Somebody commenting here was quite affronted when I said that raising concerns about the possible cost of registering and monitoring home educated children was the latest strategy by home educators anxious to head off the Welsh scheme. She thought that I was hinting that this was something which she herself had dreamed up. Nothing of the sort; I was merely suggesting that she was surfing the zeitgeist.
Few ordinary people seem to be actually opposed to the idea of home education. They may be a little dubious about its efficacy or see it as an odd enterprise that they would not care themselves to undertake, but that is all. It is when they realise that there is no compulsory involvement of the ’authorities’ that the eyebrows start to raise. They will say things like, ’Who do you have to ask for permission?’ or ’I suppose the council check up on you regularly?’ When they discover that you simply don’t need to send the kid to school and there is no need to notify anybody; that is when you can sense that they think that there is something amiss.
Most home educating parents know this and also are aware that the average citizen thinks that it is a grand idea to ensure that home educated children must be registered and inspected by the local authority. This presents a problem when you are campaigning against anything of the sort. The tactic is to find an objection which will resonate with the man or woman in the street. We saw this a lot during the organised opposition to Graham Badman’s proposals. Some of this is discussed on home educating lists and forums, while key players also exchange emails and telephone calls, devising ideas which may then be planted on the lists or put in comments to online newspaper articles on the subject. You need only use a word like 'conflate' on the home education lists and in no time at all it will go viral and everybody will be using it. The same thing happens with ideas. A brilliant example of this was the idea a while ago that children would be left on the school roll for a time after being deregistered. It was a sensible plan and so something ad to be dreamed up which would show ordinary parents the implications. This was duly done and named the 'Ibiza Loophole'. This particular piece of propaganda was successful.
During these times of austerity, two linked ideas have emerged from discussions as being best calculated to gain the approval of ordinary people for the fight against the Welsh proposals. One of these is the projected cost and the other, all the things that are wrong with the educational system and should be fixed first, before we start fretting about home education. The notion is being put about that if we spend money on a scheme to register home educators, then that money will have to be taken from more needy folk to pay for it. Gosh, how terrible if this meant that some child genuinely in danger were to suffer because of this obsession with a tiny number of home educated children! Surely there are better things to use that money for? Another strand which is emerging is to agree that education in general is in a frightful state, especially in Wales. Then, we can bring the conversation round to educational standards in schools; the exams fiasco, exclusions and various other problems. My, it does seem a pity that with all these serious difficulties involving literally hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, they are worrying about a tiny handful of a few hundred home educated children. Why, if they got their house in order, people might not even feel the need to remove their kids from school!
The truth is of course that nearly all home educators know that their children are safe and cared for and just want the authorities to piss off and leave them alone. Saying this to people who sent their own kids to school would be tactless and so other sentiments need to be expressed if we are not to alienate the man in the street. Keep an eye on the comments being made to newspaper articles and so on, as the Welsh proposals gather pace and you will see a coordinated campaign of comments along these lines. As articles appear, so somebody will draw attention to them on various lists and forums and this encourages home educating parents to comment. The result is that it looks from a glance at the comments as though there is mass opposition to any plan to change the law.