Annette is on Radio Sheffield. Great stuff. You can catch the recording here with transcript below.
(AT: you're a bit of a speed talker at times...I couldn't keep up! Toby's Yorkshire drawl was much easier, when not nearly incomprehensible.)
AT = Annette Taberner
TF = Toby Foster
TF: Now you seen the papers. According to the right-wing think tank, Policia, many school teachers are not up to the job. That's what it said. It's their words not ours. Underqualified, not enough A levels between them, and just not very good. There's talk in the office about teaching standards, and if you don't want to send your children to school, what are the alternatives? Annette Taberner, is a parent who has taken her son out of school and began to educate him at home. She's with me now. Morning Annette.
TF: You decided to take your son out of school. What was...?
AT: No, my son's never been to school.
TF: He's never been to school?
AT: He's never been to school. No
TF: Every day we get it wrong, sorry about that. How did you decide not to send him?
AT: Well, he was one of those children who was coming up to school age, a bit timid, not very resilient, hated being left on his own, and I went to see the local school to talk to them about him starting and they were adamant that he had to do five mornings. And I think if we had had the option of a graduated approach, so he could have done two and then moved up to five, we might have gone to school, but as a parent I just thought that I couldn't put him through that, five mornings a week, it would have been unpleasant. So I went away to think again thinking I would go and look at another school, thinking they would be a bit more flexible and in the meantime I found out about an organisation called Education Otherwise and that's our national charity. I had no idea you could actually teach children at home but I thought initially, oh well maybe we'll do this for one or two years and he's 14 and very resilient now. We've never looked back, really.
TB: He's never been to school. Now you are a teacher.
AT: I am a teacher, and have taught in schools, yeah.
TB: So, do you think that is obviously a benefit for you?
AT: I don't think it was a benefit. People seem to think that it would be a good idea, but actually the skills that you need to teach 35 children in the classroom and to teach the National Curriculum are completely different from the skills that you use to teach one or two children at home. And I think most parents, you know, they are the children's first teachers, aren't they, and it is much more like the setting in the early years of children.
TF: Yeah I wonder, I wondered, your main thoughts about not sending them to school were not academic. They were social..
AT: No, they were social.
TF: If that is the case, were you not removing him socially from school?
AT: No, this is the other misconception. I think that a lot of people who have never really thought about home education or haven't met home educators seem to think that we keep our kids at home and we hot-house them, and we have to be round the kitchen table sweating away, and actually people who come into contact with our community know that that's not really what it's like. We've got a thriving group, we meet regularly. We go on visits, we go on outings, we do things together, and of course, we are all part of the wider community, so my kids go to groups as other children do, you know, to scouts, brownies, all those sorts of things, so they are interacting with our community all the time.
TB: My kids are very young. My eldest is 3 and a half. When it comes to thinking about schools, we're lucky, we live near a fantastic school, if we stay where we are, their whole school life will be fantastic. But I find it difficult to get motivated academically, I am not really interested, my wife is so we have the best of both worlds, I think. I wanted to be happy, I wanted to be friendly, I wanted to be social and I didn't want to be bullied, and if you get through to 16 with that, really I have to say, and my wife will hate me to say this, I don't give a monkey's about exams, I really don't care, I want them to be happy more than anything and I would think that the best place to do that is to be surrounded by other kids.
AT: yeah or surrounded by other family people, community who are interested in you. The biggest determinant I think in whether children thrive and do well, is actually whether they have that love and support and help you know and an interested adult...
AT: and the kids who fall through the system are sadly the ones who haven't got that.
TF: How do you get on with the LA
AT: Well the LA have, it is a bit of a post code lottery actually nationally. In some areas they are very good and we are working very closely with Sheffield council at the moment to look at this area. In other areas, we have real problems because there isn't actually any money for LAs to do this work, so the people who work with our community often haven't really got much knowledge of the law, haven't got a lot of background into what it is we are trying to do, and there are some horrendous stories, and because people don't know it's legal, we end up with things like doctors, health visitors reporting our children to the LA and saying they are are not going to school. Well, they aren't going to school, but they are receiving an education. There is a lot of confusion in the minds of the people who haven't looked at the law and who don't understand what it is, and to the LA that rings alarm bells, because they interpret that they should be in school, we are not sending them and they are truanting which is completely different so,
TF: We are going to bring callers in here, I have a caller here I really need to ask...do you have to teach the National Curriculum?
TF: You can teach whatever you like.
AT: You have got to provide an education which is suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child so all this stuff about personalised learning in schools, is really what we do, you know, we tailor the education to the needs, the ability and the aptitude of our children.
TF and do you get text books?AT: Oh yeah, yeah..
TF The other thing is, the thing that I would find most difficult is where do you stop being mum and start being teacher, and then switch back on to being mum.
AT: I don't think we compartmentalise education in that way. It's part of life. And you know, my kids are learning from the minute they wake up in the morning to the minute they go to bed at night, and if they want me to help them with something, then I help them with it. We don't get any funding at all, for doing this, it is all on your own shoulders but the responsibility for the child's education in law, whether your child goes to school or whether they don't actually lies with the parent, not with the state.
TF: Will your kids sit exams?
AT: Eventually yeah. Actually both my children are dyslexic, so they will probably do it later than they would have done in school, and there is that flexibility for me to do that.
TF: Brilliant I wish we had more time...
AT: So do I but it is a lovely day, so I'll get outside.