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Do Our Young People Need 12 GCSEs?

We home educate our daughter.  She is 15 years old, in Year 10 and we have been home educating since the beginning of Year 9.  We pulled her out of school for a variety of reasons, chiefly the quality of education, problems with a group of girls and a discipline issue in her form that teachers were either unwilling or unable to address.  Just over a year into home ed and it’s the best decision we’ve made.

Our daughter likes structure, so we have a timetable which incorporates academic work and her love of performing arts.  Once we were out of the system, we realised that there are many ways to get an education, and school does not necessarily set young people up for going out into the world. 

Sophia dropped subjects she hates (RS, Geography, ICT) and concentrates on subjects she enjoys.  She is thriving.  We are broadly following the National Curriculum because Sophia wants to do some GCSEs, but nowadays there are so many options for young people, both practical and academic. 

Although Sophia is studying for GCSEs, she now has time for the hobbies and interests that bring her joy.  We begin our week on a Monday morning at The Maidstone Art Centre.  The art centre is not-for-profit and is filled with every piece of art equipment imaginable so the young people can create anything they want.  These are not structured lessons, but an opportunity for young people to express themselves and try new things.  Help and guidance is given if needed.  Our daughter took a stall at the recent art and craft fair and sold four drawings!  She was so chuffed!

Which brings me to the question at the top of the page.  Why do grammar schools insist on burdening their pupils with 10-12 GCSE subjects?  To say that young people make ‘choices’ for subjects at GCSE is incorrect, as the options for students get smaller with each passing year.  I hear from parents who are frustrated that their child is forced to take subjects they are not happy with to abide by rules set by the school and government.  We know families whose children have to give up activities outside school because of the workload in Years 10 and 11. 

Home educating families are a broad church, and what works in our house may not be right for other young people.  We are quite structured (with flexibility) but there are so many ways to teach a child and everyday activities can become opportunities for learning.

I don’t hate schools.  Mr L is an experienced teacher and I have seen first-hand the excellent work done by school staff.  We need good teachers, so surely there is a better way to do things that equips young people for the wider world and avoids teacher burnout. 

If you live near Maidstone, drop in to The Maidstone Art Centre.  You will get a warm welcome from Saff, the artists, and volunteers.  I can’t draw; I go for the coffee!


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