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December 2010



Recent Posts


First Published Saturday, 7th June, 2008.

Learn to Fly


Hope you’re all doing well.  Time to take a look at the latest roundup of news and articles on the Education/Home Ed front.

We begin with a look at what’s happening in Belgium…


“Belgium home educator’s rights under threat”

Back in mid March some home educators started receiving communications from a part of Europe that has not to date been much of a cause for concern, Belgium.

Belgian home educators are concerned about a new decree effecting Belgium’s French Community.  Minister Arena made public on February 22nd plans that, if voted for, would make home education difficult and deny families their constitutional right to freely educate their children.  It imposes constraints on subject and content and forces a monitoring and regulating process;  as well as inspections of the educational approach.  Furthermore, it introduces a number of discriminations against home educated children.

Belgium home educators say that the text exceeds its objectives by limiting educational choice.  The people concerned have not been consulted and risk arbitrary administrative decisions and there is no provision for independent review of adverse rulings.

Belgian families are writing to their members of parliament, founding a new organisation called Appendre en Famille and examining the possibility of taking court action should the decree be ratified.  The new group has made contact with some foreign organisations with similar concerns and are making a list of basic demands and proposals which will be published soon.

Home educators in Belgium appear to stand a slightly better chance of opposing these proposals than home educators in other European countries, particularly Germany, as their constitution clearly states that education must not be restricted.  This might well be a basis for an appeal to the constitutional courts in Belgium.

“Much ado about nothing – A Californian court ruling”

On February 29th a Californian court was asked to make a ruling in what can only be described as a deeply distressing case.

The father of a large home educating family was accused by two of his adult children of child abuse.  Social services stepped in and duly prosecuted the parents and asked for a ruling on the right to home educate.

The ruling was eventually handed down by Justice H. Walter Croskey who said, ‘California courts have held that under provisions in the Education Code, parents do not have a constitutional right to Homeschool their children.  Persons ‘between the ages of six and eighteen’ are to be in ‘public full-time day school’ or a ‘private full-time day school’ or ‘instructed by a tutor who holds a valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught’.

If this ruling had stood it would have caused all kinds of political fallout.  California has a substantial home educating community;  certainly one big and active enough for a state governor not to want to alienate them.  It would have meant the return of thousands of children into the state school system, which even if it were a temporary measure while parents found more preferable alternatives, would in some areas have led to insurmountable logistical problems.

Additionally many private schools in California, who employ non accredited teachers, would have been forced to sack half their staff and perhaps close down.

Furthermore, the judge used the word ‘at’ in his ruling which was being interpreted as meaning that distance learning, an option taken up by many thousands more parents, would also have been deemed illegal.

National and local home education networks, which in the US are well funded by their members with some possessing millions of dollars at their disposal, set up joint emergency meetings.  They sought advice to decide what to do next.  It was generally their view that the judge was fundamentally in error over his ruling and that they make take a case to a higher court to have it overturned.

Meanwhile, the right wing press added petrol to the flames by making all kinds of claims that night have been plot summaries of X-Files episodes.  By the end of the following week many families, fearful that their lifestyle was at risk and concerned about what might happen next, were bombarding the state administration, their legislative representatives and the courts with letters and emails in what one Californian parent described as ‘a frenzy’.

Arnold Schwarzennegger

The state governor (Arnold ‘I’ll be back’ Schwarzenegger) then made a statement that was meant to pour oil on troubled water, but due to his ignorance of how home educators felt on the issue only added to the anxiety.  The governor wrote to the press saying, more or less, that he would personally ensure that parents continued to have the right to home educate by passing legislation to that effect.  While this sounds like a good thing, home educators the world over know that once legislators get hold of draft legislative measures offering families more concrete rights to home educate, pressure groups, usually in the form of teaching unions, move in and hedge those rights around with various restrictions and caveats.  This has the cumulative effect of making home education many times more difficult than it otherwise would be.

HSLDA then infuriated local, secular, state home education groups by circulating a petition which would have prompted legislators to legislate, in just the way local organisations were trying to avoid.

At this point the senior lawyer of the largest Californian home education group took the extraordinary step of writing to the global home education networks asking them to ‘calm down’ while they did their jobs.  He argued that writing to the courts using inflammatory language could irritate judges and backfire badly.

Finally, on March 25th the ruling was vacated, which in English means that it was set aside.  There will be a new ruling made shortly but this one is likely to find that home education is a legal option in the state of California.

So in less than four weeks the whole debacle had gone full circle and a new ruling is expected at any time.

The argument has now moved on to a long term campaign by HSLDA for a parental rights amendment using the current Californian ruling as a supporting argument.  While a Parental rights bill sounds good it is in fact intended to counter proposals for a children’s rights amendment incorporating the UNCRC into US law, preventing corporal punishment, the practice that started the whole debacle  back in February.

Further reading at: http://www.hsc.org/

learning to count
“Home Education in Ireland”
by Nick Gudge

The history of home education in Ireland is unusual.  When Ireland was ruled by Britain there was religious persecution and Catholic schools were prohibited.  Informal “hedge schools” were formed where parents, priests and lay people taught in homes around the country.  An historical objection to total government control over education was established, supported formidably by the Catholic Church.  Ireland’s first president Douglas Hyde was home educated and he and writers of the Irish Constitution ensured that there would be constitutional protection for parental choice in education.

