Self-directed home education does not need to look like school and attempts to make it the same would make it impossible
The last time the (then Labour government) attempted to monitor home education Dr Alan Thomas and Harriet Pattison gave evidence that the recommendations to monitor home education would make it impossible for parents to continue to allow their child a self-directed education and would in effect prohibit it.
Dr Alan Thomas is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Education, University of London and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society. He has spent 15 years researching home education methods, particularly informal and autonomous ones. Harriet Pattison is a research associate at the Institute of Education. Their work has been used to inform home education policy in Australia (Victoria and Tasmania) and in the Republic of Ireland.
Overall, the Review displays a lack of rigour and accuracy combined with unsubstantiated opinions in relation to our area of expertise. Mr. Badman proposes that research into autonomous education should be undertaken and, at the same time, sets out a detailed system of monitoring that would prohibit it.
“The recommendation that the key terms “suitable” and “efficient” be redefined in the light of the Rose review of primary education shows a clear intent that school-based criteria and benchmarks will be used to measure and judge home education. Research clearly shows this to be unsuitable for children learning at home, especially those whose learning is informal or autonomous whether wholly or in part.”
Badman recommended that parents would have to demonstrate that their child had attained and progressed against a plan. This is incompatible with self-directed or autonomous home education where children are free to follow their own interests. The recommendation assumes that learning happens as it does in school, following a rigid plan and structured within a set framework.
Again, the recommendation that a curriculum at home should be “sufficiently defined to secure a broad, balanced, relevant and differentiated curriculum” reflects the desires and constraints of schooling where a curriculum must be devised to answer the needs of many children simultaneously. This recommendation lies at odds with current mainstream policy regarding the importance of individuality in education. In autonomous education we have demonstrated and explained that learning does not have to be planned or constrained in this way to be effective, again in accord with existing guidelines.
Mr Badman mentions Summerhill School but is apparently unaware that autonomous education has received an official stamp of approval at the school where lessons are not compulsory. In the agreement between the then DfES and Summerhill following the tribunal at the Royal Courts of Justice in 2000 it was agreed that all future Ofsted inspections should take into account Dr Alan Thomas’ expert witness report which explained how children continued to learn informally even when they attended few or no lessons to the extent that they were able to re-join lessons without difficulty when they so desired. His report was taken in to account in the recent Ofsted inspection.