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Another filthy attack on some of the hardest-working and sanest people [UPDATED]

Tuesday 3 February 2009

I’d say it’s NOT offensive to someone I’ve never met to call them a potential child abuser.

Read on before you flame me. The clue is in the word potential. EVERYONE IN THE WORLD is, potentially, a child abuser. Everyone you haven’t met yet.

BUT it is, deeply, offensive if I tell a parent I’ve never met that they ought to spend less time with their children, because they could be a child abuser. Or to say they should put less energy and attention into their child’s education than they currently do.

Which is what the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) is doing.

Before you investigate the links below, consider these points:

  • In British law the parents/guardians are responsible* for ensuring the child gets a suitable education. Even if they choose to do so by (the route of least resistance) sending her/him to the local state school. I reckon that covers taking the child out of school if they perceive s/he is receiving less than a good-enough education, or being damaged by the people or environment there.

* This is the bit: ‘The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable— (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.’ (My emphasis.) Just down from that, the Government’s own guidelines (in paragraph 2.12) state: ‘Section 175(1) [of the Education Act 2002] does not extend local authorities’ functions. It does not, for example, give local authorities powers to enter the homes of, or otherwise see, children for the purposes of monitoring the provision of elective home education.’ (My emphasis.)

  • Without having done any studies myself, instinct says a parent who does things by the book, deregistering their child from school, is less likely to be an abuser, and that the percentage of parents who simply don’t bother getting their children into school is more likely to contain abusers. Nor can i remember hearing of any cases of abuse where the child was not registered at a school.
  • In British law, even when you’re officially charged with a crime, you’re innocent until proven guilty.

Now look at these to see why I’m hot under the collar about this:

We can’t just sit back and let home education be outlawed (which is where this is heading) when our state school system is of such erratic quality.

And if you disagree about where this is heading, you can’t claim home-educating parents deserve the spirit-sapping job of coping with this kind of bullying – which takes their time and energy away from their (unpaid) job, their children’s education.

If the Government wants to ‘guarantee all children their right to a balanced education in a safe, healthy environment’ as Delyth Morgan says in that press release i cite above, it needs to start with the demoralised, and in some schools ineffective and/or dangerous, state system. It’s a minority who sacrifice career and income and status for the years that in their own lives are only a few but for their children are the only childhood they’ll ever have. But it’s a growing minority and this is why.

Some of what you’ll find in the articles I’ve linked to may sound extreme. I’m one of nature’s cynics and would have dismissed some of it as sensationalism. But I have seen an academically-selective state school fail its very able students, academically. I have fought an LEA that staunchly ignored all my complaints. It takes a lot to change my ever-reasonable views but on this I’m a convert.

I can think of a few topics that matter as much, but none that is of more importance than the education of our children and the freedom of parents to parent their own children. Spread the word.


I waive copyright on this blogpost; you are free to reproduce it in full or in part anywhere. If possible and appropriate, i ask that you attribute it to mmSeason and/or link here: Thanx – mand.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Friday 6 February 2009 9.49 am

    Retired teacher Pat is completely right. I hope she is putting this point across whereever she goes.

    SOOO many home educated children who thrive on home education were dramatically failed by the school system, and had they stayed there would probably have suffered in one way or another for the rest of their lives.

    We have plenty of examples of children who left school unable to read and write a word at around the age of 11 or 12, who when left to develop at their own pace, were avid readers by their mid teens. Three girls we know well who fit this description are hardly ever to be found without an open adult level novel in one mitt. Yet had they stayed in school, they would never have developed the skill or the confidence to become such competent readers and such well rounded individuals.

    The new policies nominally effecting just home educators will in fact change the relationship between all parents and the state. All parents should be concerned, and if they can do nothing else, should be signing this petition:

    • Thursday 12 February 2009 2.40 pm

      Hi Carlotta, sorry i missed your comment when you left it. We each do what we can, wondering how much change we at the bottom of the power heap can actually make happen. At least getting the word out there can only help.

  2. Wednesday 4 February 2009 2.58 pm

    As a retired teacher I think it is true to say that there will always be some children who, for one reason or another, benefit from being home-educated. I would hope that this will never become against the law.

    • Wednesday 4 February 2009 5.31 pm

      Pat, i find it ridiculous to think it could be made illegal – but it is already in some countries, and i’m forever finding that what strikes one person as ‘obvious’ is far from obvious to another, so it’s hard to know what to think. But i do know a lot of dedicated parents who are frightened as well as exasperated and indignant.

  3. Dave Webb permalink
    Tuesday 3 February 2009 11.34 pm

    It’s interesting and it kicked off my “Conspiracy” radar almost immediately.

    It comes down to this: for the last ten years I have been under the vague impression that we are teaching our children what to think, not how to think. There are a number of factors here – standardised testing, curriculim changes to meet exam pass targets, all that stuff…it sometimes seems to me that we are slowly but surely chipping away at teachers and institutions that teach people to ask questions, debate and argue opinions and approaches based on evidence, and also that we are now ever-less interested in critical thinking.

    If you delve into the murky world of education control conspiracy theories, you’ll find a Brave New World-esque insistence that education is slowly being reformed to produce a stratified society of mindless drones at the bottom, happy to work with very few aspirations beyond the next meal and edition of “America’s Next Top Big Dancing Survivor”, and a similarly numbed middle class who are so overburdened by doing things “the right way” that they don’t have time to ask questions or organise.

    This would seem to play to that particular brand of paranoia.

    The thing is, when the paranoids start making sense, it’s probably time the people not already wearing tinfoil hats did something to set the situation straight.

    Of course, this does mean bucking against the trend for people to leave things to the government and might result in some kids being unable to get the sort of jobs they want, etc etc etc…

    but that’s freedom for you. It includes the freedom to fail, which by itself allows for the freedom to try.

    • Wednesday 4 February 2009 5.39 pm

      Dave, i’ve always been VERY wary of conspiracy theories, and with anything you’ll find extreme views that are worse than the reality turns out, as well as It’ll-be-fine views that are rose-tinted. Without becoming a specialist, it’s When the Government can’t/won’t supply any facts to back up its insistence that urgency is required, then i do think we should worry. I don’t know that an attempt to outlaw home ed is imminent, but certainly life is getting more and more difficult for home edding families. (As it is for teachers too.) In some ways i’ve found schools better now than in my day – particularly things like history and writing, at Primary (under age 11) level – but in other ways i have firsthand knowledge of the opposite. You’re never going to get everything up to the maximum possible standard, but when failures are not only impossible to correct (either through the statutory route for complaining, or any other way), but also denied, that is scary.

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