Article 42 of the Irish Constitution sets out the relationships between the family, parents, children and the State with respect to education.

1.“The State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children”.

2.“Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes or in private schools or in schools recognized by the State”.

3.1 “The State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or in any particular type of school
designated by the State”.

3.2“The State shall, however, as guardian of the common good, require in view of actual conditions that the children receive a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social”.

In the 1990s a series of well publicised failed prosecutions of home educating families under the 1926 School Attendance Act led to the creation of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000.

Under this legislation a new government body, the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB), was made responsible for setting up a register of all children, including a register of all home educated children.  Guidelines were drafted for the assessment of home educated children.  To date approximately 320 children have had their educational provision assessed and registered.  (Please note there is no assessment of the children.)  No one has been declined registration.  Most home educators have not registered.  Negotiations for the review of these Guidelines are underway between the Home Education Network (HEN) and the NEWB.

Irish children

HEN was formed specifically to respond to the Education (Welfare) Act.  It is the only significant sized formal Home Education organisation in Ireland.  It has approximately 150 families as members, with about another 500 families known to them.  Together these represent an estimated 1 500 home educated children.  It is an inclusive group with no requirements to membership.  HEN provides a website, a contact list of home educators for new members, regional groups which organise activities, a quarterly newsletter, a help line and an annual conference.

The largest groups of home educators in Ireland are those who choose child centred learning, those who choose for religious grounds, those whose children have special physical and psychological needs and those whose children have been bullied in school.

Home education is growing in Ireland and is becoming better known.  There have been frequent articles and features in print, radio and television media.  All of these have been arranged by HEN over the past 5 years.  Almost all the media attention has been positive as a consequence of this policy.

Estonian children
“Estonian Home Educators”

There has been a group working to promote home education in Estonia for a few years now.  The group set up the Estonian Centre for Home Education to support home educators in 2005 and have organised conferences and produced articles to further their cause.

While the estonian government, and in particular the current education minister, has been supportive of home educators the law has only allowed home education to the age of about 12, corresponding to our primary education, and requires children to then go to senior school.

The support group have been quietly promoting a change in the law and last Christmas a present came in the form of a new policy document which will make this possible from September 2008.

In total there are nearly 1200 children being home educated in Estonia and now that it is legal to home educate to the age of 16, this will inevitably grow rapidly.

The Estonian Centre for Home Education

Educational Resources

Downloadable audio stories free on the internet, provided by Story Nory:

They are royalty free MP3 files available for download.

They add a new story every week all specifically aimed at children.

They include many classics by Hans Christian Anderson and Dickens as well as more modern tales and ancient myths.  All free of copyright.

You can sign up for automatic updates to your computer using Itunes and the stories can be loaded onto portable MP3 players or burned onto CDs to play in the car on long journeys.  Ideal for the summer and a thoroughly recommendable resource.

The British Geological Survey Education website:

This is, on the whole more for older children, or those with reasonable computer competency.  It has all kinds of tools and guides relating to geology, many are interactive and downloadable.

The Home Education Toolbar

Most of the resources mentioned in this column, and many that are not, can be found on the Home Education UK toolbar, which enables you to link directly to all kinds of resources, many specific to home educators, all directly from a dedicated tool bar.

The HE UK toolbar has its own interactive features which allow you to chat directly to the other 300 or so current users when they are online.

It also links to all the main sections of the UK home education website allowing you to easily check legal issues and find support when you need it.

The toolbar does not load spyware or popups onto your machine.


For the serious sudoku fans:
interactive sudoku games available free online.

Particularly good for developing critical thinking.

Children are Unbeatable


The 2006 report of the UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children called on countries to prohibit physical punishment of children by 2009.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child reminded signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the UK, that equal protection for children is ‘an immediate and unqualified obligation’.  The Committee continued:

‘…the Convention requires the removal of any provisions which allow some degree of violence against children, in their homes/families or in any other setting.’

The UN Committee has twice recommended equal protection for the UK, in 1995 and 2002.  In 2002 the Committee stated:

“…governmental proposals to limit rather than to remove the ‘reasonable chastisement’ defence do not comply with the principles and provisions of the Convention…, particularly since they constitute a serious violation of the dignity of the child.’


In 2005, the European Committee of Social Rights, monitoring conformity with the European Social Charter, found UK law in breach of human rights obligations.  It concluded:

‘…since there is no prohibition in legislation of all corporal punishment in the home, the situation [in the UK] is not in conformity with Article 17 of the Charter.’

Equal Protection Across Europe

19 countries in Europe have now acted to satisfy human rights obligations by giving children equal protection from assault:

Sweden          Finland          Norway
Austria           Cyprus           Italy
Denmark        Latvia            Croatia
Bulgaria         Germany        Iceland
Romania        Ukraine          Hungary
Greece           Portugal          Spain

Of the 47 members of the Council of Europe, more than half have legislated for equal protection for children or are committed to doing so soon.

Of 27 countries of the European Union, only 5 – 1 of which is the UK – fail to give children equal protection or have not made a commitment.

