Articles, Focus of the Week

Good News of Home Ed

The good news of home education

As part of the media attack on home education, The Telegraph published an article recently about twelve year old Lilian Hardy. Not many people will have heard of her before the article was published. She hit the headlines because her local council, Westminster, decided to issue a School Attendance Order when they discovered her existence.

The reason she was unknown to authorities was because she has never been to school. Her long term aim is to read English at Cambridge, but she is obviously exploring other interests en route, because she decided, quite independently, that she wanted to be Matilda in the West End musical production. On her own initiative, she applied, auditioned and got the part. That was when the trouble started, because the Royal Shakespeare Company had to apply to her local council for a performance licence. Westminster swooped.

Lilian’s parents, in accordance with the law, offered to provide evidence of her work, but this isn’t good enough for Westminster – they insist on her being interviewed and her learning being properly verified. Their defence, when it was pointed out that the law does not require this and work samples are sufficient, was that they write their own rules.

What this shows is a lamentable lack of understanding by Westminster council of the purpose of education. Lilian not only had to procure the part, she has had to learn lines (commitment), attend rehearsals and performances (stamina) take direction whether or not she agrees with it (resilience) and possess the chutzpah to get on stage and perform. Those are all the soft skills which are so much in demand by employers and which are often lacking in young people applying for jobs. Damian Hinds is on record as saying that these kind of ‘soft’ skills are, in fact, far from soft. Yet the attitude persists that only academic results matter.

A quick perusal of the successful people who were home educated is revealing. Many writers never went to school. Nor did plenty of musicians, including Mozart, Daniel and Natasha Bedingfield, and LeAnne Rimes. Several eminent architects and inventors count among the home educated. This is proof, should it be needed, that home education, far from harming children’s development, may well be a key factor in them toning the creative skills which supported their adult achievements.

The current drive to regulate home education, with a proposal for forced registration and inspection, overlooks the immense advantages that home education offers. Education policy is driven by 2 key factors – the need to produce units in an economic system that aims to be the strongest economy in the world, and a desire to monitor and control the lives of every child in the country. To do so is to deprive tens of thousands of children the opportunity to be given an education tailored for their personal needs and learning style, and which caters to their unique combination of interests.

That is exactly how human rights law defines education. For the state to assume the right to define it differently is an abuse of human rights and one which we should oppose. Imagine the world without the music of Mozart – because the next Mozart may well have to go to school and never have the chance to develop the creative genius that has given us some of the most sublime music every written.

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