Resources to Help Combat Propaganda

What’s been said?

Below we highlight three recent items which have mentioned HE, two of them positive, the other ambivalent.

Should I Homeschool My Child Whilst Living Abroad?” on Expatriate Healthcare’s website begins by informing readers that home schooling is “an educational option that is becoming popular amongst expat communities” and “the beauty of it is that it can be transferred anywhere”. Realistic lists of some of the benefits and disadvantages of HE follow, the former emphasising its complete flexibility, the potential of increased closeness for families learning together and the possibility of matching the pace and content of learning to a child’s capabilities. There is some realism in the five disadvantages highlighted, and an awareness throughout that the decision to home educate is a serious one, meriting careful advance consideration.

A recent Dublin People article entitled, “Local girls star in science books” introduces HE sisters Anoushka (9) and Abhinav (11) Sathiaseelan from Dublin. Members of a young people’s group called The Wonder Panel, they were recruited through a national competition by University College Dublin to help with the design of a series of Science Apprentice books. The quality which the organisers were looking for in contributors is what will interest HE parents most – they wanted to locate “‘stretchy thinkers’ – children full of wonder who enjoy figuring things out.” And they found this quality in these home educated sisters!

Lord Baker’s (former Education Minister) contribution to a House of Lords debate about Welfare, Life Chances and Social Mobility of Young People [Column1438] on 3 November included a less positive reference to HE. Speaking about where the 4000 young people surveyed had come from before joining the University Technical Colleges [UTC’s] which he had pioneered, Baker said of the HE sector, “We found that 3.5% had come from home education. When home education is good, it is good; when it is bad, it is horrid, and we get quite a lot of the horrid cases.”

However, those looking for positive reasons to promote HE could usefully read at least some of Baker’s input to the debate, as he describes the importance of keeping up with the “fourth industrial revolution in which we are living” in preparing our young people for their future lives. In his view, some become disengaged during their KS3 years and others suffer from an outdated or overly academic timetable where the proportion of technical subjects has been reduced. Hence they emerge from school demotivated and poorly prepared for the changing jobs market and the working world they will enter.

“…we do not quite know what jobs will emerge. It is therefore the duty of our education system to provide skills for youngsters which are very adaptable… Our students have designed things – again, that hardly happens in other schools; and they have done problem solving and worked in teams, which does not happen in our schools at all today. We are trying to equip our youngsters with skills which will improve their choices in life.”

So we find someone normally opposed to HE extolling the virtues of those very skills which many HE parents try to foster in their children, and which frequently characterise home educated young people. How ironic that whilst he desires an outcome very similar to one HE parents probably aspire to, he finds it hard to be positive about HE!

Why does it matter?

With influential players such as Ofsted, ADCS and Local Authorities paying lip service to the possibility of HE being done well, but in reality campaigning for registration and monitoring for all they’re worth, it’s vital that HE parents keep clear-headed in the propaganda war at whatever level opportunities present themselves.

To do this, it’s important to keep abreast of what specific criticisms are being made about HE, so you can ask relevant questions. For instance, we have all heard plenty about HE children being in danger of radicalisation, but where is the evidence for this? Or is this an over-stated association in the minds of the anti-HE lobby, and an effective scare tactic?

Keeping an eye on what is going on in schools is worthwhile too. Lord Baker is seemingly of the view that the range of opportunities being offered to some schooled children is being reduced. Could such concerns provide grounds to point out that EHE young people are more likely to think outside the box, show initiative and have good problem-solving skills, all of which are highly rated in today’s changing jobs market?

What can I do?

Remember examples of the positives and advantages of HE, ready for use at an opportune moment.

When HE is misrepresented, speak up calmly and politely. Try to set the record straight or provide more balance.

Think carefully about the terms in which current opposition to HE is framed. It’s no good responding to an argument which no-one is putting forward. We need to match our response as closely as possible to the issues on which the opponents of HE are focusing their attention.