Radio 4 Today programme on Home Education

They did a piece on HE, you can listen to it if you like. I found the link on the Today webpages.

Below is the (not very short) piece I sent them to say what I thought about the article….

On the piece on Today about Home Education…

First of all I want to say well done on a radio programme that is usually excellent, entertaining and informative. I enjoy listening to Today and often rely on it for my intake of news and current afairs.

However I’d like to put across the following thoughts on your piece on home education:

The interviewer stated the numbers of children in HE, without even mentioning that the estimates for numbers of children in HE are wildly differing as such numbers are inherently difficult to assess.

The interview showed some children clearly interested in the history that they were learning, isn’t this a good thing? A child who is allowed to go off and research a subject they are interested in and follow it up in the way that they want, isn’t that good? It seems that the family were a good example of HE, so why was this not followed up in the interview when the interviewee was ranting about how terrible most parents were that were doing HE and how most of them just wanted to get their kids out of school because they had had problems with truanting?

Lots of time in museums and libraries. Sounds like something most schools would be jealous that they can’t provide.

Your interviewee goes to mainly working class estates, is this representative of home education in general? From the various HE groups that we attend I would say there is a very wide cross-section of people who choose to home educate.

The reasons stated by your interviewee about why people decide to home educate were narrow and all either negative about schools or due to problems with the children. There are many other reasons for home education, for example to be able to do with your children lots of things that they enjoy and that they will learn from, or create a close knit family, or so that the children can be involved with other children who are of different ages and backgrounds, or to ensure children can spend enough time simply running around outside.

I wish I had noted the amount of times I have heard an education minister being pulled apart on your programme for the state of our schools. One of the latest ones seems to be that schools should provide each student with an individual learning plan and that teachers should do that for the students in their lessons. We already do that at home. Our teacher to student ratio is so low that every student can have loads of attention from the teacher during the course of a whole day.

It did not seem that there had been any research done on the regulatory framework around HE as the interviewer was saying “don’t we have a legal obligation to send our children to school”. This lack of research is unlike your programme, or maybe I should be more suspicious of your other articles too…

“Can they do a good job of it?” What, parents who love their children and give them one to a few attention? Parents who have decided to educate their children at home instead of send them to a free service? Parents who are enthusiastic about what their own children will learn?

Here comes a really frustrating quote “Leaving aside obviously that they are not getting the social mix that they are getting at school”. The social mix at school consists of spending most of the day with the same group of children who are all exactly the same age. The social mix for HE can consist of whatever the parents want it to be, for example meeting up with other HE families who have children of varying ages, being involved in community groups, interacting lots with other adults. Which is likely to equip our children best for later life? Is it putting them into a group of 30 others who are all the same age or is it mixing them with a variety of people of different age-groups from baby to OAP?

The interviewee stated that in order to teach, the teacher has to be ahead of the children all the time? How was anything ever invented or researched if we can only learn from those who are ahead of us. A good aspect of HE is that it isn’t necessary for the parent to know everything that their child will ever need to know, but instead the parent can ensure through a close relationship with their children that the children are grasping how to learn, how to research things and how to discriminate betwen fact and fancy.

I happen to be an ex-teacher, so I know a bit of what school can be like. I’d rather my children were spending time doing what they are doing (going to museums, the park, getting together with friends, discussing maths at mealtimes and so on).

I am so struck by how little research seems to have been put into the hands of the interviewer for this piece. Was any research done for this interview or did the interviewee just happen to be available at the last minute.

There are many other issues that could be talked about that relate to HE. What about talking through the stuff in Germany that is going on with HE due to a law that Hitler introduced?

Did the interviewer not listen to the family talking about their experiences of HE, because I would have thought that if he had listened to it he would have had his interviewee on the ropes over his views of HE not working and should have probed to find out if there really are other families like the ones that were being interviewed.

There are plenty of HE organisations who you could go to for a well thought out opposite side to this issue. In future please do.

As I said at the beginning of this I rely a lot on the BBC and specifically the Today programme for my intake on news and current affairs, I know now that I shall have to more carefully scrutinise what I hear!


Matthew Pearson

One thought on “Radio 4 Today programme on Home Education”

  1. Agreed with your comments on the programme. Although I think sometimes interviewers feign ignorance of a subject just to elicit the response they are looking for from the interviewee.
    However, I dont understand how any family other than a 2 parent,middle class family with one parent at home all the time can afford or manage time-wise to home educate. Yet you say there is a wide cross section of people who choose to home educate.Please explain!
    Also whats this about HE and Germany?

Leave a Reply