of that programme to external authorities.

Why is the UK so much more free-thinking than Germany in this respect? There are a number of reasons. One is the excellent track record of homeschooling in the UK. The vast majority of home-educated children turn out as normal, productive, happy members of society and a high proportion rejoin the “regular” education system at some point, e.g. to tackle A-levels or go to university. Families have benefited hugely from the opportunity to study together in this way and most parents of homeschooled children take the responsibility to educate their children extremely seriously.

The tradition of homeschooling is well-established in the UK and there are a number of organisations, including Education Otherwise, who are dedicated to supporting such learners, as well as a wealth of learning resources, like the ones published by Oxford Home Schooling, to help the learning process.  Learners are not necessarily isolated in these days of e-learning environments and the outlook for educational success is excellent, whether one follows the National Curriculum or not.

Homeschooling families have earned the trust of the authorities. Some people fear that vulnerable children become more vulnerable when they are not attending school because there is no one to monitor their well-being on a daily basis.  But there is absolutely no evidence of anyone pretending to educate their children and using it as a cover for something more sinister (as the Germans seem to fear). It would be a tragedy if the UK were ever to lose the trust that it currently places in home-educating families.


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