Home Schooling: A British Perspective (2004), by Sean Gabb

Home Schooling: A British Perspective
Sean Gabb
(Chapter 13 of Homeschooling in Full View:
A Reader, ISBN 1593113382)

Home schooling can be loosely defined as any education provided otherwise than by formal schooling outside the home. Such education may be provided by parents or guardians, or by tutors engaged by parents or guardians. So defined, home schooling has a long history in England.

Historical Background

Most notably, it was the custom of the Kings and Queens to have their children educated at home. Indeed, the children of Her present Majesty are the first in the Royal Family to have attended any school. She was herself educated at home by private tutors. The education of Queen Victoria was supervised by Baroness Lehtzen, a German governess. That of George III was supervised by the Marquis of Bute, who after the King’s accession in 1760, became one of the country’s less effective Prime Ministers. Certainly, he was one of the less fortunate.

It was the custom of the wealthier classes to send their sons to one of the various public or grammar schools set up since the middle ages – the oldest, King’s School in Canterbury, dating back apparently to 597. But this was by no means a universal custom. Though the education provided was usually excellent, if rather narrowly focussed on the classical languages, it was often attended by severe disadvantages. Teachers frequently maintained discipline with the most savage violence. Take, for example, Nicholas Udall (1504-56). An admired scholar and translator and a friend of royalty, he was the author of Ralph Roister Doister, the first comic play in English and the obvious model for later works by Marlowe and Shakespeare. He was also Headmaster of Eton College. In 1541, he was dismissed for theft of school property and sexual abuse of the boys. His great partiality for flogging was noted, but not held against him. Nor was his general behaviour thought that scandalous: in 1555, the year before his death,, he was appointed Headmaster of Westminister School, and a street near the school is now named after him.

Nearly two centuries later, in 1809, Dr Keate was appointed Headmaster of Eton, and remains famous for the violent beatings he inflicted on the poet Shelley and on a generation of Victorian notables.

The teachers aside, there were the boys. Collective bullying, generally ignored by the teachers, was the norm, and could result in serious maiming or even death. The fagging system allowed older boys to treat the younger as their personal servants, and was an opportunity for gross cruelty. According to one man who had been a fag at Eton in 1824,

[t]he practice of fagging had become an organised system of brutality, and cruelty. I was frequently kept up until one or two o’clock in the morning, waiting on my masters at upper and indulging every sort of bullying at their hands. I have been beaten on my palms with the back of a brush, or struck on both sides of my face because I had not closed the shutter near my master’s bed tight enough or because in making his bed I had left the seam of the lower sheet uppermost.(1)

Not surprisingly, many parents chose to have their sons educated at home, either wholly or partially. John Stuart Mill was educated entirely by this father, and the account of that education forms a notorious part of his Autobiography. Edward Gibbon and Thomas Babbington Macaulay received part of their education at home and part at local day schools. Such was the case with many other notable figures in English history.

For girls, formal schooling was at least a rarity before the 19th century. Though there were academies where they could study a basic curriculum, there was nothing for girls equivalent to the public and grammar schools. The general custom among the wealthier classes was to educate girls at home, or to give them to an unmarried female relative for teaching, and then perhaps to send them in their later teens to a finishing college where they acquired the accomplishments suitable to a young lady. Jane Austin, for example, had only one year of formal schooling around the age of ten.

Among the poorer classes, there was, before the beginning of compulsory state education a wide range of semi-formal schooling. These are described at length in the writings of the educational historian E.G. West, who also shows that the absence of state funding and compulsion before 1870 did not prevent most people in England from learning to read.(2)

With the great improvements in the quality of the independent schools and the establishment of compulsory state education for the poorer classes, attendance at school had become for all classes and both sexes the general custom by the end of the 19th century. Before then, however, it can be said that formal schooling was one educational option among many. Even by the 20th century, it was by no means universal. Noel Coward, for example, was educated almost wholly at home, briefly attending the Chapel Royal Choir School.(3) Agatha Christie had no formal schooling before the age of 16.(4) She later wrote that her mother “the best way to bring up girls was to let them run wild as much as possible; to give them food, fresh air and not to force their minds in any way”.(5) C.S. Lewis had only two years of formal schooling as a child – part of this at Wynyard School in Watford – a place he later called “Belsen”.(6)

Basic education organised by the State came later to England later than in almost every other civilised country. Legislation to allow local authorities to maintain elementary schools was passed only in 1870. It took a further 30 years of cautious advance to make education compulsory and then free in the state schools, and then for local authorities to be allowed to set up secondary schools. The reasons for this late start and slow advance were an ideological dislike of state activity that remained strong among all classes well into the 20th century, and a bitter dispute between the Christian sects and the State over the continuing viability of the religious schools in an environment of free state education, and between the sects over the nature of religious instruction in the state schools.(7) While these disputes have largely faded into history, their former importance has left clear traces in the English law of education.

The Law on Home Schooling in England

The law of education in England can be summarised in the statement that while there is a legal duty for parents to educate their children, there is no duty to send them to school. The British Government openly accepts this summary, declaring on one of its web sites:

Parents are allowed to educate their children at home instead of school if they choose to do so. Under English law, it is education that is compulsory, not schooling.(8)

This is echoed by the current Secretary of State for Education:

My department recognises and respects the right to choose to home educate.(9)

The relevant legal wording was settled in section 36 of the Education Act 1944:

The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable:

(a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and

(b) to any special education needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise [emphasis added]

This wording was carried unchanged into section 7 of the Education Act 1996.(10)

The legal meaning of the words “suitable education” was clarified in the case of Harrison & Harrison v Stevenson on an appeal brought in 1981 in the Worcester Crown Court. In this case, the Judge defined a “suitable education” as one such as

1. To prepare the children in life for modern civilised society, and

2. To enable them to achieve their full potential.(11)

In the subsequent judicial review case of R v Secretary of State for Education, ex parte Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass School Trust (1985), Mr Justice Woolf held that:

Education is ‘suitable’ if it primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the wider country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so.(12)

As it currently stands – in September 2004 – the law does not require parents to register their children with any school; and, within the defined meaning of “suitable” they can provide their children with whatever education they please. Parents who wish to teach their children at home are not legally required:

  • to seek permission from the Local Education Authority to educate “otherwise”;
  • to inform the Local Education Authority that they have children of school age;
  • to have regular contact with the Local Education Authority;
  • to have premises equipped to any specified standard;
  • to have any teaching or other educational qualifications of their own;
  • to cover any specific syllabus;
  • to have any fixed timetable;
  • to prepare lesson plans of any kind;
  • to observe normal school hours or terms;
  • to give formal lessons;
  • to allow their children to mix with others.

Sections 437-443 of the Education Act 1996 oblige Local Education Authorities within England and Wales to take action if it appears that a child is not receiving a “suitable” education. If it established that a child is not receiving a “suitable” education, the Local Education Authority may serve a notice on parents requiring them to establish that such an education is being provided.(13) However, in the case of R v Gwent County Council ex parte Perry (1985), the courts held that the Local Education Authority should give parents “a fair and reasonable opportunity to satisfy it that proper education is being provided, having first allowed a sufficient time to set in motion arrangements for home education”.(14) But failure eventually to comply with this notice may be followed by a school attendance order. This may be challenged in the courts, which will dismiss the notice if shown – on the balance of probabilities – that the child is indeed receiving an education that a reasonable person would consider to be “suitable”.

