THE ascent from primary to secondary school is, for most pupils, an exciting step.

But for the 118 children in the district, who were left without any of their chosen schools when allocations were announced last month, it has proved to be a distressing time.

At a heated meeting on Monday, furious parents worried their child may never be accepted into a preferred school put questions to Hertfordshire County Council's education officers about the options available to them.

While many left the meeting feeling disheartened about their child's education prospects, others felt inspired to research other possibilities such as home schooling.

For most parents, assuming sole reponsibility of a child's education is a daunting prospect.

But for Helen Mair, who is just one of the parents desperately battling to get her son Daniel a place at his chosen school, Sandringham, it is an option that, she says, her family have been forced to consider.

Eleven-year-old Daniel was the only year six pupil at Skyswood School not to be accepted into one of his ranked schools, but instead was allocated Francis Bacon.

Having refused to send her son to a school miles from their local community, Helen, a mother-of-five, says she has been researching home-schooling and admits that she is terrified by the idea, but has promised not to rule it out.

"I have not got a clue, I'm not an academic person and nor is my husband," she said.

"I feel we would be floundering, but we really do feel that home schooling is the only option left to us."

Added to her torment is the worry that Daniel, who has fully embraced school life, may, as a result of home tuition, become socially secluded.

"He won't be able to meet up with his friends and talk about what went on at school," she said. "He's going to be socially isolated.

"He wants to be going to school with his friends, and doing what his friends are doing - he doesn't want to be stuck with his mum all day.

"I'd like to show him a different sort of education and broaden his horizons a bit but that's impossible with four other children."

But as inconceivable as home schooling may seem to many parents, it can be successful even with the demands of a career or family, as demonstrated by chairman of St Albans Civic Society Peter Trevelyan.

Peter, who works for St Albans District Council's planning department, and his wife Diane, a full-time music teacher, of Abbey Mill End in St Albans have always insisted on juggling their careers to educate their ten-year-old son Julian at home.

They are among a network of 40 home schooling families from across the district who often merge their academic skills and learning resources to ensure their child experiences an education environment closely resembling that of a school.

Peter said: "In 1999 when Julian was a few months old there was a conference on home education and I'd been thinking I really want to spend as much time as I can with him rather than send him away from here to school. I wanted to do this with him - it was my big project.

"I thought 'how do I go about doing this?' Then the conference came about , both Diane and I went and it was a real eye opener.

"There were wonderful kids there who were all home schooled and I thought 'gosh it really is possible'."

By educating Julian at home, Peter said the timetable is not regimented like a normal school schedule.

There are more hours in the day that can be devoted to Julian's interests like music, judo and home economics.

However, Peter insists while the flexibility and individual attention of home education is a plus, it is important to have some structure to the day. The family have, therefore, compiled lesson time tables to ensure all subjects are covered and, prior to the start of a new term a plan of action is drawn up.

"Our days are fairly structured, but there's the flexibility to follow up things if you are interested and if things don't grab you, you go and do something else," Peter said.

Julian's education follows a curriculum-free philosophy and he will not take compulsory key stage two SATs exams in May as pupils will in mainstream education. However academic qualifications can be sat by home schoolers.

Peter insists that parent goverened tuition allows Julian the freedom to vastly expand his knowledge rather than study to meet exam criteria. Hours of the school week are spent taking advantage of educational opportunities such as visits to museums, art exhibitions or educational conferences. The family have even set up foreign exchanges with home schoolers.

"Its a very rich and busy life as far as we are concerned," Peter said.

"The Government want children to have 1,000 hours of contact with teachers at school - that's of course normally 30 to one.

"We have 1,000 of one-to-one at least."

Learning development of home schoolers can also be monitored by education centre, Explore Learning, which provides extra tuition in core subjects and assesses a child's progress against the national curricluar attainment.

Julian is said to be achieving in advance of four years.

But while it could be argued that one-to-one education is the best form, many would dispute that a child educated by its parent at home would forfeit the valuable social and life skills naturally acquired in the classroom.

But interaction with other children, Peter insists, is an important part of Julian's week and every Tuesday he takes part in sporting activities with other home schoolers. By his own admission, Julian prefers home tuition to the idea of attending main stream school, understanding that his flexible learning allows him to work at his own pace and designate time to his often demanding hobbie as a chorister at St Albans Abbey.

Helen is calling on parents in the same situation to join her campaign to secure places at chosen schools and to research the alternative of home schooling. You can call her on 07884242537 or email

More information is available about home schooling via the Home Education Advisory Service.