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.