This legal duty placed on Local Education Authorities applies only where children appear not to be receiving a “suitable” education. Where no evidence is available that they are not receiving such an education, they have no legal right to seek information from parents. This is not an absolute bar on making enquiries. In the case of Philips v Brown (1980), the courts held that the Local Education Authority is entitled to ask parents for information as a basis for making the decision as to whether the education they are providing is efficient. If the parent fails to provide information, it could be concluded that prima facie the parents are in breach of their duty.(15)

But the Local Education Authority is not allowed to specify the nature and presentation of such information. Nor can they carry into their enquiry assumptions and expectations based on their experience of formal schooling. On the Parent Centre website, maintained by the Department for Education and Skills, the authorities confirm that:

LEAs have no automatic right of access to parents’ home. Parents may wish to offer an alternative way of demonstrating that they are providing suitable education, for example through showing examples of work and agreeing to a meeting at another venue.(16)

Where a child is registered with a school, but the parents wish to withdraw him for teaching at home, there is a formal procedure to be followed. The Education (Pupil Registration) Regulation 9(c), 1995 sets out the conditions under which a child may be removed from the admission register of a school. His name must be removed if:

he has ceased to attend the school and the proprietor has received written notification from the parent that the pupil is receiving education otherwise than at school.(17)

Again, parents do not need to seek permission from the Local Education Authority of their intention to educate a child at home. Nor are they obliged to inform the Local Education Authority – though the proprietor of the school must report the removal of the child within ten school days.

There is an exception to this rule in the case of children registered at a school providing for special needs. Here, consent must be obtained from the Local Education Authority before removing a child – see the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulation 9(2), 1995. The purpose of this exception, though, is simply to ensure that the Local Education Authority can maintain continuity in its provision for special educational needs. It is not intended to be used to prevent education at home.

The law also provides for those parents who wish to educate their children partly at home and partly at school. In such cases, children are registered at a school for full time education – and the school collects funding from the authorities on that basis – but the child is granted leave of absence from the school. The law insists that children of school age who are registered at a school must attend regularly. However, such leave of absence does not constitute irregular attendance. During such absences, the child is officially present, though is in fact being educated elsewhere. It seems reasonable that, in such cases, the consent of the school at which the child is registered must first be obtained. Again, it is not a matter in which the Local Education Authority has any right to intervene.(18)

The Law on Home Schooling in Scotland

England and Scotland have been united under a single Crown since 1603, and under a common central government since 1707 – though this latter fact is somewhat altered by the recent establishment of a Scottish Assembly with limited powers. The Union of 1707 provided for a single country, but with two systems of law and administration. This continues to be the case with education. The law on home schooling in Scotland is broadly similar to that in England, so far as parents are not required to register their children at any school, and can educate them at home without supervision.(19)

This being said, there are significant differences with regard to withdrawing children from school. According to section 35(1) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980:

Where a child of school age who has attended a public school on one or more occasions fails without reasonable excuse to attend regularly at the said school, then, unless the education authority have consented to the withdrawal of the child from the school (which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld), his parent shall be guilty of an offence against this section.

The meaning of this is that parents who wish to withdraw their children from school must obtain the consent of the local Director of Education. The authorities will then investigate to see whether the proposed course of study is “suitable”, and may give or withhold consent for the withdrawal.

The Scottish Executive has refused to give any detailed guidance on how the right to withdrawal is to be exercised, and there is a shortage of Scottish case law on the matter. However, it is generally assumed that the English case law generally applies; and this would be taken into account by the Scottish courts in the event of any legal proceedings.

The Law on Home Schooling in Northern Ireland

The northern six counties of Ireland are part of the United Kingdom, and are governed – depending on political circumstances – either directly from London or by a local executive body. As with Scotland, Northern Ireland has its own legal and administrative system.

The wording of the relevant legislation is copied directly from the English Act. Section 45(1) of the Education and Libraries Northern Ireland Order 1986 states that:

The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.(20)

Parents have an unquestioned legal right to educate their children at home, and may withdraw their children if already registered at a school in the same way as in England. As with Scotland, there is a shortage of local case law on the interpretation of the legislation. Again, though, it is assumed that the English case law would be taken into account in any legal proceedings.

The Numbers of Children in Home Schooling

Because parents are not required by law to inform anyone of their decision, there is no reliable way of knowing how many children in the United Kingdom are educated at home. All numbers given in the literature are estimates based on extrapolations, and there is much dispute about the reliability of the underlying methodologies. According to Roland Meighan, now retired but formerly the special professor of education at Nottingham University, there could be as many as 84,000 children in England educated at home. That is about one per cent of the English school population.(21) However, Brenda Holloway, a trustee of the Home Education Advisory Service,(22) his methodology is flawed. He takes the 7,000 families registered with the various home education organisations, multiples this by three on the assumption that there are three children per family, and then further multiplies by four on the assumption that only one in four families bothers to register.(23) These multipliers are no more than guesses, and so the figure of 84,000 cannot be accepted as an accurate measurement of the numbers.

With this in mind, it is worth noting other alleged numbers, without necessarily accepting their reliability. According to Eileen Wilson, “informal spokesperson’ for Education Otherwise” there were, as of May 2000, 25,000 British families educating their own children.(24) According to Leslie Safran, founder of The Otherwise Club, there were, as of May 2004, as many as 150,000 children being educated at home in the United Kingdom.(25) According to Alison Preuss, of the Schoolhouse Home Education Association, there were, as of August 2004, 6,000 children being educated at home in Scotland.(26) According to the journalist Morag Lindsay, there were, as of February 2002, 50,000 children being educated at home in Scotland.(27) Radically different figures are thrown around in reporting and in debates. They are copied from statement to statement and often garbled in the process. Most of the time, their provenance is unknown, and their underlying methodology cannot even be guessed. No one knows what the numbers are. No one can know unless the British Government will include some relevant questions in the 2011 census. Even then, no one will probably know the truth, as there is good reason the believe that many people involved in home schooling are too suspicious of the authorities to risk revealing themselves.(28)

A further difficulty in measuring or even estimating the number of children educated at home is the loose definition of home schooling. It can cover those children who never go to school, those who attend but with leave of absence, and those who go to school for several years of their education, but only before or after being taught at home. Doubtless, other sub-categories can be imagined. We do not know the overall numbers. We do not know the numbers in any of these sub-categories. We therefore cannot know what proportion each sub-category is to the whole.

Nevertheless, there are two facts about the numbers of which we can be reasonably sure. First, we know that home schooling is not confined to any one social or religious group. It is not the case that all – or perhaps even the majority – of parents who choose to educate their children at home are religious fundamentalists or well-educated middle class dissenters from the mainstream. In 2002, Paula Rothermel of the University of Durham published her research Home-Education: Rationales, Practices and Outcomes. In this, she explored the aims and practices of families involved in home schooling. Her methodology involved a questionnaire survey completed by 419 families and 196 assessments evaluating the psychosocial and academic development of home-educated children aged eleven years and under. She found that at least 14 per cent of the parents in the sample were employed in manual and unskilled occupations; and that at least 38 per cent of parents in the study had been educated at comprehensive schools and at least 21 per cent had no post-school qualifications. Whilst 47.5 per cent of parents had attended university, at least 27.7 per cent of parents in the study had not. The families studied included travellers, those on low incomes, those whose children had been in care, religious believers, ethnic minorities, single parents, and gay couples. In short, the study showed that parents from just about every group in society choose to educate their children at home.(29)

Second, it is uncontested that the numbers of children being educated at home has risen considerably during the past generation. We do not need to accept the claim by Professor Meighan that the number of families involved rose from ten in 1977 to 10,000 in 1997.(30) But the weight of anecdotal evidence, and the fact that home schooling is increasingly discussed in the media, and the increasing perception of – and perhaps just the increase in – the reasons why parents choose to educate their children at home, indicates a substantial rise in numbers.

