Sunday, 21 June 2009

Home Ed Review

I rarely venture into politics on here but since I’ve been asked I can’t resist but to share my thoughts. Having said that, the last couple of weeks have not been without some hair raising personal moments so I can’t declare to have considered every aspect in minute detail or come up with any solutions.

Well, I know the home ed community is up in arms about this, but come on, what did we really expect?

These aren’t original well thought out proposals. As we all know they’re little more than platitudes. But then could we really expect reasoned, considered and workable proposals? I’m a lot of things, but surprised certainly isn’t one of them.

I have heard Graham Badman being referred to on various lists as ‘evil’. He isn’t evil, he’s just a bloke behind a desk, doing a job. Let’s not shoot the messenger. He just had the unfortunate task of putting forth what a high percentage of people in this country think. Our country is awash with people who believe you can stem the flow from an artery with an elastoplast, or indeed stamp out child abuse and substandard education by slapping a few ill thought out regulations on a minority (and therefore vulnerable/easy target) group.

It goes without saying that I am appalled with many of the recommendations. I have always said that I would communicate with the local education authority if needs be, attempt to work with them and co-operate. However, that is upon the proviso that there is a relationship of mutual respect. No respect, no relationship. Some of the new proposals, particularly automatic access to the family home and unaccompanied child, go well beyond what could be expected of a mutually respectful relationship. Up until this time I had always thought I would be willing to allow the LEA into my home, but that was to be upon my invitation, not an order. I won’t be ordered. I won’t be coerced. Behind this tree hugging, teabag knitting, earth loving mama lies a Rottweiler – rarely seen but there all the same.

Having said all that, if I truly believed that by embracing the regulations it would mean that there would be an end to child abuse and substandard education then I would have to think long and hard about balancing the rights of me and mine with the wider community interest. Obviously I’m appalled by child abuse. Equally I am appalled by any children not been given an adequate education (be that at school or home). Some children are abused. Some children get crap education at school. Some children get a crap education at home. These regulations are not going to change that one bit.

What is the solution? I’m not entirely sure, and this is something which concerns me greatly, as I feel that as a community we lash out at the government but I don’t think we always put forward workable proposals in response. Perhaps the reason for that is that it is impossible to regulate home education in the way the government wish to. They cannot control what goes on in the home. There needs to be trust. Trust that children will not be abused, and that parents who elect to home educate will fulfil their obligations to do so.

Why do some people abuse their children? Why do some people elect to home educate and then fail to take that responsibility seriously? I don’t think any of these things happen because a child’s name is not on a list, that the annual visit from the LEA has not taken place or that the parents have not been approved to home educate.

Perhaps time and money would be better spent looking at why these things do happen. Perhaps it’s time to stop micro managing in an attempt to be seen to be doing ‘something’ (even if it is futile) and instead begin to address the larger issues. It’s time to quit trying to regulate something such as home education in this way. By its very nature it cannot be effectively regulated in this way. To do so is like trying to herd wild cats.

The government and country at large want to believe that child abuse is being tackled and that all children can receive an adequate education. That’s fair enough and a very laudable aim. My concern is that the longer that is spent chopping off leaves, the stronger and longer the roots will become. It’s time to leave us alone and address the real problems – substandard education and child abuse – neither of which have been shown to be more prevalent in electively home educated families. The focus is all wrong. Elective home education isn’t the problem. Child abuse and substandard educational provision is. How are the government to find answers to these problems if they don’t even look in the right place?

I won’t live in fear. I won’t allow the fear of a bogey man (or Badman) lurking around the corner to spoil the immense pleasure I get from enjoying a close and loving relationship with my children – in terms of their education in addition to all other areas.

At the same time I won’t sit back and do nothing. Due to personal pressures right now I’ve not yet had a chance to put pen to paper and express my concerns and make my very own recommendations to the powers that be, but that’s not to say I don’t intend to. I do intend to, and I will.


Clare said...

Thanks Claire :) You have a great POV, it seems like it appreciates where lots of different sides are coming from. I feel like I'm quite moderate ("traitorous"?!) in that I don't really mind being on a list somewhere as 'home educating', or showing an LA officer what we will be doing all day. But it's exactly like you said - at the moment, under an umbrella of fear and "abuse" and misunderstanding and extremes, there is not going to be any respect or chance at a possible working relationship.

