Saturday, 2 March 2013
In what sense were Victoria Climbie and Khyra Ishaq not being home educated?
I asked yesterday whether readers thought that members of minority cultures in this country should be assumed, unless there is firm evidence to the contrary, to be providing a suitable, full-time education for the children in their care. I rather think that the general feeling is that we should make this assumption. I was asked;
‘What is it that you believe qualifies you to sit in judgement on an individuals belief and/or lifestyle choices?’
This is all very interesting. Readers will remember the fury that was caused during the Badman enquiry, when it was suggested that Victoria Climbie had been home educated. The unanimous verdict among many of the more vociferous home educating parents was that she had most certainly not been home educated. I don’t think that it is me who is sitting in judgement here upon ‘an individual’s beliefs and/ or lifestyle choices’! The same judgement was made against the mother of Khyra Ishaq; that the child had not really been home educated at all. Several people lately have expressed irritation about the fact that looking at the Department for Education’s pages on elective home education will lead you to an account of Khyra Ishaq’s experiences. Outrageous! What does this cases have to do with home education?.
This then was the question that I was recently asked by somebody who works in the field. We are invited to believe that an adequate education may be provided for a child, simply by the parents or carers pursuing their normal lifestyle and letting the child follow her own interests. Some call this autonomous education or unschooling. These types though seem to have quite a different set of rules for members of other cultures. It was specifically alleged by home educators that in the case of Victoria Climbie, that there was no ‘evidence’ of home education; that is to say books, teaching and so on. Why should there have been? If the absence of such things in the lives of white, middle class home educators is unremarkable, why should we expect to see such evidence in the case of a working class, black carer? In other words, in what sense was Victoria Climbie not being home educated by her aunt? On what grounds did other home educating parents make this judgement upon her? True, once she picked up with an unsuitable boyfriend, things very quickly went wrong for the child; but what about the months before that happened? Why is it asserted so warmly that this child was not being home educated during that period?
In the case of Khyra Ishaq, the judgement that she was not being home educated seems even harsher when made by other home educating parents against her mother. In this case, the child’s mother had withdrawn her from school after announcing that she was to be educated at home. She had purchased various workbooks, paper, pens and other educational material and showed every sign of being prepared to teach the child at home. Ah yes, cry home educators gleefully, but the mother had not complied with Regulation 8(1)(d) of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England)Regulations 2006, which state clearly that such notice of the intention to home educate must be given in writing. Because Khyra Ishaq’s mother neglected this minor regulation, she was not technically a home educator. Imagine if a parent contacted the EO or HE-UK lists and asked about this. Does anybody really think that parents there would disown her and tell her that she was not a real home educator, simply because of her ignorance of those regulations?
Here is the main point. Many home educators in this country seem on the one hand to insist that their children are being furnished with a perfectly good education just by being with their parents or carers and taking part in ordinary, everyday activities. In the case of the two black carers mentioned above though, the suggestion is made that such a lifestyle does not and could not constitute home education at all. This is puzzling and I was unable to explain why this should be to the local authority officer with whom I was discussing this matter. Should there be stricter rules for defining education for black carers or members of minority communities? If not, why is there such aggressive insistence that Victoria Climbie and Khyra Ishaq were not being home educated? I am sure that readers will be able to explain this strange situation in a clear and satisfactory fashion.