Conference fragments – Right decision on home education
When I first joined the Green Party back in the eighties you could almost put money on any debates about education being dominated by discussions on home schooling and experimental teaching methods; and any debates about health being dominated by discussions on homeopathy and alternative medicines. Neither confronted the main educational and health concerns facing the overwhelming majority of the population.
Thankfully, the Green Party has moved away from unquestioning support for both homeopathy and home education. At our conference last Autumn we finally ended up with an education policy we can be proud of. One that put investment in good, local authority-run community schools right at the heart. We agreed to uphold parents’ rights to educate their kids at home but what we wouldn’t do was actively promote it as a preferred option or throw state resources at it.
This year’s conference saw an attempt to change that to active promotion and financial support. Thankfully it was defeated and the more I heard from the proposers, the more it reminded me of Michael Gove’s desire to fund free schools. We were told that Home Education is not just about benefiting the middle class. But there is an inevitable bias which means it could never be an option for most working class families. My mum and dad both left school at 15 with no qualifications and both had to work full-time throughout my childhood. The idea that either of them had the money or the educational background to start home schooling is just so unrealistic as to be laughable.
Funding and promoting home education at a time when we desperately need to invest in local authority schools would be a transfer from the poor to the wealthy, just as Michael Gove’s free schools are. Green Party conference made the right decision to say no.
Darren Johnson is a Green Party member of the London Assembly and a councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham.
That’s really thinking at an ipremssive level
Here is an interesting discussion of Green Party policy on home education.
Although a non-member (but someone who has voted Green at every local and national election of the last decade) I just had to respond to this thread!
I’m from a working class background and still live a distinctly working class life (estate housing, low income, etc). I also home educate despite never having had state resources “thrown at me” to do so.
As an intelligent woman who values free thought and personal integrity, why would I hand my child over to an educational system that, of necessity, inhibits those qualities?
Yes, there are few working class home educators, so many of the working class people I meet long to do what I do but have been brainwashed (by their school experiences) into thinking it is beyond their capabilities. I like to remind them, importantly, that social class is not an indicator of intelligence.
Furthermore, with access to libraries, free e-books and curricula, and a few visits to car boot sales/charity shops/freecycle any gaps in knowledge can easily be filled. Certainly, it is possible to home educate your child on a shoestring.
The only other thing required is a commitment to the child’s wellbeing – something that, once again, is not dependent on social class.
As for a village raising a child? I wholeheartedly agree. But let us not buy into the stereotype that a middle class English village school will provide a better social experience than an inner city home. Nor that any school might provide a better range of social exposure than child-centred parents and access to local community activities.
It’s not unrealistic that working class people can raise their children without the interference of middle class teachers. It’s even desirable that working class people avoid a middle class curriculum that promotes so much self-hatred in working class people that some of them go on to call the idea that working class parents can adequately educate their own children “laughable”.
School is not an upgrade from home education anymore than middle class life is an upgrade from working class life (despite what schools will teach). It’s just a life that arises from a different set of values. Values that I used to think aligned with the Green party’s values.
I’m afraid that research from many continents does not back up your assertion that parents must be rich or have years of college to home educate.
The outcomes are the same, since the success of home education is based on the commitment of the tutor and the small class sizes (same as for private schools).
Resources and support should not be about either/or, but both/and. Otherwise you end up with the attitude that is a tyranny of the majority.
In any case,I left the Green Party when I realised that it had shifted from a focus on individual choices and local endeavour, to become as statist and bossy as New Labour. So I am not surprised that there is now no interest in helping home educators. Just like a Model T showroom:”You can have any colour you want, as long as it’s black.”
If I had a bad hospital experience I would try and get a different doctor. I wouldn’t start performing surgery and prescribing drugs at home. Surely the same applies to the primary school in this case
Alasdair – yes. This was in a primary school though, and the head teacher was saying the child didn’t fit in and was a risk to the other children. Would you like to leave your child at that school?
I wouldn’t want to leave my child at that school, but I wouldn’t want to tacitly accept the point by agreeing to educate at home either. I’d make a complaint about the head and if I couldn’t get them to apologise or leave I’d find another primary school.
There will always be people let down by the education system and the health system, there will be bad doctors and teachers and ones who make mistakes but we don’t abandon or undermine the system, we fix it.
A good decision by the Green Party. No-one is saying that parents can’t home-educate, just that schools need supporting more (because they educate most of our children).
But surely the solution to discrimination isn’t to say to those children, you don’t fit into the mainstream so we’re going to have to educate you on your own? We should be improving state comprehensive schools so that there is no need to remove children.
Adam, home schooled children aren’t brought up in isolation from society. There are networks of home-schoolers and they do leave their houses for the sort of outside school activities that other children do..
It’s a shame really. There are children who are made to not fit into mainstream schooling by schools. A friend of mine was told by the head teacher that the other children had to be ‘protected’ from her child. The child doesn’t have a contagious disease, isn’t violent – the child has gender dysphoria.
Support for home schooling would enable anyone to do it.
quite right too – as the African saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.