Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A change in the law.....

The two perspectives could hardly be more different. To most people working in the field of education and social care; it is a grotesque anomaly. Getting on for a hundred thousand children about whose education hardly anything is known. Are they passing GCSEs? Nobody knows. What percentage go on to become NEETS? We have no idea. Are they as literate as the general population? Couldn't really say. I mean, it's absurd! It has to be said that this view is probably shared by many ordinary people. On the other side are the parents of the children in question. To them, any attempt to change the law or even ask too many questions about the situation is a gross intrusion into their private life; a flagrant breach of the rights of both parent and child. Outrageous!

The law covering home education is to be found in the 1996 Education Act. The wording of this act in respect of home education was lifted practically intact from the 1944 Education Act. The relevant words, those concerning a suitable education to be obtained, "By regular attendance at school or otherwise", were inserted into the act not to legitimise home education but to allow the upper and middle classes to continue engaging governesses and tutors for their children. It is I think, safe to say that the idea that parents would one day use this section of the act to justify teaching their own children out of school never for a moment crossed the mind of anybody in the legislature. Yet here we are, sixty five years later, and those few words are still the only thing that the law has to say on the subject of home education. In other words, the education of perhaps eighty thousand children is regulated by a couple of chance sentences in an old act of parliament.

Any objective observer would probably agree that with the numbers of children educated out of school rising inexorably, it really is time for a law which specifically sanctions and regulates the practice of home education. About the details of such a law, there will be no universal agreement; that is inevitable. But about the need for some sort of legal framework there is consensus, except of course among the home educating families themselves. But this is often the case. Individuals and communities who are closely bound up in some peculiar and outlandish activity often have difficulty understanding how others view their special interest. The incomprehension on the face of the steam engine fanatic when he realises that not everybody is fascinated by the Flying Scotsman. The pigeon fancier who cannot see how anybody could fail to appreciate the finer points of bird breeding. So involved are such people, that they will be wholly unable to take an objective and dispassionate view of their obsession.

So it is with home education. It is the ultimate strange hobby, a hobby which affects every aspect of the lives of its devotees. If their lifestyle brings them into conflict with the law, then so be it. The law can go hang! The Queen's speech in parliament paves the way for the registration and inspection of home educators. This is perhaps the bare minimum which most normal citizens would expect and desire for the scores of thousands of children being taught out of school. Whether the new law will be able to get pass the Lords is another matter entirely. The present administration is quite fond of invoking the Parliament Act and an important Bill involving children would be a perfect excuse for doing so should there be obstruction in the Upper House. One thing that home educators should realise is that however much they campaign, to the man on the Clapham omnibus the proposition that children taught at home should be registered and inspected is an eminently sensible one. Public opinion is not likely to be with the home educators on this matter.


  1. Ah, the ordinary person! The normal citizen! Those from whose generally uninformed opinions public policy is now derived.

    Mark my words, the man on the Clapham omnibus used to read his Penguin books and go to evening classes - he wouldn't stand for legislation being based on public opinion.

    Nor, Simon, if you had been properly educated, would you.

  2. Well, I am happy to have legislation based upon public opinion. It's called democracy and I am rather keen on it. The good Lord alone knows whether that suggests a lack of education on my part though.

  3. I'd begun to wonder if that was your belief. Legislation, thankfully, is rarely based on public opinion. Just as well. If it were, it would pay significant attention to bread, circuses, beer and skittles, or the modern equivalent and we should all go the way of the Romans.

  4. Ah, the liberal mindset revealed in its true colours! For goodness sake, don't let those frightful little people have what they want; We must give them what is good for them, not what they say they want. I'm bound to say that this sort of intellectual snobbery is not really calculated to endear you to the average person,suzyg. We must hope that if this is really how most home educating parents view the proletariat, then they keep a little quieter about it than you!

  5. Oooohhh, thankfully legislation isn't always based on the prejudices of the ignorant majority or we'd have had hanging back years ago. (And Lord knows what else.) We have a parliamentary democracy in this country, not the dictatorship of the majority. Quite different things.

