Monday, May 30, 2022

The latest threat

When I was parenting several younger children of compulsory education age, I felt highly motivated to focus on the various threats (usually coming from Government) to their freedom to learn in the way that was best for them. This motivation has naturally shifted, as my youngest child is now nearly 16 and won't be personally affected by the latest threat.

I remember, back in those younger days, feeling a mixture of gratitude and annoyance at the vocal presence of older, ex-home educators who seemed to want to run everything and control our responses as a community.

Sometimes they had views and took actions with which I disagreed, and to which I'd think, "How dare they think and do things that won't affect their children any more, but will affect mine?" It often felt like an affront, and needless to say, I won't be doing what they did (and in many cases, still do).

But I also mentioned gratitude, because without the old guard, how could we know what has gone before? How could we ever understand what brought us to the current situation, what works in terms of campaigning, and what doesn't?

I do plan to keep my finger on the pulse, to some extent and blogging occasionally about the repeating patterns I can identify. I'm always open to questions, and being asked for advice - which does happen, sometimes. I do not plan to spend the hundreds of hours on each new bill, every new threat, from now on. I don't have the time, any more. My priorities are naturally shifting towards life after home ed and yes, it turns out there is such a thing, even though it's now thirty years since I first deregistered a child from school.

I look at the situation now and I see a very busy and vibrant national home ed community, full of people who rightly feel directly threatened by the latest, outrageous challenge, possibly the most seismic one to freedom in education since Badman. Full of people who are primed and ready to take action, and who are doing exactly that. And who can blame them?

The current Schools Bill (specifically, clause 48) sets out a new duty for local authorities to maintain a compulsory register for children not in school. There are lots of reasons why this is a bad idea, ably and clearly set out on the excellent Suitable Education website:

I strongly recommend a read of the rest of that article at Suitable Education, in which the author highlights the key points, that home educated children are not "missing", home ed isn't a safeguarding risk, the state failing in its duty to make free educational provision, but the responsibility to ensure the provision, either at school or otherwise, being that of the parent, not the state, the negative impacts of monitoring and accountability measures and the vital importance of parental choice.

I want to finish this post (there will be more, it isn't my last) by briefly explaining my own personal experience of home educating, both on and off a register. My older three (now adults, all in their thirties) were known to the local authority, because they were deregistered from school. This did damage, to some degree, the provision they received, because keeping an eye on what the local authority might think, however small an eye, does detract from the focus on what the parent sees and hears that each individual child needs.

My younger two children have never been known to the local authority. One is beyond the age of compulsory education now and the other soon will be. This has meant I've been completely free to meet their educational needs, exactly when and how they've emerged, without having to worry about the judgment of a local authority officer. I think they've had a better education than the older three, purely because of this. It's made such a difference, and I feel sad to think that this option is now fast disappearing.

In the vast majority of cases, parents do know best and putting no trust in the parent-child bond of love, observation, knowledge and the instinctively vested interest of wanting one's offspring to thrive, is both inhuman and injurious. So, why would the state want to do this? I have a few ideas, mostly to do with expanding markets and its necessary focus on the economy. Big data means big business, now.


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