This blog has been pretty quiet lately, mainly because perforce, it mutated into a campaign blog fighting to protect the right of families to decide upon the nature of a suitable education for children, and yet, for a while, there have been no serious legislative threats to this freedom. Let's hope it stays that way, but there are ominous rumblings emanating from the Department for Education.
Q. Asked by Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) Asked on: 14 October 2014
Department for Education
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if she will make it her policy to collect information on the (a) number, (b) religion and (c) ethnicity of children being homeschooled in England.
A. Answered by: Mr Nick Gibb Answered on: 20 October 2014
There are no current plans to collect personal information on children receiving elective home education. The Department for Education is aware, however, of some concerns amongst local authorities about the information they have on such children in their areas. We have recently begun discussions with a range of representative bodies about these concerns and other home education issues, especially in relation to safeguarding.
As far as we are aware, this "range of representative bodies" hasn't included any representative bodies from the home education community. So, in lieu of a formal invite, let's say it loud and clear here:
Things haven't changed much as regards the essential nature of the primacy of parental responsibility for education. We've said it before but OK, here we go all over again:
IF the state starts meddling with the principle of parental responsibility in a way that would effectively mean that it would appropriate that responsibility, one of the fundamental tenets of a mature democracy will be fatally undone. The state must NOT dictate the nature of an education for that leaves the populace vulnerable to authoritariansm.
We NEED free thinkers, actually not just for the maintenance of freedom, but also because we need children not to be fed the sort of muddle-headed rubbish that DD and I discovered in a Foundation GCSE English course today. Honestly, this screed attempted to put over such an appallingly faulty ontology that it isn't any wonder that school children in the UK are confused. We need truth-seekers who understand the scientific method rather than a fictional GCSE English ontology and who appreciate that ontology isn't a subject that can mutate across domains. We need these children to offer truth-seeming answers, not the answers that teachers and GSCE examiners erroneously think are right!
Further, if the state starts to insist that parents dance to its tune, not only will democracy be at risk, but those few free thinkers who can still think outside the national curriculum will very clearly understand that they have every right to sue the pants off the state when an education fails a child, for it WILL be the state's fault. Parents cannot be held responsible for something for which the law does not allow them to be responsible.
But that isn't the end of the arguments that can be brought to bear on the threat of greater state intervention into home education.
There is also the not inconsiderable matter of there being NO MONEY...get that? NO MONEY to inspect loads of perfectly well-functioning families who actually do BETTER without state intervention.
I am currently working very part-time in the health sector. In the few years I have been out of it, there has been a marked deterioration in the care of those who demonstrably need it. District Nurses use all manner of excuses to get out of offering all manner of services to desperately needy clients and this because there is no money to offer services. For example, clients with minimal mental capacity are deemed mentally fit at the first possible opportunity, and their initial minimal demands are left unchallenged. Professionals make no attempt to educate and obtain informed decisions. Several patients I know who would have survived for many years, possibly even decades, are now dying in a couple of years and even months and sometimes even days through professional neglect. And yet the services seem more concerned to go burrowing around in the lives of perfectly well-functioning families who really do not need them at all!
But it isn't just the lack of money that makes universal scrutiny of home educators impractical and unethical in the extreme, it is also the fact that distrust of services in the home education has, if anything, grown in recent years, for whilst central policy hasn't changed much during the current government, quite a few local authorities continue to defy both the law and common sense by making up their own policies as they see fit. Very often these local policies often DO contravene S7 (the bit that states that it is up to parents to ensure that children are educated in suitable manner). Ultra vires demands by LAs have caused HEors to become even more distrustful of LAs than they were in the Badman years: how can HEors trust the authorities when they show such wanton disregard for the law of the land and basic human rights?
And worse still, HEors now know about the corruption that exists in all the services - the failure to listen to children, the closing of ranks, the back-covering, the post-rationalizations, the hiding of evidence, the buying of witnesses, the neglect of pertinent evidence and the simple straightforward abuse of children in LA care.
We saw the Panorama programme on how easy it is to corrupt expert witnesses, and have no illusions that these corruptions could be perpetrated by prosecution witnesses just as easily as those for the defence. We saw the attempt by the NHS to buy the secrecy of a doctor in the Baby P case. And we strongly suspect that there has been corruption of some sort or another, either the police and social services concealing evidence from the CPS, or the CPS colluding with the NHS in a case that is widely known about in HE circles. We also know that the child in this case was repeatedly ignored by her social worker, and that the damage that has been done to this child by the state has been appalling and utterly unwarranted. This child had been thriving whilst home educating and due to the machinations of the state, may take years to recover, if ever! Why would home educators put themselves at risk of such harm?
And finally, whilst LAs argue that they need to know about HEors for safeguarding reason, the truth of the matter is that families who are really struggling already come to the attention of social services and those extremely rare families who are truly abusive won't come to the attention of the authorities even if a registration scheme is brought in. They will just go further under the radar. ie: a registration scheme would be a terrible, terrible waste of money we don't have.
There...and to cap it all, I suspect there will be HUGE NAKED resistance to intervention, a powerful upsurge of civil disobedience, and given that the home education community is ever growing, this could now be an impressive upheaval.
Update: There is a great piece on the spurious nature of the accusations against home education made by the NSPCC in their report on SCRs here.