Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Why am I interested in the history of home education?

A week or so ago, somebody commenting here asked why I was so interested in the origin of home education in this country. It was a reasonable question and the answer is that it might help us to understand how the present conflict arose between home educating parents and their local authorities. I remarked in a recent post that there seems little appetite for investigations of this sort, but before I leave the subject for good, let us consider one or two points.

There is currently a lot of friction between some home educators and their local authorities. Some local authorities try to insist upon home visits and wish to see the children. Others want detailed evidence of the work being done, including written samples which are dated. The insistence on home visits in particular creates an awful lot of ill feeling. I doubt that anybody would disagree with any of this.

The situation in the early 1970s was very different. There were no home visits, parents instead being invited to visit an office without their children. The demands for timetables were a thing of the past by then, as was any insistence that particular academic subjects should be covered in the education. In fact the situation in 1972 contained all the elements that the more militant home educators are now demanding. The question we need to ask is why did things change during the 1970s and the early 1980s? Everything used to be fine and then it all went wrong. If we could establish what happened during those years to make local authorities less amenable to the idea of home education, then we might get a line on how to reverse the situation and return things to the way that they used to be forty years ago; when local authorities were more laid back about home education.

None of this matters to me personally, but it might help those who seem to spend much of their lives rowing with their local authorities.


  1. An interesting point, Simon.

    I suspect that it's linked to the introduction of the National Curriculum and a growing belief that education can only be delivered in one way and consists of a very narrow range, with no tolerance for the fact that children develop at different speeds and have different abilities and support needs.

    The other factor that might influence decisions is the growth in the number of home educators and the shift from idealogical home educators to those who have been failed by an increasingly rigid system that is run out of large educational factories.

    Those whose children aren't suited to battery education and whose children bear the scars of a SEN system that has been acknowledged as not fit for purpose have already tried to work with the same staff who now assess their provision. They have often gone through tribunals and seen evidence that LA staff are either ignorant of or ignoring their legal requirements so they check exactly what the LA's are entitled to do and ask for.

    Which, in my experience, doesn't go down well with LA staff, who then categorise you as awkward troublemakers because you won't accept that 'nanny knows best'.

    Atb, and thanks for answering my question

    1. Very well said, Anne. This chimes with all my experiences, over a long period, too.

      Are you feeling uneasy, by the way?

    2. No. Should I be? Is there some dark conspiracy I've missed?


  2. If you're going to suggest that home educators might be able to improve relationships by modifying their attitudes and behaviour towards the authorities, then you are missing a very large part of the problem: the people and agendas within the organisations have changed.

    Wiser heads in LA education are long gone and we have a wide range of new people spanning education and social services (some, no doubt, the "professionals" that you so often refer to) with vested interests bigger than mere children. They have targets to meet, backs to cover and empires to build.

    Social workers, bureaucrats, politicians, charity wonks and private bodies all see opportunities and threats that don't necessarily align with the interests of children or society generally, but shouting "every child matters" and "the interests of the children must come first" is a good way of hiding their ulterior motives.

  3. As the other commenters here have correctly noted, the change Simon alludes to is not the result of the home education movement having been subverted by marxists / organic gardeners or alternative medicine users as Simon appears to believe. Rather it is the result of a change in the culture within the heart of central government to one of increasingly over-bearing control of the lives of ordinary people and a deliberate policy of replacing parental responsibility for and oversight of children and young people with routine state oversight and management. Typically Simon doesn't notice this and lays the blame for the conflict between increasing state control as manifested by LA behaviour towards home educators and those feisty parents who take their responsibilities seriously enough to resent them being usurped. Not that Simon's a statist. *Snigger*

  4. Lays the blame on the parents I should say.

  5. I am always interested when I find that simply posing a question makes people uneasy.

    1. People have a nasty feeling that you might come up with an answer.

    2. "I am always interested when I find that simply posing a question makes people uneasy."

      Why do you think the respondents here are uneasy?

    3. Which bit is the 'uneasy' bit?

      If someone disagrees with you, are they then 'uneasy'?

    4. "I am always interested when I find that simply posing a question makes people uneasy"

      Please explain this; who is "uneasy" here?

  6. "I am always interested when I find that simply posing a question makes people uneasy."

    I think you will find the answer to that question in my previous posts.

  7. 'I suspect that it's linked to the introduction of the National Curriculum and a growing belief that education can only be delivered in one way and consists of a very narrow range, with no tolerance for the fact that children develop at different speeds and have different abilities and support needs.

    The other factor that might influence decisions is the growth in the number of home educators and the shift from idealogical home educators to those who have been failed by an increasingly rigid system that is run out of large educational factories.'

    By the time that the National Curriculum was introduced in 1988, the home education landscape in this country had already changed beyond all recognition. You are probably right to attribute it to the increasing number of parents who pulled their kids from school because they felt that the schools could not cater adequately for their children. I shall be posting about this in the future.

    1. Not 'felt that schools could not cater adequately for their children', Simon.

      You've worked with SEN children and seen the provision, so I suspect you know as well as I do that the system not only doesn't work for all children but it can't. I'm fine about that. What bugs me is people assuring me that they can do something when they not only can't, but don't understand what the underlying problem is.

      Which brings me back round to how some home-educating parents got their reputations for being trouble makers! I'm sure I can't be the only one who ended up sitting in review meetings asking exactly how schools planned to make adaptations and what expertise and experience the experts who were discussing my children actually had when it came to dealing with my children's combination of weaknesses and strengths.

      Incidentally, I looked at the categories of home edder in your previous post and thought 'oh, she's missed out 'hot housing tiger parent'' Do you think I should ask her to include it?


  8. "I am always interested when I find that simply posing a question makes people uneasy."

    Another little gem from the world of Simon Webb - a small adjustment to reality to ensure that it fits his prejudice.

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