By Emma White, Founder and Managing Director at Mark My Papers Ltd.
19th August 2019
Most parents come to home education through adversity. That’s a fact. There are those, of course, who intend to home school their offspring from cradle through to university, but they are a minority. For the most part, home education is a decision arrived at through misadventure; because of what went wrong rather than what went right. A last resort when things don’t go according to plan.
The root causes for exiting mainstream education are numerous and the number of children falling out of school in Years 10 and 11 is growing. Be it for bullying, disruptive behaviour, educational demands not being met or a host of other reasons, more parents are finding themselves in a position they never envisaged – a self-inflicted leader and provider of a full time secondary education, without the wherewithal of knowing where to start. This means facing the entire curriculum, usually without any guidance or advice, and with a sense of foreboding that time is passing quickly and public exams loom on the horizon.
Although home education is legal in the UK, it has zero official support in the way of structured advice from the government. Knowing what is and isn’t possible from home is a minefield. Teachers and tutors who stand on the edge of school, offering lessons for children in-school can be a useful source of advice but it is prudent to choose wisely; many do not know which exams can – or equally can’t – be taken from home by home educated children. A consequence of this ‘part knowledge’ is children being prepared for exams which they are unable to do, often finding out just days before exam day dawns, when recourse for help is well nigh impossible.
A good case in point is the compulsory English Language GCSE. All English Language GCSE specifications include a speaking element and this can only be done in school. For children who have recently been off-rolled, it may be an option because they retain a link with their past school, but the savvy home educating parents know their only two options are the Edexcel IGCSE, which offers two quite different choices, or the Cambridge IGCSE, which is split into two levels – neither include a speaking element. But many within the teaching profession don’t realise that speaking elements precludes those educating from home. Confused? Well this is only the tip of a very deep and convoluted iceberg which encompasses many subjects, exam boards and specifications, and causes havoc amongst unsuspecting home educators.
There are indeed Facebook groups that offer help, but the problem is knowing the right questions to ask – questions that never cross the minds of most poor, unsuspecting parents because they are unaware that their plans for their child present a hidden challenge.
Mark My Papers was founded to bring high quality marking and assessments by official examiners to home educated children: a cost effective alternative to tutoring. What became apparent early on was the propensity for many home educators to be following an out of date specification – perfectly understandable at a time of overhaul across the GCSE spectrum. The remnants of the changes still act as a trap for the unsuspecting home educating mum or dad.
Last year, Lord Soley launched a government enquiry into the possibility of more regulation across the world of home education: an intervention that was met with mixed feelings amongst the home educating community. The essence of the inquiry was to create more accountability, but the real problem for home educating parents is not the desire to remain invisible but the lack of guidance. The not knowing ‘how’, the how to mastermind and orchestrate a child through public exams without any teaching experience whatsoever. Regulation or no regulation, the truth is, the decision to home educate and leave the protection of a secure and well informed school feels like falling off a cliff in the dark. The government may intend to monitor who does and doesn’t home educate but there is no examination direction as yet. None whatsoever.
Beyond the core objective of Mark My Papers to mark brilliantly and improve grades with professional, official examiners, the company takes very seriously the plight of anxious parents who find themselves cut adrift, responsible for single handedly steering their offspring through public exams. Those who find themselves in this position can benefit from the way Mark My Papers offers an element of ‘hand holding’, working closely with parents and students alike to make the process feel less intimidating and more attainable, to explain what can and can’t be achieved and how best to attain those all important goals. The reassuring factor is that children and parents have the peace of mind of knowing what standard is expected – knowing they are on track.
The angst of knowing what is and isn’t possible, is tempered by MMP explaining well in advance if a child is heading for a closed door. And all this for the fractional cost of a commitment to tutoring.