    As for your fears about all those people who have been let down by their HE'ing parents over the decades, languishing on the dole queue, or in youth offender institutions- I can't help thinking that some of them would have emerged from the woodwork during this recent debate. If they existed.

    But, astonishingly, they haven't. No headlines like, 'I was home educated and now can't get a job' or 'My mum teached me and now I'm in prison. Duh!' If they are out there, they'd have made a small fortune from the Daily Mail for telling their story by now, surely.

    I seriously expected a few people turning up like that, that might make this discussion difficult for us, but what do you know? No HE'd Pamela Phelps equivalents at all, it seems.

    Gold Star for Home ED!

    Mrs Anon

  6. Conversely, we might perhaps have expected a few doctors, architects, barristers and civil engineers to have come forward by now and spoken proudly of the fact that they have never been to school! (There is a booby prize for the first person to mention either Alex Dowty or Chris Ford at this point. I mean apart from just those two!)

  7. I don't know anything about Chris Ford.
    Alex was clearly a one off. It's silly for people to keep bringing him up.

    What about the woman who wrote the long artical in a newspaper about all her talented siblings doing so well now? What was her name? I wish my memory wasn't going.

    I suspect most doctors and lawyers don't need the dosh, Simon.

    BTW, Connexions just told my son, after a 40 minute computer test and a 20 minute interview that he needed to become a Film Director. Aaaaarrgghh...gosh thanks. Something a little more realistic to aim at would have been helpful!

    Mrs Anon
    PS Disappointed not to get the booby prize. (What was it, as a matter of interest?)

  8. It was a special mention in my next newspaper article denouncing the many and varied iniquities of autonomous home educators. Lucky for you,you have chosen to remain anonymous! How on earth did you become embroiled with Connexions? Essex County Council home education party had the cheek to forward my duaghter's name to them. After we had sorted out the implications of the Data protection Act and so on, followed by one or two Freedom of Information requests, they changed their mind and erased her details.

  9. >>>>How on earth did you become embroiled with Connexions? <<<<<<<<<<<

    I naively thought they might be useful!

    Their SEN advisor had been extremely helpful when dd was about this age and helped us to find a really good course for her post 16 which I would never have known about otherwise.

    But this time, with my son, they've probably set me back years in my attempts to persuade my son to think along more earthly lines. Film Director? Thanks a bunch, Connexions. :-) The next suggestion was RAF nurse. He hates the thought of military discipline, hasn't the most well developed sense of compassion and faints at the sight of blood, just like his father. So, we were just not getting it.

    The computer programme was meant to figure out his propensities and proclivities (don't know what those words mean, I just like them) and come up with likely suggestions for him to pursue, but I think it must have just thrown up a load of totally random suggestions on cue.

    PS, you couldn't have included me in your next anti-autonomous 'J'accuse' article, Simon. I have stripes of quite another hue.

    Mrs Anon (thankfully)

  10. I have heard this from others about the Connexions service. They apparently do generate random career advice in this way. Am I to take it Mrs. Anon, that you are not really an autonomous educator at all? I have heard of the so-called "Hidden structured home educators" who hang out on sites like HE-UK without letting on that they actually teach their children!

  11. Huh?

    I've never said I was an autonomous HE'er, Simon. Right from the start, I've been very open about our so-called 'structured' approach which was largely a Christian, literature-based one, relaxed, eclectic, with a dash of Charlotte Mason.

    Why did you think I was an autonomous HE'er? Because I oppose the Badman Report?

    I don't hide the way I've HE'd on my local list or the couple of national ones I'm on, but I tend to avoid lists where I would be attacked for not being and AE'er. I've never been a member of HE-UK. Perhaps you are confusing me with someone else?

    Mrs Anon

  12. Don't worry Mrs Anon, it's probably just Simon jumping to conclusions again. He did this a few days ago in an entertaining discussion which he seems to have removed (mores the pity - he was really wound up, so I suppose that's why he removed it, poor lamb).

