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Home education and Saturday School

Updated: Jun 2, 2021

How our National Qualification offer is supporting young people who are home educated.

When Saturday School gained SQA Approved Centre status in 2017, we anticipated that the bulk of our studentship for National 5 and Higher qualifications would be adults who perhaps hadn’t quite performed as well at school as they could have. We had visions of being there to heroically step in and save these people who had been rejected by the larger colleges, missed out on spaces, or whose work/life just didn’t allow them to take a traditional college route to finally capture the qualifications they need. Our ambition: Saturday School would be their lifeline just when they thought they were fresh out of options!

We were not wrong. Every year, we work with a brilliant group of people, from teenagers, right through to fifty-somethings, looking to unlock new doors for themselves in work or study; National 5/Higher Maths often being the key.

The satisfaction and pride for our staff get, each year, seeing these people finally gain their necessary qualification(s) to kick start their dream career move or make it into university is immeasurable. It really is special. They probably waited longer, experienced more bumps on the road, and had to work harder than most, but they got there.

There is a negative in here though and it is linked to how some students arrive upon Saturday School and why they actually need us at all. For many, it’s not that they didn’t work hard enough in their teenage exam years, they just weren’t ready for the challenge, and that’s perfectly forgivable. For some, they weren’t actually supported through that challenge and for others, the conventional mainstream school route just did not work for them.

These days, and for the above reasons, there is a new type of student coming to Saturday School: young people, still of school age. Young people, who, for a whole host of reasons, are not accessing mainstream education. Simply put, they are not in or going to school Monday to Friday. But, on a Saturday, they come to us. Accessing the high school timetable and joining hundreds of their peers each weekday is simply not an option for them. So, they come to us to gain their qualifications. This short case study details one student’s experience with us in the academic year that we will never forget: the year of the pandemic. Personal information will of course be protected but this is a personal reflection, produced by the parent of a student who, at the time of writing, has just been estimated to gain a band 1 A in National 5 Maths.

Parent reflection June 2021

There are many reasons why parents decide that their child will be home educated, but in many cases, it’s made at the end of an often heart breaking and extremely stressful period of time. Trying to maintain your child’s attendance at school, and hence, as we thought at the time, their education, becomes a constant battle that seeps away the energy, happiness and mental health of everyone involved.

If anyone asks me the question about why we made the decision, if I am being totally honest, it came only after the eventual realisation that my daughter’s life was more important than forcing her to stay in mainstream education. She suffers from extreme anxiety, particularly focused around attending school, and is waiting on an ASD diagnosis. I can say hand on heart that this was the correct decision for my daughter.

When it came to ensuring she was still being educated, it became very apparent that once you decide to withdraw from mainstream education, you are very much on your own. The GIRFEC initiative didn’t seem to apply [to us] and although I know it’s not always the case, we received no assistance from either my daughter’s former school or the local authority. That’s where social media groups were invaluable. It was through a post made on one of these groups that I found out about Saturday School.

I visited the web site, where I was delighted to see the complete Nat 5 maths course. I contacted them, and Graeme contacted me, which allowed me to discuss our situation with him, he explained that Saturday School is seeing more and more cases like ours, which was reassuring. After completing a short online assessment [in maths] my daughter was accepted onto the course. She started the course in August 2020 and though she did manage this ok in the main, she was struggling with her anxiety. It was at this point Graeme and I agreed that I could attend The Academy and simply sit in the building while she was in class. This meant that my daughter knew I was only a short walk from the class and therefore she was able to leave the class for a “breather” as Graeme would say. This reassurance for all of us meant she had the best possible chance of continuing to attend and getting success.

The set up at Saturday School is very different from a traditional class set up and that really suited her. It was mostly adults in the class, and the more informal atmosphere, where she could learn without all the distractions or fears she had at school, meant she felt safe. The teachers, Allistair and Vicky, were excellent at teaching the subject, while at the same time, not piling on the pressure. Their flexibility to maintain the course work through the various lockdowns was excellent; Glasgow was placed into tier 4 restrictions so Saturday School had to move to online delivery for significant portions of the course meaning some has been in class, some has been online. How well organised and dedicated they are meant the course continued without any real problems for us.

My daughter now wants to continue at Saturday School for the next academic year and is applying to do the online Higher English course; we were so pleased with how she has performed with them this year, and, perhaps more importantly, she trusts them to provide her with the skills and knowledge she needs to be able to pass this qualification.

If any home education student or parent was considering Saturday School for helping them achieve a Scottish qualification, I can only say that mine and my daughters experience has been positive and successful, and we are looking forward to working with them again next year.

For more information on any of our services at Saturday School, please visit the website or get in touch.

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