The Reasons for Home Schooling

The reasons why parents choose to educate their children at home or all or part of the time are perhaps as many as the parents involved. This being so, we can divide the reasons under several broad headings. There is dissatisfaction with discipline or safety at school. There is dissatisfaction with the quality of the curriculum offered by the schools. There are religious or ideological objections to the whole experience of education as provided by the state sector. It is not possible to know which of these is the main reason. In many cases, it is a combination of many reasons that has led to the decision to educate at home. But the reasons are worth separating so far as possible, and discussing in the order given.

Discipline and Safety

In its anti-bullying pack, Bullying: Don’t Suffer in Silence, the Department for Education and Skills adopts a wide definition of the word. Bullying is defined as:

  • physical – hitting, kicking, taking belongings

  • verbal – name calling, insulting, making offensive remarks

  • indirect – spreading nasty stories about someone, exclusion from social groups, being made the subject of malicious rumours(31)

The information pack uses information gathered from a survey of five primary schools and 14 secondary schools across England in 1997, taking evidence from 2,308 pupils aged ten to 14 years. It showed that bullying then, as defined, was widespread. 32.3 per cent of children reported that they had been bullied once or twice, and 4.1 per cent that they were bullied several times a week.(32) The risks of bullying were stated to be:

Victims may be reluctant to attend school and are often absent. They may be more anxious and insecure than others, having fewer friends and often feeling unhappy and lonely. Victims can suffer from low self-esteem and negative self-image, looking upon themselves as failures – feeling stupid, ashamed and unattractive.

Victims may present a variety of symptoms to health professionals, including fits, faints, vomiting, limb pains, paralysis, hyperventilation, visual symptoms, headaches, stomach aches, bed wetting, sleeping difficulties and sadness. Being bullied may lead to depression or, in the most serious cases, attempted suicide. It may lead to anxiety, depression, loneliness and lack of trust in adult life.(33)

In 2002, it was reported that more than 20 children every year in Britain were committing suicide because bullying and other pressures at school.(34) In the summer term of 2003, 12,800 children in England were suspended from school for attacking other pupils and a further 336 were expelled, presumably for more vicious attacks; 4,000 others were suspended and 280 excluded permanently for assaulting adults.(35)

Though schools are required to take the matter seriously, it is in practice very hard to police bullying. Teachers cannot be present at all times in the class and playground – and certainly cannot control what happens on the way to and from school. And even reporting a bully can make things worse for a child.

Not surprisingly, experience or just fear of bullying has prompted many parents to educate their children at home. According to Belinda Harris Reed of Education Otherwise:

We are getting 100 new families a month. I don’t think that people take on home educating lightly. Now most people take their children out of school because of bullying, not like me for a philosophical viewpoint.(36)

Take the case of Edward Lupton. In 1993, when he was 13, he decided to leave school because of persistent bullying. He explains:

I was picked on at school, and by one boy in particular. Whenever I walked past he’d say “Jelly belly’ or ‘You’re so fat”.(37)

The bully made his life miserable. He had lost his father in a car crash at the age of three. He was bullied about not having a father as well as about being overweight. Eventually, he took himself out of school and studied at home with his mother.

Take the case of Christianna, who:

was twelve when her parents reluctantly withdrew her from school in March 1996. Christianna is a very bright girl and her parents had been pleased initially when their daughter gained a place at a prestigious girl’s grammar school.

Christianna’s father was a further education lecturer and her mother a primary teacher, Christianna has a brother a few years younger. Family circumstances were not easy. Mr. K was suffering from cancer and had been unable to work full-time for several years. Mrs. K also worked as a supply teacher as the burden of caring for two children and a sick husband had made full-time work impossible. The family had very little money and lived in a somewhat derelict house situated in the middle of woods close to an otherwise densely populated urban centre.

Christianna was badly bullied at school; she did not fit in. Although the school was selective Christianna was called a ‘Boff’, as she was keen to learn and possibly envied for her exceptional ability and the ease with which she learned. The other girls all seemed to have plenty of money for fashionable clothes and were more interested in pop music and boys than their studies. This at least was Christianna’s perception.(38)

It is unlikely that the problem of bullying has diminished in recent years. It has now been joined by ethnic gang fights in areas of high immigration, extortion rackets, drug abuse, sexual predation, and a general mirroring within school of the social problems that now take up so much of the political debate in Britain.

Curriculum and Quality of Instruction

Though the claim is hotly denied by the Government and other interested bodies, it is widely believed that standards of education have been steadily falling in the state sector. Every year, the examination results suggest steady improvement, with more passes than ever before and higher grades. This is increasingly dismissed as a statistical illusion brought about by making the papers easier and by lowering the marking standards. According to Peter Oborne, writing in The Spectator,

An important series of articles in the Economist has shown how a growing number of universities now regard A-levels as such a worthless measure of achievement that they are searching for other methods of assessing potential students. In medical and veterinary science, six of the top faculties in Britain now select through a special biomedical admissions test. Eight law schools are now following suit, with a legal aptitude test. Other universities have simply given up on A-levels as a method of sorting out bright students. Leeds Metropolitan and Huddersfield universities, which have 20 applicants for each physiotherapy place, just choose successful applicants randomly from those with the right grades.(39)

In 2003, Channel Four screened a series called That’ll Teach ‘Em. In this, a class was assembled of 16 year old students who had achieved high grades in the General Certificate of Secondary Education examinations. These were given four weeks of the sort of education a grammar school had provided in the 1950s and then set examinations based on the old O Level papers. Most did badly in English Language and English Literature. Most failed Mathematics and about half History. “Most people failed maths” said Thomas Jewell, normally a pupil at Churchill community school in north Somerset. “It was quite hard. We weren’t able to use a calculator and we had a lot of arithmetic to do.”(40)

Commenting on the series, Chris Woodhead, the former Chief Inspector of Schools, said comparing GSCEs and O Levels was a valid exercise. “The fact is today’s students do not have the ability to write an essay” he said “and they do not have the body of knowledge that was needed to do well in a O-level. GCSEs have been dumbed down.”(41)

Added to declining education standards is the growth of bureaucratic control over the whole system. The National Curriculum was introduced in 1988 as a means of raising standards across England. It has become an inflexible burden on schools, effectively centralising control over education. It determines the content of what will be taught, and sets attainment targets for learning. It also determines how performance will be assessed and reported. Naturally, it constrains all effort at innovation, and prevents the tailoring of curriculum to the actual or perceived needs of children.

Mary Rose is a former school teacher living in Gloucestershire. She started educating her five children at home after the introduction of the national Curriculum in 1988. She voices the growing belief that the state sector is now so rigid that it cannot accommodate the needs of individual children:

In the old days teachers had time to build up a rapport with children…. But now, immediately after the register it’s on with the numeracy and literacy hour and everything is scripted. There’s been a sea change in the approach to education.(42)

Radical disenchantment with the state education system, and with those parts of the independent sector that follow the National Curriculum, has determined many parents to educate their children at home. Some parents choose home schooling as a first alternative. Others choose it only because they cannot afford the preferred alternative of a special school in the independent sector.

