During the recent debate about the idea of a twenty day ‘cooling off’ period before a deregistered child’s name was removed from the school roll, one of the stock mythic characters of home education was brought into action once more. This is the bullied child who is forced back to school and then suffers harm either from his persecutors at school or because, unable to bear the agony of school any longer, he kills himself.
Now I am not at the best of times over-keen on claims of this sort, that some action or other will end up costing the lives of innocent children. There is something a little distasteful about resorting to this tactic; effective as propaganda though it may be. It has the effect, doubtless intended, of making those on the other side of the argument look like cruel and heartless wretches who do not care about the suffering of little children, but it does not tell us anything at all about the facts of the matter. Bringing in this hypothetical character simply stifles rational debate and makes people a little uneasy about pressing their points too vigorously, lest they seem unfeeling and callous towards this poor child. Home educators in this country are very fond of using this image, that of the suicidal, home educated child who dies because of some new piece of legislation or other. This imaginary child was brought into play a great deal during the campaign against Schedule 1 of the Children, Schools and Families Bill last year and inevitably I too was named as one of those who would be responsible for the deaths of these children. The following comes from the Dare to Know blog:
'Wednesday, March 17, 2010
To all supporters of Schedule 1
...of the CSF bill, Deech, Soley, Badman, Ed Balls, Simon Webb, whoever you may be. Be very aware that by forcing children, either because of some administrative error on the part of parents, or because an ignorant LA officer says so and without any chance to offer a defence in court, back into school, you will almost certainly have blood on your hands'
Strong words indeed! It was this sort of thing, talk of bloodshed and so on, which resulted in the Department for Children, Schools and Families declining to answer any further Freedom of Information requests about the Badman Report, not as somebody suggested here the other day, because of a spoof blog.
What I am trying to establish currently is whether a case of this sort has ever happened in the real world. That is to say a child who has been deregistered from school in this country being forced back into school by a local authority and then suffering harm as a consequence. Is this a real hazard or merely a piece of emotive propaganda used by some home educators whenever anybody suggests changing the law? Let’s face it, School Attendance Orders are raring than rocking-horse shit. When did anybody ever hear of any home educated child being forced to return to school as a result of an SAO being issued? I have been researching hard, trying to identify a single case of this happening and so far I have drawn a blank. I have found plenty of claims that it has happened, but no solid information at all. This is strange, because you would think that such a child would have become a cause celebre of the home educating world. Before I can move on and find a case of a child suffering harm as a result of being forced back to school, I must first find a case of a child who has been made to return to school after having been home educated. Does anybody know of such a child? Does such a person actually exist?
My feeling is that the unfortunate home educated child who is forced back to school and then bullied to death is a figment of some home educators’ imaginations. That being the case, it is pretty shameless of them to trot out this figure every time somebody talks of a change in some minor regulation. It is in any case a pretty primitive argument. Whenever somebody disagrees with home educators about the need for a change in the status quo, they are asked rhetorically:
’Do you want children to die? Do you want their blood on your hands? Because that’s what will happen if you press ahead with this!’
There is still some mileage left in this hoary old myth, as we saw when the Department for Education backed down over the twenty days business recently, but I can’t help wondering when somebody will call time on this strategy. It is wearing a bit thin. In the meantime, can anybody help me to discover any home educated child who has been forced back to school by a local authority or the courts? Does such a child really exist in Britain? The search has been on now for over a month and I am growing increasingly sceptical about the existence of a kid like this! Come on you militant home educators, help me out here. Somebody must know of a verifiable case of this sort!