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Arora 2002

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 6 months ago

 The research document can be read here. Arora 2002.doc

 

From the research document:

"Tiny Arora works as a Senior Educational Psychologist for Kirklees Metropolitan Council. She is on a (half-time) permanent secondment to Sheffield University, where she is involved in the training and doctoral programme for Educational Psychologists, as well as research activities. Her research interests are in the area of parents as educators for their children (e.g. Portage and Paired Reading), school bullying and friendships. These themes led to her current interest in home education."

 

The critique appears below.

 

Review of Dr T Arora's "Research Report on Home Education in Kirklees".

By Clare Murton.

 

This is research into home education in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, by a Senior Educational Psychologist from Kirklees Metropolitan Council, also involved in research and psychology doctorate programmes at Sheffield University.

 

Arora asserts that "Almost all literature on Home Education…" is flawed, presenting a "skewed picture" due to self-selection. The aim was to produce a more representative picture by researching one LEA's whole database of elective home educators. Demographics statistics of a group of 65 children were produced. Closer investigation was made of those who, since the database began, had been home educated for more than 18 months; a group of 14 families, of which 12 took part, giving a cohort of 17 children.

 

There are interesting findings concerning LEA provisions and school failings but the quality of the report suffers issues such as inaccurate and imprecise reporting, unsupported statements of 'fact' and failure to conclude on all aims and some major findings of the study. For example:

 

" Vacillation between reference to subject data as "families", "parents" and/or "children" when referring to the same cohort number.

 

" Ethnic group headings vary between the whole group and the selected interviewees.

 

" It is stated that very few Kirklees children home educate without having first been in school. The study only includes LEA registered children. A child who never started school is much less likely to be on a LEA register, making this assumption untenable.

 

" Findings about the method of education delivery are not concluded upon.

 

" Massive over-representation of South Asian children and 15 year olds is not considered in the conclusion and recommendations.

 

However, of more concern is the value of the findings for understanding home education as a whole, which is limited for two main reasons.

 

First, the cohort is un-representative of elective home educators because:

 

" The definition of the target group is too narrow

 

" It is self-selective despite claims to the contrary

 

" Statistically significant percentages of data are missing or unaccounted.

 

Second, the criticisms of previous research into home education are mostly unsupported or based on misconceptions and limited to a small selection.

 

It is unclear whether the research complies with Data Protection law and is approved by an ethics committee. These are important issues given that access was given to the Pupil Support Service database.

 

Unrepresentative - self-selective - statistically flawed.

 

Arora reports an 85% response from the target group, claiming a broader sample than previous research. However, target criteria narrow the sample of home educators in Kirklees to those on the LEA's register. These will either have de-registered from school, the head teacher also having fulfilled the duty to inform the LEA or not having been in school, have either been reported to the LEA by a third party or having themselves made contact. This register had no representatives of the latter, all having previously been in school. The study ignores all home educated children not on the register.

 

Given Rothermel's (Rothermel, P 2002) finding that 40% of the 1099 children studied were not registered with an LEA and approximately 50% had never been in school, this is a significant omission. Those not known to the LEA may represent a completely different demography and education.

 

The 85% figure also disregards 9 children who had moved address, that is 14% of those originally registered. If still home educated in Kirklees, their addition to the study could increase the interviewed group to 26, and they could represent almost 35% of the sample. The "missing" children may represent a statistically-significant different picture from those interviewed. It is also possible that these families chose to purposely disconnect themselves from the LEA thereby creating an element of self-selection.

 

Two target families (?number of children) declined to take part, also demonstrating self selection.

 

Given that 53% of interviewees were South Asians, much higher than the whole group (15.5%), the target criteria significantly altered demography.

 

40% of children registered since May 1988 were age 15 or over when first registered. By using long-term (>18 months) home education as a criterion for interview, this significant demographic cohort was reduced to 29%.

 

Percentages for age and ethnicity are taken from two different cohorts.

 

A main reason for home educating was missing for 18.5% of the group. Its availability may result in an enormous effect on the findings.

Arora claims huge numbers (63% in this study) home educate for less than 18 months. Exclusion from the study of 9 (14%) missing children, home educated children who never started school and those unknown to the LEA, may have considerably inflated this figure. For example it is possible that families deciding from the outset to home educate are more likely to continue for various reasons. These could include: committed philosophical objection to schooling; less likelihood of pressure from schools or LEAs to register at a school; less likelihood to perceive their education as failing because they are not trying to recreate school at home; more parental confidence, having always maintained responsibility for their child's education.

 

Misconceptions and limited research review.

