I’m reading through the Select Committee Response to the Badman Review and a few things are bugging me.
There seems to be a view that home educating families need to be registered. They recommend a voluntary register and suggest that those who do register should have access to some kind of support and there is even the shadowy possibility of real resources. No mention of what those resources might entail though. But then after two years of voluntary registration there would be a compulsory registration if home edders didn’t volunteer.
But there doesn’t appear to be any real reason behind this register other than the view that LAs and the Government simply want to know who has made the choice to educate their children otherwise than school.
So, they want to know the outcomes of home education – I think. It isn’t that easy to tell. But let’s say they do want to know what the outcomes might be or already are. I suppose it could be argued that is fair enough, and anyway if they were an honest lot (ahem) then they might even be willing to learn a thing or two about how a ‘suitable’ education might work.
But if it was me, I would start with what I already had. I would look at the research departments of Univsersities and get them to look at the populations in prison, YOIs, children coming through CAMHS, and young people claiming benefit and see how many of those have been home educated. How many ASBOs are handed out to EHE children?
If I found a problem, a significant blip in the numbers then maybe I would argue for registration to keep an eye on outcomes. If there is no evidence of problems then the money spent on EHE could be better spent on areas where it is truly needed – you would think.
I would expect that somewhere like the USA with such a large number of homeschoolers and where homeschooling has been so long established would have some interesting stats to do a literature review on. But the USA’s homeschoolers were completely ignored by the Review and considered too varied even by the Select Committee.
The other question that bugs me a lot is the whole “What constitutes a suitable education?” question. It’s one of those how long is a piece of string questions and I can’t see how it could ever be usefully answered to suit all children of all ages and needs and interests.
Isn’t the very fact that Mrs Thatcher thought all children should receive a one size fits all national curriculum which was then shrunk in the Labour wash the reason so many children find school learning so pointless?
Approaches to education vary hugely among home educators, even within the same family as each child learns differently and has different interests. How on earth can people who have shown very clearly they know little about home education and have actually shown a remarkable unwillingness in many cases to even try and understand, start deciding on ‘suitable education’?
Even the Select Committee comments on the fears of those of us who are Christian (and of other religious faiths) being refused a ‘license’ by LAs who can’t accept the freedom of families to practice their faith.
In particular I have noted anti-Christian comments even among fellow home educators (some of whom seem to think their own rights should be protected, but not those of Christian home educators).
There were also comments made to the Select Committee that remarkably went unchallenged, that some people might use religion as a reason to home educate!
So in the Select Committee report we find:
102. Fears that local authorities could abuse the power were particularly strong among home educators of religious faith. For example:
As Christians, we are concerned that even our Christian beliefs and attitudes could lead to condemnation in the eyes of some, despite the difference of opinion being a valid one. The law should be careful to define the boundaries of local authority personnel and not grant blanket authority in the hope it will not be misapplied.
The vast number of reasons to refuse parents right to educate our children are then mentioned. One of those mentioned is “alcohol abuse”-but it doesn’t say in what context. I am aware of home ed families where a parent is working hard on the Twelve Steps and this has had no impact on the children’s education at all other than to improve the family dynamics. Then there’s this: [para 103 to 104) My emphasis:
And in addition: anything else which may affect [the parent’s/carer’s] ability to provide a suitable and efficient education” (recommendation 23). One group of home educators took the view that the final clause of this recommendation was “particularly insidious as it leaves home educating families vulnerable to the prejudices and misconceptions about home education, and culturally different households”.104. Another group of home educators felt justified in commenting that: “[the recommendations are] massively open to abuse, allowing a local authority officer to…even flat out fabricate ‘reasons’ to revoke the licence to home educate”. However, as with the other remarks outlined here, this comment appears to be based on the assumption that officers would not need to support robustly their decision to refuse or revoke registration. It is the case that the Badman Report does not discuss requirements in this respect, though the Department’s intention to provide guidance should provide some reassurance.
In para 104 there is a sort of undercurent of criticism of Badman which I think should have been less ambiguous to be honest. Many of us feel justifiably vulnerable to the obvious wide open door to abuse from LAs. Apart from being one of those shocking Christians I am also disabled. Does that “effect [my] ability to provide a suitable adn efficient education”? I don’t think so, but the LA officer might feel differently.
I would like to see much stronger reasurrance that spurious reasons such as my use of a wheelchair, or someone’s membership of AA or even a prescription for Prozac wasn’t used to force children into school. Some of us have managed very well thank you to continue to home educate through some very diffictult times; hospital admissions, new babies, sick children and more hospital admissions, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and God knows what else. We take care of one another, life and education goes on.