Friday, September 16, 2016

Home education and illegal schools. Again.

Four days ago, this bright, sunny article appeared in the BBC News Education section: Home education: The children going 'not back to school', in which a variety of effective home education methods were described and the process of deregistration from school and the legal position of home education were clearly explained.

This was presumably read by some grouchy Old Labour politician of the "All of your children are belonging to us" dyed-in-the-wool school of dogma, and a phone call or two later, this weird little Local Government Association press release appeared today and was duly rolled out on the BBC and in The Guardian by way of redress, one assumes. Because we can't have people thinking it's ok to just deregister their children from school, there has to be some threatened oversight and/or some general tarnishing of the idea as a corollary.

"Councils need more powers to protect children and tackle illegal schools," says the headline of the press release. The current, perfectly adequate regulations to tackle illegal schools are added as a footnote because of course, it's not really about the illegal schools at all - it's about getting into the homes of home educating families and questioning their children, just like Badman wanted in 2009.

I don't want to supply too much oxygen to this silliness, but I do want to take issue with Richard Watts' initial sentence: "The vast majority of parents who home educate their children do a fantastic job, and work well with their local council to make sure that a good education is being provided," because how can he know "the vast majority of parents who home educate do a fantastic job"? The answer is he cannot, because he has no power or ethical right to inspect and make the judgment of whether they are or not. Furthermore, as home educators we don't have to do "a fantastic job" - we only have to "cause our children to receive efficient full-time education suitable (a) to their age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs they may have."

Finally, most home educating parents do not "work well with their local council to make sure that a good education is being provided," because that is not the role of the local council in home education. There is neither the funding nor the legal justification for local councils to be involved in home education unless "it appears that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education" - home education quite rightly happens separately from local councils and other than that proviso, it does not fall under their jurisdiction.

I can't find the quote, but somebody once said that the main goal of every organisation quickly becomes growth and then it loses focus in its original intended function, and local authority departments as well as the national associations designed to support them, are no exception to this. Home education in the UK remains a thriving but stubbornly untapped market for interventions and this is undoubtedly deeply frustrating to some people. But for home educators, who live and learn in a legal enclave of vital peace and privacy, it is very good news indeed.

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