Over the last few days we have been looking at the grounds for supposing that home educated children in this country are, as a group, at greatly increased risk of being abused or neglected. This is a situation which is widely known to professionals and yet flatly denied by many home educating parents. I want next to explore something which has been bothering me increasingly in recent months and that is this. I can well understand that parents might perhaps be slightly irritated that other people think that their chosen method of raising children is faulty and hazardous. I ask readers to remember that I did not send my own daughter to school for a single day; I know all about the disapproval that home education can attract. The most that I ever felt though was mild annoyance. There is a section of the home educating community though, which feels considerably more than a little annoyance when people start talking about Safeguarding and home education. They become incandescent with rage. This is odd. If anybody ever suspected that my daughter was being neglected or mistreated, and this certainly happened from time to time, my natural reaction was to explain that they were mistaken and invite them to come and see for themselves; talk to my daughter, visit my home and so on.
I have lately been wondering why the reaction of a considerable proportion of home educating parents when concerns are raised is not to reassure those raising the concerns, but to fly at them like ferocious dogs and attack them in any way possible. The main thing to strike one about such an approach is that it is likely to be counter-productive, making people more anxious about the welfare of the children, not less. This then causes one to ask; why are these people so defensive and angry at being asked perfectly reasonable questions? Obviously, the great majority of home educating parents are no more likely to neglect or abuse their children than anybody else. Since they belong, as a whole, to a group with a greatly increased risk of their children being harmed, by acts of either omission or commission, surely they would wish to reassure people that, in their particular case, such fears are groundless? Anybody who recalls the saga of Graham Badman and his enquiry will know that this was not at all what many parents did.
What I will be considering over the course of the next week or so is whether perhaps the children of those parents who are so aggressive and angry about anybody even asking questions are the very one who might be more at hazard than home educated children on the whole. I think this a perfectly reasonable question, because of course one thing which has been noticed is that many of the most vociferous parents who fought tooth and nail against any suggestion that their children might be at increased risk, are some of those whose children have behavioural disorders of various types. The incidence of special needs among home educated children on the whole might be around 25%, but looking at the subgroup of the children of parents who have been prominent in the fight against regulation or increased oversight of home education, the proportion is very much higher than that. Since such children are seven times more likely to be neglected and physically abused, this means that the fight against regulation was being led by the parents of children at very much greater risk of harm. This is curious and we will be examining the implications of this state of affairs in a day or two.