Thursday, October 05, 2017

Home Education is NOT THE PROBLEM

With Lord Soley's bill lining up for a second reading, home educators find themselves at the butt end of some simply terrible BBC reporting here and here. Gill has done her usual expert job making mincemeat of one of these pieces, and perhaps there isn't a need to say any more, except I want to - OK, yes mainly because I need to vent, but also because I want to tell you what a teacher friend said to me this morning.

He said, and bear in mind, he's been a teacher for over thirty years, and has only been peering over my home educating shoulder for the last three years, "It isn't home education and home education law that's the problem.  It's schools".   Get that, Lord Soley and all those whose brains are turned to mush by the desire to be re-elected and not say unpopular if true things: It's schools and the related regulatory institutions that are the problem.  Sort that mess out and STOP BLAMING HOME EDUCATION!

Now, let me tell you for why:  (hat tip: teacher friend who didn't eat his porridge till it had gone completely cold because he needed to wave his spoon around a lot), schools are the problem because head teachers are effectively forced to off-roll pupils who are not performing to the necessary standard and this is because heads and teachers are judged on the grades pupils achieve.  If Johnny gets five U grades (or whatever they're called nowadays), Ofsted adjudges heads and teachers the most execrable fuckwits and out they go, losing their jobs, livelihoods, houses, cars, marriages, self respect, you name it, everything goes in an all round personal disaster of epic proportions.

It doesn't matter that Johnny's teacher has been providing excellent, entertaining and informative lessons, and that Johnny has simply decided to spend his time staring out the window. In a piece of idiocy that is almost masterful in it's daring misrepresentation of reality  - given that teachers can't just open up the top of pupils' heads and pour knowledge into them and that pupils do actually have to open their minds themselves in order to learn anything at all - it is nonetheless still the teacher's fault that Johnny has failed.

This mutilation of reality is deemed a good thing by our elected representatives because it isn't a vote winner to have to tell parents that their precious progeny have the brains and attention span of a gnat.  Parents form a far bigger part of the electorate than teachers, and anyway, teachers have nowhere to turn electorally because every party would encourage Ofsted to judge them in a similar manner.

And then there's the added pressure upon teachers in that there is no money for help with pupils who struggle to learn in an average sort of a way.  Even in the very unlikely event that such a pupil actually does have an Education, Health and Care Plan, it is still unlikely that this plan will actually be fulfilled in any meaningful way and this along with all the other pupils with learning differences who don't have EHCPs means that teachers are left with huge classes containing children who actually need specialised provision that they cannot hope to deliver.

So all in all, even the very best of teachers are caught in a vice, with pressure from all sides.  The only release is to chuck Johnny out, telling the parents on the way just so as to make it sound concerned and legal: "So yes, you're going to home educate him," for which read "Phew, now we're bailed out of this holy mess that is not of our making!"

And so it is that disaffected young people end up being home educated and yipppeee from our elective representative's point of view, because home education is an easy target: tiny demographic, which doesn't garner much public understanding or sympathy, we can pick on them, rather than look at the massive mess in our own back yard.

So don't be fooled.  The problem is NOT home education or home education law.  It's a combination of lack of funding in schools, the desire to win votes and the subsequent distortions of learning theory, all of which means that young people end up being home educated without any prior preparation or knowledge about how it works.

BUT, you might be thinking, given that these young people are now being at least nominally home educated, perhaps the law surrounding HE does need to be changed?  The answer to that is a resounding NO.  These children ARE  KNOWN TO THE AUTHORITIES who already have all the law they need to get to young people who may be falling through the net and yet social work teams around the country can't cover the ground as it is.  A shortage of social workers is actually the problem that needs sorting.

OK, so I've calmed down a bit, though of course there's still a lot more that could be said on the crap learning theory in schools and how this could so easily be replaced with personalised learning and a little bit of creativity round the childcare aspect of school, but that's for another post. 

But right now, before I have a proper hope of regaining some composure, I feel the need to make another point: in one of the pieces, someone accused home educators of being irrationally afraid of the authorities.   I've just had to delete a lot of profanities right here, but I still want people to know how downright idiotic that assertion is.  Home educators aren't irrational about this. They have seen HE families torn apart by the authorities who wade in and do simply dreadful things in family courts with total impunity, the horror of the outcome being exacerbated because the authorities assume that families are home educating because they must have something to hide.

Our fears are not irrational.  Children and families have been devastated by the idiotic hand of a powerful state which in the family courts can get away with the most terrible injustices. This is why the law must, at the very least, not become more invasive: the state must not become more powerful, more intrusive and more wilfully misguided than it is already.