Progress is also being made internationally.  In 2006, New Zealand became the first English-speaking country to give children equal protection.

learning to cook
Single parents and Jobseeker’s Allowance

Currently single parents do not have to sign up for the jobseeker’s allowance and can remain at home to care for their children.  However, the government is consulting on new regulations which will reverse that policy;  forcing single parents to sign up as available for work or lose £60 a week.

The new regulations will come into force in stages, starting with the parents of 12 year olds and progressively working down to 7 year old children.  It will come into force in early November 2008.

This policy will have a major impact on single parent home educators.  Should the regulations remain  as they are currently worded such parents will effectively lose their right to home educate.  In research(published in The face of Home-Based Education 1 Page 18) it was found that 22.4% of home educators were single parents, meaning that the changes could affect more than 11 000 children.

Many children of single parents are home educating because school is unable to meet their needs.  To deny these children the right to be educated as they wish will lead to stress and trauma for many of them.

Both Action on Home Education and Education Otherwise are attempting to have home educating parents excused from the requirement to register as seeking employment in these regulations.

Back in December there was a white paper which said that respondents to an earlier consultation felt strongly that single parents of children who fell into several categories (including disabled children and home educating single parents) should not have their benefits cut.  Unfortunately this recommendation seems to have fallen away in the current round of consultations.

EO has held a couple of meetings with officials and has been promised that anything they send will be shown to the minister.  Meanwhile, AHED is running a campaign to get families to contact their MP s.

While this has been going on the President of the Head Teachers association has made an ‘off message’ speech castigating parents for ‘dumping’ children for 10 hours a day at school, yet this is now government policy for the children of single parents!

If Head teachers can see this is bad for children why can’t government ministers?

The State as Parent

The government are losing ever more children in care.  There was a 3% rise in children going missing between 2005 and 2006 and a further 6.7% rise between 2006 and 2007, so that in 2007 950 children in the care of the state went missing despite an overall fall in the numbers of children in care.  Worse still 30% of those children (370) were missing for more than 30 days.

The rise is entirely accounted for by children running away from foster care placements.

Meanwhile children in care fall further behind in terms of their educational achievement.  Only 13% achieved governments benchmark 5 good GCSEs while the average for all children stands at 62% and a third did not sit any GCSEs.  Under half achieved the NC test level expected for their age compared to 82% for all children.

The shadow minister Tim Loughton pointed out that things were getting worse.

‘At GCSE the achievement gap between children in care and their contemporaries has widened by almost a  quarter in six years and is continuing to grow year on year.’

Nursing Tools
An Open Path to University for Home Educators
by Tamsyn Fortune-Wood

Most home educators will, at some point in their lives, want to go on to get some form of higher education in order to either pursue a career or just expand their knowledge of a subject area.  One of the biggest questions many people pose is, “How can I get into University?”  It is also one of the arguments used against home education and something that parents may worry about.  There are, however, many ways in which a home educated teenager can get into university.


I’m a nineteen year old ex home educated child who now attends Birmingham City University, in my second year of studying for a BSc  in Nursing (child branch).  And I got there without any schooling.

I was educated at home from the age of five and a half.  I am a member of a family of children who were all home educated.  I had a very non-coercive upbringing and didn’t do any form of structured education till I was fifteen when I decided that I would like to go to university to do a medical subject.    At this point I started to do an A-level in biology, but I found that though I was getting high marks, I was not finding the course engaging.  So I decided to look elsewhere for courses in science subjects.

I found the Open University and looked into their courses as a means of getting into other universities.  I found that it was entirely possible so I enrolled onto ‘The Discovering Science’ course.  I really enjoyed all my courses with the Open University because they fitted around my lifestyle and I could do the work in my own time.  After doing eight courses with the Open University and accruing about half the points of a first degree I went on to a traditional university.  I have no GCSEs and no A levels and I got offers from several universities, including an interview at Cambridge and an unconditional offer to study genetics.

I am enjoying the new experience of lectures and I am enjoying meeting people from all over the world.  A teachers’ official in Wales recently wrote an article about how home educators find it difficult to move on to other educational environments due to socialisation problems, but this isn’t something I’ve experienced at all.

A friend of mine, Tommy Robin, has just started a degree at Sheffield University – the Contemporary Art Media course.  He got accepted by Sheffield by attending an interview, showing enthusiasm for the subject and showing some of his previous work.

“They were looking for someone who was enthusiastic about the course,” Tommy said.

I have found that this option is particularly open for art courses at universities, whereas science subjects tend to want some kind of qualification.  It doesn’t have to be a conventional qualification, though.  My older brother decided to do the whole of his degree with the OU and is now studying for an M.A. In Creative Writing.  My younger sister studied courses with both the OU and the Open College of Art and has worked with a local silversmith to build up a portfolio.  She plans to do a degree in photography.

There is also the more conventional way for applying to university.  It is still possible to do A-levels and GCSEs as a home educator by going to college or by studying through a distance learning college like the NEC.



Internet Safety
Internet Safety

While the internet is an enormously important resource for many home educators and gives children access to some wonderful, interactive resources, no parent can fail to be aware that it also a route into our homes through which unwelcome intruders can gain access to children.

The government and child protection charities have run a number of campaigns to raise awareness and promote safety on the internet and a number of new laws have been passed.  Yet despite all this activity there is a continuing flow of news about a very few young children and teens being abducted.

