Regulating Home Education


11:30 am - June 18th 2009

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This article is by author missdisco.

Elizabeth Mills response to the regulation of Home Education seemed to echo the common response from home-educators. Another opportunity for the state to control how we treat our children. And so on. It’s something I find an increasingly tiresome argument, as I seem to be one of the few people viewing regulation of home education as a positive thing.

I was home-educated between 1993-2001. It was an appalling experience. My mother was, in the most polite terms, a manipulative bitch, who actually never bothered to teach us at all. It was a whim for her for about a year, but then I think she just lost it and just couldn’t be bothered with anything, except keeping us in the house. As a child I barely left the house except maybe once a week to help do the shopping in Morrisons. I didn’t do science, languages, PE, art, music, or anything interesting. My interest in English Literature arose out of being a Manics fan, otherwise I suspect I would have never had that.

Only once did someone come round to inspect us. Once in eight years. The night before that inspection is something I try to forget. Essentially an hours beating to make sure when they ask how me and my sisters felt our response was that we were happier. My memories of the inspection were that he had no problem with our basic skills – from the few rushed examples of work pushed at him – but that he was concerned by our mothers Irish nationalist stance in everything and the lack of PE, language or music. Mostly though, he disliked that none of our work was dated, because that meant he had no idea when what he saw was produced.

Yes, some people are just honestly supporting children with learning difficulties or trying to embrace their own culture, but there are cases where it does just turn into abuse. The chances are, like me and my sisters, that it isn’t really reported or known. The reason for that being that, with no real or completely accurate figures oh home education, its possible for the worst situations to slip between everyone’s fingers. Who would have considered themselves responsible for my welfare when I was growing up? We just went on living in a dysfunctional and destructive family until we were old enough to be dysfunctional adults. I’m not even sure if my sisters can read or write properly.

It seems like the majority of opinions on this are all about embracing positive alternative education. I don’t dispute that home education can be a positive experience for many and take them leaps and bounds beyond others in their schools. Equally though, I fail to understand why so many parents can’t see that it could turn into a nightmare. Surely, if you have nothing to hide or be ashamed of, then no harm will come of someone checking that your children are being educated.

My sisters and I are all completely estranged from our mother now. She hates us because we stole her life because she had to teach us. As soon as I got to sixth form I felt that even the weakest student, with Cs and Ds, was better educated than I was. Around this time we fell out. She denies my existence now.

Surely someone checking that your children meet a standard of numeracy and literacy, and aren’t raised to believe that the world is controlled by Jew-hating-lizards from outer space is something that should be done, not beaten down by shouty hippie parents with anger issues towards the local education authority, or Labour, or Catholicism or various other issues, is a good thing? If parents become ill, or must work more, and can’t support their children’s education, shouldn’t there be someone to step in and make a stand about that?

After all, when you’re young, whoever teaches you tends to be your earliest guide in the world. Did you know how you should be educated when you were 8 or 9? You don’t really have any authority on this yourself when you’re young, parents decide it for you. If you did, you’d probably just sit in the dirt chopping hair off dolls and eating refreshers all day.

I fail to understand why there’s such opinion that the government/ LEAs/ the big bad whoever are anti-home education. The attitude against this regulation does seem to broadly be part of a much larger anti-Labour grudge, or a grudge against local education authorities and regulation. Regulation seems to be a dirty word to these people, implying control when it equally means protection. Home education has grown as an alternative option since the 70s or so and there really has been very little regulation on it at all, and yet it concerns one of the most important factors in a persons life being decided by what could be the whim of an unstable parent. What seems to be recommended is an enforced and compulsory regulation of what is currently very loosely done. The suggestions made by the recent review have flaws, which have been pointed out on the previous post’s comments, but I view them as caring for the education and welfare of vulnerable children who are currently beyond any particular authority and whose lives are solely controlled by one or two people.

—————–

missdisco was home schooled. A version of this post originally appeared here.

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Reader comments


*waits for the fireworks to begin*

As far as I can gather from the Badman report, one of the key issues seemed to be whether home eduction could be used as a cover for child abuse. From the above article it’s clear that the answer to that is an unequivocal yes.

Does that mean that any but a tiny minority of home educators abuse their kids? Absolutely not.

Does that mean that home education should be banned? Absolutely not.

But does that mean that a certain degree of inspection and oversight is necessary for child protection purposes? Absolutely yes.

I was concerned by Elizabeth Mills’ comment that the Badman proposals would make ” all of us accountable to the State in how we bring up our children”. Well, I’m sorry, but every parent is already accountable to the State in how they bring up their children. It’s called child protection, and I don’t consider this a bad thing. It’s not done for Big Brother Nanny State purposes. It’s done to prevent abuse and/or neglect.

Surely someone checking that your children meet a standard of numeracy and literacy, and aren’t raised to believe that the world is controlled by Jew-hating-lizards from outer space is something that should be done

This * 1,000,000. I suspect the reason why there’s been such a fuss about the government’s proposal to do something that nobody sane could possibly object to is that home-schooling parents tend towards the tinfoil end of the spectrum anyway….

@ 2 – ” Well, I’m sorry, but every parent is already accountable to the State in how they bring up their children. It’s called child protection, and I don’t consider this a bad thing. It’s not done for Big Brother Nanny State purposes. It’s done to prevent abuse and/or neglect.”

They are 2 separate issues. As a parent I don’t consider myself any more accountable to the state than anyone else, I certainly don’t see that I have to justify the way I bring up my kids to any agent of the state. The health vistor who asked me to fill in a form saying I wished to give up smoking now that I was a parent was politely invited to leave my house and not returrn for that very reason. Psycho/alcoholic/smak addict/unemployed/retards/baby torturers are apparently ok as parents, middle class, educated smokers are not in the crazy world of nu labour.

This is one of the areas where nulabour lost the plot (and a lot of famillies votes), when they decided that the state somehow has a legitimate role in family life. It does not.

Seaparately from that I have a legal obligation to protect my children from potential harm, which I fully accept.

Where is your evidence that the Big Brother/Nanny state approach (which is exactly what we have) actually protects children compared to most of the rest of the world where the state is far less intrusive (and there is on the whole, less child abuse). The state is part of the problem.

5. Peter Darby

I feel for you, I really do, but…

The current proposals would have instead turned your once in eight year beating to coach your responses into a once a year beating.* I’m sure your mother could have turned in a report every year to show she was trying, and she would have been approved, even supported, by the authorities. She was in your own words “a manipulative bitch”, and who’s to say that she, like Baby P’s mother, like Eunice Spry, couldn’t wrap the authorities round her little finger.

Your story is repeated over and over with schooled children as well, with school staff at the very least ignorant, if not complicit in wilfull silence.

The authorities have shown that they cannot prevent abuse in schooled children, or children which are under the tightest scrutiny available to them. They have also demonstrated that people who are not manipulative, who are simply anxious in the presence of authority, get their children removed from them on the weakest of grounds because social workers don’t want to be the ones in the headlines for inaction.

The hostility to authorites is not due to some airy-fairy anti-establishment dogma, but due to a history of abuse of authority, coupled with a demonstrated inability of authorities to use their existing powers effectively.

I think you’ll also find that most people who believe the world is truly ruled by jew hating lizards from outer space were, in fact, schooled, along with the vast majority of British Islamic extremists, BNP supporters, climate change believers / deniers (delete where you agree) and people who vote on Britain’s Got Talent. Being schooled does not, on present evidence, innoculate you in any way against collective insanity.

*Yes, I’m sure there were more beatings, just this one was for coaching before the authority visit.

6. Stuart White

Many thanks for this post. While there are legitimate concerns about overregulation of home education, the basic principle of regulation and oversight is the right – and the liberal – one. Those who think this is illiberal should read their John Stuart Mill. In ON LIBERTY, Mill argues against those in Victorian Britain who would insulate parents from state interference on grounds of liberty:

‘It is in the case of children that misapplied notions of liberty are a real obstacle to the fulfilment by the State of its duties. One would almost think that a man’s children were supposed to be literally, and not metaphorically, a part of himself, so jealous is opinion of the smallest interference with his own freedom of action: so much less do the generality of mankind value liberty than power. Consider, for example, the case of education. Is it not almost a self-evident axiom that the State should require and compel the education, up to a certain standard, of every human being who is born its citizen….Hardly anyone, indeed, will deny that it is one of the most sacred duties of the parents (or, as law and usage now stand, the father), after summoning a human being into the world, to give that being an education fitting him to perform his part well in life towards others and himself. But while this is unanimously declared to be the father’s duty, scarcely anybody…will bear to hear of obliging him to perform it.’

The view that Mill saw as the majority opinion is now a minority opinion. But it is no less oppressive to the children involved for that.

missdisco’s experience is obviously at the extreme end of the scale but even if the parent’s behaviour can in no way be classed as abusive there is no guarantee that someone who wants to educate their children at home is actually competent to do so. In schools there are good and bad teachers, why should it not be the same in home-education? And having a poor teacher is especially damaging if you are relying on them for your entire education.

Of course it is possible to go too far and over-regulate but it’s hardly unreasonable to ensure that the children in question are actually learning stuff.

The state can never legislate against those who deliberately set out to deceive and dupe. I am very sorry to hear about missdisco’s experiences and hope that she has had help to overcome them. The reality that they happened does not, however, mean that home educators need a change in law which defies civil liberties. By extending her argument, just because schooled children have been badly bullied and victimisedwhile in LA care, we should close all schools. No. We will always have schools, bullying and all, and we will always have home educators. Interestingly, the author might now be someone that ‘inspectors’ may consider to be an unsuitable person to be a parent (if she chose to become one) because of her unfortunate start in life. How can she prove that she has another model of parenting? Should the state be working preventatively to this end?

As a long time home educator (and a professional still employed by an LA) I can see the range of experiences that children can have. I would never send my child to school and neither would I subject her to ‘stranger’ encounters in our own home or elsewhere. We know that we are giving our daughter the best start in life we possibly can. If we were to send her to school, we know that we would be failing her. No brainer!

I will continue to stand up for the freedoms we currently have in this country, freedom under the UN Declaration of Human Rights, before it is too late. This freedom includes missdisco’s right to freedom of speech. If we submit to arguments such as hers she would not even have the right to speak out! So, missdisco, I am fighting for your right to be free too.

Psycho/alcoholic/smak addict/unemployed/retards/baby torturers are apparently ok as parents, middle class, educated smokers are not in the crazy world of nu labour.

Except that the former group frequently have their kids taken away, where as the latter group don’t (see: the fact that you haven’t had your kids taken away, you merely had a social worker suggest that it might be better for them if you didn’t smoke).

The authorities have shown that they cannot prevent abuse in schooled children, or children which are under the tightest scrutiny available to them. They have also demonstrated that people who are not manipulative, who are simply anxious in the presence of authority, get their children removed from them on the weakest of grounds because social workers don’t want to be the ones in the headlines for inaction.

No, the authorities have shown that in *a very small number of very well reported cases* they have failed to prevent abuse in at-risk children, and that in *a very small number of very well reported cases* kids have been removed from people when they probably shouldn’t have been. Extrapolating that to “abusive psychos like Mrs P and Eunice Spry always get away with it, and the only people who have their kids taken away are decent, innocent parents who the social workers can bully” is approaching 9/11 troofer levels of tinfoil.

The hostility to authorites is not due to some airy-fairy anti-establishment dogma, but due to a history of abuse of authority, coupled with a demonstrated inability of authorities to use their existing powers effectively

For values of “history” and “demonstrated” that apply only if you subscribe to an airy-fairy anti-establishment dogma.

@Peter Darby

The authorities have shown that they cannot prevent abuse in schooled children, or children which are under the tightest scrutiny available to them.

Then what do you suggest should be the approach of the authorities to manipulative parents who are abusing their children? Give up? Just not bother to try to intervene?

You seem to be proposing objections but no actual solutions.

