Sunday, 3 March 2013
Stupendous hypocrisy, possibly combined with racism, on the part of Education Otherwise, Home Education UK, Action for Home Education and various other major home education organisations in the United Kingdom.
I was accused yesterday of not expressing my views openly and it is to be hoped that the title of this post clears that up. As I said a couple of days ago, I was talking to a local authority officer who was irritated about the suggestion being made by some home educators that there was something racist about the attempts to get more Gypsy and Roma children into school. She asked me if I could see the difference between this and the line that the big home education groups took about Victoria Climbie a few years ago. I could not and when I asked about the subject here, nobody could give a plain answer. Let me explain why this is at best dreadful hypocrisy and at worst out and out racism.
Let us begin with what is practically an article of faith at the large home education support organisations and that is that just because a child is not at school, that does not mean that she is not receiving an education. I am sure that we have all read of the outraged cries from home educating parents when their children get mixed in with those who are ‘missing from education’. Surely, parents should be innocent until proven guilty? We ought to assume that parents and carers are providing children with a suitable education, unless there is definite evidence to the contrary. So far, so good; nothing controversial here, I fancy.
With some groups in society; these assumptions are reversed. As readers know, there was a huge fuss when organisations such as the NSPCC said that Victoria Climbie was home educated. Education Otherwise, Home Education UK and so on all went mad and asserted that this was not the case. Why were they so sure that this child was not being home educated? We will allow Mike Fortune-Wood of Home Education UK to explain. His is the standard explanation for believing that Victoria Climbie was not a home educated child. Be prepared though for a shock:
Have we all read it? We know that the child was not receiving an education because;
‘the reason that Victoria was not attending school was that there was a failure to provide sufficient school places in her locality. Both the LEA and Social Services knew of her existence and her lack of education’
How do we know that she was lacking an education? Because of course, she was not at school! Incidentally, it is not true that she could not get a school place; her carer did not apply for one. Now we know that Mike Fortune-Wood, Education Otherwise and other groups are all in favour of children not attending school. We know that they believe passionately that the fact that a child is not in school does not mean that the child is lacking an education. Except perhaps, as in this case, when we are talking about working class, black foreigners.
Perhaps I am wrong? Let us imagine that we are talking now of a white, Welsh family. Does anybody think for a moment that Mike Fortune-Wood or Education Otherwise would say something along the lines of, ‘The local authority knew that this child was lacking an education because she was not at school’? Hard to believe, no? The only conclusion which I can reach is that either these organisations are guilty of massive hypocrisy about this or that they have one set of assumptions for white, British families and a completely different set for black foreigners. These two cases are not, of course, mutually exclusive!
The suggestion was advanced here yesterday that Victoria Climbie was not being home educated because her main carer did not say that she was. What this means is that a woman whose first language is Senoufo and second language is French, should be judged because she might not be familiar with an English expression such as ‘home education’. Sounds as though those special rules for foreigners are coming into play again!
There is a widely held assumption among many British home educators that a child, particularly a young child, should be able to receive an informal education at home. In some countries, schooling and formal education do not start until the age of seven or eight. Victoria Climbie was eight. The idea that a child of this age should be regarded as ‘lacking an education’, as Mike Fortune-Wood puts it, simply because she is not at school is not one that I feel is commonly held among British home educators. Out of interest, how many readers feel that an eight year-old who is not at school should be treated as ‘lacking an education’? What, nobody? Here’s an easier question then. How many of you think that the children of black foreigners should be assumed to be lacking an education if they are not at school? Ah, that’s better! Nice to see that so many of you are in agreement with Mike Fortune-Wood and Education Otherwise about this.