A few days ago I posted a news item about a child who had been taken out of school in Manchester and whose father had subsequently tried to murder her. I gave this post the rather ironic title of 'A far from perfect case of home education'. Here is a link to the case;
In retrospect, it was a mistake to use such a title; many of those who comment here are humourless and literal minded individuals who almost certainly do not do irony. However, a couple of the comments were interesting and I am going to take them at face value and see where they lead us. One person said;
'Where does it say she was home educated???????'
' Typical Webb: No research, no thought, all invention and doing anything to support his own deranged views of the world.
More lies and distortion'
I am assuming that both of these people were meaning to get across the idea that this child had been prevented from attending school but was not really a home educated child. This is a very good point and one which we encounter quite frequently during the debate about home education, especially where safeguarding is concerned.
When a child is deregistered from school, she becomes for most people a 'home educated child'. This is regardless of the sort of education, if any, she is receiving. Local Authorities generally take this to be the case and so too do most home educating parents. Home educators often claim that it should be assumed that parents are educating their children efficiently, unless there is evidence to the contrary. Of course not all children who have been deregistered from school are really being educated. Here is a case of a child who was deregistered from school supposedly for the purposes of home education, but in fact to give sexual satisfaction for her family:
The truth is, parents take their children out of school for all sorts of different reasons. Some do so because they wish to educate their children, some want an easier life and an end to rows with their children about school, others feel the need to abuse their child, some are insanely jealous of their daughter meeting or talking to boys, there are those who want to avoid prosecution for truancy, parents who want a companion because they get lonely during the day; there are an infinite number of reasons for taking a child from school or not sending her in the first place. Some of these reasons relate to education, others do not.
It is very hard for anybody outside the family to know why a child is not going to school. Some home educators invite us to assume that as soon as a child is deregistered, we should at once take it for granted that her parents are providing her with a suitable education. I cannot for the life of me understand this reasoning. We have seen two teenage girls above who were withdrawn from school for reasons wholly unconnected with education. Presumably, the Local Authorities in those cases were happy to accept that an education was taking place without making any further enquiries. Maybe these parents sent a version of an educational philosophy downloaded from an Internet site and that was sufficient.
Many home educating parents seem to find it very hard to imagine anybody deregistering their child from school for reasons of cruelty and abuse. They seem to take it for granted that parents love their children and want the best for them. This is not always the case at all. There is no doubt that some children are taken out of school for bad reasons which have nothing to do with education. In the case of the child from Manchester, not being at school meant that anything which happened in the family would be likely to remain secret. She had no school friends in whom to confide, no teachers to talk to, her father did not like her to talk to anybody unless he was present. This meant that a bizarre lifestyle could flourish in a way that school might have prevented. I don't think it would have been as all a bad thing for a sympathetic and shrewd adult to drop by that home and try to see what was going on. Obviously, the warning signs might have been missed; they have certainly been missed in other cases. But this does not seem to me to be a good reason simply to give up trying to rescue children of this sort. As I have said many times before; too much emphasis on the 'rights' of the parents and not enough upon the rights of vulnerable children.