I work in child and adolescent mental health services. I’m certainly aware of how manipulative some parents can be, but if you think the response to such manipulative actions should be to just walk away and leave the parents to continue harming their kids, then pardon me if I don’t actually sling all my professional, ethical and legal obligations out of the window and just leave them to it.

And just for the record, the authorities can and do prevent abuse (or at least mitigate it) on a regular basis. It’s just that those cases don’t make headlines like Baby P did.

They have also demonstrated that people who are not manipulative, who are simply anxious in the presence of authority, get their children removed from them on the weakest of grounds because social workers don’t want to be the ones in the headlines for inaction.

From having been involved in several child protection cases, this is simply not my experience. The myth of social workers abseiling through windows to take away peoples’ kids on a whim is just that – a myth. Social services are bound by the Children Act to employ the least restrictive intervention, and almost always try to work to support a struggling family unless there are grave concerns. If they feel they have to remove a child from a family, then that is done by applying to the courts for a care order or emergency protection order, not by some social worker simply ticking a box on a form.

11. Peter Darby

John b: in the case of state intervention, its’ the extrapolation of dozens of cases I know about just from my personal experience. These cases have not, in my experience, been “very well reported”.

If you really believe that the failures of child protection and child welfare departments have been “few and well documented”, I can only presume that we’ve been looking at different reports.

But I’ve been written off as “airy fairy”, and presumably tinfoil. So please, subject me to state oversight.

12. Matt Munro

“Except that the former group frequently have their kids taken away, where as the latter group don’t (see: the fact that you haven’t had your kids taken away, you merely had a social worker suggest that it might be better for them if you didn’t smoke).”

It was a health vistoir, not a social worker and they apparently issue the form to all parents, I find that sinister – do they really think I’m so stupid that I can’t work that out for myself and smoke only in the garden ??? Or is it just an excuse to meddle and interfere ???

“Then what do you suggest should be the approach of the authorities to manipulative parents who are abusing their children? Give up? Just not bother to try to intervene?”

DOH !! Maybe stop the problem from happening in the first place by not encouraging retards to breed ??

My dad was a chain smoker throughout my childhood. Can I sue?

PS I have never ever smoked.

Interesting post on a liberal website. I would have thought a central feature of liberal ideas would be that regulation of what people may or may not do should be minimised, to allow people the maximum freedom? In addition I would have though regulation based on sound evidence would be a pre-requisite for a liberal approach?

The regulation of home educating families being proposed is deeply illiberal in my opinion, and is based more on loose accusations than on genuine evidence. I would never presume to suggest no home educated kids are abused, and such abuse is a tragedy. However, legislation must be proportional and evidence based. What is being suggested would appear to be neither of these.

New legislation must also be able to achieve what it sets out to achieve. In this case a reduction in abuse. I see few grounds to suspect this will be thecase, though I accept that some cases of abuse may be picked up. New legislation should avoid causing harm wherever possible. This legislation is likely to cause significant distress to families going about their legitimate business. Anti home ed local authorities (and I’m afraid there are many of them, not all by any means, but many) will abuse their powers. Individuals will project their prejudices into the monitoring process. Let’s also not forget that if a Local Authority issues a School Attendance Order, no matter how ill-founded the grounds, the parents *must* comply. They have no right of appeal. Their only option if they disagree is to break the law, fail to send their child to school, and defend their actions in court. Not great for family life.

Home Educators are more than happy for free and open debate on ways to reduce abuse. We’re not getting that at the moment, we’re instead on the road to ill-conceived legislation which will casue parents and children harm for years to come.

This is an absolutely horrific case, but there is no regulation in the world that is going to solve the problem that some parents just really really suck. Those in favour of curtailing HE-rights need to demonstrate that, on balance, it is better for public officials to choose how children will be educated than parents. I don’t think that case has been made.

16. missdisco

@su:
By extending her argument, just because schooled children have been badly bullied and victimisedwhile in LA care, we should close all schools. No. We will always have schools, bullying and all, and we will always have home educators.

That’s not the argument i made. I have never said that home education should be prevented. I am in support of more regulation, not preventing it.

17. Peter Darby

Zarathrustra: If you can give me a proposal that does not treat thousands of families not requiring intervention as potentially requiring intervention, and massively increasing the workload of already overstretched departments, leading to the inevitable additional false identifications, I’d be very glad to hear it.

I’m not saying throw your hands in the air and give up, I’m saying recognise that a mandatory monitoring regime is disproportionate and will, in my view, cause more harm than good.

And I can only speak to the experience of my friends and acquaintances when faced with authorites that work on the basis that education = school, or a reasonable facsimile thereof that responsible, engaged autonomous or child led education gets described as no educational provision, leading not only to school attendance orders, but open threats of care orders unless children are sent to schools they left for their own safety.

I’m not anti-social worker, I would like more than anything else to see social work departments adequately funded (for once), and adequately trained, and for them to be seen as supporting their communities instead of being used as weapons by either local government or in personal disputes.

One of the many objections to mandatory monitoring is that diverts scarce resources away from where known problems are in a fishing expedition for more potential problems into an area where there is no demonstrable evidence that it would do more good than randomly knocking on any given door in the country.

18. Stuart White

Martin@14: I can only assume you haven’t read my post at 6. You are making precisely the mistake John Stuart Mill identified in his fellow Victorians. Parents have this thing called POWER over children. To secure liberty for all, you have to protect them against arbitrary power. And that includes the power of parents over children. The state has a necessary role in a liberal society in limiting the freedom of parents over their children in order to secure the liberty of these children. To simply withdraw the state from family life is to leave children vulnerable to a potentially awful form of despotism. That’s not liberalism, iist parentalism.

19. Peter Darby

Stuart:

So you believe stateism is a better match for liberalism than parentalism? Even if the state is illiberal and excercises arbitrary power?

Surely there is an undistributed middle in the argument that asking a parent to demonstrate they are fulfilling their duties to their children must involve the state monitoring those duties? Mill’s state is very different from that which actually exists today.

@12 let’s assume your proposal to sterilise stupid people hasn’t yet got off the ground. Is it better to a) come up with measures that assume some parents will be stupid, and where they’re as non-invasive, cheap and trivial as providing a smoking factsheet, apply them to everyone; or b) run IQ and competency tests for all parents to determine who gets provided with which information?

@14 liberalism means that you support minimal restrictions on behaviour by adults when it is not harmful to others. That’s a very good principle a lot of the time, but it’s completely irrelevant when it comes to child-rearing, because children don’t have the capacity to make rational decisions. Unless you take the – frankly revolting – view that kids are their parents’ chattels (see JS Mill @6), there is nothing illiberal about using the state to defend children’s interests.

@15 some degree of oversight != curtailing HE rights, any more than licensing pubs = prohibition

@missdicso That’s not the argument i made. I have never said that home education should be prevented. I am in support of more regulation, not preventing it.

Evidence, please, to show that more regulation will have prevented your case. Anecdotal is not sufficient, as we already have plenty to support our cause that HE is a wonderful option.

@Matt Munro

Psycho/alcoholic/smak addict/unemployed/retards/baby torturers are apparently ok as parents

Not really, since you just identified precisely the demographics from which child protection services are most likely to become involved. I have never heard a politician suggest that baby torturers are ok as parents.

@Su

The state can never legislate against those who deliberately set out to deceive and dupe.

I understand that one of the recommendations of the Badman Report was that inspectors should have the right to interview home-educated children without the parents present. This seems to be one of the recommendations that people seem most appalled about. However, that strikes me as about the only measure that could ensure that the author could have spoken freely about what was going on.

By extending her argument, just because schooled children have been badly bullied and victimisedwhile in LA care, we should close all schools.

No, that is not a valid extension of her argument, because she has not suggested home education be banned, only regulated and inspected.

Interestingly, the author might now be someone that ‘inspectors’ may consider to be an unsuitable person to be a parent (if she chose to become one) because of her unfortunate start in life.

That is an insinuation that bears no resemblance to how child protection cases are actually conducted. I have never heard of a case in which a child was removed from the parents purely because of how the parent was raised as a child rather than on their conduct as an adult. If you know of any such cases, feel free to let me know.

How can she prove that she has another model of parenting? Should the state be working preventatively to this end?

@missdisco It seems like the majority of opinions on this are all about embracing positive alternative education. I don’t dispute that home education can be a positive experience for many and take them leaps and bounds beyond others in their schools. Equally though, I fail to understand why so many parents can’t see that it could turn into a nightmare.

Well, sadly, missdisco, PARENTING can turn into a nightmare! There are no guarantees! Schooling can also turn into a nightmare, but I don’t see government ministers legislating against this. Parenting is a risk, and caring parents take the risk to do their best with the support they have.

I don’t stop taking risks just because something could turn into a nightmare. I live and enable my child to live. And we have chosen the home ed route. And it is not a nightmare, so it was worth the risk.

24. Peter Darby

John b @ 19: Nothing wrong with the state defending a childs interests in extremis, but does liberalism therfore imply that you must regularly demonstrate to the state that you are not harming another’s interests? Where does this end?

Badman’s review recommended that “registration to home educate” be denied where the local authority has “any concerns” that the parent “may not” be able to provide a suitable education. Given fights I’ve been involved in with various education authorities, this could well mean that anyone who does not conduct “school at home”, with a completely clean bill of health and entirely within all societal norms can be denied permission to register. With, as far as we can see, no appeal.

This would be like the licensing authorities being able to deny a pub license on the grounds that the barman has only one leg, or the barmaid is gay, or some of the guests believe (let’s go for the greatest hits) that the world is ruled by baby eating jewish space lizards.

How is this liberal? When did “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” become a liberal excuse for state intervention?

25. missdisco

@Su:

Since the inspector who came to visit my family as a child had concerns about the education we received such as the lack of science, languages, PE, art, music, the extreme Irish Nationalism, had there been more regulation he would have probably been able to further investigate this.

As it was, my mother had to consent to allow him in to begin with, and was never given an opportunity to speak to us in private. The inspector attempted to see us again, but was prevented by our mother.She very often commented to us, even as she was beating us, that if we were at school then other kids would try and kill us, citing the drama King Girl http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0142436/ as evidence of that fact. Had anyone spoken to us away from our mother, then this could have been said.

It wasn’t until I was in sixth form that much of my mother’s abuse came out. They never doubted it because she was threatening and aggressive towards them. Unfortunately, it was a difficult situation that resulted in my being told by a teacher, who had been in a particularly aggressive confrontation, ‘Your best option is to go to university as soon as you can, and never come back here.’

@Su

Schooling can also turn into a nightmare, but I don’t see government ministers legislating against this.

Really? Because I think you’ll find there are whole shedfuls of legislation regarding the way schools are run.

That doesn’t prevent ALL people from having a negative experience of school, but it’s certainly done a lot to reduce the potential.

“liberalism means that you support minimal restrictions on behaviour by adults when it is not harmful to others. That’s a very good principle a lot of the time, but it’s completely irrelevant when it comes to child-rearing, because children don’t have the capacity to make rational decisions.”

John, it is far from irrelevant. After all, we know that plenty of adults don’t make rational decisions either. So why should we be so keen to defend them from a government that claims to know better what their interests? Because it turns that central authorities tend to make even worse decisions, especially in the long run once those involved in the institutions get used to holding power over other people. Now children are a more difficult case, it must be acknowledged, but the same problem applies: that relying on a central authority to decide what they are will tend to produce worse outcomes than leaving it to the nearest and dearest of the children. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule, but that does not make it any less of a rule.

It might turn out that a local authority that was genuinely democratically accountable to the community it exercised power over would be a better guardian and potentially deserving of greater powers of inspection. It is really in this current context, of centralisation and normalistion of education from Whitehall, that further regulation seems likely to be destructive of freedom. In another context, it might be more justified on liberal grounds but we just cannot trust the government to treat this issue in a nuanced way. Opposition to HE regulation is as much strategic as it is a principled stand. Even if you, as a liberal, don’t agree with the principle, you should still see the danger of the direction this legislation is taking.

