Friday, 15 February 2013
No wonder local authorities are alarmed about home education!
I have several times been accused in recent days of asking questions to which I already knew the answers. I have to say that this is quite absurd. Not only did I not have a ready-made answer up my sleeve, I could not in a million years have guessed how other people would respond to the case which I cited forty eight hours ago. I described a child who was not being educated and yet whose mother claimed that he was. I fully expected readers to agree that this was something of a problem and to discuss ways that genuine home educators could be distinguished from situations where no education is being provided. This is a problem and I can see why some home educating parents get a little tetchy when their local authority acts as though all home educated children are missing from education. However, this was not at all the way most people saw the example that I gave. Instead of agreeing that here was a child who was not receiving an education, the general view seemed to be that he was doing fine and should be left alone. It was suggested that playing computer games all day and then hanging round the streets with a bunch of kids who were gradually moving further into petty crime was a perfectly adequate education.
Even weirder, most of those commenting seemed to place responsibility for truanting upon the local authority, rather than the child’s parents. This is very curious! Home educators are always talking about the sanctity of parental responsibility and then as soon as a kid truants, it is no longer the parents’ responsibility, but that of the local authority.
Having found that not one reader feels that anything needs to be done to help a child who does not attend school and is not receiving an education from either his parents or anybody else; there is little more to say. This was a genuinely unexpected turn of events and I am sure that any local authority officers reading this blog will draw their own conclusions about the matter. The conclusion is, as far as I am able to make it out, that a number of home educators believe that if a child truants and is then withdrawn from school by his mother in order to avoid prosecution; then that is fine and the child should simply be ignored. Any child who is claimed to be home educated should face no further attention from the local authority, regardless of whether or not this is really the case. Parents should not be responsible for ensuring that their children attend a school at which they are registered and if the child fails to attend then this is the fault of the local authority. Playing computer games all day, after not getting up until after lunchtime is a pefectly adequate eduction for a fourteen year-old. I can assure readers that my open ended questions a couple of days ago were not intended to elicit such views as this! I am frankly taken aback at what has been said.
I cannot help remembering the newspaper articles which I wrote on the subject of home education a few years ago; the ones that first made me an object of hatred for the loopier type of home educating parent. In one passage, which caused particular anger, I said:
Autonomous education is based on a simple principle: that children alone are the best judges of what they should learn and when they should learn it. If a child wishes to spend the day slumped in front of a television or games console, this is not a problem, the choice is his. Many autonomous educators go even further, asserting that it is for the child to decide on bedtimes, diet and other aspects of lifestyle.
I can still recall the fury which this caused. I was told that I knew nothing of autonomous education and that the idea of supposedly home educated children sitting around all day playing Grand Theft Auto was ridiculous. I knew then that it was not, of course, and it is interesting to find it being confirmed here that quite a few home edcautors see nothing wrong with this lifestyle. Indeed, although I never used the expression, somebody reading about the child whom I described who was missing from education, did in fact call this autonomous education. I think that there is nothing more that I can add to this debate. Obviously, if a child hates school and truants, then I think that a parent should be able to provide an education for the child at home. I am a fanatical supporter of home education. When this is not done though and a child is left to his or her own devices, then I believe that the local authority should intervene and help the parents to provide an education for their child.