At the forefront of these campaigns is CEOP, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.  CEOP seems convinced that as the online fight against exploitive adults develops and the authorities become more adept at spotting them the perpetrators spread their nets more widely.  Currently the concern appears to be focusing on social network sites like Face Book.

However there are particular issues for home educated children, especially teens.  Due to the nature of home education and the distances young people often live from one another, they often communicate using networks like MSN and windows messenger.  These informal networks of contacts rely upon each young person inviting other young people they know into the “circle” of friends.

If someone gains access to such a circle then they can become trusted by all, thus compromising the whole group.

These groups are mostly run by the young people themselves, developing organically one contact to another into quite large informal online communities, unmonitored by adults and relying entirely on the children’s own skills.  It’s up to us as parents to ensure that they have these skills.

Unless we live in a family with religious or moral objections to internet technology, it’s pointless to suggest that we shouldn’t allow our children access to the internet with IT fast becoming regarded as a basic skill along side the three Rs.  What we need then are strategies for safety.

internet safety

A method used by unsavoury adults trying to lure children is to create questionnaires for children to answer.  The basic question is known as “ALS” or some variant of it.  This stands for Age, Location, Sex and is an attempt to get some basic information about someone with whom you are communicating.  Answers come back in the form of 35, UK, M meaning I’m a 35 year old male living in the UK.

But recently more detailed questions have appeared where young people are asked to disclose all kinds of information.  For example, one encountered was cleverly mixed with probing questions with other relatively innocuous questions and asked for hobbies, school, city, girlfriend/boyfriend, sports and mobile phone number.

If a child answers this they may at some point be asked for a photograph and later still for their name and home street.  This gives someone the name of the school, a picture of the child, location of their home and a mobile phone number, as well as a list of personal interests.  Using this information a child could easily be tracked down.

It is easy to become paranoid over the internet, which in reality is no more dangerous than any social setting.  The real danger is in not realising that although you are sat in your bedroom you are in fact communicating with the outside world just as you might in a park or street.  This creates a false sense of security and may lead young people to make unwary disclosures of personal data that can lead them to be identified in real life.

Knowing ahead how to protect such data is obviously the key.


CEOP online safety tips for parents

Know what your children are doing online

Get them to show you how to do things

Help them understand not to give any personal information to online friends

Teach them to ignore spam

Teach them to ignore files sent by people they don’t know

Teach them some people lie online

Tell them to keep online friends online

Keep talking so they know they can always tell you if something makes them feel uncomfortable

Show children how to block people online and how to report them

News Articles

“The Idle Parent:  the less school the better”:

Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 15/03/2008

Tom Hodgkinson says the idea that school is good for us doesn’t bear examination
What do Bertrand Russell, William Blake, John Ruskin, William Cobbett and John Stuart Mill have in common? The answer is that they never went to school. Yes, many of our greatest and most independent thinkers were educated by parents, tutors or by the best teachers: themselves.
Russell and Ruskin were educated at home by a series of tutors. Mill was taught by his father and by the utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Blake spent his youth wandering around Peckham Rye and seeing angels. Cobbett was largely self-taught.
That most un-Victorian of Victorians, William Morris, went to a chaotic early incarnation of Marlborough, where he learned nothing, and resumed his education at home.
It is to this lack of formal education that the historian E.P Thompson attributes Morris’s revolutionary brilliance: somehow, he slipped through the brainwashing net and became a passionate enemy of Victorian competitive values.
Samuel Johnson and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were great skivers who never finished their Oxbridge degrees. Robert Louis Stevenson was of the view that “full, vivid, instructive hours of truantry” were a better education than sitting in a classroom having information drummed into your mind by Gradgrinds intent on producing obedient wage slaves.
I am certain that most of my education happened when I was on my own, reading, or staring out of the window, thinking. This is not to say I didn’t have a few brilliant teachers – I did.
And teachers can show the way, without doubt. But the way to get an education is to go out and experience life and read books. That’s it. And it is a process that should never end throughout one’s days.
It is true that two of the 20th century’s greatest novelists and free spirits, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, went to Eton, but then Eton is unusually unschool-like. The pupils are given a huge amount of choice, respect and freedom.
I offer these examples as proof of my point: as a method of delivering education, school is overrated. This was Bertrand Russell’s view. “Men are born ignorant, not stupid,” he wrote. “They are made stupid by education.”
Einstein wrote of “that divine curiosity which every healthy child possesses but which is so often weakened early”. In which case it makes sense for the idle parent to keep formal education to a minimum. Intellectual loafing centres such as Westminster or Eton are not an option for most of us.
In any case, who wants to slave all the hours that God gives to send our children to private school? And as the idle child is an anti-consumerist child, it doesn’t make sense to send him or her to school with the country’s richest families.
The problem is, I am also against the local comprehensive. This is because the comps are run by the state, which means their long-suffering teachers have to cope with a constantly changing educational ideology.
Right now the idea is targets and more targets, but doubtless the next Education Secretary will have a different set of brilliant ideas and the previous lot will be thrown out. If politicians could only leave the schools alone, teachers might be able to get on with teaching.
School terms are much too long; so are school days. The schools that produce the best results and the freest thinkers have the shortest terms and shortest days. They are not merely containment camps for pre-workers. (A thought: now that playschool has been renamed preschool by the fun-haters, why not go the whole hog and rename school prework?)
This is the spirit we need to bring to education: the less school, the better. We need to explore other options – home schooling, learning groups, home tutors.
That doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of hard work or expense. This is where idleness comes in. It is precisely a love of learning and curiosity that schools tend to kill.
So it is the responsibility of the idle parent to implant a love of education. The way to do it is to lead by example and curl up with a good book.
Tom Hodgkinson is editor of The Idler.