@Zarathustra That is an insinuation that bears no resemblance to how child protection cases are actually conducted. I have never heard of a case in which a child was removed from the parents purely because of how the parent was raised as a child rather than on their conduct as an adult.

Children are taken away at birth to ‘prevent’ abuse (not only because there is any evidence of abuse). Many cases in the media, though because of family court secrecy much is hidden. Parental rights do not seem to count here.

CAF/CIN always asks about history and ‘at risk’ status is greater where the history is relevant, such as previous abuses. So, yes, research shows that abuse is more likely if there has been a history of abuse as a child. All parenting courses include elements on ‘how you were parented’, because it is highly significant. ‘Regulated’ providers of parenting courses may use this information against parents/prospective parents. Why do you think that antenatal/postnatal ‘contact’ with professionals is seen as vital? It is seen as a risk factor if a parent avoids ‘professional’ input!

Some of the objections to regulation above seem to be predicated on the notion that we can only go from “absolutely no regulation at all” to “dictatorial Stasi regime” without passing through any kind of middle ground along the way.

From Missdisco’s article, there do seem to be some sensible measures that could and should be implemented that do not result in home ed being banned. The most obvious one would be to allow inspectors to interview the child alone, so the child can speak freely about what’s happening. Also other common-sense measures would be things like requiring work to be dated as some evidence of when it was done.

These are sensible suggestions, and they allow home educators to carry on home educating while still providing some protection to children.

Unfortunately, some of those objecting seem insistent on coming back with arguments like:

This would be like the licensing authorities being able to deny a pub license on the grounds that the barman has only one leg, or the barmaid is gay, or some of the guests believe (let’s go for the greatest hits) that the world is ruled by baby eating jewish space lizards.

I’m sorry, but that’s not an argument, that’s froth-at-the-mouth batshittery.

I don’t stop taking risks just because something could turn into a nightmare. I live and enable my child to live. And we have chosen the home ed route. And it is not a nightmare, so it was worth the risk.

Which is great. When the inspector turns up on his annual visit, you’ll have no trouble showing that that you’re giving your child an education that meets his or her academic and social needs, your child will agree when the inspector speaks to him or her alone, and everyone will be happy.

Badman’s review recommended that “registration to home educate” be denied where the local authority has “any concerns” that the parent “may not” be able to provide a suitable education

I’ve just read the recommendations (here) and they don’t say that. The phrase “any concerns” isn’t used in the document. The closest it comes to that is:

Recommendation 23
That local authority adult services and other agencies be required to inform those charged with the monitoring and support of home education of any properly evidenced concerns that they have of parents’ or carers’ ability to provide a suitable education irrespective of whether or not they are known to children’s social care, on such grounds as
* alcohol or drug abuse
* incidents of domestic violence
* previous offences against children
And in addition:
* anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable and efficient education

This requirement should be considered in the Government’s revision of Working Together to Safeguard Children Guidance

In other words, if you’re a drunk, a wifebeater or a paedo, then the LA has to consider whether it’s appropriate for you to get the license. Not *has to deny it*, or even *can deny it without appeal*, but has to consider whether it’s appropriate. This doesn’t seem like the worst thing since Draco, in my book at least.

@Su

Children are taken away at birth to ‘prevent’ abuse (not only because there is any evidence of abuse).

Yes, that does occasionally happen, but almost always in cases where the parent is a drug addict, has severe mental illness or learning disabilities, or similar circumstances where the child would be at grave risk from the moment of birth.

32. Peter Darby

John b:

“And in addition:
* anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable and efficient education”

How is this not “any concerns”? And if you think they’ll not deny registration first, ask questions later, you’ve not been dealing with the same authorities we have.

You’re still using “nothing to hide, nothing to fear”. I have nothing to hide with my kids education… as long as the inspector likes me.

@27 and if people were saying “all kids should be forced to go to directly controlled government schools and learn lesson plans dictated personally by [whichever nonentity is education secretary this week]”, I’d agree that was deeply stupid and wrong. As @29 says, this is not the plan, or anything like it – it’s about placing some very mild checks to reduce the chances that, among the vast majority of parents doing the right thing for their kids, people who are exceptions to that rule will get away with it.

It seems to me there are two forms of nightmares here and that the ways of preventing them are being badged as opposite. People are opposing the solution proposed to one nightmare on the grounds that it will permit the other nightmare viz:

Nightmare 1: Abuse as part of home schooling. Some see attending school/more regulation as the solution but others think that this solution would result in the elimination of home schooling as an option and vulnerable children being trapped in school.

Nightmare 2: Intolerable bullying/other bad experience at school. Some see home education as the solution but others think that this solution would result in more abuse at home.

Surely a moderate solution can be found that will prevent vulnerable children from both of these things! It can’t be that you have to choose between a (very small, I hope) group of children suffering either one of these nightmares or the other?

@john b

Read recommendation 24. Refusal/revocation of registration can be made of grounds of safeguarding concern. Note, not evidence, just concerns.

I will wait to see what the outcome is, while continuing to support the freedom to educate our children openly, safely and legally without being subjected to ‘arbitrary interference with privacy, family or home’ (Article 12 UNDHR).

I have no fear and will challenge all illegal attempts upon our freedom to home educate. As a specialist in my field my greatest concern (not for our own family, but for others) is the poor quality of LA staff who will be expected to carry out Badman’s recommendations. This, is probably the worst of all.

See you, must get on with the day 😉

Ref: comment 35. This sort of language permeates the recommendations. Power to act based on vague descriptions. These will be fine with open minded LEAs, but anti-HE LEAs will use any vagueness as an excuse to prevent something they are opposed to (usually on grounds that they believe school is best for all children). This has been demonstrated in Scotland where permission has to be sought before deregistering a child from school. Certain authorities drag their feet (for months or years) or refuse permission on spurious grounds, while others give permission swiftly. Certain “types” of people struggle far more than others to get permission. If you’re white, middle-class, can talk the talk, then you’re OK. HEers aren’t just shouting for the sake of it. We are concerned about the long term impacts of ill considered legislation.

38. missdisco

@su:

I have no fear and will challenge all illegal attempts upon our freedom to home educate. As a specialist in my field my greatest concern (not for our own family, but for others) is the poor quality of LA staff who will be expected to carry out Badman’s recommendations. This, is probably the worst of all.

The anti-Labour, anti-LEA grudge that I expected in my original post. Again, overlooking that, for experiences like mine, there would be a purpose for bringing in some regulation.

Finally, @missdisco The anti-Labour, anti-LEA grudge that I expected in my original post. Again, overlooking that, for experiences like mine, there would be a purpose for bringing in some regulation.

I am not anti-Labour or anti-LEA (sic)… or anti-anything 🙂

I am pro-freedom!

@Helen

I entirely agree with you that a moderate solution can be found that neither leaves vulnerable children unprotected nor stifles home education. Ironically, this seems to be exactly what both MissDisco and the Badman Report are proposing.

A system of annual inspections, including an interview with the child alone, seems like a good start in finding a sensible middle ground.

41. Matt Munro

“Unless you take the – frankly revolting – view that kids are their parents’ chattels (see JS Mill @6), there is nothing illiberal about using the state to defend children’s interests.”

I find the idea that they are the State’s chattels (which is the logical extension to your argument) even more revolting. I can’t imagine a body less suited to bringing up children than the state, or a class of people (social workers, state school teachers) less suited to the job. I’d rather my kids were bought up by merchant bankers than some passive-aggresive nu labour apparachnik.

42. Peter Darby

Missdisco: quantifying any conerns over abuse of governmental authority as being anti-labour and anti-LEA shuts down anyone who disagrees with you.

I have just voted against labour for the first time in my life. I am looking forward to doing so again one day. Many of my friends and relatives (including some home educators) work for the Local Authorities. My objecitons to the proposed mandatory monitoring may be principled, but they are not dogmatically anti-labour or anti-LEA.

Do you have any suggestions for how a monitoring regime that can prevent children going through what you did that can also prevent families being broken up by abusive, arbitrary local authorities? Accepting that those authorities are a) by no means all of them and b) in my experience, more common than abusive home educators?

Stuart @18.

On standards of education, there is already a legal duty on parents to provide an education suitable to their child’s age aptitude and ability. Local authorities can make enquiries about how this is being provided. If they are not satisfied then they can issue a School Attendance Order. A parent is legally obliged to comply with this, whether the local authority’s position is reasonable or not. Further regulation in this area must surely take education down a more school-like route? I believe children’s rights are safeguarded adequately here.

As regards abuse, if home educating families are to be subject to abuse checks, lets make clear that’s what they are, make sure qualified professionals make those checks, apply them to all parents, and have an open discussion about the balance between parental and state rights and responsibilities.

Its all about a line somewhere between where the state has the responsibility to act on behalf of society at large when a parent fails their child, whether maliciously or otherwise, and where the parent has responsibility to act in the best interests of their child. My contention is that for the state to take greater powers (ie to move the line, something they are empowered to do and I am not) they should be able to clearly demonstrate the necessity for it. Anything else is an abuse of their greater power in this area. No evidence appears to have been presented to suggest their is a significant widespread risk created by the current system. Neither is their any analysis of putting the resources that will be channelled into these new regulations into other measures to help children.

@36, given that the proposed restrictions are less stringent than those in pretty much every other developed country, I don’t think your human rights case is going to go far…

I am pro-freedom! ~ Su

Why someone evokes freedom in a debate like this, they abdicate any chance of legitimately winning the debate.

It is, surely, a societal right that someone be given a reasonable standard of education?

My freedom to spin around with my fists out, ends when they connect with your face. Your freedom to educate your child as you see fit, ends when you give them a shitty, substandard start in life.

We don’t own our kids. They’re not a TV set or a sandwich.

It’s really quite simple.

My freedom to spin around with my fists out, ends when they connect with your face. Your freedom to educate your child as you see fit, ends when you give them a shitty, substandard start in life.

We don’t own our kids. They’re not a TV set or a sandwich.

Well said, Aaron.

I’m now going to declare a personal bias in this argument. “Missdisco” is actually my girlfriend. She’s understandably bitter about her home education experience, but despite this she’s never suggested that home education be banned. Merely that it should be subject to sensible oversight for child protection purposes, much in the same way that schools, voluntary organisations and other bodies that work with children receive oversight.

Su, I don’t normally like to personalise these kinds of arguments, but when Missdisco referred to “shouty hippie parents with anger issues” in her original article, she was talking about people like you.

I rather suspect not a few parents in Plymouth are rather thinking that their children might have been better off if they had been kept at home, rather than sending them to nursery. People do wicked things whether they are parents or not, and the evidence is that child abuse is twice as likely to be perpetrated by a non-related acquaintance than by a relative.

Some of Badman’s specific recommendations look deeply concerning. He wants designated local authority officers to be given a ‘right of access’ to the home. Is this the kind of access the police can only obtain with a warrant?

He assumes that all educational practices are identical. Some educational philosophies, which are successful in their own right, cannot be planned and objectively measured over a twelve month period. For all Badman’s protestations, he appears not to have appreciated the diversity of educational practice in the home school community.

The question of whose children these are was raised. By asserting the state has strong rights over the parents, Badman appears to be heading down the road of arguing that parents have their parenthood on loan from the state.

He also sets children’s and parents’ rights in conflict, which is an odd position to take: I have always understood that ‘parental rights’ as short-hand for ‘parental trusteeship of the child’s rights’. When you see parents and children as being in conflict, you will end up believing that the state should always intervene. If you see parents as being more generally on the side of their children, then a little trust will go a long way.

Disclaimer: I was not home schooled, nor do I have children. Even should I do so, home school is not likely to be a choice I would make.

do they really think I’m so stupid that I can’t work that out for myself and smoke only in the garden ?

Why would someone who knows nothing about you assume otherwise? Plenty of people smoke in the house that their children live in and cause them harm in doing so because they care more about their addiction.

49. Ken McKenzie

@41
“I can’t imagine a body less suited to bringing up children than the state, or a class of people (social workers, state school teachers) less suited to the job.”