    After digging himself into a self-contradictory hole, Simon complained that his nemesis should stop reading what he said because it was "making her violent". It turned out that the poster was a man!

    Home Education Heretic - more like Home Education Stalinist, airbrushing away the unflattering history!

  13. Another conspiracy theorist! The thread to which you refer was about Roland Meighan's response to the Badman Report. For some reason the comments became quite bitter and personal and so I decided to remove those not actually concerned with Roaland meighan, the subject of the thread. I couldn't do this because the tools would not work and so I removed the entire thread. It was a technical malfunction, nothing more sinister than that. Far from running this in a Stalinist manner, there is an open invitation for anybody to become a co-author here and post their own pieces. If you wish to do so Anonymous, just let me know. Or do you prefer anonymous sniping?

  14. Mrs. Anon, please forgive me for supposing you to be an autonomous educator. I have trouble keeping track of everybody. You have more of a character than many, at least I know your gender, but with all the Anonymous types I get a bit muddled up. Tell me, do you use the Accelerated Christian Education material? I ask, because at one point we were considering it and I know that it can lead to a recognised qualification. If so, I would be interested to know.

  15. No Simon,

    My description of our HE as a 'Christian, literature-based one, relaxed, eclectic, with a dash of Charlotte Mason' is the absolute antithesis of ACE. LOL!

    Did you really look into it? It's all worksheet, regurgitation-based busy-work. The exact opposite of what we wanted for our kids. We used bits and pieces of Sonlight curriculum, but were just as happy to veer from it when something more interesting came up.

    And the 'recognised qualification' which ACE claims, many friends are finding, is hardly recognised by anyone outside the US.

    We found that the children's informal learning was just as important as the learning they did when I was teaching them. I reject the term 'structured' because our HE was quite unstructured in many ways, not definitely not autonomous.

    Our daughter is at college now and son is half way through 2 years of IGCSE's and looking at FE for A Levels.

    Mrs Anon

  16. sorry, that should have read, 'just definitely not autonomous'.

    But I want to say that I fully support AE'ers right to choose the best education for their family, even though I've found a different path more useful for my family.

    Mrs Anon

  17. @Simon: I must have dropped-off before it got to that. It just goes to show that modern technology can't beat tipex and a photocopier !! Pity though, it was like a courtroom drama in slow motion!

    As for anonymity, I think everyone agrees that's safer.

    @Mrs Anon (& Simon): What is "Connexions" ?

    Mrs Anon, I think your unstructured approach is actually quite typical of us and most of the people I know. I'm never sure what people mean by autonomous - in many cases I suspect there is an element of structure which increases and eventually leads to exams.

  18. >>>>>>>>>@Mrs Anon (& Simon): What is "Connexions" ?

    Mrs Anon, I think your unstructured approach is actually quite typical of us and most of the people I know. I'm never sure what people mean by autonomous - in many cases I suspect there is an element of structure which increases and eventually leads to exams.<<<<<<

    That has certainly been our experience.

    Connexions is more or less what has taken over form the old Careers Service, but has other, additional remits.

    Mrs Anon

  19. Connexions is a bit like the old Careers Service in a way. However I do not recall the Careers Service fixing up abortions for underage girls, something which Connexions has been known to do! They also collect information from children and young people and then pass it on to other agencies, including the police and social services.

  20. @Simon & Mrs Anon re: Connexions. Thanks, that explains a lot.

    "They also collect information from children and young people and then pass it on to other agencies, including the police and social services."

    I imagine this is also so that they can put it on memory sticks for people to lose or sell to even less desirable "agencies".

    I'm surprised by the abortions; they've been a bit slow there. No doubt there are more people like Badman and Balls who would like to take their legislation even further in time to span everything from adoption to organ farms and slavery. After all, with a failing education system and huge debts, the country has little in the way of assets other than human flesh.

    More conspiracy theory Simon! But then consider "Belle du Jour".