Who's been reading their E.G. West then? Why none other than home educating journalist dad, James Bartholomew, of course. If you need a quick history of the establishment of state education, coupled with a succinct debunking of the fiction that it is generally good for you, you couldn't go far wrong with the chapter on education in his book "The Welfare State We're In".
Some choice quotes:
"Compulsory schooling, contrary to what nineteenth century reformers expected, has not reduced crime. The indications are, if anything, the other way around: that compulsory schooling has contributed to the rise in crime."
"We published a paper in 1990 showing that Zulu children could spell better than UK children, and English is their second language." quoting Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education.
"In some cases the decision of a parent not to force a child to go to school is perfectly rational - indeed, wise and in the best interests of the child. A significant proportion of truancy is actually caused by state education. Disorder, low achievement and sometimes bullying turn people away..."
"The basic problem is this: there are far too many people being funded to monitor, advise and even direct the far too few actually doing the work." quoting Jim Hudson, head teacher.
A supply teacher found that "she was not actually expected to teach the children anything. 'My task is simply to prevent them from wrecking the classroom and injuring each other.' Many (of the schools she worked at) were 'not for the faint-hearted.
'The pupils are bad mannered, disaffected and often violent. They shout, swear, throw books around the classroom, kick over chairs and tables, laugh in your face, call you names, and threaten to "have you done" if you remonstrate with them.
Almost daily, I suffer abusive behaviour, foul language, personal insults and comments of a sexual nature too disgusting to repeat. When I first walk into a classroom, it is not unusual to be greeted with the comment "just another f***ing supply teacher.' "
"The most worrying aspect of the lack of parent power is that bad schools and bad teaching methods can go on forever."
Bartholomew also roundly trounces the claim that there has been any genuine improvement in educational standards, as could be inferred from the rise in GCSE grades. He says, for example: "One supply teacher told the TES how students at a private school in Lancashire were allowed up to six 'drafts' of English course-work before submitting a final version for marking."
Bartholomew doesn't mention that he has chosen home education over private schooling, and it would be easy to infer from this chapter that he sees private schools as significantly better option than state schools. Perhaps he has been subsequently disabused of this idea for whilst private schools may turn out the academic results, they produce significant problems of their own. Nick Duffel's book The Making of Them about the psychological effects of independent schools looks like a good place to start on this subject.