People who post blog comments.

@45 “It is, surely, a societal right that someone be given a reasonable standard of education? ”

It is in fact a legal right. I haven’t seen any argument against that. We’re not asking for a repeal of the eduction act. The law puts a clear duty on the parent to provide this education or ensure it is provided. State schools are inspected the way they are in order that parents can have confidence that sending their child there will discharge their legal duties. Changing this relationship is a fundamental change in how this country operates, and should be questioned, not blindly accepted.

“I can’t imagine a body less suited to bringing up children than the state, or a class of people (social workers, state school teachers) less suited to the job.”

Certain religious groups spring to mind as being a lot worse – but I guess it depends what outcomes you’re after.

52. missdisco

@ Martin Gibson

Nor should it be blindly rejected.

The law puts a duty on the parent to provide an education and ensure it is provided. If they are not though, then the law cannot currently intervene with parents who do not provide a decent education, and those children will likely become adults who are going to struggle with a number of problems for most of their life.

@29 “Some of the objections to regulation above seem to be predicated on the notion that we can only go from “absolutely no regulation at all” to “dictatorial Stasi regime” without passing through any kind of middle ground along the way.”

The middle ground is where we are NOW. LAs have the power to investigate where they suspect that parents are failing in their DUTY to to provide an education. Note that, we don’t have RIGHTS over our children we have a DUTY to them! We also have a duty* to feed and clothe and shelter them. It’s what it means to be a parent, it has always been what it means to be a parent since our distant primate ancestors. We do not expect in a free society to have government agents coming into our homes to check the contents of the fridge or check the contents of our children’s closets to make sure their clothing meets government standards. It’s utterly insane!

*I have no idea if the government has legislated for that but who cares, it’s a natural duty.

@52 “The law puts a duty on the parent to provide an education and ensure it is provided. If they are not though, then the law cannot currently intervene with parents who do not provide a decent education”

WRONG. Factually incorrect. The law most certainly DOES allow LAs to intervene.

55. missdisco

LEAs don’t really have much power to investigate, because they can be refused entry to the home in the first place.

LEAs powers are about educational standards. They have plenty of power, in fact home educators have no right of appeal against a School Attendance Order.

If we are talking about surveillance of children to detect abuse, then that is a different issue. If someone in government is to be given the right to interview children with no parent or other party present, then surely this is quite a major shift in policy, and one which could be equally applied to other children? If it is about detecting abuse surely pre-school children should be part of these compulsory checks? And we should be having the debate on that basis.

If someone in government is to be given the right to interview children with no parent or other party present, then surely this is quite a major shift in policy, and one which could be equally applied to other children?

It’s not all that major a shift. Statutory authorities do not have to ask a parent’s permission before investigating a child protection issue. The Children Act already states that in any child protection concern then the welfare of the child is paramount. Everything else, including parents rights, come secondary to the rights of the child.

In the same way the police have a right to search my home under certain circumstances. Generally they need a warrant. They can’t come in and check if I have stolen goods in my house, even with an appointment. I’m sure if they had such powers they could catch more criminals.

Maybe Martin, but unlike with the police showing up on your door without a warrant, under the suggested legislation a home-educating parent who didn’t want to submit to inspection could do so easiliy – by sending their child to school.

If parents want to home educate their child then that’s their right, but rights come with responsibilities. and that should include the responsibility to show that since you’ve taken them out of schooling you’re looking after the welfare and education of your child. The original article of this thread gives a graphic example of why that should be.

At the end of the day, which is more important? Parents rights or childrens rights? The Children Act takes the view that childrens rights are the more important of the two. I happen to agree with that view.

60. Stuart White

Replying to various comments:

(1) Peter@19: of course it doesn’t follow from anything I said @6 or 18, nor do I think, that the state should have arbitrary power to interfere in family life, including the home education of children. I agree that the basis for interference should be clearly set out, substantively reasonable, and that all decisions should be subject to challenge. It may well be that the concerns expressed here about the vagueness of some of the language in the recent proposals are spot on in this respect. I’d agree that vague wording, making unclear the basis of state interference, is unacceptable.

(2) Matt Munro@41: it does not follow that because children are protected by the state from being the chattels of their parents, that they become the chattels of the state. ‘Chattel’ implies subjection to an arbitrary power, and, as I explained just above, the basis of state interference in home education need not, and should not, be arbitrary.

(3) Martin Gibson@46: I think the state has a duty, connected to the interests of the child and of the wider citizenry, in seeing not only that children get an education, but that this education satisfies some basic requirements, intellectual, moral and civic. This idea is implicit in the quote from Mill @6.

In common with many contemporary liberal political philosophers (though not all), I would argue that the basic, non-negotiable requirements include the following: (1) Children must be educated so that they have the capacity on maturity to question parental beliefs, religious and political, in an informed way. (2) Children must be educated so that they are able to participate in a society with diverse others on the basis of toleration and mutual respect. (3) Non-discrimination: children should not be educated in ways that are discriminatory, e.g., giving science lessons to boys and not girls.

These requirements are not ‘illiberal’. They reflect what a liberal state must do to ensure that the promise of liberal freedom is enjoyed equally by every citizen. If the state draws up a regulatory framework for home education based on these principles, then it serves the cause of liberalism when it enforces them. Which is not to say, of course, that the Badman proposals meet this liberal test.

Frankly, given the appalling state of some of our schools I think it’s tantamount to child abuse to send your children to them.

As for child protection issues, I can only repeat what my wife, a long term, highly experience CP worker and an ex-colleague of Badman, as it happens, had told me many times. She has never come across a case of HE related abuse and is confident that the children of HEers are much less likely to become victims of abuse or neglect than children attending mainstream school.

Indeed, apart from some high profile cases where children who had been removed from school and the family had relocated were subsequently abused and even murdered almost all cases of abuse and neglect involve children attending mainstream school. (And, before anyone jumps in, this is not simply because the school refers these children to Children’s Services).

If the commenters here are genuinly interested in seeing children get a decent liberal education they would be better off taking a closer look at our increasingly failing state education system. For anyone criticise HE while conventional education lets down so many children so badly shows enormous chutzpah.

PS: I think it’s fascinating that HE is causing so much concern at a time when record numbers of children, including some as young as five, are being excluded from school on a daily basis. They are safe at home in the short term, apparently, when it suits teachers, eh?

Mike Power

Okay. Agreed.

But surely there should be a mechanism to ensure home schooled kids are being treated okay?

I agree there are many faults in the existing school system, but that’s a different argument.

@9. “given that the proposed restrictions are less stringent than those in pretty much every other developed country, I don’t think your human rights case is going to go far…”

I’m going to archive that one John. I reckon there’s a good chance that one day, in some form or another, that argument will come back to bite you. 🙂

@63 Aaron. Yes there should be. And there is. It’s exactly the same system the state uses to make sure your kids are being treated OK. Fancy regular visits to check up on you? Be honest. :-0

And why stop at kids. If it’s abuse we are worried about we need to look at the elderly as well, surely? At least as vulnerable as kids, if not more so. Now it gets problematic. Where is grandma safer with you at home or IN a home? Better make sure we arrange regular inspections and have a little chat with her with the rest of the family out of the room, you know, just in case. After all, no one wants to see old people kicked around do they. Ding, dong! It’s old relative inspection time again!

I am going to duck out of this debate, as I think most of the issues have been aired, and I still have to wade through the Badman review and the consultation documents with a fine tooth comb, as well as trying to find some time to spend with my children!

Can I thank missdisco for the original post. I may disagree with some of your conclusions, but you have aired what must be some very difficult issues in a public forum in order to add to the debate. Thanks also for all the opinions in comments (well, thanks for the rational ones anyway, on both sides of the discussion!). I have particularly valued hearing rational argument from people for greater regulation. I’m still not convinced we need more regulation, but I must continue to question my own thinking if my ideas are to grow! I only wish I had an answer to how to protect the missdiscos without suffocating the freedoms we all enjoy in this country. I’ll keep thinking about it.

68. Matt Munro

“”2) Matt Munro@41: it does not follow that because children are protected by the state from being the chattels of their parents, that they become the chattels of the state. ‘Chattel’ implies subjection to an arbitrary power, and, as I explained just above, the basis of state interference in home education need not, and should not, be arbitrary.””

How can you say that the state does not subject children to arbitrary power ??? Child protection is arbitrary, depending on where you live, how well the local social services department is funded and run, the competence and experience of in dividual social workers, etc etc. The same applies to education.

I think “chattel” is a perjorative word that I suspect would probably only be used by someone who doesn’t have children. That aside, the point is that children have to be *someones* responsibility, if not the parents, then the state, and vice versa. One of the problems at the moment, that has indirectly contributed to child protection failures is that the split between the states’ responsbibilty and the parents has become blurred. In the jargon this is called a “multi-agency approach” in reality it represents a failure of responsibility, where certain perents believe (consciously or not) that state agencies are responsible for their children, and they by extension, are not.

@67 I only wish I had an answer to how to protect the missdiscos without suffocating the freedoms we all enjoy in this country.

You can’t. Shit happens. We will never make life safe for everyone and we will suck the life out of living if we try to.

There are nasty people about and some of them are parents. Actually, come to think of it, most of them are!

Mike,

You’re losing me.

My kids education is monitored – by the school system (be it good or bad, and we should work to improve it).

I have no problem whatsoever with home-schooling, I just don’t think periodical monitoring is such a terrible thing.

As for abuse…

Isn’t the schooling system part of that mechanism? When a kid regularly turns up with bruises or shows signs of aggravated stress, the system should flag it up – obviously that’s not perfect, but without that trigger, shouldn’t there be another?

71. missdisco

@mikepower

She has never come across a case of HE related abuse and is confident that the children of HEers are much less likely to become victims of abuse

I wonder if HE abuse would be less known because they’re more likely to not be detected, whereas schools have a lot more eyes watching them. Those few people who are abused currently will continue to be abused if there is no better regulation

6.1 in Badman’s review, Page 22:
It is a matter of some concern that despite a number of research studies and reports, it was not possible to identify with any degree of accuracy the number of children and young people currently educated at home. Our own data concurred with the DfES (2007) report, that there are around 20,000 children and young people currently registered with local authorities. We know that to be an underestimate and agree it is likely to be double that figure, if not more, possibly up to 80,000 children. I have no doubt that the vast majority of these children and young people are safe and well but, that may not be true for all.

That review acknowledges that while most people are safe and well, that’s a huge unknown and unless all are monitored there would be no effective way of finding those who are abused, neglected and other concerns. I have heard figures between 40,000 and 150,000.

@69 One of the problems at the moment, that has indirectly contributed to child protection failures is that the split between the state’s responsbibilty and the parents has become blurred. In the jargon this is called a “multi-agency approach” in reality it represents a failure of responsibility, where certain parents believe (consciously or not) that state agencies are responsible for their children, and they by extension, are not.

I’d be very interested in seeing some examples of where you think this has happened.

It’s true that the ‘multi-agency’ approach, which is just a fancy way of saying that GPs, health visitors, police, schools etc are all involved, does lead to gaps through which vulnerable children can slip, but this is almost always due to nothing more complicated than good old fashioned piss-poor practice.

73. missdisco

I would like to clarify again, I have no problem with home educators, but I don’t support this objection to regulation and monitoring, nor many of the reasons for such objections, which strike me in places as overly paranoid.

I was abused as a child and went school. I certainly would rather have been home schooled by my abusive father. And the schools I went to weren’t even particularly bad. Have you considered that things might have been even worse if you had been sent to school?

75. Matt Munro

@72

ER, baby P ? to name but one

@ 48

But if you start from the premise that people are all (quite literally) blank slates then there is no limit to the potential for state “interventions” to save people from their won stupidity – is it really beyond the whit of the state to target people who are genuinely bad parents, rather than spending millions giving out pointless advice that most people don’t need – why must everything be dumbed down to the level of the lowest common denominator ??