Take the case of Molly, aged nine, reported by Mike Alpress and Eileen Turnbull:

She lives on a run down council estate, close to drug dealers and addicts, on the outskirts of a large Essex Town. Neither of her parents work, her Father has been unemployed for many years. Her older siblings, both articulate and intelligent, were home educated for some years but now attend school.

Molly is a gifted child, with a flare for mathematics in particular. She is currently studying for G.C.S.E. Maths with a view to taking the exam next Summer. It has come to the stage that she is now better than her parents at maths and they are at a loss as to how to meet her needs. Contact has been made with the National Association for Gifted Children, and Molly’s Father has tried to ‘tap-in’ to some of the current government innovations for clever children, but has, thus far, been frustrated due to many of them only taking place in the larger cities. The family do not own a car and the cost and paucity of public transport makes it difficult for them to travel outside the immediate locality.

Molly’s parents are reluctant to send her to a local school as they feel she will be ‘different’ and not get the teaching she requires. To send her to a ‘good’ state school outside the local area would mean having to pay fares, which they cannot afford. They obviously are not in a position to pay for a place at an independent school for Molly, and do not have any guarantees that she would get the teaching she needs even if they were to afford it.

Molly studies all areas of the curriculum. Her work rate is colossal with reams of recorded work. Comparatively little practical work is done, probably because of the cost of materials. She does have books, but the vast majority of them are ‘hand-me downs’ from when her elder siblings were educated at home. Expensive visits out are few and far between. However, Molly is a talented all rounder. She plays several musical instruments, including piano (for which she has lessons) and guitar. She swims for the local Swimming club, plays hockey and is a member of the local St John’s Ambulance Brigade.(43)

Religious and Ideological Dissent

The curriculum provided within the great majority of British schools is secular in tone. It is also neutral or even liberal on matters of sexual conduct. This is so in the state sector, and also in much of the independent sector – not excepting even the religious schools. There are deeply religious families who find this unacceptable, who cannot afford or otherwise gain access to alternative schooling, and who therefore choose home schooling. They choose this for the negative reason, just stated, that the schools available are said to be agents of secular humanist indoctrination, and for the positive reason that their faith requires learning to be integrated into home life.

Take the example of Stuart McKay, a Pentecostalist preacher, and his wife Diane, the manager of a charity shop. Interviewed in 2002, they said they were motivated by their strong Christian faith to educate their six older children at home, and that they would educate their youngest child at home as soon as she was able to understand the instruction. Mrs McKay adds:

We do it partly because the Bible says it is the parents’ duty to teach their children. But also when Reuben [their eldest child] was about to start school 10 years ago, there was a big thing about bullying…. We wanted to teach him ourselves. It worked so well, we carried on with the rest of our children.(44)

Take Jane Villalobos, a Roman Catholic mother of four from Birmingham. She was concerned that her children would lose their faith if they attended school. She says:

I looked at Catholic schools and felt that the chances of my children still practising their faith at the age of 18 would be very slim…. I felt that the most important thing for all of them was to keep their faith.

She decided to educate her children at home, wondering

if I would be undermining the system by taking them out…. But ultimately, as a parent your responsibility is for your own children.(45)

It is not only Christians who educate their children at home. Rubana Akhgar is a Moslem living in Ilford. She belongs to a radical group that believes in turning Britain into an Islamic state. She does not trust the education that her children would receive in even the most firmly Islamic independent school. So she educates them at home. She says:

I want to protect my children from this society and bring them up in a strict Islamic environment so that it becomes a complete way of life for them. I don’t think they will reject it but if they did I would be devastated because they would end up in hellfire for the hereafter.(46)

Nor is it only the strongly religious who have a principled objection to school. Take Roland Meighan, the retired academic already mentioned. He is a radical liberal in his politics. He quotes Bertrand Russell in nearly all his writings. He is an advocate of the look-say method of learning to read, and despises the phonic system so loved by educational conservatives. For him, the great benefit of home schooling is not that it serves to bring a child up within a minority tradition, but that it liberates the mind and creates true individuality. Children do not need to be sent to school to learn, he says. Instead;

Parents soon find out that young children are natural learners. They are like explorers or research scientists busily gathering information and making meaning out of the world. Most of this learning is not the result of teaching, but rather a constant and universal learning activity as natural as breathing. Our brains are programmed to learn unless discouraged. A healthy brain stimulates itself by interacting with what it finds interesting or challenging in the world around it. It learns from any mistakes and operates a self-correcting process.(47)

Intellectually, he is an heir of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who, in his Emile, ou l’éducation, argued for a form of private education that preserved the inherent goodness of an alleged natural state while also providing the instruction needed to become a successful, and therefore a moral, person.(48) It is the duty of parents to support this natural process – encouraging, supporting, tolerating, above all understanding that it is through their own efforts that children learn to make sense of their world, and also “acquire the attitudes and skills necessary for successful learning throughout their lives”. The process can be slowed and even wholly prevented by “insensitive adult interference”.

Sadly, the schools available to us, whether state or private, are often based on an impositional model which, sooner or later, causes children to lose confidence in their natural learning and its self-correcting features, and instead, learn to be dependent on others to ‘school’ their minds.(49)

He says elsewhere:

It’s a fascist doctrine which says you’ve got to force people to learn, that they won’t do it without compulsion.(50)

For Professor Meighan and those who agree with him, home schooling is the ultimate in progressive education. Indeed, many such people dislike the term home schooling. They are happier with unschooling. Their objection to school is not necessarily the content of education, but the process of its delivery. Like Professor Meighan, they believe that there should be no artificial boundaries between playing and learning and working or between ages. For them, education is a process that begins at birth, and is best achieved by encouraging each individual to learn by himself.(51)

There are many other reasons for home schooling. One of the strangest is the lack of provision by local authorities. In 2002, Anthony Dixon was among 80 other children in the London Borough of Hackney who, because of a failure of planning by the Local Education Authority, were left without any school at all and had to be taught at home.(52) This kind of home schooling by default comes into a separate category. However, what mostly connects parents who choose to educate their children at home is a dislike of the formal school curriculum and its delivery as these have emerged in recent years.

Methods of Home Schooling

For obvious reasons, it is not possible to describe – except at immense length – the methods that parents use for teaching their children at home. Some parents follow the National Curriculum at home, believing that they can do better than the state schools. So far as possible, they duplicate schools at home, complete with fixed hours, textbooks, report cards, and field trips. Others reject the National Curriculum, preferring to concentrate on Music or Latin, or whatever they themselves think a “suitable” education for their children. This may involve some duplication of school. It may also involve a much less conventional style of education. As said, the devoutly religious prefer to integrate instruction into normal family life. Those who share the views of Professor Meighan will use methods many regard as at least eccentric.(53)

Take the case of Mika and Naomi van Hees:

It’s nearly noon on a damp Thursday in term time, and two seven-year-old sisters are bouncing and laughing on a big trampoline behind their house in deepest Wales. Their mother is looking on with a fond smile, their father watches as he walks past with a bucket to feed the ducks. Why aren’t they at school?

