E-mails and comments welcome from teachers and learners of all ages.  
October 07, 2003
Chris Woodhead on line

Timesonline becomes Timesoffline for those outside the UK after a while, so it would be useful for non-UKers to get the full Q&A excellence of what Chris Woodhead said (thankyou Unexpected Liberation for the link) in the Sunday Times (and Timesonline) the 21st of last month. Better very late than never, I hope you agree. Woodhead is a big name, a former Chief Inspector of Schools, and a familiar media face and voice here in Britain. When he speaks or writes, many get angry, but many also listen.

Olivia Daly of Leeds said:

After two failed appeals two years ago, we were forced to send our daughter to a school we did not want. Despite support from us, our bright daughter is bored at school, and we can do nothing about falling standards and discipline issues. We now have a second child at the same school, and she is disliking it intensely. We cannot afford private school fees. All the better state schools are full. We feel we have nowhere to turn. We are aware we may be curtailing our children’s future if we leave them where they are. What can we do?

Woodhead's reply:

Sadly, you find yourselves in the position of many parents. You have no alternative – other than to educate your children at home. If you do not feel able to take this radical step there is nonetheless a great deal you can do to support your children.

Encourage them to read as much as possible, offer them varied educational experiences after school and in the holidays, and, if you can afford it, employ a private tutor. I appreciate this is a far from ideal solution but until standards in state schools are lifted nothing else is possible.

And M. W. Smith of Gwent said:

Can I teach my child at home if I am dissatisfied with state provision? I am a qualified teacher.

Woodhead's reply:

You do not have to be a qualified teacher to educate your child at home. Any parent dissatisfied with formal schooling can take responsibility for their child’s education, and growing numbers are. Education Otherwise, a parents’ group (education-otherwise.org, helpline 0870 730 0074), can offer advice on home schooling.

It is, however, only fair to add that in reply to another question about a strange and seemingly unfair result, Woodhead replied like this:

Mistakes in the marking of scripts are inevitable, but undergrading on this scale is unacceptable. Write to the exam board, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, your local MP, the education secretary Charles Clarke and Tony Blair. And, since he has given this year’s examinations a clean bill of health, Mike Tomlinson, the state’s unofficial exam watchdog. Let me know what they say.

We all know what they'll say: nothing, at great length. In other words, Woodhead is saying, as gently as he can: "You're f***ed."

Still, straws in the wind. This home ed meme is certainly getting around, exactly as I've been saying it would.

In an answer to another question, Woodhead also mentioned a group called Personal Tutors, mentioning also their website.

Once again the pattern is repeated. Politics is the land of bad news. If you want good news, make it yourself or buy it from a tradesman.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:19 PM
Category: Home education
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