Like most kids of the 60s/70s I grew up in a house that was regularly filled with cigarette smoke, it did me far less harm than say, my parents splitting up, and yet the state condones and encourages the latter through the tax and benefit system ?

76. missdisco

@69:

@67 I only wish I had an answer to how to protect the missdiscos without suffocating the freedoms we all enjoy in this country.

You can’t. Shit happens. We will never make life safe for everyone and we will suck the life out of living if we try to.

So your response to this is: Shit Happens, so if you get abused thats too bad but I’m not having someone come round and watch my children for an hour?

Why bother with Child Protection at all if thats just life?

@74:
I could never really answer that question properly in a comments thread.

which strike me in places as overly paranoid.

Which place are they, please?

@76

Please read my comment again, carefully. I said that you cannot make life safe for everyone. I have already pointed out that most neglected and abused children go to mainstream schools. Dammit, some of the abuse even happens in the schools themselves!!

Of course it doesn’t mean we should ditch all child protection, that is a ludicrous conclusion to draw from my remarks, particularly as my wife has devoted her entire life to the protection of children.

If you believe that having a poorly trained,underpaid, overworked social worker sitting in you home for an hour sipping tea once a year will prevent abuse you are utterly deluded. I’m sorry you had the experiences you had but the fact that a tiny number of HE children may be at risk of some sort of abuse or neglect is no reason to impose this regime on everyone. A regime, it must be added that has never been felt necessary before.

We’ll be back to the man with the red flag walking in front of cars one day.

79. missdisco

@77:

there seems to be a leap in some of the comments in this thread (over 75, and I’m not picking out examples) that regulation will automatically lead to the state forcing home educators to send their children back to school, when there is nothing to justify that.

There are flaws in the review, but there are flaws in the way in which authorities can handle home educators where there is abuse (which my original post would suggest has occured, and I can’t be the only person who was) because it is difficult to gain access to the family and prove it to begin with.

@75 Er, Baby P? No. That is an example of what I described. You said: One of the problems at the moment, that has indirectly contributed to child protection failures is that the split between the state’s responsbibilty and the parent’s has become blurred.

Baby P had nothing whatsoever to do with a blurring of responsibility between parent and state. It was incompetence, largely, it must be said, on the part of the medical profession – who usually avoid censure- although not, thankfully, in this case. It was also a case of a determined effort by the child’s parent to hide serious abuse. We will no more stop all child murders than we will all adult murders.

On your second point about targetting bad parents. It is not widely realised that the majority of cases that CP workers deal with involve ‘neglect’ rather than sexual or physical abuse and the majority of those neglect cases involve parents and carers who are drug and/or alcohol abusers.

In fact most Daily Mail readers want all children of such parents removed and placed in care. Until they see what the bill would be, of course!

81. Matt Munro

“Baby P had nothing whatsoever to do with a blurring of responsibility between parent and state.”

In my view it does. Treat people as passive recipients of state intervention and they will act accordingly. The mother played off different state agencies againts each other, all of them assuming that someone else had responsibility. The responsibility vacuum is cause in part by the state having systematically taken too large a role in family life (way above and beyond that necessary to prevent abused as my smoking example shows).

@79

You appear to believe that abuse can be detected simply by allowing inspections once a year or every six months. If only! The Baby P case has already been mentioned. In that case there is strong evidence that the poor child was actually paralysed from the waist down because of injuries inflicted when seen by a consultant paediatrician in hospital! The doctor gave the child a clean bill of health.

In a great many cases it is neighbours and other family members who first raise the alrm. The tragedy is that they are not always believed, largely because often they are not nice, clean, respectable middle-class professionals.

there are flaws in the way in which authorities can handle home educators where there is abuse

CP workers and the police have exactly the same powers with home educators as with anyone else if abuse is suspected. Do you think CP workers have an easy time getting access to children at home in all cases of abuse. Wrong! Being a home educator would make absolutely no difference to practice.

@81In my view it does.

There is no argument against such a position.

Oh well, there goes a degree, post graduate training and 30 years experience down the pan. (to say nothing of a thorough and expert review of all the papers relating to the case) But hey! There you go.

Matt, if you are under the impression that Baby P’s mother could have somehow been encouraged to take more responsibility for her child, thereby lessening the ‘blurring’ of which you speak I have to say you clearly knowabsolutely nothing about her. You really couldn’t be more wrong in this case.

Feel free to pick another one though 🙂

85. pendlewitch

sadly, baby P’s own mother had been a victim of abuse. baby p could have been saved, his mother could have been saved if laming had acted 15 years earlier.

http://www.home-education.biz/Blogs/18/82/laming-s-legacy-of-failure/

In August 2007, a seventeen month old boy who was to become known to the world as Baby P died after months of appalling cruelty at the hands of his mother, her partner, and their lodger.

As his harrowing story unfolded, with the events leading up to his death being dissected in forensic detail by the press, the nation recoiled in horror, politicians demanded answers, and everyone, it seemed, was looking for someone to blame. However, one deeply significant aspect of the child’s family history had somehow been overlooked. Years before he was born, Baby P’s mother and another close relative had been in the care of Islington Social Services, where children were being subjected to systematic abuse by an organised paedophile ring.

In 1990, senior social workers Liz Davies and David Cofie approached Margaret Hodge (then leader of Islington Council) with concerns about widespread child sexual abuse in the area, and asked for extra resources to investigate. Their request was refused, with Hodge writing a memo to social services saying that the council’s budget would not allow for the extra staff. Despite this, and despite being told at a meeting of senior police and social workers to desist, conscientious staff continued to investigate and to submit evidence to the area child protection committee; where, again, they hit a brick wall.

In 1992, in desperation, they went to the press. The London Evening Standard conducted a damning investigation (dismissed by Hodge as “sensationalist gutter journalism”) revealing that dozens of children were being abused in care homes that had been infiltrated by paedophiles. Eileen Fairweather, a journalist for the paper, wrote to Herbert Laming (then chief inspector of Social Services) about the scandal; including the fact that Baby P’s relative in particular was being used to recruit other children in the council’s care to be abused. Laming inexplicably decided that Islington should be allowed to conduct its own investigation. Unsurprisingly, they found themselves innocent.

An independent inquiry in 1995 concluded that not only had the council failed to investigate allegations of abuse, but that they had disciplined just four out of 32 staff suspected of involvement.

It was within Laming’s power to recommend police action. He didn’t.

Lord Laming (as he was created in 1998) went on to conduct the 2001 inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie.

Margaret Hodge was appointed as the first Children’s minister in 2003. Later that year, she called Demetrious Panton , a victim of abuse in Islington who had been repeatedly ignored in his attempts to bring those responsible to justice, an “extremely disturbed person”. She was later forced to apologise publicly.

The public was told that Lord Laming’s recommendations led to the implementation, under Hodge, of Every Child Matters; a regime of surveillance, assessment, and interventions destined to be imposed on every child in England to ensure they meet government determined outcomes. In reality, it had been on the cards since long before the Climbie inquiry; they were just waiting for an excuse.

There is something very rotten stalking the corridors of power. These corrupt, self serving cowards have effectively collaborated with monsters by tolerating institutional child abuse; they have victimised, slandered, and silenced anyone who has dared to speak out; they have cynically exploited the memory of murdered children for their political ends. They would presume to take ‘ownership’ of our children’s futures, yet have the audacity to claim it is in the interests of child protection. They would invade the privacy and compromise the safety of every child in the country by placing their personal details on a massive, fatally insecure database. They would remove the presumption of innocence and have every parent considered a child abuser by default.

ContactPoint, they say, will prevent terrible cases such as Baby P and Victoria Climbie. It won’t; it will do quite the opposite, by drowning victims of cruelty in oceans of paperwork on wholly innocent families. They tell us that Every Child Matters will improve children’s welfare, but its sole purpose is to trap the next generation in a web of government control. There can be no justification for this assault on human dignity, and the revelation that its architects have so spectacularly failed in their duty to protect children in their care only adds insult to injury.

Children have already suffered terrible and preventable harm under their watch. How may more will suffer as a result of their political legacy?

In a final, sickening irony, Lord Laming went on to lead a review of Baby P’s case. Perhaps the thought occurred to him that if he had carried out his professional and moral duty to save those children in Islington who were being brutalised all those years ago; if he had had the courage and decency to break a nightmarish cycle of abuse … maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t be witnessing history repeat itself in the form of a murdered baby.

Perhaps the thought occurred to him, briefly?

Baby P has become the Godwin’s Law example for all blogs concerning childcare and child protection, hasn’t it?

@85 pendlewitch

With the greatest respect:

1) Haven’t you heard of hyperlinks?

2) WTF?!

And finally, I have to say that seeing that post (linked to by pendlewitch) on a home education website has rather disappointed me. If that is representative of the standard of posting on such matters within the HE community you can leave my wife and I out of any further involvement in this debate.

89. pendlewitch

@ mike powers

yes, i have heard of hyperlinks – as you will see I included one, but as it includes *home education* in the url I thought people wouldn’t bother clicking through, which would, imo, have been a shame.

I’m afraid I don’t understand your points with regard the *standard* on HE forums. Are you suggesting this is a made up fairy tale? Perhaps you would prefer the evening standard’s article instead.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1179751/Why-soon-new-Baby-P-scandal–woman-tried-warn-danger.html

90. pendlewitch

ach that’s clearly a daily mail link.here is the evening standard link:

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23697063-details/I%20raised%20the%20alarm%20about%20family%2015%20years%20ago.%20I…/article.do

Are you suggesting this is a made up fairy tale?

No, just a very poor post.

As for the link. This thread is actually about Home Education, so why on earth wouldn’t we click through?

Anyway, I have reached the point of diminishing returns on my efforts so I’ll say goodbye.

92. Elizabeth

Misdisco

Thank you for posting this, your story is provoking and crucial to this debate on regulation of HE.

Do not imagine for a moment that I do not take seriously the abuse and control that some children suffer. Your post has made me wonder yet again “Are they right? Might this help?” I would like to see an answer that would help in situations such as yours, though I cannot see how annual visits would help or at the very least how they would provide more good than harm.

“My mother was, in the most polite terms, a manipulative bitch, who actually never bothered to teach us at all”

I am well aware that parents hold power that can be misused, I was a child, I am a parent; I agree that society should protect children from this “power over” parenting; it should enable them to have the means to communicate their needs to others if their parents do not respect them. I am not suggesting that the Government should not provide services to protect vulnerable children. In fact I believe that all children should be given the opportunity to comment on and influence their education and care, if they wish to, and that all children should feel supported by their community and by society.
In days of children’s TV, adds on buses, internet etc. I think we could do a much better job of advertising and providing services that children could choose to use, so that they know were to go to ask for help if they need it. If we wanted to advertise such services it would be only a very rare child who would miss out on the information. I think that each of us adults could choose to engage with the children around us in consensual ways to ensure they know they have the support of adults who are known to them and ultimately the protection of the state system if they need that. This is required regardless of their place of education. That that engagement should be consensual is crucial, the review has made one basic suggestion to aid safeguarding, that children should be seen once a year and must be seen alone. I’m sure that more creative options could be provided allowing the child choice in how they take up these opportunities.

One of my children would argue that he has no need to see a stranger to check if he is safe, he feels that his parents listen to him. Though we didn’t listen when we bowed to the societal convention of sending him to school. We screwed up there; we didn’t listen to the child but simply did what general society does and what the state recommends. We coerced him to school, but that is a very acceptable action in our society. I happen to realise now that it is wrong and even harmful when it is against the wishes of the child, there are other options, parents should be free to provide them without needing to jump through too many hoops.

My other child would enjoy a chat with an interesting stranger, we do allow her to talk to strangers there is no danger in that when you are always with trusted adults. This would be different though, that stranger’s job would be to try to assess whether or not she is being abused. How would they do that without planting some strange ideas in the mind of a 4 year old? I just can’t see how such a visit would help.

