Sunday, August 30, 2009

For all my non-home educating friends

The Government's main plans for home educators focuses on several areas:
  • compulsory registration
  • the parent providing a statement of educational approach against which the child's "performance" will be assessed
  • annual inspections, with right of access to the home and
  • right of access (alone if necessary) with the child
I can understand that some people who have no experience of home education may fail to appreciate why reading that list is sufficient to make me weep, and I also understand that some families who DO home educate, may also scratch their heads and wonder why other home educators are so distressed and angry at these proposals.

Many finer minds than mine and more eloquent writers have already put into the public domain explainations of the issues in order to raise awareness and to gather support. However this is just my attempt to get some of the stuff rattling around in my mind OUT - in the hope that perhaps some of my non-home educating friends might better understand what is consuming me at the moment.

Compulsory Registration

This is a point that I think most members of the public have the biggest problem with, in terms of understanding why many home educators are against this. What everyone needs to understand - including home educators who are already to known to their Local Authority and/or who don't have a problem with the concept of registration - is that this is NOT about "being known". This is NOT the "we're doing it to protect the children" measure that it claims to be. Being registered will not save the life of even one child. I am convinced of that.

One thing that it is about is numbers, statistics; the fodder for government departments to use, manipulate and chose to focus on - or ignore - as it suits them. Knowing just how many home educating families there are is important if you are wanting to win votes, or bring in unpopular measures. Knowing how many children are home educated is a useful figure to know for budgeting purposes. It would also help them know if more people were turning to home ed (though sadly, I doubt any increase would drive them to examine the reasons why and improve schools - instead it would just lead to more restrictions).

If it was just a matter of your name being on a list of home educators, held by your local authority, then it is true that some home educators would not have a problem with the idea of being known. However, not only do many more home educators have real issues with the idea of registration even if it was something straight forward (for a variety of reasons, ranging from lack of trust - with good reason - of the authorities, social services, and other services right through to a belief that the state does not have any right or need to have such a list), but also we take issue with the sort of registration proposed by the Badman Report.

One recommendations states:

That local authority adult services and other agencies be required to inform those charged with the monitoring and support of home education of any properly evidenced concerns that they have of parents’ or carers’ ability to provide a suitable education irrespective of whether or not they are known to children’s social care, on such grounds as
  • alcohol or drug abuse
  • incidents of domestic violence
  • previous offences against children
And in addition:
  • anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable and efficient education
Does not the phrase "anything else" not frighten you? Maybe you have been fortunate enough to never have experienced depression, or post natal depression. Or have any long term illness, disability or condition. Maybe you do not have strongly held Christian, Muslim, Pagan, or any other religious or political views that you know often sets you apart from others. But, if you do, then you are well aware of the potential abuse of such a dangerous phrase.

I am not a conspiracy theorist. I think I'm a fairly open minded, fairly rational person. The fact remains however that we live in a world where governments - western governments - regularly use laws to their own ends regardless of the original meaning or motivation behind the law makers. I think the Terrorism Act is one prime current example.

On top of which, lets just examine the rest of that recommendation. Of course it might seem on reading it through that it was reasonable to think that someone with a history of, say, drug abuse, shouldn't be allowed to home educate.

Can I ask you to stop and think WHY? WHY shouldn't they be allowed?

"Safeguarding", you say, "the child isn't safe there".

Now think that through logically.

The child is considered safe to be in the care of its parents - otherwise it would have been removed. Yet it isn't safe to be educated at home. That is illogical - Mr Spock or Tuvok could see straight through that one! Either a child is safe, or not. Either a child is under social services care, or not. To suggest that a child is safe with their parents as long as they are at school during the day, is ludicrous. Even to say ah well its because the parent couldn't cope with them home all the time - er, excuse me, what about the summer holidays?

If a child is not safe enough to be educated at home by its parents, then presumably if the local authority deny permission to educate the child at home then the same local authority will pay for that child to attend some kind of school club in every single school holiday - because the child is "not safe" to be with its parents between the hours of 9 and 3.

Absolutely complete RUBBISH. It is so ridiculous I repeatedly have to reread the Report to believe that someone actually wrote this down without thinking it through.

The fact that the DCSF and government have come out 100% in support of the Report either means they haven't read it, or they are equally ridiculous.

Statement of Education Approach

This is an area where there are a number of opinions, it has to be said, amongst home educators, but nearly everyone can see that particularly for those of us who are child led, autonomous learners, informal learners, unschoolers - whatever label you want to use - this is a disaster.

It also has to be said that many who home educate for religious or philosophical reasons also will have issues with this, regardless of whether they are structured or not, because it has the potential of your view being judged by the LA as "not being suitable".

