One of the recommendations in Graham Badman's report which irritated home educating parents was that when their children were deregistered from school to be home educated, then the school would be expected to send the local authority a record of their child's achievement and also their expected future achievement. It was felt that the schools might give an unrealistic assessment of the child and thus put the parents into the position of fulfilling unrealistic goals for their children's development.
This was a quite understandable fear. As those foolish enough to send their children to school will know, schools habitually lie their heads off about the ability of pupils. A child who can barely string two words together in French will be described as, 'One of our most able linguists'. One will be told that 'Jimmy has a good understanding of all the major world faiths' or that 'Mary has the makings of a first rate historian'. Of course parents usually know that these statements are completely untrue and make allowance for this. The fact that everybody knows that they are complete falsehoods is simply a fact of life for parents whose children attend school. The fear was that if such reports had been sent to the local authority, then their officers would actually have expected the children to behave like able linguists or first rate historians. An alarming thought indeed!
Still, everybody lies. Parents too lie their heads off about the children in their care. They claim that their own children are more artistic, more sensitive, articulate, compassionate, musical or what have you than the kids next door. This, after all, is human nature. You would hardly expect to take a parent's word for her child's ability and talents. I have been prompted to reflect upon this by a spate of parents posting on some of the Internet lists, parents who are determined to provide their local authorities with any information about their child's progress or academic work. Their attitude seems to be, 'I have told the local authority that Jimmy is receiving a suitable education and that should be good enough for them'. As I remarked above, everybody lies. Why on earth should the local authority take the parents word for this?
I remember when we came to the attention of the local authority and they began asking questions about my daughter's work. Now of course, I could have told them to mind their own business and take my word for it that she was being educated, but why would I do that? Life is very short and I wouldn't really want to be engaged in a battle with my local authority. It was far easier for all concerned simply to let them know what was going on and invite them to come and see for themselves. After all, their concerns were pretty much the same as mine; they wanted to be sure that an eight year old girl was being educated. Leaving aside the precise legal duties involved, it seemed a reasonable enough wish on the part of local authority officers from the education department. I accordingly sent them copies of my daughter's work and allowed them to visit for an hour or so once a year. I could see no reason not to do so.
Everybody lies. We lie about our income and our own achievements. We lie about what our children are capable of. We lie about our relationships and our beliefs. Why should we suddenly feel that we should tell the truth when the local authority is asking what our children are up to? the answer is that we probably wouldn't. If at the age of twelve our son were still unable to read and write properly, we would probably lie about it and tell the local authority that he had just finished The Forsythe Saga. If he spent all day on the computer, we would lie about that too and invent a flourishing social life and sporting activities for him. This is human nature; of course the local authority wants to see for themselves!
As I get older, I wish for an easier and less troublesome life. There are many occasions when I could stand on my rights and behave like a barrack-room lawyer, but then my life will become one long struggle. I really can't see why parents would want to deny the local authority access to their children and give them some idea of what they were up to. The only thing which would make this worthwhile would be if there was a real reason for not wanting the local authority to see one's home or speak to one's children. otherwise, the easiest and most straightforward course for all concerned would be to welcome them in once a year.( And yes, I am perfectly well aware that the case is quite different for children with elective mutism, Asperger's and so on. I am talking of children without special educational needs.)