I am guessing that it is a rare enough occasion when the average home educating parent finds herself agreeing enthusiastically with something that the Daily Mail has to say on the subject of families. Yesterday was such a time. The Daily Mail drew attention to the proposal by Ofsted that parents who choose to educate their own children should be subject to CRB checks. It is, on the face of it, an absurd idea. Whatever next, all parents in the country being vetted by the new Safeguarding body? Of course, there is more to this than meets the idea and Ofsted does not really want parents to be CRB checked just for supervising their own children's education. So what is going on?
To begin with, a few unpalatable facts. One of the greatest risk factors in a child's life is living with her mother and a man to whom her mother is not married, whether or not this man is the child's biological father. Evidence strongly suggests that children living with their cohabiting parents who are not married are twelve times more likely to be murdered by one of them than if they were in fact married. When the child lives with her mother and a man who is not her biological father, the chance of being murdered by one of these people is seventy four times as great. Of course, the murder of a child by anybody is a pretty rare occurrence. However, the risk of being physically or sexually abused also rises dramatically when a child is living with a man who is not the biological father. In fact, as two American researchers observed, "Having a step-parent is the most powerful risk factor for child maltreatment yet discovered".
Now because we are obliged these days to maintain the polite fiction that all lifestyles are equal and that any sort of family structure is as good as another for children, which is manifestly not the case, nobody can mention out loud that stepfathers can be a real hazard for children. I say stepfathers, because most children live with their mothers. They are thus more likely to share the house with a man who is not their biological parent. Another risk factor of course, because despite several well publicised recent cases, it is men who carry out most of the offences against children.
Which brings us to the subject of CRB checks and home educators. A few days ago, a home educating mother on one of the lists was complaining that she had been asked by somebody from a statutory agency about her marital status. A number of people jumped in to sympathise and say, "There there, dear. It's nothing to do with the nasty people!". Of course what the person asking this question was really trying to do was assess whether or not the children in the family were at risk and if so, to what extent. Live-in boyfriends, or partners as we are supposed to call them, are what are really being looked at a little askance here. I have no idea at all whether home education per se is a risk factor for abuse. I would guess probably not. That isn't really the point though, because a number of people in social services and education believe it to be the case. If you have this risk and then add in other risks, such as having an unrelated male about the place, some social workers get a mite edgy. Having a child with special educational needs is another risk factor, unfortunately. When one family has more than two or three of these factors, then antennae begin to twitch and there might be a request to check out at least one of the factors. This can mean a CRB check of the boyfriend.
As I said above, people are very touchy these days about appearing "Judgemental", although why this should be perceived as a bad thing in itself is quite beyond me. So in order to conceal the fact that they are really zeroing in on a suspicious boyfriend, everybody in the house will be required to have a CRB check. I think that left to themselves, nobody would be thinking about CRB checking all boyfriends; only those who for some reason gave cause for concern. But then the families who were asked to undergo a CRB check would cut up rough and claim that they were being victimised. Hence the new idea for blanket CRB checks for all home educating families. Annoying certainly, but no more than one more irritating by product of chronic inability in today's society to call a spade a spade.