If LAs were given such powers, what effect would this have on the education of electively home educated children?
Looking at my family and household today, right now, I’m thinking about what would happen if there was a knock on the door to check on the children.
1. The presence of unannounced strangers would interrupt the learning that is taking place. Unplanned, unstructured learning in particular flows of its own accord and is difficult to resume, once interrupted. Even scheduled and structured education would suffer from such an interruption. With some notice of a visit, a parent can at least prepare the children and the schedule (if there is one) for the interruption.
2. The nature of the visit would cause alarm for me and the children. The very fact that someone thought there was need to check on my children would make us wonder: what reason could you have for thinking there might be a problem here? The atmosphere of secure contentment which is currently enabling Lyddie to get immersed in the intricate development of today’s complex, imaginary story with her toys, and Zara to work on developing her graphic art skills, would be shattered.
3. We’d start wondering whether what we were doing ‘counted’ as education. It does, but it doesn’t always look like it at first glance. Sometimes I can only assess the children’s educational development afterwards as a result of the progress they make. It’s not always possible to assess the quality of their learning, without notice or time for reflection. So there’s a risk factor involved - that our educational provision might be deemed to be failing or even non-existent, in the eyes of the officials on the doorstep. (Would they stay on the doorstep?)
4. Even if the officials were satisfied on that occasion to see my children safe, well and learning - they would leave behind them an underlying sense of anxiety for us all. We’d suddenly start to look at what we were doing through other people’s (officials’) eyes and the judgmental mindset which might result from this would inevitably change the quality of the children’s education for the worse for a long time. They wouldn’t be able to concentrate as well and I’d have less confidence in my ability to trust, facilitate and interpret their natural learning processes.
My children are safe and well and certainly not being abused. They are well-fed, well cared-for and well-educated. They have the freedom to follow their own interests and the equipment and the wherewithal to do so and our house is a happy one, with no punishment or controlling mechanisms of any nature either imposed or needed. This is partly because of the fact that we are left in peace by the authorities to live the way we choose. But in home-educating households where abuse is happening, I don't think spot checks will help. On the contrary: I think they might make things worse.
I think a child abuser is likely to feel more angry, fearful and threatened and therefore more tempted to abuse as a result of a spot check. He or she will also feel safer to do so immediately after such a check, possibly reasoning that their chances of being checked on again soon afterwards would be slim.
Also I don't rate the chances of even skilled professionals being able to correctly spot signs of abuse during a spot check. I think the chances of them making mistakes either way are too high, and the existing historical evidence of them having done so is extremely alarming.
If the powers that be really want to help protect children from abuse, I think they should put their resources into investigating the real causes of abuse and starting to think about ways of preventing those, instead of conveniently ignoring the causes and only making matters worse by hamfistedly attempting to police the symptoms.
Also, does Gloucestershire not have a fully functioning and pre-existing Child Protection department within its Social Services section? If so, why does it want its LA staff to do Child Protection work instead?
I'd really like to hear how survivors of child abuse would feel they could have been better protected or rescued from their abusers. Surely these people are the only real experts in this matter?