 

Arora seeks to discredit earlier research due to reliance on questionnaires or interview volunteers "usually found through a formal organisation, such as Education Otherwise (Thomas, 1998)". Beside the issue of Kirklees research drawing data from LEA questionnaires and volunteer interviewees, Thomas is misrepresented in this context. Thomas' cohort comprised 100 children "Nearly all… contacted through co-ordinators of non-aligned, loose networks of home educators…" (Thomas, A 1998 p6).

 

No further reference is given to support this claim despite, for example, one of Arora's sources, Meighan, reporting that evidence was collected from seven different sources (Meighan, R 1997, pp 15 -16).

 

An assertion is made, without reference, that LEAs have a monitoring duty with regard to elective home education. It is also claimed, without reference, that current legislation does not encourage flexi-schooling, whereas it clearly allows for it in an unbiased manner (Education Act 1996 s444 (3) (a)). It may however be true that LEAs and schools do not encourage it because of bias or misunderstanding.

It is suggested, without reference, that absence from an LEA register may mean child protection issues are missed. No evidence is given that inclusion on an LEA register improves detection of child protection issues or of abused children of "compulsory school age" not on an LEA register. High profile abused children (e.g. Climbie) have all been on at least one public service register. It should, for example, be considered that parents who abuse children may be concerned not to draw attention to themselves in their community and therefore be unlikely to take a less usual education route.

 

An assumption is made that membership of organisations such as Education Otherwise equates to high motivation and better education of parents, and that higher educated, economically advantaged parents have successful home educated children. However, Rothermel's (2002) extensive research contradicts this - "socio-economic class is not an indicator of achievement levels…." and "parental level of education did not limit the children's attainment". Also, Fortune-Wood (http://www.homeeducationresearch.org/) found that 42% of home educating families have an income below the national average. Parent education, income and motivation cannot therefore explain a home educated child's confidence, self esteem and achievement being generally higher than their schooled counterpart.

 

The report concludes that parents should be encouraged to intervene earlier in instances of bullying to reduce de-registration. This claim is unsupported by evidence that earlier intervention would successfully prevent pressure to home educate and fails to place any responsibility on schools or LEAs to implement, apply or audit successful anti-bullying strategies.

 

The author suggests funding should be made available to home educated children and for that to be possible, they should remain on a school roll, thereby giving access to the school resources. This proposal has several difficulties. First, it fails to recognise that LEAs could already allocate funding and make resources available to home educating families if they so chose. Second, a child registered at a state school is under a legal obligation (with exceptional omissions) to cover the National Curriculum and to take SATs, which may be unacceptable to many home educators. Third, it would entail children who had never been at school registering with a school, raising questions of school place availability and allocations for those educated off site preventing others access to limited school places.

 

Positive outcomes of this research

 

An interesting issue raised is the likelihood that if difficulties such as bullying and inadequate SEN provision, were prevented or resolved many previously schooled children would not be de-registered to home educate. Is it easier and cheaper to leave parents to deal with these issues? Anecdotal evidence suggests some schools/LEAs encourage "difficult" pupils to leave.

 

Another is that home educating parents in Kirklees, whose children have previously been in school and are monitored by the LEA, would like more support from the LEA. Is this mainly due to financial and resource issues or;

 

" The pressure that monitoring brings due to LEA staff having personal prejudices, limited understanding of education law or limited knowledge of educational alternatives;

 

" Lack of access to independent advice and support such as that available from various support groups, web sites and e-mailing lists;

 

" Lack of access to the full detail of rights and responsibilities such as the National Curriculum, GCSE's, timetables and qualifications to teach not being legal requirements;

 

" Difficulty in adjusting to full responsibility for education previously delegated to the LEA;

 

" Pressure to conform to the demands of the LEA whose approval is required to prevent legal action commencing.

 

The high number of children who were age 15 when first de-registered calls into question the specific problems that children of this age in Kirklees, and probably elsewhere, face at school. Their lower representation among the long term home educators may be due to compulsory school age being reached before they met the 18 month criteria. It may be that these children found places in college or found the difficulties of arranging exam courses outside of school forced them back into school despite a preference to stay out. It may be that less focus in schools on GCSEs and more job related skills teaching, or LEA aided access to course work assessors and exam centres for home educators, would address these problems.

 

Over representation of South Asians in both the main group and the interviewed cohort raises questions about the different difficulties that the various ethnic groups experience in the education system. It would be interesting to know if the religious reasons for home educating correlated with any particular group or if racism formed any significant part of the bullying experiences or other problems within schools.

 

 

 

Fortune-Wood, M (Year?) http://www.homeeducationresearch.org/

Meighan, R (1997) The Next Learning System: and why home-schoolers are trailblazers. Nottingham: Educational Heretics Press.

Rothermel, P (2002) Home Education: Aims, Practices and Outcomes. University of Durham

Thomas, A (1998) Educating Children at Home. London. Cassell

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