Yours is a dreadful case, the examples in the press to date linking abuse and HE are shocking ones too though where the children were in fact already known within either the schooling or social services, systems which failed them. The mechanisms do exist for the LA to intervene where there is evidence or genuine suspicion of abuse. I have no issue whatsoever with them using these powers. In fact I believe they should probably use them more often. If my child has a black eye or a broken arm I have no issue with anyone asking a few questions. If they were not seen outside the door for a few days I would expect a number of my neighbours to ask where they were, some would too, lovely nosey people that they are, some would probably mutter and do nothing.

The system needs to work better and there needs to be easy access to help for children who require it. There should be several routes for children to seek help and routes for other adults to provide support to those who need it.

I do not see how a compulsory visit from an LA representative once a year will really protect children in the situation you describe.

“It was a whim for her for about a year, but then I think she just lost it and just couldn’t be bothered with anything, except keeping us in the house. As a child I barely left the house except maybe once a week to help do the shopping in Morrisons.”

We all need to notice families who may need support, I’m sorry no one noticed that you or your sisters rarely left the house, I’m sorry that no other adult chose to talk to you in ways that opened opportunities for you to ask for help. I’m sorry too that no one in your family or social circle noticed that your Mother needed some help in her parenting. I don’t believe that we need or can afford state services to provide all those opportunities. I believe we need a society where we all take more responsibility for ourselves and those around us and where we have state services as an effective safety net to work in the cases where we fail.

“Only once did someone come round to inspect us. Once in eight years. The night before that inspection is something I try to forget. Essentially an hours beating to make sure when they ask how me and my sisters felt our response was that we were happier.”

Wow, this sounds fearful and clearly it was effective. May I ask whether now you can see how you could possibly have been provided with the opportunity to escape, how could you have been helped? Would a visit alone with an LA inspector really have made a difference? I am prepared to change my approach to this review in consideration of your advice on this.

“Who would have considered themselves responsible for my welfare when I was growing up? We just went on living in a dysfunctional and destructive family until we were old enough to be dysfunctional adults. I’m not even sure if my sisters can read or write properly.”

I happen to think that you should have been surrounded by a society that cared and noticed. I don’t believe increasing state intervention in HE will help create that society.

In this blog there is the story of Bella a child whose neighbours supported her; I wish you had been that child.

http://sometimesitspeaceful.blogspot.com/2009/02/team-around-child.html

“She hates us because we stole her life because she had to teach us.”
It is a common meme that children should be grateful to their parents, and that parents make sacrifices for children, but as teenagers so often retort they “didn’t ask to be born”. We are lucky to have them, most parents can chose to have their children. I’m sorry you didn’t have a mother who knows this, most Home Ed parents do know this, and most find great joy in giving their lives to educating their children.

“You don’t really have any authority on this yourself when you’re young, parents decide it for you. If you did, you’d probably just sit in the dirt chopping hair off dolls and eating refreshers all day.”
I happen to think that children are the authority on their learning, I believe parents have a responsibility to guide them and provide a rich learning environment.

“I fail to understand why there’s such opinion that the government/ LEAs/ the big bad whoever are anti-home education.”

I’m afraid there is oodles of evidence to show that LAs, teaching unions and the Government etc are not supportive of home education. I get your point though given your experience.

“The suggestions made by the recent review have flaws, which have been pointed out on the previous post’s comments, but I view them as caring for the education and welfare of vulnerable children who are currently beyond any particular authority and whose lives are solely controlled by one or two people.”

Let’s hope we can improve how we act to care for those children who are at risk while preserving the freedom to HE, for those children who choose it.

I do not believe that improving safeguarding should look specifically at Home Ed children, I believe we need to provide decent choice to all families and provide mechanisms for all children to ask for help. We also need to improve the interaction between adults and children so that adults feel able to offer help if it is needed and children know who and how to ask.

Best wishes

Elizabeth Mills

“I happen to realise now that it is wrong and even harmful when it is against the wishes of the child”

This is the catch 22, you have to be a fairly authoritarian liberal to reach any kind of compromise. Yes the kid has their wishes and they need to be recognised, but then they also aren’t necessarily in a position of knowing what is the best situation for them either.

Should we be forcing kids to be educated in a way they don’t necessarily enjoy just because it is for their ultimate benefit? It’s a very grey area for liberals, depending on their mindset.

But, let’s face it, the sum of most kids wishes if they are like this is usually that they don’t want to be bored, and that they’d rather be having fun. Any kind of blurring of the discussion here in to children’s rights are interesting, clearly a related tangent, but also nothing to do with the ultimate reasoning for regulating home schooling.

Regardless of whether the kid would rather be home schooled or not, they are also entitled to standards being adhered to. Society is entitled to those standards being adhered to. This isn’t a carte blanche to turn home schoolers in to surrogate teachers that follow the same curriculum to the same degree as their local school teachers, nor to force a way of learning, but some balance has to be struck to ensure that the power is, on balance, at least acting for the benefit of the child…regardless who holds that power.

Hi Elizabeth,

I am glad that some people reading this do see the relevance of this story to the debate about HE regulation.

I think its true to say that the Badman review doesn’t address all the concerns I would have. Would situations like mine disappear under the radar still? But certainly I would like to see authorities take more action and protection against the potentially vulnerable position that home education children can be in. Currently it seems to me there is very little. As I said in my original post, my mothers attitude had raised eyebrows with the inspector and their conversation was quite heated. If there had been any real way in which intervention could have been made it may have resulted in a better life for us.

The opinions I voice here are essentially retrospective though. It is a complex thing to analyse a complex childhood situation in your mid 20s. Yet, for me and my sisters, it is a situation we constantly look back to. What if one of us had said something? No one knew what went on in my family until I was in sixth form. Even then, our mother at one point threatened me after a volatile confrontation with the college.

I do think a register for Home Educators is right. I think this would ensure that Home Educators could be more properly recognised in their choices and I think that abusers could be more easily tracked. HE will always be a minority option (for many parents, teaching your own children is not an option if you work a full time job). Sadly within that minority there will be a dangerous minority. It strikes me as a small sacrifice on the part of those who are fair and good and decent parents to submit to a register and inspection to protect that smaller minority who can be mishandled by parents. I see no real reason for parents who give their children better opportunities than the local authorities can provide to fear that there are going to be choices made against as part of government conspiracies and controls. That does seem to reek of an extreme paranoia.

For all the objections to the particular conclusions of the review on regulation, there is, I believe, a rational reason for it. Perhaps it calls for more collaboration between the home educators, child protection agencies and the authorities rather than an antagonistic attitude between each.

95. Elizabeth

Dear Misdisco

“I am glad that some people reading this do see the relevance of this story to the debate about HE regulation.”
It is most certainly relevant, the debate for most HE parents I know is not about a parent’s right to do as they please, children must be taken seriously, all children, not just HE children.

The review recommends though that all HE children should not be allowed the same rights to privacy as other people, that they should submit to assessment and interview in a way that takes no account of their consent. It is simplistic in its suggestions and because it lacks creativity it advises some dangerous erosion on the civil liberties front, including shifting the balance on presumption of innocence.
This is not paranoid, I wish it were. Oh and we have this kind or article to deal with from the Daily Mail

http://daretoknowblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/carol-sarler-in-daily-mail.html

“I think it’s true to say that the Badman review doesn’t address all the concerns I would have. Would situations like mine disappear under the radar still? But certainly I would like to see authorities take more action and protection against the potentially vulnerable position that home education children can be in. Currently it seems to me there is very little. As I said in my original post, my mothers attitude had raised eyebrows with the inspector and their conversation was quite heated. If there had been any real way in which intervention could have been made it may have resulted in a better life for us.”

Yours is sadly one of those cases where people probably had concerns and did not act. Using the child protection system is bureaucratic and some professionals and ordinary people prefer not to raise concerns that will involve themselves in it. I expect there were other people too who noticed something was up but did not act. The mechanisms are there and can be effective if they are used.

“I would like to see authorities take more action and protection against the potentially vulnerable position that home education children can be in. Currently it seems to me there is very little.”

The review report states that in some areas Home Educated families are twice as likely to be “known” to Social Services as other families. The press have variously reported this as meaning twice as likely to be abused or at risk of abuse. This is not the case though; FOI requests haven not found any evidence and the review admits that there is no evidence that abuse in the HE community that is greater than in the wider community.

Why are HE families more known to Social Services? Because many have children with special needs and so are known so they get help appropriate to their needs not because they are being abused in any way. HE families are also regularly referred to (and so known) to SS just because they HE.
Of course some will be referred for genuine reasons like any other family. We are more likely though to be referred than other families. There are however clearly child protection cases not just in the HE community, cases such as your where either no one made that referral or when they did it was not appropriately dealt with. But HE families despite beign no more likely than others to abouse their children are in some areas twice as likely to be known to SS. We are more likely to be watched and referred.

HE families are different, even weird, I admit it, their kids don’t wear school uniform, they are seen out during the day, and they are more likely to be noticed. As I said before if my children were not seen out and about, neighbours could and would ask questions. Many people would prefer not to do this and prefer to have the state intrude more in family life than take action themselves as members of the community. Is this right? particualry when people taking more personall responsibility and better use of the current systems will be more effective than increased state powers.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2017378/Khyra-Ishaq-Why-did-her-neighbours-not-come-to-her-aid.html

“The opinions I voice here are essentially retrospective though. It is a complex thing to analyse a complex childhood situation in your mid 20s. Yet, for me and my sisters, it is a situation we constantly look back to. What if one of us had said something? No one knew what went on in my family until I was in sixth form. Even then, our mother at one point threatened me after a volatile confrontation with the college”

Thank you though for sharing them, we need creative solutions to this problem, they need to be solutions that support all children at risk of abuse without impinging on the freedom of other children and families.

The review presents a particular attack on Autonomous Education, one that means many families could not continue to educate in the way that they feel from research and experience is best for their children; this is unrelated to safeguarding issues. We have not seen the Literature Review associated with the report so we do not know if Mr Badman has read the literature suggested to him.

http://sometimesitspeaceful.blogspot.com/2009/06/autonomous-learning-cant-be-planned.html

“Perhaps it calls for more collaboration between the home educators, child protection agencies and the authorities rather than an antagonistic attitude between each.”

The review could well have begun this process, if it had taken more account of the concerns of Home Educators, it does not for instance investigate the concerns raised by HE families about LAs who engage in ultra vires practices in their current monitoring of HE families. It does not make suggestions as to how to protect families from these intusions. If its recommendations are implemented as they stand, as Mr Balls says he would like to do them to be, then I do not see how that collaboration will be easy.

96. Elizabeth

@ Lee Griffin

“Should we be forcing kids to be educated in a way they don’t necessarily enjoy just because it is for their ultimate benefit? It’s a very grey area for liberals, depending on their mindset.”

Tricky yes, Challenging certainly, but not a grey area for all liberals.
Winning Parent Winning Child by Jan Fortune Wood might wash out the grey for you.

“Any kind of blurring of the discussion here in to children’s rights are interesting, clearly a related tangent, but also nothing to do with the ultimate reasoning for regulating home schooling.”

The children’s rigths issue is not merely an interesting discussion. It is clearly realated to home education and to this review which takes a skewed view of children’s rights. Not that I believe a clear view on children’s rights is yet possible, not until we begin to take them seriously in our own families can we begin to spread that to the wider societc, so I do not entirely blame the review for that. One day we will do better though.

I wonder if we might step back from the specific case of HE for a moment and look at the more general principle of the circumstances in which the state is able to enter the home. Traditionally this has been possible only when there is a suspicion of a crime, in which case the grounds for that suspicion have to be presented to a judge who rules on whether the householder’s rights can be breached.

Those speaking in favour of HE inspections are now presumably arguing either that the state should be able to enter the home when it likes. I considered the possibility that the argument could be that there are certain categories of crime for which the state would be able to secure warrant-free access to the home, but it seems to me that this is not materially different. After all, if you think that someone is, say, running an illegal still in their basement, you simply say you are inspecting for possible child abuse.

