Sunday, 23 August 2009

To what extent are UK home educators architects of their own misfortune?

For over twenty years or so home education in this country rolled along more or less smoothly. True, some LEAs were more intrusive than others and some parents were given a hard time. After the Harrison case though in 1981, it became more or less accepted that parents did in fact have a right to educate their own children. The majority of parents to whom one talked seemed to have established some species of modus vivendi with their local authority.

The real change in attitudes seemed to coincide with widespread access to the internet. Now any parent considering home education could at once be in immediate contact with other like minded souls. They could exchange notes, tell each other their legal rights and join online communities. With this easier communication came a hardening of approach towards local authorities. Whereas most families had before this regarded visits by their LEA as an unavoidable nuisance and necessary evil, it now became common for people to stand on their rights and decline to have any contact with LEAs other than sending a written report. To use an idiomatic expression, one might say that they were winding each other up into confrontation rather than co-operation. This all happened at a time when the numbers of home educators seemed to be rising inexorably. I don't doubt that this too is connected with internet access.

Inevitably, LEA officers became irritated at what they saw as such bloody mindedness. There was also genuine concern at the rising numbers of children being withdrawn from school. It was now that the local authorities began agitating for new powers. The rest, as they say, is history. I am well aware that this perspective on the current situation is not one shared by all home educating parents. Never the less, I have received enough emails over the last couple of years or so from other UK home educators to convince me that I am not alone in my analysis of the situation. In other words, other parents besides me feel that if fewer parents had ended up in confrontation with their local authorities and there had been a bit more give and take, then the Badman review would never have been held.


  1. Why have the parents become involved in confrontations with their local Authorithy? it not just as you say bloody mindedness. It is often because the very same officer from the council was involved with a problem the parents had at the school and their find out that this officers agreed with the school he/she then wants to come and judge you over the home if nothing at the school was anything to do with him but you find the LEA officer had meeting at school over it! you also find that the lEA officer has sent emails about the family to others in the LEA often saying not very nice things about the family! making it inpossible for any one in the council to be fair to the family.
    give and take works both ways and from what i have seem it is the LEA that wants to do all the taking but of course home educators will not allow this or go just meekly along with old crazy Badman who report is a load of crap.
    Just say no is the best way forward no home visits no meeting only nice long letters to the council,
    Where is all the money coming from to pay for all of Badman crazy ideas? most councils are short of money and some how i do not think the council tax payer will want his money used like this he rather the money was spent on the school his children go to not on chasing around after home educated children.
    How much will it cost i dread to think as we know councils are good at wasting money your going to need loads of staff and all the extra paperwork files visits and more paperwork i do not think the money is their to do it councils appear to be not coping now. It will not happen not how old Badman wants it! loads of homeeducators will tell thir council f off your not coming in i think thier get bogged down with people who will be very angry! its not been though though it will not work children do not want it what wil the nice LEA man say to a home eudcated child who says i dont want you here go away and i refuse to talk or show you my work or be seen with you on my own nor allow you into my house what will that LEA man do? lots of home educated childre will do this! the whole thing has not been thought though it was a rushed job! as government is going to be kicked out next year!

  2. I agree. Some Home educators are their own worst enemies.
    I can understand why so many refuse home visits or even to meet on neutral ground due to fear and the horror stories that frequently do the rounds. In ever profession there are the good and bad, and this is the problem you have some LEA’s who lack experience of alternative education so will always favour school BUT how do you know till you actually experience the person for yourself, just because someone else had a bad experience with a certain LEA doesn’t mean someone else will. I know our LEA is vilified by many people and most of those if you ask have you met her the answer is “NO” the reason they don’t meet is because they have heard the horror stories of several families, I personal find her very approachable.
    It’s a difficult situation to rectify now, how do you please the home educators and the LEA’s. I don’t think there is any middle ground anymore and I think LEA’s have to respect families who wish to have no contact with the authorities.
    I can personally see why the report has arisen, BUT I think it’s very ill thought out and not very practical to follow through on, if only half the recommendations come in then I can see a lot of heart ache and misfortune for families in the future. I think if the government had engaged with home educators a lot more and explained their fears I’m sure between us all we could have come up with a compromise.

    But hey! GOVERMENTS there a law unto themselves ....

  3. So if I'm understanding you correctly, historically home educators put up with annual visits and inspectors talking to their children (sometimes alone as in our case). But then they got stroppy and started insisting on their legal right to provide evidence in the form they preferred (as is standard practice in courts of law). Not they will have to put up with annual visits with inspectors speaking to their child (sometimes alone) and it's their own fault for getting stroppy.

