WITH the closure of the country’s schools today as part of the bid to quell the spread of the coronavirus, home schooling will become the norm for the foreseeable future.

In days gone by?

Before the 19th century, there was no formal system of education. Some charity facilities were created in the 18th century for poor children, but it was largely only the elite who received any schooling to speak of, courtesy of tutors at home, and it was only in the late 19th century that it became compulsory for young children to be educated.

For girls?

Formal school attendance was rare before the 19th century and it was regular practice among higher society to educate girls at home and send them in their later teenage years to a finishing school to formalise their social graces.

The custom of royalty?

The Queen and her sister, Princess Margaret, did not attend any formal school and instead, like their royal ancestors, were educated at home. Their mother taught them to read and then their Scottish governess, Marion Crawford, took over their education.

In the UK?

In the 1950s, mother-of-seven, Joy Baker, became one of the first parents to abandon official state education and for supporters of the practice, is regarded as a pioneer. She went to war with Norfolk County Council in a bid to educate her brood at home and won the right to do so after a 10-year legal battle, ultimately writing a book about her efforts, ‘Children in Chancery’.

In the US?

A home school movement began in the 1970s, pioneered by teacher John Holt, who argued that formal schools created an oppressive environment. He called on parents to follow his method of “unschooling”, which he said was "about ways we can teach children, or rather, allow them to learn, outside of schools—at home, or in whatever other places and situations (and the more the better) we can make available to them”.


Prior to current events, homeschooling was on the rise.

Last year, England’s Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, said the number of home-schooled children had doubled in the previous four years to around 60,000, although the overall figure could be as high as 80,000 due to those who may have slipped off local authority radar.

In Scotland?

Figures provided by local authorities suggested that the number of children learning at home jumped from 610 in 2014/15 to 827 in 2018/19, although again, the number was likely to be higher.

Famous footsteps?

Aside from the Queen, other famous names who were home schooled include Scots inventor, Alexander Graham Bell; queen of crime Agatha Christie, superstar Beyonce and tennis sisters Venus and Serena Williams.

How’s it going so far?

One tweet that went viral rather embodies the spirit of home schooling. Durham University professor Roger MacGinty said: “I am 30 minutes into home schooling my 6 year old. I suggest that all school teachers are paid £1m per year from now on.”