Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why home educators are very careful what they ask for - and agree to.

Since the Badman Review of 2009, most people in the UK now know about home education. At least, they know that it's legal and probably that - unlike school-based education - it currently is not subject to routine government monitoring.

What most people probably don't understand is the reason home educating parents really hated the ensuing proposals of annual monitoring and conditionally allowed permission to home educate.

We didn't hate them because we're a bunch of anarchists who reject any kind of government, or because we wanted to be free to mistreat our children, or because we didn't like our ideas to be challenged. I think most of us hated them because we feared their negative impact on our children's learning.

In the process of home education, it's almost impossible for parents not to realise some interesting truths about optimal learning. Truths that the education industry and anyone else with a vested interest in educational outcomes don't really want to promote, in the same way as the drug industry wouldn't be hugely in favour of effective, possibly cheaper alternatives.

Immune systems usually work best without toxic interventions, and children learn best without pre-set, externally set curricula. (Yes, this is a contentious but useful analogy, in my view. The education industry, like the drug industry, primarily seeks power and profit with the same inherent corporate absence of conscience.) And we, the loving parents who want to enable these optimum conditions for our children's development, are not easily fooled by the use of seemingly harmless terms like 'registration' as a substitute for monitoring, which really (in the Fabian sense) means intervention. Control. To many home educating parents, it also means inevitable damage of our children's natural learning processes.

The Welsh Assembly Government has recently announced plans to introduce compulsory registration for home educators:

"That Bill will be followed by the education (Wales) Bill, which will set out a number of proposals, including requirements for the registration of the education workforce, reform of the statutory framework for children and young people with special educational needs, and the registration of children of compulsory school age who are home educated. The basis of the provisions within this Bill will be formed by the outcome of the public consultation on the requirements for registration of the education workforce, the consultation that sets out the proposals for reform of the legislative framework for special educational needs, and the consultation on the educational provision made by home-based educators."

Enter the dragon is the group for Welsh home educators and friends to discuss and enact responses.

And in England, the House of Commons Education Select Committee is holding an inquiry into support for home education, for reasons best known to itself.

I understand Graham Badman's first question to most of the home educators he met was "What can the government do to support you?" which in many cases - prior, as it was, to the publication of his recommendations - was answered at face value. People didn't realise he was actually looking for some kind of leverage, a way to sugar the pill of his proposed reforms. I don't think we'll be fooled like that again.