Yesterday evening we had a BBC crew round the house for a programme being made about home education. I was asked whether I thought that new regulations were needed and I replied that I was even more strongly in favour of this than I had been last year. A couple of posts on HE lists today have really given me food for thought in this direction. Lets look at them and see what we think.
On the HE-UK list, the mother of a fifteen year old boy who "hates school" is being pursued by her local authority. They are threatening to prosecute her for her son's truancy. Education does not get much of a mention by this mother. We are told that the son is being seen by the local mental health team and suffers from "anger problems". The whole family are apparently receiving therapy. If ever there was a case for a child being given help and support, this is it. The help could most easily be delivered at school, but of course the boy can, as things stand, be withdrawn at a moment's notice. There is little suggestion that his mother wishes to educate him; she is just seeking an easy way out of a tricky problem, namely the threat of prison.
Over on the EO list is a mother of two children, one nine and the other thirteen. Their mother has withdrawn them from school and since then;
"we're just taking it easy at the moment and not getting up to much, I supposed we will learn as we go along?"
Unbelievable. She goes on to say;
"I'd like to meet some more people in the local area so I can get some more ideas as to what to do with them."
Call me Mr. Fuddy Duddy, but might she not have considered "what to do with them" before, rather than after, they were deregistered ? The truth is that this is such a straightforward and simple procedure that there is very little incentive to so. Kid doesn't want to go to school? Hey, why not deregister him? It only takes the cost of a stamp!
I have to say that this is a truly shocking state of affairs. I am passionately committed to home education and always have been. But that parents would withdraw their children from school to avoid prosecution for truancy in this way or deregister two children and only then start thinking about "what to do with them" is utterly appalling. So when the programme on home education is screened in a couple of weeks time, I hope that viewers will understand why I was so vehement. There is something dreadfully wrong with the present arrangements for home education in this country. It is not that I am all in favour of structured education and opposed to autonomous learning. It is that I have seen and still see parents like those mentioned above who withdraw their children from school simply because it is so easy. In both cases, there is no talk at all of providing an education. Withdrawing the children from school is the object of the exercise and only once it has been done will anybody consider what the children might need next. The sooner the Children, Schools and Families Bill 2009 becomes law, the better.