I have been so encouraged this week to learn about the planned strike for May 3rd - parents defending education, often with the support of teachers and headteachers, by keeping their children home from school this Tuesday 3rd May in protest over government testing. Over six years ago, I made the decision to remove my children from formal schooling and educate them at home. One of the reasons behind this decision was the pressure on schools to perform for league tables rating their success, a success which was not necessarily demonstrative of how much value they were adding to children's lives at all. This pressure was felt by head teachers, and fed down into staff rooms, putting teachers under immense pressure and slowly draining any joy from the profession. It was also felt by children. Attending a Year 3 parents' evening, not long after my eldest son had taken his KS2 SATs, I was struck by how much of the talk about his progress was communicated with reference to how his achievement would affect his SATs scores three years later in Year 6! Ridiculous. Coupled with this, my son lost his love of learning, the light had gone out in his eyes, his head dropped, he lost confidence. I was concerned.
The thing is, I get tired of listening to parents and teachers moaning. I didn't want to spend years moaning about a system I felt powerless to change. I still don't think many parents are aware that our children's education is actually our responsibility. I certainly wasn't; but The Education Act 1996 states:
"Duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age.
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—
(a)to his age, ability and aptitude, and
(b)to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."
It is this last sentence which is critical, "Either by regular attendance at school - or otherwise." Taking my children out of school was a proactive choice, a protest really, at a system I did not believe in. More and more parents are choosing to educate their children otherwise than at school in protest at a system we have lost confidence in. And this grassroots movement actually does have the potential to affect change. It challenges the norm, and pushes our understanding of what learning is right out of the schooling box.
So, great! Power to the parents! Protest on Tuesday, and remember that education is your responsibility. Take a risk and enjoy it. Do not be afraid to take responsibility for your children's learning back for yourself. And if you don't like what is happening in schools, don't moan about it: Refuse to participate by taking your children out of the broken system.
When schools and headteachers are uncertain about how to mark a child's absence on the register, whether to 'authorise' absence or not, we should all be aware of an option listed there, which is "Educated off-site." Explain absence in those terms, and with confidence. On Tuesday, as children up and down the country participate in many activities planned for their "strike", they will be being educated off-site, not least in the importance of protest to a thriving democracy. Hopefully they - and their parents - will also learn just how much fun "education otherwise" can be!
More information about the planned strike can be found here: https://letthekidsbekids.wordpress.com/
It has been reported by the BBC here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36149850