I know the current proposals are only about HE, but if the HE proposals go through then you have conceded the principle already. Essentially one is saying that suspicion is no longer a requirement for the state to enter your house.

But *do* they need to enter your home? Couldn’t you conduct this discussion in the garden?

99. Matt Munro

“Matt, if you are under the impression that Baby P’s mother could have somehow been encouraged to take more responsibility for her child, thereby lessening the ‘blurring’ of which you speak I have to say you clearly knowabsolutely nothing about her. You really couldn’t be more wrong in this case.

Feel free to pick another one though”

What I’m suggesting if that if government agents hadn’t been busy trying to protect her “interests” (e.g social workers not reporting her psycho boyfriend moving in as it would cause a loss of benefits) then maybe something could have been done before it was too late.

The state is part of the problem, not part of the solution

Elizabeth, do HE children have to sit GCSE and A Level exams?

101. Matt Munro

“There is no argument against such a position.

Oh well, there goes a degree, post graduate training and 30 years experience down the pan. (to say nothing of a thorough and expert review of all the papers relating to the case) But hey! There you go.”

Aww get the violins out – so you’re qualified and experienced, so what ? Does that make you infallible or give you a unique insight into the truth ? Believe it or not there are lots of qualified and experinecd poeople and there have been upteen expert reviews of child protection, and guess what, it still screws up

102. missdisco

Lilliput:

I think most HE are at the younger end of home education. I would be curious to know if they go to university without A Levels how they would prove that they meet the standards to be there.

103. Peter Darby

Well, trying to give an answer for “do they…”, it’s “some do”.

In the more autonomous area, they sit exams if and when they want to. In fact, one of the suggestions of the Badman review was to force LA’s to allow HE parents uncharged access to exams. For some reason, this hasn’t found it’s way on to the consultation on proposed changes to LA practice or law… along with recommendations for compulsory HE training for LA officers.

The application process for university is much like that for mature students if the applicant doesn’t have formal qualifications, i.e. the applicant has to demonstrate either through a portfolio of work or practical demonstration to the admissions office that they are capable of the work expected of them at the level they are entering university.

I’ve heard many success stories of HE children going on to university: from the leccturers side, the UK experience of teaching HE children at university seems to be broadly positive, though I’ve seen a report from the US that one professor found homeschooled kids to be either top or bottom of his class, with little in between.

“but not a grey area for all liberals.”

Like I said, depends on the mindset of the liberal, being as broad a definition as it is 🙂

105. elizabeth

Posted on a HE Site News from Sweeden

Dear friends,

Today the Swedish Government released its suggestion for a new Swedish
school law which has been in the works for many years. The position on
homeschooling in the suggested law is a return to darkness. It is
unbelievable! Homeschoolings will NOT be permitted for those refering to
philosophical or religious reasons according to the European convention on
Human Rights!

The reason given is: “…that the education in school should be comprehensive
and objective and thereby designed so that all pupils can participate,
regardless of what religious or philosophical reasons the pupil or his or
her care-takers may have.”

Thus, the suggested law argues: “…there is no need for the law to offer the
possibility of homeschooling because of religious or philosophical reasons
in the family. All together this means that this suggested change cannot be
said to contradict Swedens international obligations [Human rights
conventions].”

The quotes above are my translations from the suggested law on page 584. The
suggested law can be downloaded in Swedish from the Swedish Government
homepage: http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/11355/a/128290 The law is now out
for review and The Swedish Association for Home Education –
http://www.rohus.nu/?English_information – will give its suggestions to the
Government.

The review closes on September 25.

The final law will be presented to Parliament during the spring of 2010 and
will take effect in 2011.

That the Swedish Government is making homeschooling illegal is Sweden
showing off its worst totalitarian socialist roots. We will need
international support to show that Sweden, as a member of the international
democratic community, cannot take such a position. As Sweden is often seen
as the great social utopia of the world, it is important for Swedish
homeschoolers to win this battle.

Best regards Jonas Himmelstrand

Member and pedagogical advisor of the Rohus board

“so you’re qualified and experienced, so what”

Matt M provides an excellent summary of the conservative philosophical position on nearly all issues, there… ;-D

“It is clearly realated to home education and to this review which takes a skewed view of children’s rights.”

And just to clarify here, the issue at hand is whether children, who are wishing to be home schooled or otherwise, get quality. That is their right, to expect not to be hampered by the shortcomings of their educators regardless of where that takes place. That is why I say it is unrelated. The rights issue is, to me, more interesting a discussion than this one…this one is a discussion on which I don’t understand why anyone could possibly stand against the idea of regulation, as long as it doesn’t include conformance to strict guidelines to pass inspection. If you stand against a reasonable regulation system for HE then you’re standing against children’s rights to be ensured a decent education, let alone standing against an effective yet relatively non-intrusive route of dissuading abuse.

108. elizabeth

Oh and this is another one about France this time

Clearly the ECHR matters not one jot if a Government have other ideas. Paranoid are we?

“My hubby is French, so we’ve been checking out the situation there. Although we
knew they already had compulsory registration & monitoring, we were completely
unaware of the recent developments. In March 09 a new education bill was passed,
which dictates the curriculum to be followed. If that’s not bad enough, it seems
to be dictating the method of delivery of said curriculum. Age related targets
therefore come into play, and obviously any form of autonomy goes out of the
window.

The three main HE orgs in France are outraged by the lack of proper consultation
before imposing the new legislation, and are basically feeling that it marks the
end of any form of diversity in French education. (It seems this will all also
apply to previously exempt private schools too – but I haven’t read all the
details yet).

As I haven’t spotted anything about this on any of the lists I lurk on (blush –
sorry, always too busy to post!), I thought I should flag this up, as it is
making us wonder if some of the pressure for the Badman review etc. might be
coming from Europe, and we’re also wondering if we should be launching a wider
European campaign or if there is anything we can do to help our neighbours in
France? We will continue looking into this.

The freedom we have enjoyed until now is getting rare. We need to persuade
people that diversity is something to be proud of & to cherish. By quashing all
forms of education other than those imposed by the state we risk losing so much.
It would be nothing short of irresponsible to allow this to happen.”

109. missdisco

@Lee Griffin

If you stand against a reasonable regulation system for HE then you’re standing against children’s rights to be ensured a decent education, let alone standing against an effective yet relatively non-intrusive route of dissuading abuse.

It strikes me as sad that so many HE people can’t support a reasonable regulation system to dissuade abuse because it takes away more of their ‘freedoms.

Why aren’t more home educators supporting an alternative to the regulation proposed rather than shooting it all down because all their freedom will be taken away if two or three children somewhere are supported in what could be a damaging and destructive situation?

110. Peter Darby

Missdisco @109: Mainly because the style of home education which has been shown, time and again, to be most suitable and efficient, i.e. authnomous child led education, is that which is least amenable to termly or annual plans and progress reports, leading it to be judged to be unsuitable and inefficient if it is not performing like “school at home.”

111. elizabeth

“let alone standing against an effective yet relatively non-intrusive route of dissuading abuse”

LA officials seeing children once a year is not likely to be effective in dissuading abuse, for some families and for some children it will be intrusive. Having strangers in your home is intrusive. I have suggested other ideas that might help children to access help, I’m sure there are more others can think of, this idea is uncreative, can hardly be effective and as explained over and over by several people is not in line with rigths to privacy as individuals. But as I said before maybe that’s an old-fashioned idea.

“And just to clarify here, the issue at hand is whether children, who are wishing to be home schooled or otherwise, get quality. That is their right, to expect not to be hampered by the shortcomings of their educators regardless of where that takes place.”

I agree, but who is more likely to protect that right a parent who is open to choice in Education or a government who do not support such diversity.

A reminder on why it is parents not the state who in law have responsibility for education
http://daretoknowblog.blogspot.com/2006/10/lord-adonis-on-fourfold-foundation.html

I can understand why many people would prefer that the state has this responsibility.

“The rights issue is, to me, more interesting a discussion than this one…”

Me too but this is more important right now both to us HEers and to all children who are at risk of abuse, wherever they are educated.

“this one is a discussion on which I don’t understand why anyone could possibly stand against the idea of regulation, as long as it doesn’t include conformance to strict guidelines to pass inspection.”

You can’t have standards without guidelines on how to measure them if that’s the kind of thing you like. People who work for LAs and the documents they use to evaluate children (ECM guidelines etc) are all about targets not about provision. These guidelines they use do not allow for the consent of the child, they do not on the whole allow for education that is the bringing out of ability but look for education that is the filling up of vessels.

Many of us who begin a life of HE find other methods of education, some older some newer, but methods that are often very different from school and yet the LAs insist on judging us by the schoolie way of learning. It has been harmful to many HE families.

112. elizabeth

@misdisco

What alternatives would you suggest that would take acount of the child’s consent?
I am very keen to have your personal thoughts on this.

I think Pete answered the question about exams, if people need more info I can provide it.

with thanks

Elizabeth

113. Stuart White

Interesting to see some commenters introducing the consideration of child’s consent. From a liberal point of view, I think there are real dangers in treating children’s consent as a decisive factor. One of the reasonable worries about HE, from a liberal point of view, is that children are being raised in a way that ties them too closely to their parents’ values and world view. Since children are not the spiritual property of their parents, they have a right to an education that exposes them to a range of world views, in addition to that of their parents. Since children’s preferences will be strongly shaped by their parents, appealing to children’s consent risks reinforcing the power claims that parents wish to make over their children. It is the job of the liberal state to restrict these power claims, and this can conceivably involve placing limits on HE in ways that overrule children’s consent. Of course, there are pragmatic issues here about how well motivated children might be if they are required to undergo an education they don’t want. But as a matter of basic principle, it is, in fact, highly illiberal to treat children’s views as the determining factor.

114. Elizabeth

@Stuart 113

What you say doesn’t sound liberal, it sounds like a liberal’s twisted argument to justify use of authoritarian methods with children, not even his own children but other people’s children, the whole nation’s children.

It may well answer my original question as to why the so called “liberals” do not support the freedom to HE or wish to see help look for more creative ways to help safeguarding while not decreasing freedom in education.
So thanks for the insight.

Children who do not have experience of being given the opportunity to consent or not to what is done to them are children who are most at risk from those who wish to abuse them.

Consent matters for children; you can’t throw it away with some academic argument about what a “liberal” approach to education should be.

“I agree, but who is more likely to protect that right a parent who is open to choice in Education or a government who do not support such diversity.”

It is irrelevant who is more likely, what matters is that quality can be lacking in both options, yet it is safer and more likely to maintain some base level of quality if regulation is involved.

And let’s knock on the head this idea that regulation has to be about introducing a curriculum. People are smart enough, experts certainly, to assess whether a child is benefiting from the education they are receiving. There is a whole argument about how the current curriculum is not geared towards that benefit on the individual but that again is a separate independent strand of the debate.

You also can’t, with all due respect, accuse the government of wanting to be authoritarian and limiting choice in education while also saying that they’ll only be visiting to check once a year.

“What you say doesn’t sound liberal, it sounds like a liberal’s twisted argument to justify use of authoritarian methods with children, not even his own children but other people’s children, the whole nation’s children.”

It’s two sides of the same coin, Elizabeth. HE advocates generally believe that the parents views and wishes are the most relevant for the child, those against it believe that the parents views and wishes are a potentially poisonous entity in a child’s development. If you’re truly for the child’s best interests being protected then you wouldn’t support one or the other (I can see the positives and negatives of both) but you WOULD agree to measures that ensure that a child’s right to education is upheld no matter what their own choice or wishes entail.

This *does* mean compromise, and it does mean potentially moving education away slightly from HE’s own agenda which could lead to a compromise in education quality at the high end…but I think also that it’s a simplistic view to say regulation would lead to school at home; as if parents of children that go to state or private schools don’t also go through a process of teaching and development with their own agenda attached outside of schooling hours.