  4. "Not they will have..."

    *Now* they will have...

  5. I think that if there had been a little less awkwardness, then things need not have come to this pass. I do not think it unreasonable for local authorities to wish to see a child and reassure themselves that the child is being educated. It is all but impossible to do this just by a written report or educational philosophy. I was always well aware that when I invited officers from Essex LEA into my home that they had no right of access. I just thought that it was in everybody's interests that they could be reassured and that I got on with educating my child.

    If you are on the EO message board, you can see a good example of this. A woman called Sarah who goes by the hideously twee user name of Tabbiewoo has posted about her "Dreadful First Contact" with Leeds LEA. She has not sent her children to school and so people from the Missing from education team have come round to see what is going on. A normal response to this might have involved inviting these people in and explaining that there was nothing to worry about and reassuring them. Really, being visited by a couple of apparatchiks from the council like this is not a "dreadful" experience. At once, another member with the name "Nikinakinoo" jumps in and tells Sarah how shaken and upset she must have been. This is what I mean by encouraging each other to feel confrontative and persecuted. I did not send my daughter to school and when she was eight the LEA caught wind of the fact and we had a visit. This was a minor irritation, not a dreadful and traumatic experience!

    So yes, people can stand on their rights and argue the legal niceties if they wish, but the result will be a change in the law and not one in favour of home educators. I think that the situation was better before this turned into a battle.

  6. I agree that we can all do without the battles and that sometimes home educators anticipate that there will be a problem when the LA wants nothing more than to tick a few boxes and move on. The trouble is that as well as there being some home educators who over react to a perceived threat, there are some unreasonable LA employees out there to who do cause problems by their actions. It is the spread of information about the latter (and here I suppose you can blame the internet) which throws everyone into a panic and subsequent events may alienate both parents and LAs. The solution? Better training for LA employees? More support for families who do allow home visits?

  7. Yes, there are also awkward local authority officers. What I meant to suggest was that things seem to have become polarised and confrontation has become the order of the day; at least with the members of some online communities. I have no idea how common visits are or who is actually objecting so vociferously to them. I have a suspicion that many people who would normally just accept an annual visit are joining lists like EO and HE-UK and being discouraged from allowing the LEA into their homes.

  8. "I think that if there had been a little less awkwardness, then things need not have come to this pass. I do not think it unreasonable for local authorities to wish to see a child and reassure themselves that the child is being educated."

    But if the situation before the 'awkwardness' involved visits, seeing the child, talking to the child alone, how can you claim that the 'awkwardness' has caused a requirement for visits, seeing the child, talking to the child alone?

  9. Or more to the point, why would we have been better off not being awkward if the result is the same?

  10. Most of us would rather, I think, do things on relaxed and informal level. Because an increasing number of parents chose not to operate on that level, the state is now making matters a good deal more formal and in the process intrusive. I preferred it the way it was, but others might prefer not to co-operate unless under duress.

  11. Be no home visits here and we invite Simon to come and watch should Hampshire County Council attempt to enter our house but on past evidence HCC will not have the guts to do anything.All talk and no acton and your be pleased to hear that no home visits or meeting have taking place since He left school on June 23 2003.

  12. But Simon, how are the planned changes going to be any more formal or intrusive to the visits I had in the past? The plans sound exactly like the visits we experienced 15 years ago.

  13. After we had a visit from the LA recently, I found them.. not as bad as I was expecting. But I had read the horror stories, I'll admit. Haha! So I found them pretty obnoxious and irritating but I tolerated them. They said that they thought my daughter had "social problems". Now, a child who's just come out of school for panic attacks and anxiety problems related to agrophobia doesn't want to be told that. When the LA left, she disolved into tears for the remainder of the day.

    I'm glad I know my rights so that they can't upset my daughter to this extent again.

  14. Wow. Heaven forbid that people should stop tolerating patriarchal patronising behaviour that increased stress and benefited no-one, for no good legal reason, and happened *in their own homes.*

    And Heaven forbid that instead of understanding the law and acting within it, LA representatives continue to act like the Stasi and are defended in it 'because we brought it on ourselves.'

    Because the girl in the short skirt and heels deserved to get raped. She provoked, she asked for it.


  15. Because the girl in the short skirt and heels deserved to get raped. She provoked, she asked for it.

    This is so true does Simon agree with this? did the girl provoke it did she ask for it Simon?

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