It will have been rightly guessed by some readers that I would not long be able to stay away from the subject of the proposed Welsh legislation which will introduce compulsory monitoring of home education in the principality. I have been shocked over the last few days to read some of the arguments being put forward against this idea. If it is necessary to engage in deceit and spread falsehoods in order to oppose the plans; what does this say about the strength of the arguments being put forward?
Those opposing the Welsh proposals have been producing a series of so-called ‘briefing papers’. Essentially, these are no more than the opinions of various home educators who do not approve of registration and monitoring and hope to persuade others to share their views. There are two types of such papers. One kind is directed at professionals working in the field of education and is intended to show that home educated children are not at increased risk of abuse and actually do better academically than children in school. The other sort hope to work up support from other groups such as Christians, by playing to their prejudices. Today, I want to look at a typical example of the first type; that designed to deceive teachers, social workers and other professionals.
This example is taken from the Home Education UK website:
I have no idea of the author; perhaps it was Mike Fortune-Wood himself. The paper begins by suggesting that Welsh schools are not in general brilliant, which is true. Then it looks at American research which it is claimed shows that home educated children do very well; better in fact than those at school. There is much wrong with this section, but since I do not think that the American scene can really be compared with this country, we shall let that pass. It is when the author writes of British evidence that he reveals his true motives. and these are not precisely open and honest. I do not have time to go into the whole thing, but a few particularly awful instances should suffice. Here is a quotation from the thing:
Although little research is available in the UK there is no reason to believe that the
results for children here would be any different and research that has been
undertaken supports that view. A 2002 study of 419 EHE families in the UK found:
‘The results show that 64% of the home‐educated Reception aged children scored over 75% on their PIPS Baseline Assessments as opposed to 5.1% of children nationally.
Either the author has not read the actual research or is deliberately setting out to mislead. In fact the PIPS Assessments relate not to 419 families but 35. What do readers think? Has the author of this supposedly careful and pseudo-academic paper read the research which he is quoting? If not, it casts doubt upon the value of the other figures which he adduces in defence of his argument. If he has read the research, then he is trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes and hope that they will not spot the inflation of the figures relating to the PIPS Assessments. Neither case exactly encourages confidence!
The indications are that this was a deliberately misleading. I say this, because a few lines later, we find this claim:
A Wiltshire based home education support group has kept records of children in the group since 2002. They found that the 52 older children involved had achieved 199 formal qualifications in 50 subjects with 69% of those qualifications being GCSE or IGCSE, 13% were A levels and others in Tertiary or performance. 50% of those qualifications were taken under the age of 16 years. 33% of those students achieving performing arts qualifications were awarded distinctions and 96% of other grades
were at A* ‐C.
I think that readers here will agree that the intention is to suggest that a longitudinal study has been made of a cohort from one home education group? Note that ‘records’ have been kept of ‘children in the group’. Let us be plain about this. We are being asked to believe that the figures for examination results are all from one group of children; those who attended a home educating support group in Wiltshire. This simply cannot be a mistake; it must be a calculated falsehood, because the author gives the source for his claim. Here it is;
Presumably, he banked on nobody bothering to check the references. This is an open page, where anybody from the United Kingdom may send any exam result which they claim a home educated child has achieved. Nobody checks, the things are all done anonymously and then added to the total. Far from this showing that 52 members of a single home educating support group did brilliantly academically, it merely suggests that a load of random people emailed this site from anywhere in the world and their claims were placed there without any sort of checking. Of course this group of 52 children had good academic results; only those who had gained qualifications were intended to be included on it!
There is far more wrong with this paper than just these two examples. The whole thing is an absolute horror. I am curious, for instance, about the 10 young people with 49 A levels between them. Eton only manage an average of four A levels per pupil; according to this a home educating group in Wales is averaging around five a head. More research needed here!