Wednesday, 12 September 2012

More trouble than they’re worth…

I think that if I ran an attraction for children, then I would have a strict and inflexible policy whereby home educated children and their families were absolutely forbidden from entry under any circumstances. This would be to both my advantage and also that of the home educators themselves. For me, the benefits of such a policy would be clear and immense; it would save me from having to come into contact with a quarrelsome bunch of people who are frequently irritating and sometimes completely mad. The home educating parents would benefit from being able to kid themselves that they were members of a persecuted and despised minority like Gypsies or asylum seekers. You know how many of them love that; just look at how popular that piece by pastor Niemoller is with them, the one about ‘then they came for the Jews’.

I have been prompted to muse along these lines by a couple of recent things involving angry home educators. The first was School Film Week, about which I wrote here. Some home educating parents became so abusive and frankly aggressive that the head of a charity was obliged to talk of the need to protect his staff. The latest example is even more extraordinary and may be familiar to those readers belonging to a few home educating lists.

The usual entry price for an adult and child to Legoland is around £60. This puts it out of the reach for many families as a casual day out; the cost to the average family would be well over £100, just to get into the place. School parties can get in much more cheaply, for £5 or £6. This is to Legoland’s advantage, because of course once the school holiday’s end in September, there is a sharp falling off in the number of visitors. If they didn’t cut prices for large groups, they might be in financial difficulties. They allow the schools to justify such visits by putting on vaguely ‘educational’ workshops. Recently, they decided to extend the same deal to home educated children. Instead of £60, home educated children only need pay £5.50 and an accompanying adult gets in free. You would think that this would have been welcomed as a very generous and thoughtful offer to the home educating community. You would have been dead wrong. It resulted in a flurry of complaints and angry rows at the ticket office.

I was so interested in this that I took the time to ring Legoland and ask them what they made of it all. One person to whom I spoke said that people were wishing that they had not decided to make this offer to home educating families, as it was all taking up a lot of time to deal with. They were having to ring head office, forward emails and talk to furious home educators themselves, some of whom were inarticulate and barely civil. What went wrong, you ask?

To begin with, Legoland gave the impression that home educating families could only have these cut prices on Mondays. So what you ask, this is still a really good deal. You idiot! Don’t you realise that this is discrimination and prejudice against the home educating community? Why should schoolchildren be allowed to visit on any day of the week and home educating children restricted to Mondays. This is ghettoisation. No, I am honestly not making any of this up. In the event, it appeared that this was a misunderstanding and that home educators can actually go on any day, but by the time that was clarified, a number of formal complaints had been made, all of which will have to be dealt with. This extra work over what was intended to be a gesture of goodwill has not exactly endeared home educators to the staff at Legoland.  A couple of families turned up to take advantage of the new prices and found that the staff at the ticket office had not yet been informed of the new deal. The parents immediately kicked off and started blazing rows about having to wait while the staff checked with the main office. One of these parents seemed quite proud of having done this and actually used the word ‘row’ to describe her behaviour on a home educating list.

The result of all this was that a simple offer by a commercial concern intended to give home educated children the same opportunities as those at school has generated a good deal of ill will towards home educators. Their reputation for being troublesome lunatics is once again confirmed among ordinary people. Hands up who thinks that this is a good thing? Please don't point out that these people represent only a small minority of home educators; I am well aware of this. They are however the public face of home education, the ones people see and come into contact with. The staff at Legoland won't even notice the quiet and normal home educating parents who just pay their money without any fuss.  The ones who stick in their mind will be the angry people who phoned up and abused them for what was, after all, and attempt to give their children the same as everybody else.


  1. I find it hard to imagine what Webb World theme park would be like - uncaged Tigers roaming around while children listen to opera perhaps?

  2. you travel some where with your child cost of petrol or train fare and then get to gate and are told no your cant go in at that price but according to head office you can> what you going to say oh ok i pay the full amount its my fault sorry!
    you talk rubbish Webb and appear to want people to behave like sheep why is this? do you long for the lost authority you once had?

  3. 'I find it hard to imagine what Webb World theme park would be like - uncaged Tigers roaming around while children listen to opera perhaps?'

    I had in mind something more along the lines of an ancient Greek symposium, with parents and children strolling about under trees, discussing philosophy. Tigers are not germane to the issue here, Allie. I hope that I shall not be remembered in late life only as the man who let his daughter stroke a tiger.

  4. 'do you long for the lost authority you once had?'

    Wasn't aware that I ever had any authority, I do assure you! Perhaps you know more about this, though.

  5. Yes, the whole thing was incredibly embarrassing. I'm not sure what "normal" home-educators (contradition in terms?!) should do when the HEUK list winds itself up in this way. Argue with them and you're just going to get abuse.

    As you say, of course these people are a tiny minority of home educators (my local list was just full of people going, "Yippee - cheap trips to Legoland!") but they're so incredibly vocal. It's awful. No wonder people think we need to be registered and monitored!

    1. Are we reading the same list? A couple of people were suggesting that people should complain aggressively (admittedly one is a prolific poster which maybe explains the impression you gained), but far more people were suggesting the opposite, telling them to calm down and enquire politely about what turned out to be a misunderstanding.

  6. FFS it's situations like this that make me ashamed to admit that I am a home educator to the general population. I tend to not mention it in many circles in case people think I am 'one of those'. I was horrified when I read the abusive comments to the Film Week Charity on their Facebook page.

  7. This is meant to be a reply to Anonymous at 10:06 but the system won't let me do it!

    You may well be right - I had a general impression of a group of people winding each other up but perhaps it was created by the endless posts from one person winding herself up! (But she certainly did attack someone who suggested a calmer approach.)

    1. Well yes, she (lets call her poster_1) disagreed with someone (poster_2) who said that poster_1 should accept the status quo. Poster_1 pointing out that this view conflicted with poster_2's previous attitude to the film charity issue. Poster_1 didn't make a personal attack, she argued her case by pointing out a discrepancy. Many people then wrote to disagree with poster_1's view. I thought that is how discussions were supposed to happen?

      I do think poster_1 is going overboard with accusations of discrimination against home educators, but I many more people have argued for alternative views and for a calmer approach. Wouldn't life be boring if we all agreed and thought the same? We'd all have sent our children to school, for one thing!

      Cheers! :-)

  8. I think it has probably been very worthwhile for legoland to open up the educational rates to home educators.
    We went as a last minute decision, due to this very kind offer. We were there on Sunday and Monday and spent nearly 500 pounds on two nights stay in the rather fabulous legoland hotel, plus meals and drinks * 5 and lego treats in the shop...

    I'm sorry if legoland have had a bad experience with few home educators but phoning them up to discuss this with them so that you have fodder for your blog seems like a very odd, meddlesome thing to do.

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