I am among the most cynical of men, particularly where politics and politicians are concerned. I always assume that the reasons which we as the public are given for this or that action are not the true reasons, or at least not the whole story. One would think that I would jump at the chance to detect the hallmark of some sinister conspiracy in the introduction of regulations for home education and yet I just can't see it.
I have been looking round the Dare to Know blog over the last day or so and I have to say that some of the individuals who are to be found there are considerably more extreme than most of those who comment here. One famous mother, whose email name is to be seen everywhere, expressed the view that there was a determination to suppress home education and those trying to do so did not care if lives were lost in the process! This seemed to me to be so absolutely barking mad that I had to re-read the thing slowly and see whether or not she meant this seriously. As far as I could make out, she did. Others commenting there apparently shared this belief that the aim of any new legislations was to force home educated children to attend school, no matter what the cost to their lives.
The first thing that strikes one about this sort of belief is, 'What is the motive for such a move?' Why would anybody wish to put an end to home education, especially to the extent that they would not mind children losing their lives in the process? This simply does not make any sense to me. After all, home educating parents and children do not pose any threat to the government. The worst they are likely to do is turn out ill educated and semi-literate teenagers and as God He knows, there are plenty of them leaving school as it is! The few thousand home educated youths are the merest drop in the ocean. I have seen the suggestion that these home educated children are radical free thinkers whom the establishment fears, but that does not quite ring true either. Again, there are plenty of weird teenagers about with crackpot ideas; there always have been. I doubt that a few more each year is likely to alarm the government.
What remains then? The rumour has been spread that Graham Badman is doing all this to drum up business for BECTA, an IT company in which he is involved. If that were the case though, you would hardly think that he would be able to enlist the British government in aiding him to make a few bob on the side. A more plausible hidden reason for the attempt to regulate home education is that the government got the wind up in 2008 when Scarlett Keely and Khyra Ishaq, both home educated children, were killed. It was felt that this sort of thing could turn into a bit of a scandal and that it would be best for the DfCSF to look as though they were on the case. This is entirely possible, but I can't think that it is the whole story. There is also the fear among some local authorities that some time in the future, they will get formerly home educated children pursuing them as adults and trying to sue them because they did not receive proper educations from their parents. This is not an unrealistic fear. We have seen adults attempting legal action for bullying which they endured as children, I can quite see that somebody whose education was supposedly monitored by the local authority might come back in ten or twenty years and say, 'Why didn't you keep a closer eye on my parents; my life has been ruined by my lack of GCSEs!'
One feels though that applying Occam's Razor to the situation brings one to the conclusion that the simplest and most likely explanation which covers all the facts is probably the correct one. That is that there is a certain amount of uneasiness felt about children who are at home and perhaps not seen as regularly as most school children. It took quite some while to establish universal education for children in this country and I suspect that some both in local authorities and the government are worried that this idea might be slipping a little and that people might be getting the idea that they need simply not send their children to school and there is an end to the matter. I don't for a moment think that most home educating parents are like this, but I am pretty sure that there are some. I think that there is a desire to nip this sort of thinking in the bud before it becomes too widespread.
I would be curious to hear of any other sensible explanation for the introduction of regulation into home education. An explanation beyond the obvious one of concern for children.