Parliamentarians complain about public apathy but the problem for home educators at the moment is not apathy, but hopelessness in the face of keeping up with all these invasive legislative proposals that are being thrown our way by a government who, in claiming to have the interests of our children at heart, and despite protests to the contrary, are in effect taking ownership of our children. Of course, home educators are not intended as the primary target of such legislation, but we sure count as collateral.
So whilst home educators concentrated on the problem of the two day delay in de-registration from school, we let this issue, as neatly encapsulated in a letter from Schools Minister Jacqui Smith, pass largely unremarked for a good two weeks whilst the government wiggled away at acquiring the most outrageous assumption of responsibility for our children.
You have to give the minister some credit for sleight of hand. For example, she claims that "LAs have a general duty to ensure that all children of compulsory school age in their area are receiving a suitable full-time education by attendance at school or otherwise" when there is, in fact, currently no mention of any such duty in legislation or case law. By pretending that this is already the case, Ms Smith makes it seem that what really would be an introduction of such a duty, as detailed in the current Education and Inspections Bill, will be completely unremarkable and not in the least worrying for home educators.
The reasons we should be worried? Well there are both principles that are compromised and practical complications that will ensue. In principle, who has the right to decide what constitutes an education? Why should we assume that a person's education must include this or that information or meet this or that standard in a certain regard? It is a huge question and certainly one that I don't want answered by some LA nobody who has never even pondered it beyond assuming that it means one must be studying the NC. As a person and parent committed to the notion of the open society, I would say that if someone else applies their criteria of an education to my children over and above my head, despite what Ms Smith claims to the contrary, I will no longer be responsible for the education of my children. Should the state intervene and institute their preferred curriculum, I will do my level best to demonstrate that I am no longer responsible for this huge, almost all-encompassing area of my children's lives and I would sue the state if my children were to fail.
The practical problems: LAs will now have a duty to identify the educational status of all children in their area. We will all have to be subject to scrutiny, and the way Ms Smith plays it, this scrutiny will be intrusive. And as has been touched upon in the paragraph above: we will be at the mercy of completely capricious and to date notoriously unreliable assessments of our educational provision by LAs. Let's not forget that despite guidelines as to how they should behave, there have been instances of LEA officers giving one autonomously educating family the thumbs up and yet getting the next similarly educating family to agree to put their children back in school.
Good grief. It is tempting just to roll over and give up altogether.