It did occur to me after posting the last review about Gareth Malone’s Extraordinary school for boys that if the final episode showed that he had not achieved much, if anything, then Home Education might look a bit dodgy too. After all that waxing lyrical about how Gareth’s approach was so much like so many of us home educating parents, well then, I was hugely relieved it worked.
Whether there is a truly empirical base for how home education works is one of those debatable points. The lack of full empirical data is a lovely excuse in driving the fact-twisters like the comedy duo Badman and Balls to come up with their “stats” on home educated young people. There is one oft spoken of problem with the school approach to education that those of us who educate our own children mutter about over cups of tea – the appallingly naff and girly National Curriculum, and the institutionalised approach to education which barely allows children to learn and be interested in anything for themselves. In fact many of us would say it is a definite handicap to learning.
Let’s remember that Gareth was invited to the primary school to take on the boys from Years 5 and 6 for two months. In that short time frame he was challenged to bring the reading levels up of all the boys by six months to try and close the gap between the boys reading ability and the girls. He was setting out to do in two months what the teachers had not managed in 5 and 6 years.
Some of the boys he took on were nearly two years behind the girls in reading. I wish there had been more time in the programme to find out what had happened to allow this state of affairs. What did the boy’s parents think of the situation – did they even know about it? How much involvement did the parents have in their son’s education and if it was severely limited was this because they had abrogated responsibility to the school and teachers or was it because the teachers gave the impression that as “professionals” they were the right people to be dealing with the boys (and girls) and that parents should just butt out? This was never even touched on by the programme but I got the feeling that Gareth went out and invited parents to take part in their own son’s education and they responded well to this and DID get involved. It certainly gave me the impression that this was novel for them.
Many of us know parents whose children are in schools who openly admit they have no idea what learning happens or why their child might struggle – or even IF the child is struggling. They have bought into the “cult of expert” and leave it to the “professionals”, as though they are totally unaware that it is the primary right and duty of mum and dad to ensure their children receive a suitable education.
I certainly remember how difficult it was to get some teachers to actually tell me what was going on with my own children when they were in school.
A chunk of the programme followed the issue of discipline. One of the boys was rude, disrespectful and very disobedient. In any setting this simply can’t be allowed to continue. Gareth got cross and put the lad in a good long time out. He returned to the lad later but received more of the same so he walked away and left him in more time out. He refused to argue, but simply left him to stew.
This was a year 6 boy so must have been aged 10 to 11. I would never allow my 5 and 7 year olds to behave like that and would hope that long before they reach the age of 1o I will have got rid of such behaviour. If my children get lippy they sit on the stairs and are expected to apologise. If they are particularly rude (as this lad was) other privileges would be removed.
One of the teachers came and told Gareth that she and others had seen the episode and that he had handled it badly. He should have allowed the rude and snotty kid to speak and give his side of the situation! In other words he should enable as much bad behaviour as possible. Another reason to home educate.
Finally Gareth received the results of his “very-like-HE” approach to boys education. He had got many of the boys reading levels up by six months but there were boys who had increased in skill by 8 and 9 months and at least two boys had jumped 20 months in reading skill in the two months they had received with their non-teacher, no-National Curriculum time.
The year 6 boys were all leaving primary school and heading off to those huge Secondary schools for year 7. What would stick and what would be undone I wonder. And the boys in year 5 moving into year 6, what becomes of them? Are they allowed to continue to work in their “outdoor classroom”? Do they get time out of the classroom, room to explore and think?
Or does it all revert to the box ticking, boxed classroom, institutionalised national curriculum approach?
Unless there’s a follow-up – and I bet there wont be – we shall never know. Sadly though, I think we can guess.