I have been reading with great interest the manifesto of the Conservative Party. I realise that the preceding sentence must sound grotesque in the extreme; after all, what sort of freak would read any manifesto with great interest, let alone one from the Tories? Never the less, there were one or two parts that might be of help to home educators.
The Conservatives are promising to make it easier for charities, religions and even groups of parents to set up their own schools. Now I have written before about the 'Free Schools' of the early nineteen seventies. This was essentially home education under a different name. Parents whose children had been withdrawn from school or expelled, would band together and register themselves as schools. Sometimes they would acquire premises, such as an old, semi-derelict building. On other occasions, the 'school' would be set up in a few spare rooms in somebody's house.
These 'schools' were all very free and easy and mostly based upon Summerhill. Although a few were set up by teachers, there was in general little attempt to teach much. the children decided for themselves what, if anything, they studied. With the huge amount of red tape which currently chokes so many new enterprises, I would not have thought this sort of thing practical these days. However, if it is a manifesto pledge, then there is at least some chance of holding the Tories to it if they get in on May 6th.
Of course, the whole thing might be so bound up with rules and regulations, a requirement to be inspected by Ofsted for example or follow the National Curriculum, that it would not suit home educators. On the other hand, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that some of the groups of home educating parents who are already running educational activities might be able to convert them into a registered school with a little ingenuity. I suppose that i am thinking here of the long term future, because although the Children, Schools and Families Bill has gone, the intention to put home education on a more businesslike footing has not gone away. I wonder whether or not home educators might not be well advised to lay plans for making themselves into some sort of scheme which could, at a pinch, lokk enough like a school to satisfy any critics.