“Schools breaching admissions code”:


Almost one in six schools checked by an official inquiry are breaking the code on admissions, ministers have said.
Of the 96 schools in three areas found to be breaking the rules, six asked parents to make financial commitments as part of the admissions process.
Many of the other cases – in England – involved not giving due priority to children in care or with special needs.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls said the situation was “unacceptable” and plans to tighten the rules still further.
Amendments to the Education and Skills Bill, currently before parliament, will:
require local authorities to report annually on the legality and fairness of all schools admission arrangements in their areas
extend the power of the schools adjudicator to amend arrangements that come to his attention
make sure that parents and local communities are properly consulted about school admissions arrangements
Last month the government claimed “a significant minority” of schools in three areas were still breaking the admissions code which was tightened up last year.
It has now revealed that of the 570 schools it checked in Manchester, Northamptonshire and Barnet, some 96 were in breach of the code.
The three areas were chosen as being representative of a metropolitan authority, a shire county and a London borough – and were areas where there had not been objections to admissions policies.
“We have no reason to think that these areas are any different from any other authorities around the country,” Mr Balls said.
At the time it declined to put a precise figure on the number involved, pending checks.
Now that the schools have been asked to explain themselves, the Department for Children, Schools and Families has published lists of those involved along with their breaches of the code.
About a third failed to comply in more than one respect.
The schools were allegedly asking parents banned questions about their marital status, financial background or even in some cases asking for financial contributions.
It was put to Mr Balls that he had made too much of these requests for money – that they involved only six, mostly Jewish, schools in Barnet and these were only about 1% of those checked.
Mr Balls said one school would mean hundreds of parents affected, six schools meant thousands.
“I think one child and one parent being deterred from applying to a school because of an unlawful charge is wrong,” he said.
“What we are highlighting here is thousands of parents being put in that position.”
He rejected the idea that the sort of middle class parents schools wanted to attract could afford the payments – which he said in one of the schools in Barnet were £995 per child per term.
He knew parents wanted the best for their children and he was on their side, “but you can’t have a two-tier system”.
To eradicate educational disadvantage it was “absolutely critical” that governing bodies, local authorities and the Schools Adjudicator enforce the code.
Shadow Schools Secretary, Michael Gove said: “Ed Balls started a witch-hunt against schools which were alleged to be handing out places for cash.
“But there’s no evidence that money played any part in determining admissions in any of these schools.
“Ed Balls knows that many faith, and other, schools ask parents if they’d like to make purely voluntary contributions.
“He also knows that Jewish faith schools have to secure additional funding to guarantee the physical safety of their children.
“But he put these schools in the dock simply in order to distract attention from the fact that 100,000 parents weren’t getting their first choice of school thanks to his policies,” he added.

“School choice fuels segregation”:


School admissions and parental choice are fueling segregation, says the man in charge of England’s admissions.
Instead they should be used to limit social and racial division, says chief schools adjudicator Philip Hunter.
Schools with a high number of difficult-to-teach pupils were not being given a chance and needed help.
Admissions lotteries could be brought in or schools could be closed, with their pupils dispersed, or they could be reopened as academies, he said.
‘Politically explosive’
Dr Hunter’s warning comes as more than half a million children are about to find out whether they have got their first choice of secondary school.
He said: “It’s a myth to say there’s a system where everybody is achieving their first choice school.”
But he added that the current system was letting too many disadvantaged pupils down.
“It leads to a position where some schools have got such a high proportion of children from difficult backgrounds that there’s no chance at all.”
This was because schools that lacked enough pupils from backgrounds with high expectations for them found it very hard to succeed.
The issue was a “hugely politically explosive one”, but it had to be addressed in the interests of social cohesion, he said.
There needed to be more regulation of school choice and this would mean bad news for families who had bought their way into a good school’s catchment area.
“What we are doing is saying to one group of parents, I know you paid £20,000 more for this house than you wanted to in order that your children can go to the local school, but we are saying that some of you can’t get in – in order to make room for some child from that difficult estate.”
Various solutions were possible, said the chief school adjudicator. These included:
Closing down schools and re-opening them as academies
Dispersing pupils on free school meals to a wider number of schools
Altering admissions arrangements and introducing systems such as lotteries
Dr Hunter said it would never be possible to ensure every school has the same number of pupils on free school meals.
But that current admissions code gives clear instructions that local authorities and local schools should monitor what is going on.
They should be intervening when some schools are put at a disadvantage because they have too many pupils from difficult backgrounds.
However, he added: “We are not going to see kids bussed from Harpenden to Hackney and back again.
“But there are going to be some areas where they move away from the distance criteria for deciding who gets priority and moving more to ensuring that very high achieving schools do get their share of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Academies programme
Schools Secretary Ed Balls said it was his government’s policy to make all schools good schools.
“Those who use poverty and deprivation as an excuse for poor performance are letting children down,” he added
Academies – independently run but publicly funded state schools – were improving results in disadvantaged areas faster than those with a comparable intake, he said.
This was why the government was announcing an acceleration of the scheme by five a year. This means some 243 academies would be built by 2010 instead of the planned 233.
Mr Balls made the announcement at Labour’s spring conference, adding that £500,000 would be cut from the set-up costs.

