The above words are from the comments page in the Times on Monday and they were written by a parent apropos of the Badman Report and its proposals for regular visits from the local authority to check up on home education. I have to say, I find this a truly extraordinary assertion and cannot help but wonder what sort of young people the writer associates with! I mean, really.
The overwhelming majority of happy, intelligent, sensible and well balanced young people are used to meeting a wide variety of strangers on a regular basis. If they are home educated, then they are probably also used to at least some of these strangers asking them fatheaded questions like, "Do you know your nine times table?" or "What will you do about GCSEs?" The idea that a stranger coming to the house once a year will precipitate stable and well balanced young people to lapse into a state of fearful insecurity by asking questions like this, is a very odd one. It might have that effect upon their parents, I suppose, particularly if they are anxious about the impending visit because they have not been educating their child. This anxiety could then transmit itself to the child. In such a case though, it is the parents who are responsible for the resultant unhappiness and insecurity, not the local authority.
I have only encountered one case of this sort of behaviour personally. This was a home educating family a few miles away whom we visited when my daughter was nine. The daughter was so timid and shy that she hid upstairs during our visit and communicated by calling downstairs to her mother. Even at the age of nine, my daughter found this very peculiar. Without wishing to appear judgemental or pejorative, both the child's parents were mad as Hatters, which I think had some bearing on the behaviour of the child herself.
In general, it seems to be parents who are upset about children being questioned, rather than the children themselves. One of the mothers who was present, told me what happened when Graham Badman visited a home education group in Kent. A child expressed the desire to be a vet when she grew up. Graham Badman very pleasantly enquired if she knew that she would need a high level of mathematics for such an ambition to be feasible. He asked her casually if she was familiar with, say, the concept of square roots. Upon which, several parents intervened indignantly and the whole incident has passed into legend as showing Badman in his true colours as a villainous character like the Childcatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
I suppose that there may exist children who are so pathologically shy and nervous that they would be traumatised by the presence of an unfamiliar adult, particularly one who spoke to them. Such children are surely rare and I have no doubt at all that this degree of neurosis would qualify as a special educational need in itself and be taken into account and catered for sensitively under any new regulations. Most normal children and young people are however a little more robust. Many actually enjoy showing off and talking about their achievements. This was certainly the case with my own daughter and I used to pity the officer from our local authority who had to sit through my daughter's playing of the guitar, recorder and piano and then feign pleasure at the sight of her paintings before reading long passages of her creative writing! What a hideous job, spending the day watching other people's ghastly kids showing off!
I may perhaps be wrong, but I get the distinct impression that many of the parents who are getting worked up about this issue are themselves somewhat highly strung and emotional. As I said above, anxiety can easily be transmitted to their children and the result could be that the whole family are in a state of profound nervous excitement as the day approaches for a visit from the LA. The remedy surely lies in the parents relaxing a bit and reassuring their child that there is really nothing to be worried about.