They are, in a sense. Mika and Naomi are home-educated, and, except for some formal lessons with their father on Mondays and outside lessons in gymnastics and piano, they do pretty much what they want. That might be using the computer, playing chess and backgammon or helping to bake bread for the 15 members of this 160-acre ‘eco-community’ a few miles from the wild Pembrokeshire coast.

‘We give them the space not to do something until they’re ready for it,’ says their mother, Anja van Hees. ‘They have such perseverance when they’re interested, like when they helped to cut down an ash tree. Sometimes they might draw all day long, or they might do nothing and just go to bed – they’re very in tune with their physical needs.’

The girls are identical twins, but with different interests: Naomi loves horses and has learnt to read – her favourite book is Hansel and Gretel. Mika doesn’t read yet and prefers numbers and learning tables. ‘I’ve been building Lego and doing jigsaws this morning,’ she says.

But they share a wary attitude towards formal schooling, even though they have friends at the local primary in Newport. ‘School’s not very nice because you have to stay inside all the time,’ says Naomi. ‘But I might go to college when I’m more grown up.’ Mika adds: ‘You’re locked inside a building and you have to do what they say. The only time you can go out is at playtime. Here we can go out and see the animals when we want.’(54)

What cannot be doubted is the wealth of resources available to parents who choose to educate their children at home. Until the 1980s, the main resource other than the knowledge of parents themselves was books bought or borrowed form libraries. This was then supplemented by videos and floppy disks of material, mostly acquired form the United States. Nowadays, a Google search using the terms “home schooling” or “homeschooling” and “resources” will turn up tens of thousands of pages catering to every possible religious and philosophical and other point of view. There are lesson plans, and software packages, and advice to parents on teaching methods and dealing with special needs, and whole scanned texts. Much of this, inevitably, is American. But this is no problem for British home schoolers. Given the ubiquity of Internet access – either in the home or in public libraries – no one can claim that children educated at home are necessarily deprived of suitable learning materials.

In his specific praise of home schooling, Professor Meighan speaks for himself and for only a section of the whole movement. But in his claims about its modern feasibility, he speaks for all:

Schools were established in an information-poor society, but we’re in an information-rich society now: there’s radio, TV, video, the internet, books and specialist magazines. Of course people can do it at home.(55)

The Effects of Home Schooling

The effects, however defined and measured, of educating children at home are generally claimed to be at least satisfactory. This may be because they are. But, as repeatedly said, we do not know how many children are being educated at home. The large home schooling movement in Britain, and the much larger movement in the United States both lay stress on the benefits of educating children at home. So do most academic researchers. But home schooling is only likely to be reported when it is successful. There may be many – even many more – failures which are not reported. In estimating the effects of home schooling, we may be in the position of a man who studies gambling by only looking at those come forward and talk about their winnings.

This sceptical point being made – and it must be kept in mind – it is worth looking at the conclusions reached by Dr Rothermel, which are the largest and most rigorous available for the United Kingdom. She reports that:

The results show that 64% of the home-educated Reception aged children scored over 75% on their PIPS Baseline Assessments as opposed to 5.1% of children nationally. The National Literacy Project (Years 1,3,5) assessment results reveal that 80.4% of the home-educated children scored within the top 16% band (of a normal distribution bell curve), whilst 77.4% of the PIPS Year 2 home-educated cohort scored similarly. Results from the psychosocial instruments confirm the home-educated children were socially adept and without behavioural problems. Overall, the home-educated children demonstrated high levels of attainment and good social skills(56)

She also notes that the children of working class, poorly-educated parents were doing significantly better than middle class children. While five and six year old children from middle class backgrounds scored only 55.2 per cent in the test, they scored 71 per cent. Dr Rothermel suspects the cause of this is that working class parents are much harder at pushing their children, even they are less obviously qualified to teach them at home.(57)

What anecdotal evidence can be acquired is also broadly positive. Take, for example, the case of Farooq and Halimahton Yusof, who live in England. They taught all five of their children at home. Al five excelled in mathematics, and entered university several years before is normally the case.(58) Or take the case of Anthony Dixon, already mentioned. Though he was taught at home not because his parents positively chose home schooling, his progress at home was reported to be excellent.(59)

Against this, take a case just reported to the author of this paper by a friend in conversation. His sister, who like him, was educated at a technical school in Kent during the 1970s – technical schools were set up after 1944 to prepare children for careers in engineering and the other technical sectors – decided to educate her three children at home. She had no educational qualifications and no particular skills as a teacher. She did not really teach her children. Instead, “they were left to drag themselves up”. The results were not impressive. They were perhaps no obvious advertisement for home schooling. But they were not that badly either.

The children are now in their early 20s. The eldest runs his own business, and is literate and numerate enough to handle all the administration of the business. The middle child is presently training as a physical education instructor. The youngest – her only daughter – is pregnant and considering marriage to the father. All three children are said to be remarkably self-confident in their dealings with the world. While they had, during their education at home, little contact with children of their own age, they did mix with a wide circle of people from other age groups. The author’s friend has sent his own children to the local school. He is not unhappy with the quality of education, but he worries about the “negative attitudes” of the children with whom they mix. He complains about their “poor sense of values and aspirations, especially in the educational field”.

This is the least favourable anecdotal evidence the author can find of the effects of being educated at home. To repeat, it is not that bad. Doubtless, there are terrible cases known to various social workers – cases, for example, where children are taken out of school or never sent there in the first place, and who run wild. This, however, brings us to the unmapped frontier that divides some kind of “suitable” education from outright truancy.

It seems that the main disadvantage of educating children at home is the often very high opportunity cost. Usually, one of the parents must stay at home part of the time to supervise the education. Often, one parent must stay at home all the time. This means the loss of part or all of one salary – a considerable sacrifice in a country like Britain which, though very rich overall, has a high cost of living and relatively high taxes. There are the costs of seeking the necessary materials. There are the costs of sending children for examination at special centres – costs which, assuming nine GCSEs and four of the new modular A Levels, may run to around £1,000 per child.

See Mrs E.J. Keele, writing to a national newspaper in January 2004:

I’M A ‘stay-at-home mum’ who is in the happy position of being able to afford not to work. But that freedom does come at a price.

My family doesn’t have lavish holidays, and my husband and I are often forced to go without for the sake of our children.

My husband’s salary keeps a roof over our heads, food in our mouths and pays the bills, and the family allowance of £150 a month keeps our three children clothed and in shoes.(60)

Unless one of the parents is in an occupation that pays an income well above the national average, the decision to educate children at home involves considerable sacrifice for the whole family.

Calls for the Regulation of Home Schooling

While the law, in England at least, has never placed any barriers to the right of parents to educate their children at home, and while there is no significant evidence to suggest that children are suffering by not going to school, there are the beginnings in Britain of organised opposition to home schooling.

In June 2004, Kim Tomsett spoke at the conference in Bournemouth of the Professional Association of Teachers, which is one of the main teaching trade unions. She called for home schooling to be regulated. In particular, she called or a change in the law to make it compulsory for parents to submit to external monitoring. She explained:

These are the only group of children who have no consistent level of monitoring or inspection yet are the only group taught in the main by those with no qualifications.(61)

Ms Tomsett appears to be a lone voice in England. There are ugly stories to be found in the newspapers. It seems that some authorities are trying to conflate home schooling with truancy. Individual officials have been accused of threatening parents known to be educating their children at home – saying that their children would be put on the “at-risk” register. There is one story of a school that informed a mother that it was illegal for her to take one child out of school following the suicide of another who had been bullied there.(62) But none of this yet reflects official policy. The official policy remains the statement, already given, of the relevant minister:

Parents are allowed to educate their children at home instead of school if they choose to do so. Under English law, it is education that is compulsory, not schooling.