“Teachers stressed by behaviour”:


By Angela Harrison
BBC News at the NASUWT comference in Birmingham

Bad behaviour from pupils is the biggest cause of stress for teachers and the main reason for poor standards, a teaching union has said.
Teachers at the NASUWT conference complained that some school leaders were not dealing with the problem.
Delegates passed a motion at the Birmingham meeting listing many factors contributing to the problem, including councils’ drives to cut exclusions.
Teachers also complained about a lack of training in behaviour management.
Susan Jones, from Derbyshire, told delegates local authorities were nowhere to be seen when a child was disrupting a class, but stepped in fast if a school tried to exclude one.
She complained about the use of “managed moves” where a child is transferred to another school rather than being excluded.
It is a policy advocated by the government’s behaviour adviser Sir Alan Steer as a way of giving a child a fresh start without them reaching the crisis of expulsion.
Ms Jones said councils liked this approach too because it helped to reduce exclusions.
But she knew of a case where one child had been moved several times and eventually came back to the original school.
And she said some schools were lowering their standards for acceptable behaviour for children with special needs.
“ADHD is being used as a reason not to give a student an exclusion,” she told delegates.
“Excuses are being made all the time for the behaviour of some students. They are being given a free reign.”
Teachers at the conference are also critical of the way moves to give pupils a say in their school lives are being handled in some places.
Jake Cosford, from Derby, told the conference about a job interview he had been to a school in Sheffield some years ago.
The child who was his guide through the school showed him a corridor down which teachers were not allowed to go, he said.
“I was then interviewed by a panel of three students with no adults present. At the end I was asked what I would give them if they gave me the job.”
He then withdrew from the process, he said.
The union’s leaders say they support the policy of pupil involvement, known as “Student Voice”, but believe it is being taken to extremes in some cases.
‘Not practical’
NASUWT delegates also discussed behaviour at their conference on Tuesday. Many feel that persistent “low-level disruption” is the worst problem.
Tim Cox, from the union’s national executive, said: “It’s the tap tap of the pen on the desk, the swinging on the back of chairs, the inability to comply with the simplest request, the mobile phones that wear us down.
“We all know the negative impact this can have on teachers and pupils.”
Mr Cox complained about the quality of training in behaviour management available for teachers and trainees.
The union’s general secretary Chris Keates said: “It’s the quality of training provided that we are concerned about.”
The Training and Development Agency for Schools, which is responsible for teacher training a survey of teachers in 2007said the majority found their training was good or very good in helping them maintain behaviour in classroom. “Nonetheless, behaviour continues to be a high priority for us and we are supporting initiatives such as Behaviour4Learning to help ensure that new teachers are well prepared to establish and maintain standards of behaviour in the classroom,” a spokesperson added.
At the conference on Wednesday, Schools Secretary Ed Balls paid tribute to teachers’ work in this area.
“As teachers on the front line, you face continual challenges in maintaining good standards of pupil behaviour – both in dealing with general low level disruption and with the minority of badly behaved pupils,” he said.
Mr Balls announced several measures aimed at improving behaviour and discipline, including more parent support advisors in schools and legal changes to make all schools take their share of excluded pupils.

“Changes ahead for excluded pupils”:


By Angela Harrison
BBC News, at the NASUWT conference in Birmingham

The government intends to improve the handling of children excluded from school in England, Schools Secretary Ed Balls has said.
All schools – as 97% already do – will have to work in partnership with others and to take in expelled students.
A white paper will set out alternatives to the pupil referral units to which the most disruptive students are sent, including work-related study.
Mr Balls said more needed to be done to tackle bad behaviour in schools.
He had asked Sir Alan Steer – who produced a report on misbehaviour for the government in autumn 2005 – to review progress since then.
Sir Alan’s findings – just released – have been used to frame the government’s latest plans.
Sir Alan, who is the head teacher of Seven Kings High School in Redbridge, Essex, said it was essential all schools were involved in behaviour partnerships and the government should legislate for this.
“A school that permanently excludes a child should expect to receive a permanently excluded child on the principle of ‘one out, one in’,” his report said.
But a minority of schools were operating “unfair practices” in admissions and exclusions.
The government says 97% of schools are in such partnerships – including all but six of the new academies.
But Sir Alan’s report cast doubt on how well some of these were operating.
“Informal soundings make me sceptical that all these schools are actually engaged in meaningful partnership working,” it says.
“Outside the early pathfinder partnerships, credible evidence is lacking on the impact partnerships are making where they do exist.”
‘Hard work’
Mr Balls said: “We know that standards of behaviour continue to be a matter for concern for parents and teachers, as well as well as children and young people themselves.
“Sir Alan’s assessment is that we have made considerable progress in implementing his recommendations. I am pleased with this, and am clear we are prepared to go further so behaviour is good in all schools.”
He paid tribute to the “hard work of school staff in maintaining good discipline”.
“But it is a tough job dealing with general low level disruption in the classroom and with the challenges presented by a minority of badly behaved pupils.”
Speaking at the NASUWT union’s annual conference, in Birmingham, he outlined the government’s plans to improve co-operation between schools on behaviour.
All schools should form partnerships with others and one of their key objectives, he said, would be to identify children at risk of exclusion or truancy and to intervene to help them get back on track.
Academies would also have to do this. At the moment, 97% of schools are involved in such a partnership.
When children are excluded, they can be taken in by other schools or can be sent to pupil referral units (PRUs).
It is estimated 24,000 secondary school age children were in PRUs in England in 2007.
Mr Balls told teachers he was determined to improve the quality of PRUs – and to offer alternatives, including vocational centres.
For the first time, detailed data would be published on the performance of students in PRUs.
The general secretary of the NASUWT, Chris Keates, welcomed the announcements.
“It’s a really good step forward and it’s what we have been campaigning for: quality off-site provision so that children with behaviour problems can get the support and help they need while children in mainstream schools can get on with learning,” she said.