Although I'm not against everything, I'm fighting the report and the proposals on the basis that any ground we give is going to be the start of some horrible slippery slope. And we haven't even really got a chance to start HE yet!

myheartexposed said...

thank you Claire, what you posted sums up how we feel about the new proposals here too. We have always communicated with our LEA but there is a limit and we certainly do not want to feel as if we are forced to let them in, it isn't always convenient even with a planned appointment as with six children and a rather busy household of all different ages, other things crop up in the meantime so the need to cancel on them the day before or morning of the actual day in one case does come up. To think that would somehow suggest there was something horrid going on instead and that we were forced to go ahead with the appointment regardless of anything else, well it would just put an awful lot of stress and strain on the whole thing which the kids would then pick up on and undoubtedly not be themselves during the appointment.

For the past twelve years of our home education experience our appointments have consisted of us parents sitting there and chatting about all the things we have done with input from the kids themselves. No written work has been shared unless the kids themselves individually wanted to share it, and no such 'interview' style appointment has ever taken place. These dates have been once a year or just over that, have been very informal and chatty. It is always a stressful time, the build up, have we done enough type thoughts coming in even though deep down I know that we do far more than most school children do each day and we have the strength that has come from our two teenagers walking into university with confirmed places last week because of the high standard of work they showed at their assessment and portfolio interviews, I would shudder to think what the new proposed system would be like.

One thing did jump out at me when I read it though and that was about paying taxes for education and resources and receiving nothing from the local authority. I would very much value free resources particularly to swimming and athletics tracks or facilities, maybe materials like paper, pens, pencils and other such items which added up over the year do mount up to quite some considerable amount when you times the total for each child by six.

Other that than, I too have formulated a response and was ready to send it in on Friday but before printing it off I received a letter from our LEA asking me to confirm in writing that I am planning on home educating our children for the next twelve months. So I have hung fire on it as this may be the first step of our LEA attempting to implement proposed changes before they are even passed.

The whole thing stinks if you ask me and I totally resent the notion that we are being bundled into the same box as child abusers who as we all know come in all shapes and forms in every walk of life and social standing and are not limited to any one particular group. If the proposals are going to be introduced then at the very least as you say, there needs to be some investigation in the right places first and not pushing for this wave of hysteria that by home educating outside of the mainstream school environment we are all somehow doing something wrong and potentially harmful towards our children.

Apologies this was so long, there is so much one could say about the whole thing isnt there.



Maire said...

Thank you Claire, I have shown this to my oldest daughter who was really struggling to understand my posts of facebook.

I really helped her to see the problem with the reviews reccommendations.

Mieke said...

Maire pointed me towards your blog and this post and I'm so glad I read it (and the comments). Very positive and uplifting, I can very much identify with what you're saying.
I, too, hesitated for a long time to 'go political'. We came to the UK 6yrs ago, after a long legal and political battle in Holland, where home ed wasn't legal, at all. We won our fight, but it was at great cost to my personal energy and it made a deep impact on the family. So I vowed to steer clear of it and concentrate on our own life, our own family.
But there is no denying that 'politics' are threatening to interfere with what's most near and dear to me, so I brought out my Rottweiler again ;). At the same time I'm attempting to keep a healthy balance with our 'normal' life. Which at this very moment means I'm going to run after my friend's 2yr old, because - of course! - he wants to go outside :).
I'll pop in here again soon!

Claire said...

Thank you ladies for joining me in sharing thoughts and feelings on this.

So, what next do you think? Much humming and hahing followed by a period of silence then the announcement that there is to be a further enquiry and further recommendations?

Not that I'm spotting a pattern or becoming at all cynical of course...

Clare said...

I can't see anything much happening this time around - the proposals were so extreme as to be ridiculous. I think the gov have alienated a lot of people who might have accepted more measured and reasonable requests.

And then of course it will be up to the Conservatives (prob)! People have said that Tory MPs have been sympathetic but not offering any promises that nothing will change, so like you say, we'll all go round again. Wheee.

Claire said...

*I think the gov have alienated a lot of people who might have accepted more measured and reasonable requests.*