In Scotland, though, there is far more opposition to home schooling, and this is becoming official policy there. Writing about the case of the McKay family, given above, Mark Brown objects very strongly – if with a poor grasp of the rules of argumentation – to the notion of keeping children out of formal schooling:

I, for one, deplore their decision. And I’m sure I’m not alone….

Unless we want to live in a society with a strictly imposed state religion, we should uphold the idea of a complete separation of church and state.

That means, where education is concerned, there should be no religious instruction in schools….

With no experience of school, the McKays’ kids will hear very few views other than those of their parents. As devout Christians, can the couple really be trusted to give a balanced picture where questions such as evolution or sex education are concerned?

As for bullying, of course, violence and intimidation take place in our playgrounds, and it is a problem which needs to be much more openly and thoroughly addressed.

That said, removing our kids from the classroom is not the answer. We can’t wrap our children in cotton wool and try to keep them away from the difficulties of life.

In fact, the social skills kids learn at school are immensely important in preparing them for later life.

There is much more at stake in the case of the McKay family than the future of their own children, however.

Opting children out of the education system implies that state schools are unfit to teach our young people.

That is an absolute insult to Scotland’s teachers. Despite the disgraceful suggestions of some politicians and newspaper editors, teachers are not responsible for the problems which exist within Scottish education.

A Labour government should be taxing the wealthy to pay for a state education system we can all be proud of, not pandering to people like the McKays who think our teachers are unfit to educate their children.(63)

Judith Gillespie, development manager of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, agrees:

Part of the point of school is that children learn to cope with what the world will throw at them in a comparatively safe environment…. They need to learn to deal with the awkward squad, because, at some time in their lives, they are bound to meet people like that.

She feels there is a danger that children who are educated at home will be influenced by their parents’ “prejudices”:

One of the most important things, is that children need space away from their parents to find out who they really are…. At secondary age, children are generally embarrassed by their parents, mortified if they turn up at the school gates – and that’s how it should be…. If in later life they turn out to share the same values as their parents then that’s fine, but they need to have the chance to find out for themselves.(64)

There is an official attempt in Scotland to make home schooling less easy for parents. In 2002, the Scottish Executive, which is the devolved government of the country, proposes that local authorities should be able to use details from the United Kingdom Census, from birth registers, from medical records, and from other confidential sources, to identify those children being educated at home. Members of the Scottish Parliament also tried to change the law so that parents who took their children out of school and then moved to another area would be required to inform the authorities in the same way as if they had stayed in the original area. Not surprisingly, these proposals have been bitterly fought by the home schooling movement – not just in Scotland, but also in the United Kingdom as a whole, and also from America, where there is a far larger and more organised movement. The law remains unchanged, but the proposals have not gone away.

One reason given for hostility to home schooling has already been discussed – that children educated at home may not receive a “suitable” education. Another reason given is the general welfare of the children. According to John Stodter, who is the Director of Education in Aberdeen,

The issue here is about the protection, safety and welfare of children…. It’s about making sure every child is known to the authorities. Some parents are worried that the new legislation means they’re going to be subject to all sorts of checks but that’s not the case. Our responsibility is simply to ensure some education is being provided and that the general welfare of the child is being looked after.(65)

The natural implication of this is that children who do not go to school may, unless inspected by the authorities, suffer some kind of abuse by their parents. However, while there is reasonably full and undoubtedly sad evidence from schools and other institutions run by the state, there has to date been not one instance reported of bullying, or sexual abuse, or suicide or murder within a British family that educates its children at home.

It is an incompetent – and even immoral – mode of argumentation to oppose a point of view by simply looking for psychological or other interested reasons for advancing that view. It is far better on all grounds to take the view in itself and to oppose it as incorrect in itself. This being said, the case against home schooling is so weak, and yet – in some places – so firmly advanced, that it is necessary to look for other reasons than whether it is incorrect in itself. Three reasons almost suggest themselves. There is the professional jealousy of teachers. There is an abstract passion to regulate. There is an ideological agenda.

Professional Jealousy

Teaching seldom brings much in the way of material reward. Teaching in the state sector is often morally unrewarding as well. Not surprisingly, teachers may feel personally offended when they learn that some parents do not value their contribution to enlightenment and civilisation. As Mark Brown puts it, home schooling “is an absolute insult to Scotland’s teachers”. As the number of children educated at home grows, and as discussion of that option becomes more frequent, the various teaching unions and other interest groups will become more opposed to home schooling. They will emphasise its alleged deficiencies, and call for regulations. These may be light in the first instance. They may simply involve the identification and accurate counting of children educated at home. But, as has often been the case, to identify something can be the prelude to its strict regulation or even its effective prohibition.

The Passion to Regulate

As in the rest of the English-speaking world, Britain is subject to a heavy and growing weight of regulation. This is not the place to discuss whether any specific regulation is justified. It is enough to say that there is a general assumption among those who matter that everything that is done by the people must be known to the authorities and controlled by them.

During the ten years to the 23rd September 2004, the phrase “completely unregulated” occurs 153 times in the British newspaper press. In all cases, unless used satirically, the phrase is part of a condemnation of some activity. We are told that the advertising of food to children,(66) residential lettings agents,(67) funeral directors,(68) rock climbing,(69) alleged communication with the dead,(70) salons and tanning shops,(71) contracts for extended warranties on home appliances,(72) and anything to do with the Internet – that these are all “almost completely unregulated” or just “completely unregulated”, and that the authorities had better do something about the fact.

Now, home schooling falls straight into this category. Though so far left alone by the authorities in England, it is surprising that this has been left alone for so long, and perhaps astonishing that there have been so few calls for its regulation.

Ideological Agenda

There is a strand of neo-Marxist thinking that claims schooling to be the means by which capitalism reproduces itself: it instils in working class children a set of values hostile to their true interests.(73) In its specifics, this is an unlikely claim. It is true, however, in its generality. As with most neo-Marxist theory, it says little about what is being attacked, but much about the intentions of those making the attack. State schools do not turn out adults who believe in the rule of law and in free enterprise. But they often do their best to turn out adults who are inclined to believe in the opposite. Though state education seems in the urban areas of Britain to be approaching the point where little seems to be taught either good or bad, and the popular media has largely taken over the job, state education has for as long as it has existed been the reproduction mechanism for various kinds of statist ideology. Until the middle of the 20th century, it was the means by which people were made into good nationalists: would ten million young men have marched semi-willingly to their death in the Great War without the prior conditioning of state education? Since then, it has been captured by the radical socialists.

