2020: the year we took back our children’s education

Is 2020 the time to reclaim our state education system? Where choice is paramount and options open to all. As children march in London and demand answers to their questions, could policy makers choose to make education more transparent, honest and equal?

Home educated youngsters are standing alongside their peers from schools across the UK. All students who have worked hard to gain a qualification in their own right stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity. There are no markers that identify which child was home educated, or which child went to school. There is no placard that tells us which demographic each child might be from. 280,000 A-Level students stand on equal ground asking their Government what is going to happen next and what they intend to do in the future.

Sky News 15/08/20

The war that Covid-19 waged on our children’s education didnt discriminate. Covid-19 impacted every child regardless of them learning in schools or at home.

The outcry that we are seeing from angry parents and the marching of our young people stems from their faith in a system that they thought they knew about. They didn’t. Westminster will not be doing the swift U-Turn that we all saw happen in Scotland. Conservative Westminster has rarely, if ever, acknowledged that the system they brought in during the late 80’s, simply benefits the more affluent children, whilst increasing systemic inequalities for children coming from working-class families or other struggling demographics.

Then in 2010, the same Government did an overhaul of the education system, except they simply increased the inequalities, ignored experienced teachers and unions, to bring in rules and regulations that only benefited a very small percentage of children. What they did, was to increase poor mental health, increase the stress and anxiety of children during a time in their life when life is difficult enough and put greater emphasis on an exams system that still failed to work.

Parents, maybe for the first time ever, are learning exactly how their children’s schooling is administered. 2020 has forced the Government into answering questions that some parents in the schooling system have never asked before. This is making parents take a serious look at just how fair examinations really are and perhaps more importantly, it is playing out in the lives of our next generation. Our up and coming, new parents. Our generation of new voters and maybe, our next home education supporters. The cracks are beginning to show. There is nothing the Government can do to slow down the avalanche. For years we have told our 11 yr olds that they must sit their SATs because it is crucial for their high school career, when we already know that SAT’s benefit only the primary school said 11 yr old is about to leave. League tables include the SAT data. High schools re-test year 7 pupils, some even make 11 yr olds attend a summer school after leaving primary education, so that they can create a baseline themselves. 

We have told our 16 yr olds that the 2-3 years of terrible stress, poor mental health, and exams pressure is necessary for their University careers and/or their future employment – however this is not strictly true. When were you asked about your GCSE’s? All 9-10 of those GCSEs? Many employers ask only about English and Maths.

Yes, some University courses and FE College courses require high academic entry qualifications. However, these are in the minority. If you want to study medicine or law, of course, you will need several subjects at a high grade, however, hospitality and retail, rarely even check for english and math, says one employer. In fact, some employers in sectors where students apply for part-time jobs, actively ignore CV’s from students of grammar schools, and throw out CV’s where children and young people have a list of subjects showing A and B grades. Why? “because kids who can get an A on a history essay don’t know how to speak to the older generation”, says another employer and “if all they have done is pass exams, they have no idea how to work out the change in their head, pour an espresso and serve 4 people in a queue simultaneously – they have no real-world experience and a history essay is not going to care about my customer base”. Four different companies regularly employed young people with lower grades, or no grades at all.

The education sector have told all of those 280,000 young people across the UK that they need to get A’s (9’s) and B’s (8’s) to move onto the next part of their life. The adult part that starts with the University.  However this is not quite true either. Next week, the untruths told about GCSEs will be making headlines. Lies are stacking up and the Government is at risk of losing an entire generation. 

To further uncover this 40-year-old Conservative untruth, consider the following:

–         How does a 60 yr old start an undergraduate marketing degree if they left school at 15 yrs old?

–         Why can a C-grade 18yr old be sat in the same lecture hall as an 18yr old A-grade student, attending the exact same course?

–         How do home educated young people, who follow no given curriculum and choose not to take any formal examinations, still, gain entry to education courses such as Primary Education?