This has already happened in Sweden where you can no longer, in effect, home educate for religious reasons as to provide an education based on one world view is apparently not suitable.

The detail of this recommendation is truly ridiculous, but possibly only of interest to a home educator - things like the LA being the one to help a new home educator draw up such a statement, which is like saying that a GP should get help from a herbalist in drawing up a plan of medication for a patient. The GP and the herbalist share little in common other than (supposedly) both wanting the best for the patient and for them to get better. However, their belief as to what constitutes "the best" and "getting better" and how to acheive that will most likely be completely different. For every GP who is open to alternative therapies, or every herbalist willing to work alongside a GP, there will be many more who wouldn't even want to give each other the time of day because they each believe that the other is doing more harm than good.

That's what it is like to say that an LA employee should help a family who have just deregistered to draft a plan - even worse, that they should have a say in whether or not MY PLAN is suitable.

I don't have a plan! There, I've said it. I have no educational goals for my children.

I certainly have hopes and desires. As a parent, and as a Christian parent, I have very firm idea as to where I hope my children will be - as people - by the time they are 18 or 19. I know what I would like them to have learnt and understood by then. Not one of those involve anything to do with maths or english.

I want them to be secure in themselves. I want them to love life, love God, love learning. To have open hearts and minds. To be able to see the beauty around them. To be able to see the beauty inside everyone they meet. I want them to have a willingness to help, to teach, and to be helped and to be teachable. I want them to believe that they can have, do, be anything that they want to. I want them to have chosen for themselves to always walk within the will of God.

I want us as a family to have had the chance to explore each other, to build bonds, to store up precious memories, to be able to rely upon each other. I want them to continue to see their parents and their siblings as their friends.

I don't think that my LA will take that as my "statement of educational approach" - though I will certainly be submitting it as one should it come to that.

Annual Inspections/Right of Access

I would hope that most people could understand for themselves that for the Government to be bringing in powers that give a local government employee automatic, legal right of access to the home of someone who choses to home educate, is, well, downright scary.

Remember, the law already exists to give them legal right of access to the home - and the child away from it's parents - if they have safeguarding concerns. They had right of access to the child in Birmingham who was taken out of school and starved to death. For some indefensible reason, they didn't exercise that law. Instead, that case is now being thrown in the faces of home educators as justification for this change of the law. I can barely type that sentence because of the rage that I feel whenever I think about it.

This is an automatic standard right. It can only be seen as "prevention" - our children are, because they are home educated, "at risk of being at risk" of not receiving a suitable education and/or of being harmed without anyone knowing. Apparently.

Anyone who believes in human rights, civil liberties, should be horrified at this and campaigning alongside us to get it thrown out. I cannot understand how any MP, once made aware of these facts, could consider voting this through. Anyone who doesn't believe that the State knows best, should be against this.

Actually, I may come back to this point, because I am genuinely now so upset writing about this that I think I need to go away and come back to it.

I need to think how I can make my friends understand the seriousness of this.

If you are a friend of mine/ours reading this, regardless of your personal feelings about home education, please please consider supporting us in fighting these proposals. Please add your name to the petition against the recommendations which you can find here.

Please also consider writing to your MP to ask them to vote against the proposals to be contained in the Improving Schools and Safeguarding Children Bill due to be announced in the Queen's Speech in November. You can either read more about this here or contact me personally to find out more.

You can also watch a short video about it here.

If you are still reading this, please consider if these proposals were applied to whatever is dear to you. Whatever is precious to you.

Consider replacing the word with any other minority.

What if it was right of access to the home of any Muslim? Any Socialist? A disabled person?

First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me."

There is no evidence that supports this attitude of "guilty unless proven innocent" being directed towards home educators. Trust me on this. I am living and breathing this at the moment, and am part of many different groups of people who are doing an incredible amount of work to find the statistics, the information, the detail, the evidence, the research, and are gradually building up the picture as to what evidence is (or actually isn't) available that could form any basis for any of these recommendations (something that was severley lacking in the actual Review/Report).

If you are the sort of person who needs proof, evidence, that's fine - contact me. I can talk detail!


Anonymous said...

Great post :)

Sheila said...

Wow!! Everything I've said in my head, but could not put on paper without ranting and raving and losing the plot!! Well done Ann! Here, here!!!

gracielynn's said...

Love your bit about gov intrusion .I'm in the states & we are always on the watch too. Love your blog. keep up the good work :-)
my blog is
Although I don't keep mine as updated . we Home ed our youngest, jena , she is 13.
glad to know ya ! Lisa

gracielynn's said...

Forgot to say..
I use that quote ALL the time too!
first they came for .........

ps ,loved Sheila's comment.. she said it SO well 1