“Failing teachers warning”:


Last Modified: 02 May 2008
Source: PA News
Urgent action is needed to retrain more than 20,000 incompetent teachers, according to the head of the body responsible for upholding professional standards.
Keith Bartley, head of the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE), said that up to 24,000 underperforming teachers should be removed from their classrooms and put to work in neighbouring schools.
And he warns some teachers felt “oppressed” by continually-changing educational policy.

“IT boy with a head for business”:

By Rene Gerryts

NOT going to school and having ADHD has never held back 14-year-old Joel Drapper from Ryall and now he has started his own business.
Last year he was busy getting to sail on the tall ship the Prince William and winning money in the Make Your Mark Challenge.
Make Your Mark is an organisation that encourages young enterprising people to make their ideas happen while at school and even though he is home schooled Joel has done just that and used his prize money to start up his own website design business at 1stclasswebsites.com Joel, will be 15 on Monday and plans to launch his business on his birthday.
Like his 10 siblings Joel is home educated, and is now a self-taught computer expert.
He said: “There aren’t very many jobs for teenagers around except washing-up at hotels or chopping chips for a chippy.
“I wanted to start up my own business doing something that I really enjoyed, was good at, and that I could fit into my free time, at home – and hopefully I will be able to earn some money at the same time.”

Joel says his goal is to provide first class, high performance websites at competitive prices so that small businesses, charities, churches, or even families, can have a professional presence on the internet where they can advertise their products or services.
He charges £250 for his custom designed websites, plus £95 per year to cover hosting and domain name registration if required. He is also happy to modernise or update people’s existing websites.
He added: “Many local small businesses just cannot afford to have a website built by these big design firms. Small B&Bs or hotels need to advertise where the people are looking, and now-a-days that’s on the internet.”
“It’s really exciting running a real business! I am learning so much about being self-employed, time management, and business skills. When I’m old enough to work full-time I should be well equipped. Until then I still have to continue with my studies and so my business fits into my spare time.”
So far Joel has been commissioned to provide a new website for LymeNet, Lyme Regis’ local community college; for Stuckton Church near Christchurch; and for a Life Coaching business, Total Liberty International.
Irene Benson from LymeNet was full of praise for the teenager.
She said: “Joel Drapper has designed our new website for us and I am delighted with the result. It will help to give LymeNet a fresh new look. It has been good to work with him; he is a very helpful and conscientious young man. He deserves to succeed and I’m sure his new venture will go far.”
Joel got the idea after realising he already knew more than some universities could teach.
He said: “I was looking for some kind of qualifications or certificate that I could gain for my web design skills.
“I looked at doing a university distance learning computer certificate with Exeter University, but they were very unhelpful. First I was too young, but then I realised that I already knew all the things they were teaching and I didn’t want to waste my time or money repeating lessons I already knew. I asked if I could just complete the work required to validate the certificate but they said that I would have to do all the lessons.
“Irene Benson at LymeNet said that if I ran my own business and built up a portfolio then that would be even better on my CV than a university certificate. So that is what I decided to do.”
Joel is prepared to give a 10 per cent discount to Bridport News readers if they quote bridport10′ on the quote form in the voucher code box of his website.
Further enquires via his email: joel @1stclasswebsites.com
8:35am Wednesday 7th May 2008

“UK University opens in Australia”:

“UK university lectures on iTunes”:

“Diplomas could spell disaster”:

“Most maths teachers not experts”:

“Have school standards ‘stalled’?”:

“Do parents want to go private?”:

“Ceremony marks Hindu school work”:

“Scots pupils offered new awards”:

The Fiddler

“Journal of Home Education”
Published 4 times a year by Cinnamon Press. 64 large format pages (246mm by 189mm crown format) perfect bound with a full colour cover (bound and finished as laminate paperback book). We intend the journal to become the highest quality source of news and information available on the subject. A publication that can be kept and referred back to for years to come.

French Home Ed Site
Les enfants d’abord:

“Project Happy Child” – (contains worksheets):

“The Tutor’s Association” (contains print-outs on all subjects.  Click on Resource button at top for choices of primary or senior level):

“Daisy Maths”(from the basics upwards):

“Listening Books”:

“Midnight Tutor”:

“Spark Notes”:

“Internet 4 Classroom” (for virtual field trips to NASA etc):

BOOK  “Games for Mathematics:  Playful ways to help your child learn maths” by Peggy Kaye

A Kind of Treason…?
by Roland Meighan

You can get tired of people voicing their ill-considered views on home-based education with no apparent knowledge of the research in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and elsewhere.  They are also forgetful of the dire effects of ‘compulsory miseducation’, as Goodman put it, in the day-prison system of learning called schools.

