Friday, 28 September 2012
The real reasons for the opposition to the Welsh proposals for the registration and monitoring of home education
The Welsh Assembly hope to introduce a scheme to register and monitor home educators and their children, to ensure that an education is actually being delivered. Most ordinary people see nothing wrong with this, but a small number of militant home educators are fighting the proposals ferociously. Many of these are the same people who fought against the attempt to change the law in England in 2009 and 2010. There are not many of them, perhaps a couple of hundred at most, but they are very vociferous.
One of the things that I would like to know about these people is whether or not they really believe what they say. Let me explain. Although there are some home educating parents who are grateful for the help of their local authority, I am guessing that the vast majority just want to be left alone. This is the case with the whole spectrum of home educators; ranging from radical unschoolers at one end to the fanatically structured at the other. It is obvious why this should be the case. If you practice autonomous education, then the very act of examining and asking probing questions about the education could have the effect of altering its style or direction. If on the other hand, like me, you are an extremely structured educator, then you are just as likely to be unwelcoming to inspection. This is because those investigating the education that you are providing will not understand what you are up to and the hour or so spent in a visit will just disrupt the smooth running of the day’s work. This is why I did not register with either of the local authorities where we lived while I was educating my child; there would have been no point.
So far, so good. Up to this point I am in complete accord with all the other parents who do not wish to be registered or monitored. Where I perhaps differ is that I have not the least doubt that a regimen of national monitoring of this sort would have an effect, a generally beneficial effect, upon home education. To understand why I think this, it is necessary to look at the supposed beliefs of those home educators who are opposed to the proposals currently under consideration in Wales.
Militant home educators are a tricksy bunch. They will say anything at all in support of their cause if they think that it will play well with those who know nothing about home education. For example, during the Badman business, the focus was upon ‘rights’. There was much talk of the ‘rights’ of parents and, to a lesser extent, those of the children themselves. You will not hear much about this during the present campaign, because it has rightly been gauged that popular opinion is in favour of monitoring and talk of ‘rights’ will not sway most parents whose children are at school. Instead, the emphasis is on the cost of registration and monitoring and the pointlessness of it.
The thing that I am unable to figure out is whether or not the home educators opposed to the idea of monitoring really believe that it would have no effect or only a bad effect upon home education? I somehow doubt that do. At the moment, one withdraws a child from school or fails to send her and there is an end to the matter. Parents can avoid meeting with or speaking to local authority officers and fob them off for years at a time with copied ‘philosophies’ or threats of legal action. Some of the children of such parents are probably being educated; others are probably not. Does anybody really doubt that if they knew that they would be expected to give some account of the education that their children were receiving, then many of those parents would put their shoulders to the wheel and provide some structured teaching and get their children to read, write, study history and do sums? I would say that this is a racing certainty. Of course, most autonomous educators do believe this; but unlike me, they think that it would be a bad thing if this were to happen.
Diverting the debate to various states in America or other countries, such as New Zealand is very neatly done, but does not alter the fact that compulsory registration and monitoring would have a great effect on home education either in England or in Wales. One of those effects would be that more parents would be undertaking structured work with their children; that is to say actually teaching them. I think that this would be a good thing and so, I suspect, would almost all non-home educators. The militant home educators who are opposing any such move tend to be autonomous educators who think that for parents to feel obliged to teach their children regularly would be a bad thing. Because this sounds pretty mad to most people whose children attend school, they find it necessary to dissemble and claim instead that they are worried about the waste of money that such a scheme would entail. This is not an honest way to carry on. I think that it would be interesting to hear what those who do not approve of the idea of registration and monitoring think the actual results would be. Do they, like me, think that the natural consequence would be more parents teaching their children in a structured way? If so, is this at the heart of their opposition?