Since the 1980s, Dennis O’Keeffe, now Professor of Sociology and the University of Buckingham, has been analysing the capture of education by the neo-Marxists. They dominate teacher training. They run the institutions, and they determine the modes of instruction. Student teachers are required to read and discuss and thereby absorb the works of Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault, among others. Professor O’Keeffe describes teacher training as

a missionising ideology. The world is [said to be] intolerable. It is full of unacceptable hierarchies. It is the duty of teacher education, at least so far as the school-world is concerned, remorselessly to combat these hierarchies. All cultures are equal, all histories equally valid.. God is dead, but the religions of equal opportunity more than make up the inspirational deficit.(74)

Perhaps, as with the indoctrination of any established ideology, students pass without reading or read without absorbing. Even so, enough gets through to the class room. Professor O’Keeffe finds that

socialist ideas pervade education…. These ideas are dangerous in their universalist form, when they propose Utopian equalities, and in their latest, separatist incarnations, where equality is reserved for insider groups like women, blacks and non-western cultures, everything male, white or western being derided and opposed as inferior or oppressive.(75)

This being so, it is natural that the neo-Marxists should see home schooling as a challenge to their own hegemony in education. To be sure, these are not pantomime villains, and they do not sit about complaining how their “conspiracy” risks being frustrated. Instead, they believe they are doing a good and necessary job, and are concerned that at least some children are missing the benefits that they dispense.

We see this explicitly in the writing of Michael W. Apple, an American academic. He claims that the educational policies promoted by a coalition of “rightist” groups – he calls them the forces of “conservative modernization”: neoliberals, neoconservatives, authoritarian populists, and “the managerial and professional new middle class”(76) – entail terrible consequences, which, if left unchecked, threaten all but to destroy public education in America. In particular, home schooling is an example of “individualized behavior” that “threatens to undermine the quality of public education”.(77)

He is still more explicit in a shorter work:

While it is quite probable that some specific children and families will gain from home schooling, my concerns are larger. They are connected to the more extensive restructuring of this society that I believe is quite dangerous and to the manner in which our very sense of public responsibility is withering in ways that will lead to even further social inequalities. In order to illuminate these dangers, I shall have to do a number of things: situate home schooling within the larger movement that provides much of its impetus; suggest its connections with other protectionist impulses; connect it to the history of and concerns about the growth of activist government; and, finally, point to how it may actually hurt many other students who are not home schooled….

I have used this essay to raise a number of critical questions about the economic, social, and ideological tendencies that often stand behind significant parts of the home schooling movement. In the process, I have situated it within larger social movements that I and many others believe can have quite negative effects on our sense of community, on the health of the public sphere, and on our commitment to building a society that is less economically and racially stratified. I have suggested that issues need to be raised about the effects of its commitment to ‘cocooning,’ its attack on the state, and its growing use of public funding with no public accountability.(78)

Parents who choose home schooling are taking children away from schools where they might otherwise be taught how to help build a new kind of society in which everyone will accept the common doctrines of political correctness.

Concluding Remarks

There can be no doubt that – whatever may be the numbers overall – the number of children educated at home has increased and is increasing. During the next few years, it is also at least reasonable to believe that there will be a debate over whether the numbers ought to be diminished. On the one side will be the supporters of an activist state, divided as to their motivation, but united in their belief that education should be supervised by the authorities. On the other will be the home schooling parents. Most of these may be hiding, and they will continue to see safety in concealment. Those who are visible can be expected to fight all efforts at regulation with a passion not seen in British politics within living memory.

We may, then, be returning to something like the debates of the middle and late Victorian years, when education was considered more than just a matter of funding and standards.


1. Quoted in Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, The English Public School Phenomenon, 597-1977, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1977, p.61.

2. See E.G. West, Education and the State: A Study in Political Economy, Institute for Economic Affairs, London, 1965. His later essay, The Economics of Compulsion: The Twelve-Year Sentence, 1974, is available on line at: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/egwest/pdfs/economics%20of%20compulsion.pdf (checked September 2004).

3. From John Kenrick, Noel Coward: Biographical Sketch: http://www.musicals101.com/noelbio.htm (checked September 2004)

4. From a biography provided at http://www.online-literature.com/agatha_christie/ (checked September 2004)

5. Quoted by Madeleine Kingsley, “In a class of their own”, The Times, London, 28th February 1998.

6. From a biography provided by the C.S. Lewis Foundation: http://www.cslewis.org/resources/chronocsl.html (checked September 2004)

7. These debates are described at length in West, op. cit., 1965.

8. From “Educating Children at Home”, The Parent Centre, available on line at: http://www.parentcentre.gov.uk/publishContent.cfm?topicAreaId=61&c=generic&r=8&do=list#97 (checked September 2004)

9. Article, “A matter for debate” This is Hampshire (local newspaper), Basingstoke, 3rd June 2004.

10. The full text of the Education Act 1996 is available on line at: http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1996/96056-za.htm (checked September 2004)

11. Reported as Harrison & Harrison v Stevenson (QB (DC) 729/81)

12. Reported as R v Secretary of State for Education and Science, ex parte Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass School Trust (1985) (Law Report in The Times, London, 12 April 1985)

13. The Act provides:

If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education. (s 437 (1))

14. Reported as R v Gwent County Council ex parte Perry (1985) 129S.J. 737:CA

15. Phillips v Brown, Divisional Court [20 June 1980, unreported] ). See this statement from Lord Donaldson:

Of course such a request is not the same as a notice under s 37 (1) of the Education Act 1944 [now s 437 (1) of the Education Act 1996] and the parents will be under no duty to comply. However it would be sensible for them to do so. If parents give no information or adopt the course… of merely stating that they are discharging their duty without giving any details of how they are doing so, the LEA will have to consider and decide whether it ‘appears’ to it that the parents are in breach of s 36 [now s 7 of the Education Act 1996].

16. “Educating Children at Home”, The Parent Centre, available on line at: http://www.parentcentre.gov.uk/publishContent.cfm?topicAreaId=61&c=generic&r=8&do=list#97 (checked September 2004)

17. Available on line at: http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/si/si1995/Uksi_19952089_en_1.htm (checked September 2004)

18. Education Act 1996, ss 444(3)(a), 444(9)

19. The relevant law is the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, not available on line. Section 30 of the Act states:

It shall be the duty of the parent of every child of school age to provide efficient education for him suitable to his age, ability and aptitude either by causing him to attend a public school regularly or by other means.

This is qualified by Section 28(1):

In the exercise and performance of their powers and duties under this Act the Secretary of State and education authorities shall have general regard to the principle that, so far as is compatible with the provision of suitable instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure, pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents.

20. Education and Libraries Northern Ireland Order 1986 SI 1986/594, not available on line. There is an unofficial summary of the law available on line at: http://www.hedni.org/legal.html (checked September 2004)

21. He runs Educational Heretics Press, which publishes works that ” question the dogmas of schooling in particular, and education in general, and to develop the logistics of the next learning system”. The web site is at: http://edheretics.gn.apc.org/ (checked September 2004)

22. The Home Education Advisory Service web site is: http://www.heas.org.uk/ (checked September 2004)

23. Cited in Stephen Cook, “Home front”, The Guardian, London and Manchester, 18th December 2002.

24. Maureen Freely, “Home is where the class is”, The Observer, London and Manchester, 7th May 2000. The Education Otherwise website is at: http://www.educationotherwise.org (checked September 2004)

25. Fred Redwood, “When mum is Miss, too”, The Daily Mail, London, 4th May 2004.. The web site of the Otherwise Club is at: http://www.safran26.freeserve.co.uk/OCFrontpage.htm (checked September 2004)

26. Graham Grant “Record numbers of parents teach their children at home”, The Daily Mail, London, 10th August 2004. The Schoolhouse Home Education Association web site is at: http://www.schoolhouse.org.uk/ (checked September 2004)

27. Morag Lindsay, “Check on kitchen classrooms”, The Aberdeen Press and Journal, Aberdeen, 8th February 2002.

28. See, for example, this from an American Web site:

How does this kind of research affect homeschooling?

