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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 September 2006, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Yorks and Lincs: Home grown learning
Len Tingle
Len Tingle
Political Editor
BBC Yorkshire and Lincolnshire

Who's for home teaching then..?

Most of Britain's children have been back at school for a good week or two.

But for a growing number of parents and youngsters, the concept of school holidays has become meaningless.

They are the families who have decided to by-pass the school system and educate their children at home.

But do parents, who keep their kids out of school, not get sent to prison?

Well, the Education Act imposes a duty on parents to ensure children of school age are given full-time education "either by regular attendance at school or otherwise".

And it is that word "otherwise" that opens the door for those wishing to opt out of the school system.

Jayne Roscamp and family
Learning is a family affair in the Roscamp home

In the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire region, more people are exercising their right to opt out.

Latest figures show 298 children are home-educated in Lincolnshire, 186 in Hull, 114 in Sheffield, and 106 in Leeds.

And those are just the children that show up on the official radar of local councils - the Department For Education and Skills (DFES) accepts that there are certainly other children who have never been to school and never been registered with any education authority.

The national total of home educators could be as high as 100,000.

Why do it?

Jayne Roscamp from Swallownest near Sheffield has four children, three of them over five - none has ever set foot in a school.

She says: "It was a chance meeting at a toddler group with someone who had home educated five children.

"A lot of what she said about leaving them to explore their own interests resonated with me.

"This is how I feel - my daughter learnt to walk on her own and all the other early skills with no formal teaching - so why at the age of four would external intervention need to happen?

"Surely she had it in her to learn?"

Theo and his mother Fiona
Fiona is convinced that home education points the way to individuality

"We did look at schools, but I wasn't happy with what I saw in terms of how much freedom and playing there was for the very young.

"You only have one chance to parent your children so you really have to follow your instincts and do it in the way you think is right."


Fiona Nicholson, from Sheffield, has a 13-year-old-son, Theo.

"Theo's never been to school. We were just always too busy doing things which interested us and it kind of followed on from not going to nursery.

"I had already met a couple of people who home educated and I read some books on the subject.

"You know your own children really well and anything you don't know, you can pick up.

"I think Theo is very individual and I don't think he could have got through school being as individual and eccentric as he is and that's something I really like in him.

"That's a strength when he's home educated and he gets really interested in his special interests.

"He would have been very frustrated at school having to start doing things when he wasn't ready and stop when he wasn't ready."

Jail ultimatum

Of course parents, who home educate, do have a duty to show they are providing a sufficient level of education.

Paul Makin, from Sheffield City Council's Children's Directorate, says they have a system in place that both "challenges and supports families".

Paul Makin
Paul Makin believes broad interaction is lost with home education

Home visits are made and advice given on any necessary improvements in the quality of home teaching.

If the advisory system fails, then parents can be compelled to send children to school and, ultimately, jailed for not doing so.

His personal view remains that schools offer something that home education doesn't.

"There are a number of fundamentals about going to school that are broader than the "three Rs" and they're about socialisation, about meeting people.

"Fundamentally, what you experience in school is that broad range of people.

"You meet with people that you might not choose to - and that's life.

"Once you get into the workplace, you'll be working alongside people who might not be your choice as friends, but we all have to learn those interpersonal skills."

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