Education has a place at home

10th March 2006 at 00:00
I applaud Michael Russell for his analysis and appraisal of the difficulties often faced by home educators in Scotland (TESS, February 10).

He is absolutely right to say that councils should show far more sympathy to requests for home schooling.

As a primary school teacher, now working in the nursery attached to the school, I would support any parent who was home educating or considering home educating.

When my daughter was of primary school age, my partner and I came to an agreement with the school and with the education authority that she could flexi-school; in other words she could attend school part-time. Her freedom of choice was extended considerably through such an arrangement. She was happy, extremely well motivated and was able to celebrate many achievements both in and out of school.

As for Mike McCabe's article published in last week's TESS, it seems clear to me that he has not the slightest insight into the varied practice and differing ideologies of home educators. I am not surprised that he does not wish to discuss any particular case, especially the case involving the Forsyth family of Ayr, as reported by Michael Russell.

Mr McCabe refers to "the valuable research by Chris Lubienski who . . .

concludes that home education often amplified the advantages and disadvantages of students' background characteristics". Your readers should be aware that Chris Lubienski is based at the University of Illinois and, as he says himself, writes from a North American perspective. He has also said that he "makes no claims of any inherent superiority of public schooling".

Mr McCabe writes that home education "requires to balance the rights of the parent . . . with the rights of the child and the responsibility that the state has to protect the welfare of the child".

There are numerous occasions when the state fails miserably in its efforts to protect the welfare of the child when attending school, which is so often why parents choose to home educate and to opt out of the state system.

How often is a child's right to live without violence compromised because of the amount of bullying which goes on in our schools?

How often is a child's right to a good education compromised by a social inclusion policy which gives little support to the class teacher, or pupil, leaving a trail of lessons fragmented by disruptive behaviour?

Mr McCabe claims that the home educating parent is "effectively cut adrift from the rest of the educational community". But the Scottish Executive's guidance clearly states that education authorities should provide such parents with a named contact "who is familiar with home education policy and practice and has an understanding of a range of educational philosophies".

My experience of working with families home educating in Fife has revealed the complete opposite to the picture Mr McCabe attempts to paint. How refreshing it has been to access the rich and beautiful resources our country has to offer with groups of children and adults who are highly motivated and happy to remain at the centre of their learning, rather than be confined to a classroom environment where they are forced to follow a curriculum which may have no interest for them.

Adam Alexander Brigend Cottage Dunino, Fife

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