I visit a number of blogs, forums and lists; some of them sensible and many of them completely mad. On the sensible ones, if somebody says something really offbeat or bizarre, then other people will comment saying that this is an exaggeration or that the person is going a little too far. This is in contrast to the loopy places, where each person tries to top any strange claim by going one better. If one poster asserts that there are alien corpses at Area 51, then somebody else will claim that aliens are actually walking among us. This goes on until some madman reveals that President Obama is himself an alien. I'm sure that readers will have observed this sort of thing for themselves. I have noticed this phenomenon on a couple of the larger home education lists in this country. However raving mad the story, nobody is ever discouraged from displaying their lunacy and other people commenting will often chip in with even crazier tales of their own.
On one list recently an unbalanced mother from a village in Herefordshire suggested that when her son, who has special educational needs, was enrolled at a new school, the staff pinched his funding and used it to buy a load of new laptops. This prompted another mother to claim.... Well before we examine the other claim, let's look a little at the scams involving funding for special needs as they actually do operate in schools. As is generally known, I am not a great fan of schools, but even so there is no point in entering a fantasy world where the teachers care nothing about the education of their pupils. The thesis advanced on some of the more weird home education sites is that schools are only in it for the money and have no interest in their pupils; which is ridiculous.
The scams involving schools and special educational needs do not generally have at their heart children who genuinely have special needs. The funding that such children attract is seldom sufficient to pay for all the extra help they need and many schools would rather not have such children in the first place, because their resources are just not up to the job of dealing with them. What is actually done is to try and classify existing children as having special needs, thus getting more money for the school. Say you have a few stupid or illiterate kids in your school. If you can have them diagnosed as dyslectic or having learning difficulties, then you will qualify for extra money. This is of course why something like 20% of children in British schools now have special needs or disabilities. It has grown out of this racket. The aim is not to attract more children with genuine special needs to your school and then pinch their funding; rather it is to pretend that your existing pupils have difficulties and then get extra money for them.
Which brings us to the spectacularly mad post by a woman on one of the lists, who suggested that;
'A lot of rural schools are applying for special needs money for their repairs to huts, school trips and books .The minority(special needs) must pay for the majority (the rest of the group). I noticed a lot of rural/small schools recruit special needs students out of area/residence, in order to claim necessary funds to keep the school open'
How anybody in their senses could read such nonsense and not tell the woman that she was an idiot is beyond my comprehension. The reason is of course because the people on sites such as this hate schools so much that they will willingly believe any sort of foolish allegations. As I say, I am not at all keen on schools myself, but that does not mean that I will swallow stuff like this! (How would you 'recruit' pupils with special needs? Advertise in the local newspaper, saying, 'Wanted; Down's child for rural primary school. Must have own funding'?) The person continues:
'some students education can be hindered/held back to raise money for the school. Exaggerate any learning issue, not allowed to read with other students, etc,..'
We have now stepped across the line into absolutely loopy conspiracy theory territory. Schools are subjecting SEN pupils to sensory deprivation and preventing them from developing, just so that they can get their hands on the funding associated with the children. It is significant that not one of the fifteen hundred members of this list thought that there was anything at all implausible about this scenario. It does rather make one think that lists like this belong at the whackier end of the Internet spectrum, rather than being places where parents can gather facts and find support.