Just take a moment to consider those questions. Ask a colleague, talk to friends. Can it be so? The answer is that everyone in each of those groups can attend University, equally. The Government rely on parents asking limited to no questions, parents experiencing the schooling system and being relatively successful in it. They rely on parents trusting the word of teachers over and above finding out any information first-hand. What is maybe more worrying is that teachers perpetuate the lies we tell our children because they need to, have to and are expected to if they want to continue in a career they may love, in a school, they do not want to leave.

95% Teachers say SATs are harmful to mental health
FE News April 2019 https://www.fenews.co.uk/press-releases/28794-95-teachers-say-sats-are-harmful-to-mental-health

Teachers who do stand up to the system are in the minority, are rarely empowered to do so; many actually believe that because the system worked for them, it will work for the children in their classes. For some it will be beneficial, They will be successful. For many, potentially the majority, the system will break spirits, destroy the love of learning, and increase the terrible levels of poor mental health among our children, young people, and future adults.

“Many children are home schooled because their parents feel they have been let down by the system and they can offer them a better start.This might include children with special educational needs, and children who have been bullied or who suffer from anxiety or other mental health conditions.” (Gov)

“NHS statistics have revealed that emotional disorders have become more common in five- to 15-year-olds – increasing from 3.9 percent in 2004 to 5.8 percent in 2017. With the child and adolescent mental health services within schools under enormous pressure, some parents are simply removing their children from school rather than waiting to access support services.”

This is no longer a debate between home education and schooling. This is the future of our workforce, the future of our children, and the future of the state education system. We have been given what might be our only opportunity to completely alter a system that is proven to be ineffective. Let’s be brave and make education better for all our children, grandchildren and future teachers.

Lets answer those earlier questions:

  • Mature students can be accepted onto University courses with no prior qualifications at all. Universities cannot discriminate based on birth date. Degrees are paid for ultimately by the student. It is very difficult to tell a paying customer that they cannot pay the same price for a product, as other students, due to their age.
  • Clearing sees Universities across the UK reduce entry requirements for admissions teams to fill courses with as many students as possible. Medicine, Law and specialist courses very often fill up with those A-Level students who are almost guaranteed to be awarded the highest grades. However, look at what we have now, grades being awarded based on the schools and college these children went to; how is that giving grades based on merit and exam success?

We are perpetuating huge inequalities in our country that have run deep for decades, as educationalists, we have scratched our heads trying to resolve this ingrained unfairness. If you fill a college with disadvantaged pupils and then grade their exams based on the achievement rates from year groups who came before, anyone with basic math can see that those students are unlikely to be studying medicine at a red brick university, not because they are incapable of becoming a doctor, but because the grading system does not allow them to reach those courses in those institutions.

The Guardian reported that disadvantaged students had been most affected by the downgrading of A-Levels:

  • Home education students who do not follow a curriculum and have taken no formal examinations are still able to attend University and have success in academic and vocational careers. We have home educated lawyers and doctors, home educated presidents, and prime ministers, home educated millionaires and business people. So if Home Educated children can gain places at Universities worldwide, why have we led our 18 yr olds and their parents to believe that top A-Levels grades are the only way to gain a place in higher education?

Never has there been a more opportune moment for the uprising of students and parents who collectively have the power to change state education for the better. To improve mental health, to improve the faith in the system, to improve choices and chances. Time will tell.

The Government can no longer ostracize home education as a radically alternative approach to education, when they have all been outed in some of the biggest lies throughout 2 generations.

Home Education suddenly becomes a valid, real alternative to classrooms. Life education suddenly becomes important to parents and children. Communication with society and the ability to budget, see entrepreneurship opportunities and explore personal interests; suddenly become possibilities.

Let us hear our young people

Let us see our children

Let us listen to our employers

We can build something great from the ashes of the 80’s

Refs & Additional Reading:







Published by Chelle Oldham

Woman; Mother; Wife; Ex; Researcher; Academic; Lecturer; Teacher; School Teacher; University Teacher; Manager; Planner; Swimmer; Artist; Author; Poet; Reader; Editor; Santa; Nurse; Counselor; Disabled; Single; Cook; Cleaner; Supervisor; Administrator;

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