Thursday, 7 January 2016

New threat to home education - or a whole load of extreme bunkum?

Hello, it's a New Year.  I hope it's a good one for you.

What will it hold for home educators?

What it often holds for home educators - threats and confusion or so it seems at first glance.

Home educators could be filling their children's minds with poison.  They could be 'radicalizing' their children.

They could be making them do the dishes.  OK, I threw that in because we know that 'making' your children do the dishes (wash the dishes, for our American friends) could be a very dangerous thing.  Or no it couldn't.

"A senior government source said: “There has always been the freedom in this country for people to educate their children at home. Many people do it very well. But we need to know about where the children are and just to be certain that they are safe.

“For every parent doing a brilliant job, there may be someone filling the children’s mind with poison. We just don’t know, we don’t have reliable figures.”

Home educators 'could be' letting their children get over the dreadful time they've had at school, or they could be touring the country learning about regions and districts and flooding and overworked water courses and environmentalism...  You see how one subject naturally leads to another.
People home educate for different reasons, not one of them appears to be turning those children into radicals.  For a start, what is a radical?  Maybe they mean someone who doesn't like fracking or Nicky Morgan, Education Secretary, the current incumbent in a long line of people seemingly unaware of anything that home education actually is (in the UK, home education is not generally referred to as homeschooling, although various families 'home school' as in they have 'school at home').
Indeed one wonders immediately just who this unnamed source is?  'A senior government source?  Care to guess? Perhaps Heather Brooke, the amazing reporter who brought us all information about the expenses claimed by Members of Parliament might tell us, but this spokesperson is sheathed in mystery.  Perhaps it is the government tea lady in the Houses of Parliament.  One can only guess..
Many people home educate very well apparently.  How nice, how soothing, that remark just sets you up for the fall, does it not?  'But we need to know about where the children are and just to be certain that they are safe'.
Strange that, when many children who are in care (that is cared for by governmental appointed agents) go missing. These children are not in their parents' care but are LOOKED AFTER children, in the 'care' of the state.
The information was obtained from police forces in England and Wales by the NSPCC, and those figures can presumably be checked by looking at the FOI responses.
So, obviously, children who are in the care of their parents (home educating) are not safe enough in the care of their parents but must be overseen by a state that loses children that it DOES have a duty of care for.
What can one even say to that?
Just to be certain that the children are safe, says the senior government source.  Why would they not be safe?  They are with their parents or in other company like grandparents, friends, home educating groups, or doing what every child does like ballet or gymnastics classes or some such thing.
Of course, when one starts to deconstruct the argument, one sighs deeply with complete and utter tiredness because it's the same old squawking.
1)  We don't know where they are.  So, when school breaks up for the summer, do you know where THOSE children are?  No, of course you don't because you feel no need to. Or you know that to track every child in the country would be ludicrous or impossible or so time wasting and resource wasting that even the most patient taxpayer would shout 'ENOUGH IS ENOUGH' and 'LEAVE FAMILIES ALONE' and 'STOP SPENDING MY HARD-EARNED MONEY ON RUBBISH' or some such thing.   
2) You do know where they are.  They are in the care of parents who make a far better job of caring for their children than the state does.  Remember a few lines back? Thousands of children go missing from state supplied care every year.  It does not engender any particular belief that it would be better for every child if he or she was followed by the state at any or every moment of the day, does it?  As a society, we can have no trust in the ability of the state to prevent harm to children since they lose them quite frequently and no one knows what is happening to those lost ones.  
3) You could know where they are.  It isn't difficult to read a few deregistration letters which say that a child is no longer to be considered a pupil at a school but is now to be home educated. The schools really cannot have thousands of children deregistering every day, can they?  Or the good people in the media would been letting us know about that. So the local authorities must know that children are being home educated because it is a school head teacher's duty to let them know.  Equally, the perusal of a registrar's office in every area would give the birth information of every child in the area, and those who are not registered on a school roll might possibly be home educated.

But why would you do that?  Unless, of course, you are gripped by paranoia for which you should really seek medical help.  The children who have been in the news often for tragic reasons were known by social services and, apparently, many other services who failed to intervene.  So even knowing about children who were in real danger and at real risk the state could not keep them safe.

Actually, I do find the idea of extremism quite terrifying.  It's more the idea that it is one of those concepts that can morph from one thing to another.  Anything can seem like extremism to a conformist mind and a conformist mind is one that expects and even, demands, that children GO TO SCHOOL even if schooling is detrimental to a particular child.  
As to Islamic terrorism, how much terrorism can one pack into young minds?  How would that translate into extremism or terrorism in the future because it is most unlikely that small children would be able to carry out terrorist activities? So you are speaking about children who, within a few years, will be able to be functioning as terrorists.  But, surely, even if a young mind is poisoned - and what does that mean in actuality and how does one define poison in that sense - surely the poison is not necessarily something that will make you act.    A loose analogy (very loose because, naturally, a Convent School education would not be suspected of poisoning a child's mind) would be my friend, M, who went to a Catholic School, despite being Anglican, because the school was situated on her road.  She remains quite fond of the smell of incense and the beauty of Catholic churches, but follows no particular religion, and will often say that her conscience is her guide (which teaching could have come from many other religions).
So what is this all about?
I don't know.  I have a few vague ideas.  Possibly it's all smoke and mirrors. 
Since OFSTED was mentioned in the article about home educating, it might be that OFSTED inspectors want a few more inspections to make.  Of course, their remit is schools because schools are a service provided by the state and have to be inspected to allay parents' fears that their money is not being well spent. And, naturally, to inspect every home educating family they would have to receive more money.  No vested interest there then. But, of course, OFSTED should not be inspecting or suspecting families. Families are not providing a service for money, far from it. Home education is done for love.
So is that an extremist view of a) OFSTED or b) the state schools?
Or not an extremist view at all.
It depends on your definition, doesn't it?


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