One response is to point out that their comments on home-based education might be construed as a kind of treason.  After all, the Queen is a home-based education graduate, so accusations of ‘missing out on socialisation’, ‘no exposure to approved forms of knowledge’, etc., must apply to the monarch.  The response to this line of argument is usually an uncomfortable silence.

Those who prefer democratically elected presidents to unelected monarchs can look at the USA situation, where of the 42 or so past presidents, 17 were home-based education graduates.  Moreover, the various studies trying to rank them in order of success consistently put the first five as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt.  Yes, you have guessed it – they are all home-based education graduates.

There is a second kind of treason, to the evidence of other well-known people who were home-educated.  Thus, Yehudi Menuhin went to school for only one half day.  ‘When I came back from the morning, my mother asked me what I had learnt.  I said, “I really didn’t learn anything.  I sat at the back of the class, and there was a little window high upon the wall, through which I could see branches.  I hoped that a bird would alight.  No bird alighted, but I kept hoping”, and that’s about all I could report.  So my mother promptly said, “Well, we’ll educate you at home.”  He got on well enough without school to become a world-class violinist.

Patrick Moore

Patrick Moore, the astronomer and broadcaster, was educated at home and did not go to university.  He tells us that he chose his curriculum at the age of seven as learning to type, which he thought would be useful, by copy typing some tomes in astronomy.  This, he thought, would inform him about the subject that interested him and would also serve as a course in improving his English.  He would also spend some time on his xylophone and later the piano, developing his musical skills.  This ‘unbalanced curriculum’ served him well, he explains, since the central activities of his life have been astronomy, journalism and music.  All other knowledge and skills that he needed were gained incidentally on a ‘need to know’ basis.

Then there was the Head teacher of Wolverhampton Grammar School who was a party to educating his two daughters at home until they were eleven because the local primary school was not able to facilitate a personalized learning system to take into account their own keen learning interests in gymnastics and music.

Bertrand Russell was another home-based education graduate.  He observed that:  “I was glad I did not go to school.  I would have had no time for original thought, which has been my chief stay and support in troubles.’

Thomas Edison

The roll-call of well-known people can take up a whole book – see An “A” in Life:  Famous Home Schoolers by Mac and Nancy Plent (1999) Unschoolers Network.  It includes George Bernard Shaw, Charlie Chaplin, Claude Monet, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, The Wright brothers (the aeroplane inventors), Agatha Christie, Noel Coward, Margaret Mead, Pearl Buck, C.S. Lewis, John Stuart Mill, two Wimbledon tennis champions, and several contemporary film actors.
There is also a third kind of treason, to the respect for research evidence, which shows that the bad news about home-based education is very hard to find and confined to a few odd cases – reported in the press, for I have never come across any myself and I have encountered thousands of home-based educating families in the years I have been researching the subject.  The Home Education Research Journal has been publishing systematic studies on home-based education for over 30 years in the USA.  The research shows that, in the vast majority of cases, home-based education is a good news story.  Mike Fortune-Wood’s two books, The Face of Home-based Education 1:  Who, Why and How, and The Face of Home-based Education 2:  Numbers, Support, Special Needs, are two recent surveys of the scene in UK showing the same outcome.


Members of the establishment, despite themselves showing signs of being damaged by their mis-education at school, can be won over in time.  Thus, a school inspector, quoted in D. Smith, Parent Generated Home Study in Canada, 1993, said:  ‘I so wish I’d given my daughter the opportunity you’re giving your sons.’

‘My schooling not only failed to teach me what it professed to be teaching, but prevented me from being educated to an extent which infuriates me when I think of all I might have learned at home by myself.’   George Bernard Shaw

Support Listings

For a comprehensive listing of online support see:


Home Education UK
England and Wales support and legal info mailing lists

England, Wales & N. Ireland


Education Otherwise
Support charity covering all of the UK
PO Box 325, Kings Lynn, PE343XW
ph. 0845 478 6345

Support charity for Scotland
Schoolhouse association,
PO Box 18044 Glenrothes, Fife, KY 9AD
ph 01307 463120 (24/7 support line)

Learning Unlimited
A support network for continental Europe

Free Range Education

Choice in Education
Alternative education newsletter
PO Box 20284, London, NW1 3AA
ph. 0208 969 8935

Islamic Home Schooling Advisory Network
PO Box 30671, London, E1 OTG

Personalised Education Now
Promotes learner-managed learning
113 Arundel Drive, Bramcote,
Nottingham, NG9 3FQ
ph/Fax:  0115 925 7261

BLOGS with content relevant to home educators:


Independent Panel for Special Education Advice (IPSEA)

Enquire (SEN Helpline)

Disability Rights Commission
Promoting the rights of disabled persons

Disability Law Service
ph.  020 77919800

Family Law Association
help finding lawyers
0207 797 7837

Arch Ed
Action on the Rights of the child

ph 0800 1111

ph 0808 800 2222

Abstract Collage Bird Tree Painting

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