Education and schooling - the differences

In his comments which you reported last week, freelance school inspector Tony Mooney failed to provide any evidence to substantiate his claim that 35,000 homeschooled children in England are not receiving a basic education - probably because none exists.

While bullying and unmet special needs are undeniably drivers for often desperate families, research findings do not support the contention that parents deregister children at the behest of league-table obsessed schools, or to avoid prosecution for truancy. Research evidence has also debunked the myth that there are 150,000 home educated children in England - 60,000 is a more realistic estimate.

The case of Eunice Spry, an approved foster carer who was regularly visited by education officials, is another red herring. Like most abusers, she concealed her sadistic activities. Any curtailment of parents' freedom to educate their children on the basis of an isolated case, when adequate statutory interventions are available, would be a disproportionate over-reaction.

We know that middle-class children do best in state schools, and the problem of under-achievement by pupils from poorer backgrounds continues to defeat the efforts of politicians and educationists. Instead of tinkering with the sausage machine that is the school system, they might find enlightenment by looking at home education, in particular Paula Rothermel's research. She found that these same poorer children, when home educated by "unqualified" parents, consistently outperformed their middle-class schooled counterparts in standard school tests.

The outcome of the Scottish Executive's guidance review is keenly awaited and will hopefully be based on hard evidence, such as that provided by the Scottish Consumer Council, rather than unsubstantiated opinion from those who have failed to grasp the differences between education and schooling.

Alison Preuss Sparrowcroft, Forfar

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