Stress testing the Badman report: looking for weak points: Part 6
These people do exist in their millions but so do the other kind, thankfully: the ones who would see a child running for a hug or being carried home in the evening by a loving parent, and just know everything was ok. Most of us, I think, instinctively know when a child is ok and when it really intrinsically isn't. Of all the thousands of children I've come across throughout my life, though some undoubtedly had problems at some time or other - who doesn't? - I never met one who I thought should be forcibly removed from his parents. Perhaps I've been lucky in the people I've known, but I think that kind of extreme abuse/neglect is extremely rare.
But I'm not supposed to be writing about that or, as I'd like to go on, in awe of Colleen and the incredible strength and wisdom she found to deal with that which confronted her. I'm supposed, though I'm growing very weary of it now, to be working through the Badman report [opens pdf]. So here we are, at part 6:
The end of point 6.3 contains yet another of Mr Badman's now famous convoluted sentences, including one of his 16(?) uses of the term "I believe":
But because of the importance to local authorities of knowing the number of children and young people within the elective home education cohort, to assist in their commissioning of school places and to their understanding of why children were withdrawn from school, I believe it is important to report such information to the Children’s Trust, together with data concerning their use of current statutory orders, whether to supervise education or direct attendance at school.
So we're to be registered in order to help local authorities commission school places and to help them to understand why we don't want to use the schools? For real? As reasons for unnecessary and unwarranted intrusion into our lives, they don't stack up to much, do they? In my day when a school had too many children it hired an extra teacher and craned another prefabricated classroom into the playground. Too few and it laid a teacher off and maybe left a classroom empty or used it for something else, the spare space always being appreciated. It did not start interrogating innocent members of the local community.
And why does anyone need to know why we don't want to use the schools? We just prefer not to delegate our parenting and our children prefer not to attend, end of story. It's not complicated or difficult to work out or understand. It doesn't require an army of academics to write treatises on the subject, or for headteachers and officials to wring their hands in anguish. Some families like to use the schools and some don't. Knowing all about who we are and where we are and exactly what we're doing every minute of the day won't change that. They should take, as my teenagers would doubtless advise, a chill pill.
Point 6.4 betrays more of the same kind of anxiety:
6.4 While home education may sometimes be considered to be a better option for some children than mainstream education, parents should never be placed under pressure by schools to remove their children from school under threat of permanent exclusion or prosecution. I have heard evidence to this effect. The first priority of schools should always be to discuss with parents what support can be provided to keep their child in school and to ensure they behave well and attend regularly.
I have heard evidence to that effect too: in fact, it kind of happened in my family when the local school ran out of tactics to enforce my younger son's [Yes, it's his birthday again. 19 today!] compliance with its regime and turned to me in desperation, asking why I didn't home educate him also, since his brother was already at home? The answer was because he wanted to stay and try to win the power struggle, that he hates giving up or giving in and that he was inclined to view the idea of deregistration as a kind of defeat, even at the age of nine. I had some sympathy, in fact, for the school in that situation because its options for creativity and flexibility were so limited by government edicts. Anyway, the threat was implicit in their question: if we didn't deregister Ali would have to be suspended or expelled. We deregistered, and lived happily ever after.
Deregistration, for whatever reason, is often the saving of a child and her family. The pressure is off. There is time to work out what's really going on, and what the child really needs. Mr Badman unconsciously says it all in his: "ensure they behave well and attend regularly." Finding ways of enforcing compliance with the system should never be the main priority in times of such difficulties, otherwise all the talk of children's rights and children's needs is exposed as being nothing but lies. Mr Badman puts the needs of the system above the needs of the child here - indeed, to the expense of them. In so doing he gives away his real motive.