6. Efficient and suitable education
6.1 Acknowledging diversity
Parents' educational provision will reflect a diversity of approaches and interests. Some parents may wish to provide education in a formal and structured manner, following a traditional curriculum and using a fixed timetable that keeps to school hours and terms. Other parents may decide to make more informal provisions that are responsive to the developing interests of their child. One approach is not necessarily any more valid than another. Although some parents may welcome general advice and suggestions about resources, methods and materials, local authorities should not specify a curriculum which parents must follow.
Children learn in different ways and at different times and speeds. It should be appreciated that parents and children embarking on home education for the first time might require a period of adjustment before finding their preferred mode of learning. Parents are not required to have any qualifications or training to provide their children with an appropriate education. Their commitment to providing an efficient education that is suitable for their child may be demonstrated by them providing some indication of their objectives and resources.
The approach home educating parents take to assessing their child's progress is likely to be dictated by their own philosophy or views, and in many cases, the absence of formal assessment may be a feature of the education provision. Progress, over the long term, may take a variety of forms.
6.2 Suggested characteristics of efficient and suitable education
There is no definition of suitable and efficient education set out in primary legislation. However, as set out in section 2, the following examples of case law may be helpful in forming definitions:
Harrison & Harrison v Stevenson. Appeal 1981 Worcester Crown Court (unreported)
The Judge defined the outcomes of a suitable education as
1. to prepare the children for life in a modern civilised society; and
2. to enable them to achieve their full potential
R v Secretary of State for Education, ex parte Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass School Trust. Judicial review 1985, The Times, 12th April 1985
Mr Justice Woolf said: 'Education is suitable if it primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the wider country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child's options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so'.
In their consideration of parents' provision of home education, authorities may reasonably expect the provision to include the following characteristics:
- Consistent involvement of parents or other significant carers.
- Presence of a philosophy or ethos (not necessarily a recognised philosophy), with parents showing commitment, enthusiasm, and recognition of the child's needs, attitudes and aspirations.
- The opportunity for the child to be stimulated by their learning experiences.
- Involvement in a broad spectrum of activities appropriate to the child's stage of development.
- Access to appropriate resources and materials.
- The opportunity for an appropriate level of physical activity.
- The opportunity to interact with other children and adults.
School education is changing with the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence, which is not primarily about prescriptive curriculum content or structures. Rather it is about focussing on the outcomes that learning and teaching will achieve for young people. This chimes well with the philosophy of many home educating parents, and local authorities may also find it useful to consider the principles which govern Curriculum for Excellence as characteristics of suitable and efficient education.
To summarise, these principles are that every child:
- Has opportunity to develop as a successful learner, effective contributor, confident individual and responsible citizen.
- Knows they are valued and supported.
- Has opportunity to develop skills for learning, vocational skills and skills for life.
- Has opportunity to develop a range of knowledge and skills that adds up to a general education.
- Finds learning relevant and meaningful.
- Is challenged and engaged by their learning.
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