What’s been said?
All around the UK young people have in recent weeks been receiving exam results, and our social media feeds were dominated by posts reflecting relief, disappointment or delight. Home educated children are no different, as large numbers are now able to access exams through private exam centres or schools. Some young people may opt to attend school for a couple of years to complete their education at the State’s expense, as these news stories from the Wandsworth Times and the Hereford Times reflect.
In the case of Kasablanca Adu-Odonkor, 18, from Croydon, the Wandsworth Times article tells how she has had to overcome significant prejudice from educational institutions after 10 years of being educated at home, before finally being given an opportunity to complete her education at La Retraite in Clapham. She was required to catch up significantly, but managed to take GCSE’s within the space of one year, with the support and encouragement of staff. According to the article, she “passed her GCSEs with flying colours scoring top grades in every subject”. Kasablanca then went on to study A levels in Art and Design, History and English Literature at La Retraite, achieving an A* and two As in her exams, enough to secure a place to study English Literature at St Andrews University.
Benjamin Sheridan, who hails from Willsbridge, was also home educated. He attended St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School in Bristol after taking his GCSEs. He received A* A-level grades in Maths, Further Maths and Physics, and intends pursuing a degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering at Sheffield University.
Why does it matter?
Stories like these are important because they highlight the fact that many home educated children are achieving academic success. This is despite being disadvantaged by lack of state assistance in accessing exams, and often having to overcome prejudice should they wish to return to the education system to complete their education.
Home educators are no strangers to negative bias and prejudice – it is often part and parcel of our interactions with our families, friends, nosy neighbours, total strangers, officious teachers, doctors and educational institutions. The Department for Education’s recent English consultations reflected such bias in the wording of its documents and survey (links available from our English Consultations page), despite purporting to be seeking greater support for home educators.
In the case of Kasablanca Adu-Odonkor, this prejudice could have prevented her from receiving the education to which, by law, she is entitled. It is disappointing that several educational institutions, based on their assumptions about her education, were not even willing to give her the chance to prove that she was more than equipped to meet the challenges and demands of achieving academic success.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines prejudice as “an unfair and unreasonable opinion or feeling, especially when formed without enough thought or knowledge”. Home educating families seeking help or support from educators, education officials and social workers commonly report that they become victims of such prejudice, often due to insufficient knowledge and understanding of home education.
What can I do?
Challenge prejudice against home education wherever you encounter it. Sometimes all it requires is a few well-worded questions which will provoke thought, as suggested in our article from 24 March 2018.
In other settings you may wish to highlight how rapid technological advances should be changing how we educate, or debate (in a civil manner) whether current educational styles and methods are still relevant.
Share positive stories about home education – one has only to be a member of a Facebook group to hear of the success that families are achieving through home education.
Remind people that everyone learns differently and at their own pace. Home educators invariably adopt any number of different approaches, but one should not assume that children are not learning just because their education looks different.
Most importantly, be bold and positive when talking about your decision to home educate. It is a perfectly legal and valid option, and being 100% committed to your child’s learning journey is something to be commended.