It leads to increased control and regulation of homeschools, it forces homeschools to become more like conventional schools, and it weakens the grassroots homeschooling networks and organizations that are the foundation of the homeschooling movement.

(Larry & Susan Kaseman, Does Homeschooling Research Help Homeschooling – available at: http://www.homeedmag.com/INF/FREE/free_rsrch.html (checked September 2004))

29. Paula Rothermel, Home-Education: Rationales, Practices and Outcomes, published 2002. Available on line at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/p.j.rothermel/Research/Researchpaper/BERAworkingpaper.htm (Checked September 2002)

30. Reported by Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer, “Governesses: are they the answer to parents’ prayers?”, The Independent, London, 11th December 1997.

31. Bullying: Don’t Suffer in Silence – an anti-bullying pack for schools, Department for Education and Skills, London, 2004, p.9. This is advertised as “based on recent research, relevant experience, and current legislation. Co-ordinated by Professor Peter Smith (Goldsmiths College, University of London).”.Available on line at: http://www.dfes.gov.uk/bullying/pdf/dfee%20bullying%20insideNEW.pdf (checked September 2004)

32. Ibid., p.10

33. Ibid., p.12

34. Jackie Turner, “Education system has a lot to learn”, The Evening News, Edinburgh, 9th February 2002.

35. From statistics published in August 2004 by Department of Education and Skills – discussed in Michael MacMahon, “Sexual jealousy whets the schoolboy’s blade”, The Sunday Telegraph, London, 1st August 2004.

36. Quoted by Polly Curtis, “More parents choose to educate children at home”, The Guardian, London and Manchester, 30th July 2004.

37. Reported by Roisin Mcauley, “Home win”, the Guardian, London and Manchester, 3rd October 1995.

38. Mike Alpress and Eileen Turnbull, “Education Otherwise – A Positive Choice?”, a paper given at the International Conference, Education for Social Democracies. Changing Forms and Sites, Institute of Education

3rd – 5th July 2000. The authors are two Local Education Authority officers who monitor and advise families who have chosen to teach their own children at home. Their paper is available on line at: http://www.worldzone.net/lifestyles/homeducation/mapap.htm

39. Peter Oborne, “How Labour ministers lie about the world and their opponents”, The Spectator, London, 21st August 2004.

40. Quoted by Claire Newell and Alison Lock, “Exam stars flop at 1950s school”, The Times, London, 31st August 2003.

41. Ibid.

42. Quoted by Stephen Cook, “Home front”, The Guardian, London and Manchester, 18th December 2002.

43. Alpress and Turnbull, op. cit.

44. Quoted in Dani Garavelli, “A class of their own”, Scotland on Sunday, Edinburgh, 1st September 2002.

45. Quoted in Tara Holmes, “In order to keep the faith, these parents want their children to learn some home truths”, The Times, London, 12th April 2003.

46. Quoted in Hannah Duguid, “Women: We want to change the world”, The Guardian, London and Manchester, 30th June 2003.

47. Roland Meighan, Natural Learning, available on line at: http://edheretics.gn.apc.org/EHT001.htm (checked September 2004)

48. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, ou l’éducation, 1762 – French text available on line at: http://projects.ilt.columbia.edu/pedagogies/rousseau/contents2.html (checked September 2004)

49. Ibid.

50. Quoted in Stephen Cook, “Home front”, The Guardian, Manchester and London, 10th December 2002.

51. For a summary of the unschooling position, see the web site of unschooling.com, available on line at: http://www.unschooling.com/index.shtml (checked September 2004). Though this is an American site, there are British unschoolers. One of these is a friend of the author. See the Taking Children Seriously web site maintained by Sarah Fitz-Claridge: http://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/ (checked September 2004)

52. David Cohen, “Do you call this parent choice?”, The Evening Standard, London, 22nd October 2002.

53. Dr Rothermel finds that 14 per cent of parents who educate their children at home followed the National Curriculum in 2002 – Rothermel, op. cit. At the least, this shows that some parents do try to duplicate the normal school syllabus.

54. Quoted in Stephen Cook, “Home front”, The Guardian, London and Manchester, 18th December 2002.

55. Ibid.

56. Rothermel, op. cit.

57. Ibid.

58. Michael Petty, “Brains of Britain”, The Times, London, 1st April 1999.

59. David Cohen, “Do you call this parent choice?”, The Evening Standard, London, 22nd October 2002.

60. Letter, E.J. Keele, “I’m so proud to be a stay-at-home mum”, The Daily Mail, London, 19th January 2004.

61. Quoted in Alexandra Blair, “Teachers want curbs on home education”, The Times, London, 30th July 2004.

62. Maureen Freely, “Home is where the class is”, The Observer, London and Manchester, 7th May 2000.

63. Mark Brown, “Why these parents have got it wrong”, The Mirror, 2nd September 2002

64. Quoted in Dani Garavelli, “A class of their own”, Scotland on Sunday, Edinburgh, 1st September 2002. The web site of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council is at: http://www.sol.co.uk/s/sptc/ (checked September 2004)

65. Quoted in Morag Lindsay, “Check on kitchen classrooms”, The Aberdeen Press and Journal, Aberdeen, 8th February 2002.

66. Maxine Frith, “With one in four children overweight, the experts explain what can be done about it”, The Independent, London, 26th may 2004.

67. Miles Bagnall, “Just don’t let them get away with it”, The Guardian, Manchester and London, 15th May 2004.

68. Cara Page, “Shocking cost of dying”, The Daily Record, Glasgow, 11th May 2004.

69. Ian Parri, “Feedback”, The Daily Post, Liverpool, 31st December 2003.

70. Nick Curtis, “and if you want to find a psychic”, The Evening Standard, London, 12th September 2003.

71. “Will You Sleep Well After Sessions On Sunbeds?”, The Batch Chronicle, Bristol, 14th April 2003.

72. Teresa Hunter, “Travel agents and electrical retailers ordered to play fair”, The Sunday Herald, Edinburgh, 27th October 2002.

73. See, for example, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life, Basic Books, New York, 1976). There is a good summary of their position on line at: http://www.webster.edu/~corbetre/philosophy/education/bg/bg-overview.html (checked September 2004). Extracts from their later book, Schooling in Capitalist America Revisited, are available on line at: http://www.umass.edu/preferen/gintis/soced.pdf (checked September 2004)

74. Dennis O’Keeffe, The Wayward Élite: A Critique of British Teacher-Education, Adam Smith institute, London, 1990, p.69.

75. Dennis O’Keeffe, Political Correctness and Public Finance, Institute of Economic Affairs, London, 1999, p.49.

76. Michael W. Apple, Educating the “Right” Way: Markets, Standards, God, and Inequality, Routledge Falmer, New York, 2001, p.11.

77. Ibid., p.14.

78. Michael W. Apple, Away with All Teachers: The Cultural Politics of Home Schooling, International Studies in Sociology of Education, Volume 10, Number 1, 2000 – available on line at: http://www.asu.edu/educ/epsl/EPRU/resources/Apple.Away.Tchrs/Apple.Away.rtf (checked September 2004). These two quotations are very widely separated. 

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