I should be home-schooled, but I spent 10 months on Xbox

Mohammed spends his days playing computer games and looking after his granddad. He’s only 14, but he hasn’t been to school since December. The idea was to home school him – but things didn’t quite work out like that, reports the BBC’s Sue Mitchell.

He lives in a spotlessly clean Bradford semi-detached house, with pale wood flooring and deep, comfortable sofas. His mother works part time as a nursery nurse and his father is a taxi driver.

His mum admits she is totally out of her depth.

She says she agreed to try to educate Mohammed herself at the suggestion of his school, after he was excluded for bad behaviour. She wanted to keep him out of the only alternative, a pupil referral unit.

Mohammed wasn’t opposed to the idea at first. “I thought it would be good because I wouldn’t mix in with bad children,” he says.

But it was harder than he expected. “My mum isn’t a proper teacher, she just helps nursery kids. She’s not a teacher for maths, science and English. I couldn’t learn from her.”

His dad, who works long hours, tells him that he is squandering his life opportunities. “He says: ‘You’ve just ruined your chances’ – that I could have had a good education and done my GCSEs and had a good life, but now I’ve wasted that,” Mohammed says.

Many families say home schooling works well for them. But Mohammed is one of a growing number of children who find themselves falling out of the state education system, according to Richard Watts, the chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People’s Board.

He says it’s increasingly common to hear of schools “effectively putting a lot of pressure on parents to home educate their kids to get them off their rolls, particularly when exam time comes around”.

Mohammed was only 13 when he was excluded from school for setting off fireworks in the corridor with other boys. “We went to a meeting, but they said there’s no way of him coming back to the school,” says his mum.

Mohammed had already been in trouble with the school authorities for fighting. “At school he thought they ganged up on him and called him names, trying to provoke him. Mohammed is really quiet, but if he hasn’t done nothing he’ll be upset by it,” his mother says.

“When Mohammed first settled into secondary education he was good. I think it’s that he finds it hard to settle down and so much depends on his friendship group.”

By year nine it became clear that he would no longer have a place in mainstream education. It was either home education or a place at the same pupil referral unit that his older brother had attended. His family didn’t want him getting into the same bad crowds as his brother.

So when the school suggested home education as the only alternative, Mohammed’s mother readily agreed. “I never knew about the home schooling. I’m not that very educated myself and I’m not good with computers,” she says.

The council had suggested a home education website. “We had a few links but because of my home life situation and working I hadn’t enough hours. He’d be depressed every morning and I’d put him on the home education website but it wasn’t working for him,” says Mohammed’s mum.

When she tried to get Mohammed out of bed to work, he refused.

Now she doesn’t bother trying and he passes his time helping his granddad, who has a serious lung condition and needs round-the-clock care.

Leave a Reply