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Last Updated: Friday, 9 December 2005, 15:30 GMT
London: Home schooling
Tim Donovan
Tim Donovan
Political Editor BBC London

Boy at desk
The number of children taught at home is increasing

When it comes to educating children, do mums and dads know best?

It is estimated that between 50,000 and 150,000 children are currently being taught at home.

No official figures are kept, but the main support group for home education in the UK says its membership has grown by 25% in the last year.

The Otherwise Club says many parents are choosing to go it alone out of necessity. They feel local schools are not good enough for their children.

Leslie Safran-Barson, who runs the Otherwise Club, taught her own son at home.

He went on to gain a First in Philosophy at King's College, London.

She says: "For most parents this is not ideological. Either they cannot find a school they like or they have had some traumatic experience at a school.

"People are also hearing a lot more about home education nowadays."

The 1996 Education Act gives parents the right to educate their children the way they wish. They do not have to follow the national curriculum.

But parents do not go unchecked. Local Authorities have to make sure an "efficient and full-time" education is being provided, and they have the power to take parents to court if the provision is not good enough.

It was once the preserve of the monarchy and aristocracy. But "home-schooling" now appears to transcend class barriers.

Sean Gabb, lecturer at the London Metropolitan University says "Everyone is doing it nowadays: hospital cleaners, bus conductors.

"There is no longer an easy way of categorising home-schoolers."

Some home -schoolers believe they should be entitled to state support.

Others worry that going down that route would enable the government to insist on guarantees of quality and perhaps that parents should follow the national curriculum.

Many people see parents who educate their children at home as obsessive and cranky.

Opponents argue that children fail to develop their social skills by being denied the experience -good or bad - of school.

The National Union of Teachers says home-schooling is often the result of unrealistic parental expectations or unwarranted anxiety about their local schools.

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