Tuesday, 7 May 2013
Home education and abuse; the last post for a while
I am so busy with writing lately, that I really cannot spare any time for this blog; at least for a few months. Before I go, I must answer a point made today by Anne, who comments regularly on here. She said, quite correctly, that:
‘According to the NSPCC in June 2012, there are no collated statistics for actual child abuse in the UK’
This is true. We have no idea at all what the actual rate of abuse is among children in this country. All that we can ever talk about are rates of detected child abuse. Now the thing about child abuse is, the more you look for it, the more you will find. It is like ants in the garden. If you just go into your garden and glance around for a few seconds, you might very easily conclude that there are no ants about. If, on the other hand, you were to get down on your hands and knees in a flower made and peer through a magnifying glass for half and hour; you would see loads of them. This accounts in part for the high levels of detected abuse among children under three. They are seen and examined more than other age groups. When children roll up their sleeves for their MMR jabs, doctors sometimes notice bruises or burns. When babies are see by Health Visitors, some are noticed to be ’failing to thrive’, as the jargon has it. Because they are seen so often by health professionals, often with some of their clothing removed, the signs of physical abuse and neglect can often be detected.
There is a natural and uncomfortable corollary to this. If seeing children more will lead to more cases of abuse being detected, then seeing them less will result in fewer cases being uncovered. We have no idea at all whether home educated children are more likely to be abused than those at school, but we can be reasonably sure that fewer of those children will be detected as victims of abuse. In fact it is highly likely that in addition to this, different groups of children will suffer different rates of abuse; for cultural, ethnic, religious or other reasons. It is unlikely that the level of abuse in such a distinct and unusual group as home educating families would be the same as the general population; but we have no way of knowing if it is higher or lower. All we can assert with confidence is that fewer cases are likely to be detected, for precisely the same reason that more cases are detected among children under three. The more you examine children, the more abuse will be detected; the less you examine them, the less abuse you will find.
All this of course does not tell us anything useful, but it certainly explains the uneasiness of some professionals about home educating families. Such concern is not limited to home educators; although that is the only sort of concern that readers of this bog are likely to be aware of or care about. There is anxiety about orthodox Jewish communities in places like Stamford Hill in London and also in some fringe Christian groups. One such group has a crossover with home education, for its members try to keep themselves separate from ordinary society and do not send their children to school.
Anyway, fascinating as this topic is, and illogical and ill informed as those commenting here tend to be, I must leave it for now and get on with my work. I shall be back in a few months time.