There is one simple truth here, regardless of how you’re schooled your parents and family will have ample opportunity to educate you about things that they wish to educate you about, and to provide you with opportunities to develop in areas you wish to be more adept at. The question about regulation is purely about ensuring that learning the basic fundamental knowledge is done across the board, no exceptions made. Argue as you will as to who decides what the basic fundamental knowledge is, how it’s structured, and all that…but the principle in itself is something I find hard to comprehend people would question.

116. Elizabeth

@ Leo Griffen

The law already requires LAs to intervene if it appears that a child is not recieveing a suitable educaiton. I have no problem with that, I agree they should.

There are the mechanisms, they rarely use them, maybe because they don’t wish to follow the rigorous approach that is needed. Or maybe because if the current law was used against HE families it would be clear that it should also be used against parents who send their children to failing schools
Comment here on the current law
http://www.ourstorysofar.co.uk/?p=1150

You argue that children should have a basic educaiton, well duh!! HE parents agree.

What we diasgree is as follows..

Quoting another HE Parent here
“- Badman suggests giving powers to LA employees to detain (ie insist on interviewing) HEing families without probable cause. Compulsory interviews are contrary to the basic principle of innocent until proven guilty. There are other, well established, ways for EHEers to provide evidence that an education is taking place according to the law, and they are contained in the 2007 guidance for LAs. And, in a recent survey, 77% of HEed children said they do not want to be interviewed by LA staff (http://daretoknowblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/results-of-poll.html) – are their preferences to be entirely disregarded? Apparently so.

– Badman suggests giving powers to LA employees to enter private homes without probable cause. As you know, even the police do not have this power.

– Badman suggests giving power of veto over HE provision (its style or it happening at all) to LA employees. Rather than them having power to gather evidence and take a HE family to court, they would now have the power to act as prosecutor, judge and jury if they were in charge of granting or withholding registration. This is a very bad idea because of what I think of as the “numpty” factor. To have the final decision about whether an education provided is within the law or not resting with the courts, as now, grants us a level of protection from the ex-school teachers and ex-OFSTED inspectors who tend to populate LA education departments. There is no reason why they would be able to recognise or appreciate an education which doesn’t look like school-at-home, and they absolutely must not be given power over those of us who choose to educate in unconventional ways.

Underpinning all of this is the potential overturning of the principle of innocent until proven guilty.”
from http://www.childrenarepeople.blogspot.com/

Did you not read this explaination on why the current law is sufficinet by Lord Adonis?
http://www.freedomforchildrentogrow.org/Adonis_Judd_Oct13_2006_copiable.pdf

117. Elizabeth

@ Stuatr White

I missed this earlier

“In common with many contemporary liberal political philosophers (though not all), I would argue that the basic, non-negotiable requirements include the following: (1) Children must be educated so that they have the capacity on maturity to question parental beliefs, religious and political, in an informed way.”

They must be educated to question all beliefs in an informed way, even their own.! Theirin lies the way to progress and an excellent education.

Elliot Temple had an interesting perspective on in in a discussion we had a while ago here
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/topic.php?uid=47085782562&topic=9612
“Most kids:
A) have state education.
B) are indoctrinated with a bunch of bad ideas by their parents.
(A) did not prevent (B). It simply doesn’t work. How could it work? School doesn’t teach you how to avoid being indoctrinated, it just tries to indoctrinate you itself.
If you want people to be free thinkers, tell them stuff like: experts disagree all the time. and even when they all agree, often they are wrong. you can’t just trust experts, you need to learn things yourself and use your own mind. don’t ever listen to someone’s opinion just because he has a degree or title or a uniform; you should try to evaluate critically what they say, and see if you think it makes sense or not. if they can’t explain it so it’s clear and simple to you, that is not a sign you’re dumb, it’s either a sign they are bad at explaining stuff or wrong.”

The rest of what you said

“(2) Children must be educated so that they are able to participate in a society with diverse others on the basis of toleration and mutual respect. (3) Non-discrimination: children should not be educated in ways that are discriminatory, e.g., giving science lessons to boys and not girls. ”

I pretty much agree with

I have to agree with Elizabeth here. There are a lot of alleged liberals arguing that the state should have access to the home without probable cause.

What is the difference between this interpretation of liberalism and authoritarianism?

119. Stuart White

Elizabeth@113: ‘What you say doesn’t sound liberal, it sounds like a liberal’s twisted argument to justify use of authoritarian methods with children, not even his own children but other people’s children, the whole nation’s children.’

The argument I set out is only illiberal if one assumes that parental freedoms have priority here. But that’s not itself a liberal assumption. As I said, and as John Stuart Mill argues in On Liberty, parents have power over children and it is in the interests of children’s freedom to set limits on this power. Since HE is one way in whch parents can exercise huge power over their children a liberal state will quite properly want to subject HE to careful (non-arbitrary) regulation.

You add:

‘Consent matters for children; you can’t throw it away with some academic argument about what a “liberal” approach to education should be.’

Calling an argument ‘academic’ is usually a sign that someone doesn’t wish to address the argument but dismiss it without considering it properly. Moreover, nothing I said suggests that children’s consent is unimportant. What I pointed out was that it cannot be the decisive consideration because children’s preferences can obviously be shaped by their parents. Thus, treating children’s wishes as final can all too easily be a way of signing off on the exercise of parental power.

At 117, you also quote Elliot Temple as saying: ‘School doesn’t teach you how to avoid being indoctrinated, it just tries to indoctrinate you itself.’

Evidence, please? This is surely a massive overgeneralization. Any good lesson in RE, Citizenship, History, English, etc. will be focused on developing critical skills of the kind that Elliott rightly values. Of course schools vary enormously in quality. And children at schools can be subjected to all kinds of peer pressures of a conformist kind. And doubtless contemporary state education could give a stronger focus to the kind of skills that build individual autonomy. Parents who feel the state system is letting their children down in this respect perhaps ought to have more opportunity to set up their own schools on the US Charter schools model. At the limit, I would support a right to HE as a final bulwark against the potential weaknesses of the school sector. But only subject to very careful regulation, for the reasons given above.

Bishop Hill@118: ‘There are a lot of alleged liberals arguing that the state should have access to the home without probable cause. What is the difference between this interpretation of liberalism and authoritarianism?’

Again, I think you are just confusing liberalism with the unargued-for priority of parental freedom. For reasons set out above, liberals cannot accept that parental freedom has any such priority. You are falling into precisely the trap identifuied by Mill (see quote @6): nowhere are our notions of freedom more misapplied than in the case of the family. You call this authoritarianism. Well, in a sense, yes: liberals do want to use authority pretty forcefully against those who stand in a potential relationship of tyranny to a weaker party.

If you your children are forced to go to a school which will not see the obvious links between genetics and intelligence, while being forced to learn that deviancy is normal, and normal is evil, and you cannot even say anything about it, then how do you expect children to get a proper education? Your children cannot get a proper education when the ‘educators’ care more about making cretins feel good about themselves, and dragging down smart children, or holding them up by making them wait for these mental anchors, and giving them learning materials which are beneath their learning level and which can hold their interest and increase their learning.

Even look at these forum rules; it is anti truth and anti reality, it is more important for you to have feel goodism than truth. No wonder people want to home school their kids, if for nothing more than to keep them away from brain washing which intends to make the children hate their own parents.

“if for nothing more than to keep them away from brain washing which intends to make the children hate their own parents.”

True, much better they stay where they can be brain washed in to arrogant supremacists.

116, I haven’t got time to come back to this now but I promise if I do later I’ll respond to your points. In the mean time perhaps you could home-school yourself to copy and paste my name instead of making a half arsed attempt at spelling it yourself?

123. elizabeth

@122

My apologies for lacok of care Lee, shame there is on facility for you to use red ball point on here.

124. elizabeth

@John James

I must take issue with this.

“If you your children are forced to go to a school which will not see the obvious links between genetics and intelligence”

Most teachers strive to view each child as an individual and treat them appropriately regardless of their genetics. It is not always easy for them to achieve this given the constraints on their time but it is certainly right that they should disregard genetics in teaching decsions.

I have never come across a parent home educating for the reason you describe.

125. elizabeth

Stuart @ 119

“ ‘What you say doesn’t sound liberal, it sounds like a liberal’s twisted argument to justify use of authoritarian methods with children, not even his own children but other people’s children, the whole nation’s children.’

The argument I set out is only illiberal if one assumes that parental freedoms have priority here. But that’s not itself a liberal assumption.”

I have said that I do not believe that parental freedoms should trump those of children. Indeed if people chose to have children they should take seriously the responsibility to support the child’s freedom. Most HE parents take this very seriously. This is a complex balance to achieve and I agree the state has a role, a small one though, the recommendations in the review are not ones that seem to me to take sufficient care of children’s freedoms.

“As I said, and as John Stuart Mill argues in On Liberty, parents have power over children and it is in the interests of children’s freedom to set limits on this power. ”

I have already said that I believe parents should reduce use of power over children. Parents should work in partnership with children. If the freedom to HE is reduced this reduces opportunity for parents to make decisions on education with their children. I agree that parents can misuse their power but so too can government and their staff. There are many examples of this happening to HE families, this review, if implemented, is likely to increase rather than decrease these cases.

The nature of a parent child relationship is such that there is far greater opportunity for parent and child to work together to achieve the best for the child when parents do not have to impose an external curriculum or routine on behalf of the state.

“Since HE is one way in which parents can exercise huge power over their children a liberal state will quite properly want to subject HE to careful (non-arbitrary) regulation.”

The review does not set ways to ensure that the regulation is careful or non-arbitrary.
It does not provide opportunity to protect families from poor judgment by officials.

Already many HE families suffer because HE is not understood by the officials who regulate it, the review does not make sufficient recommendations to remedy this. One recommendation that we should seek permission from the LA to choose our method of education amounts to taking the decision away from parents and placing it in the hands of LA workers. There is no provision for appeal of this decision. This would mean that if an LA official disagreed with a parent’s choice a child who was being bullied or whose special needs were not being met would not have an appropriate escape route from that situation.

“You add:

‘Consent matters for children; you can’t throw it away with some academic argument about what a “liberal” approach to education should be.’

Calling an argument ‘academic’ is usually a sign that someone doesn’t wish to address the argument but dismiss it without considering it properly.”

Forgive me, I do not always have time to enter the argument fully. I was coming from the perspective of feeling that within my parenting practice it is perfectly possible to take the child’s consent seriously in all but rare cases. That is not to say I always manage it I am fallible but it is possible. One of my most coercive parenting moments was when I took a crying 4 year old to school, I’d have found a better solution myself, taken time to settle him there, developed a relationship with the teacher first etc but there was no flexibility in this. The choice was fit my small child into the school environment in the way that works best for the system, not the way that works best for the child, or ultimately risk the law for truanting. So I used my power to implement the wishes of the system.

“A parent is jailed for their child’s truancy once a fortnight every school term in England and Wales, analysis of court statistics shows.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7868061.stm

A truanting child is one who is poorly served by school and by their parents, a creative solution is required. I’m certainly not suggesting this is easily done or that HE is an option in all these cases.

Such coercive use of the Law over parents prevents them from working with the child and others to find creative solutions to their children’s problems.

“What I pointed out was that it cannot be the decisive consideration because children’s preferences can obviously be shaped by their parents. Thus, treating children’s wishes as final can all too easily be a way of signing off on the exercise of parental power.”

Agreed, unless parents hold a philosophy by which they strive to take their children’s views seriously and are constantly aware of their own fallibility. It is such families who are most under attack from this review.

Surely the inflexible recommendations of the review could “all too easily be a way of signing off on the exercise of excessive state power”

Balance is required.

“Well, in a sense, yes: liberals do want to use authority pretty forcefully against those who stand in a potential relationship of tyranny to a weaker party”

So they should, but they should be careful that in so doing they do not allow an even more powerful entity to use its own tyranny.

Families who HE have extra time they spend together and so have opportunities to build deep relationships that support parents in developing skills that reduce the use of “power over” in their relationships with children.


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