In the interests of balance, the BBC makes the error of roping in a so-called expert, who in actual fact knows next to nothing about what they are talking about. Or so it seemed in this piece about home education which can be heard via the Listen Again facility for the Today Programme, Radio 4, from 08.40 hours. There was a lovely section from a home educating family, which was predictably immediately followed by a poorly informed John Humphrys speaking to LA inspector, Tony Mooney, who proceeded to characterise the legal situation appallingly badly on air and didn't appear to demonstrate any proper understanding of the theories of learning that underpin home education.
The same so-called educational expert actually makes a better job of the legal situation in an article in the The Independent, but his understanding of epistemology of home education remains woeful even in the situation of having time to think about what he means to say. And whilst we are at it, contrary to another of his assertions, I don't think anyone at EO says there are 170,000 home educating children in the UK. And we almost universally call ourselves home educators, not home schoolers here in the UK, Mr Mooney. And what is so astonishing about the state not having immediate access to every child in the country? Really, it is actually astonishing that anyone could think this astonishing.
One wonders not only how the BBC imagines that its journalism is worth the licence fee, but also how home education could possibly be appropriately assessed by someone so poorly educated themselves. No wonder Mr Mooney thinks he couldn't home educate. He almost certainly couldn't. That doesn't however mean that plenty of other people can't, as he so clearly tries to imply.They’ve got to be ahead of them all the time. Believe me. I’m an ex-teacher and I would have never have tried it. Even though I teach maths, science.. and I can go and get the information I need in other subjects I would never have tried it. It’s a really taxing job.
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Below...courtesy of Gill, a transcript of the piece from the Today Programme.
Pre-recorded interview with home education family at home comes to an end.]
JH: [laughs]: well there we are. That’s the Ayres family. With me in the studio is Tony Mooney, who is the home education inspector for a couple of different Local Education Authorities. A good idea or not? I mean, obviously they were getting along terribly well, those little kids, they were having a lovely time, but is it a good idea?
TM: With some families it can be a very good idea. But mainly, you get white middle-class families on these programmes or in the papers and they’ve got the money and the time..
JH: And the education themselves..
TM: And the education themselves.. But my experience is that I go to mainly working class estates where youngsters have been pulled out of school because they’ve been expelled or they’ve been bullied or the parents just can’t get them into school and don’t want to go through the courts so they say they’re educating at home. Now..
JH: But can they say that? I thought we had a legal obligation to send our children to school? I thought we had to, by law!
TM: If you’ve never registered a child at a school then the local education authority has no responsibility at all. It has no right to go and examine whether that child is being educated or not.
JH [dramatically incredulous]: Really?
TM: I just have to go once a year if it’s satisfactory. If it’s not satisfactory I go sometimes every two or three months. But that’s few and far between. The bar is very low, in terms of proving that you’re educating at home.
JH: But put aside those problem families that you describe, and as you say there are a lot of them, if we’re talking about the increasing trend, it seems, for middle class families, for mothers and fathers to educate their children at home , can they do a good job of it? When you compare that with what’s happening at school and putting aside obviously that they’re not getting the social mix that they get at school, but put that aside, can they do a decent job of educating their children?
TM: Some people do a decent job of educating their children. But even middle-class families tell me, after a year or two, it is really taxing to keep up the effort and get the knowledge that they require to pass onto their children.
JH [laughing]: They’ve got to be ahead of them all the time.
TM: They’ve got to be ahead of them all the time. Believe me. I’m an ex-teacher and I would have never have tried it. Even though I teach maths, science.. and I can go and get the information I need in other subjects I would never have tried it. It’s a really taxing job.
JH: But – it’s happening and more of it is going on. What do you put that down to, the fact that it’s trebled in the last few years?
TM: It has trebled, yes. I would put it down to the fact that, you know.. parents don’t like their child being bullied, and that’s one major issue. Another major issue is that they can’t get them into the schools of their choice.. Erm. Things like that. And also they can’t get them into school sometimes, they’re truanting so they just opt out of the system not to get prosecuted.
JH: Right. But if you were advising somebody – somebody comes to you – educated person says I’d like to educate my kids, your – in a word, your advice to them, or in a sentence would be?
TM: Be very careful. It’s hard work. I personally wouldn’t do it.
JH: And you’re an ex-teacher. Tony Mooney, many thanks.
TM: Thank you.