By Huw Lloyd
As I was driving to do my family’s shopping on a rare foray into the outside world during lockdown, I caught part of the excellent Nihal Arthanayake’s Radio 5 Live show on a Wednesday afternoon where they do a section called School Runnings.
In the segment they talk education, parenting and all things related to children. It was no surprise to hear that the main topic of conversation was the current situation around home educating children during school closures.
The conversation was balanced and good humoured as the three guests and Nihal discussed their different experiences of educating their children at home during the lockdown. It was as the show was ending as I found myself sat in my local shopping centre car park, extending my exposure to the outside world that one guest made a very thought provoking statement.
Happy at home
As Nihal wrapped up the show his guest said that he and his wife were looking into the practicalities and logistics of continuing to home school once the lockdown had ended. Sadly there was only about 15 seconds of the show left for him to elaborate on his point, however in those 15 seconds he said his children were happy, more relaxed and were enjoying learning more with him and his wife than at school.
As I stood in the queue for the supermarket I found myself pondering the thought that this may be the case for more parents and children than I had previously considered, when you become a teacher you have the idea that the best place for a child to be educated is in a school environment, be that mainstream or special, after all that is how the vast majority of children are educated. However, has the current situation changed people’s perspective and priorities around education?
The guest on the show saying his children were happier and more relaxed since they have been educated at home, this is surely important for all parents, we all want our children to be happy and relaxed, if educating them at home does this for them, then is this not a better thing for them?
There may be other benefits too, a growing number of children are being diagnosed with anxiety issues, learning in a more relaxed and familiar environment could help with this. The flexibility around home schooling could also benefit children and parents, allowing them to learn and work to fit around their schedules, after all with a growing number of people working from home, why should children not learn from home.
Of course we need to marry this to the quality of education children will receive, with the best will in the world children will not achieve as well academically being educated at home by parents than at school taught at school by professional teachers and the potential impact this could have on their future.
The lack of opportunity to develop social interaction skills which come with being immersed within a school environment would also be a concern, a lot of the lessons we learnt in our school days, stay with us as we enter the world of work. Will home educated children have those same skills and the level of careers advice and guidance to maximise their potential in the future?
The other consideration will be for local authorities, if the number of children being home schooled does increase when lockdown is completed, then they will have to consider how they approach this.
More support for parents home educating may be required, or could there be a more proactive approach to home school, could we see a blended approach to education, half in school and half at home for example, could it see schools having to provide work for home schooled children to complete with their parents, could parents buy into this as a service, or could this be provided to children who would normally be in receipt of pupil premium funding?
Whatever happens following the lockdown and whatever education looks like going forward, it is highly unlikely it will be exactly the same as before and parents will have a decision to make as to what they feel is in the best interests of their children.