Friday, 11 October 2013

What sort of home educating parents lead the fight against regulation?

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. 


  1. Personally I found removing my autistic dd from school made my life ( and hers - which was the aim) much less stressful - it was the sight of the primary teacher rushing across the playground to tell me exactly what she had ( or hadn't) done that day which was a major source of stress to us all. Does not that make me less likely to harm my child?

  2. 'Does not that make me less likely to harm my child?'

    The first thing to consider is that those who neglect or harm their autistic children will always be a minority; despite the fact that the rates of abuse are so much higher than for children without special needs. Most parents do not neglect or abuse their children.

    The next thing to bear in mind is that those greatly increased rates of abuse for children with ADHD, autism and so on, are based upon children who are at school and not at home with their parents all day. Common sense tells us that if a child with special needs gets on your nerves so much that you neglect or abuse him, then this treatment is likely to get all the worse if the safety valve of having the kid at school all day is removed. This of course applies only to those parents with a tendency to such conduct; not the majority who would not harm or neglect their child under any circumstances.

    1. Common sense also tells us (most of us, anyway) that if your child with special needs gets on your nerves that much then you'd welcome as much time for them at school as possible. The last thing you'd be likely to do is bring them home to irritate you all day.

  3. 'The last thing you'd be likely to do is bring them home to irritate you all day.'

    A very good point, unless you are familiar with the sort of circumstances which often lead parents with children on the spectrum to deregister their children from school. Obviously, as in the case of Julie, who comments above, it is sometimes a carefully considered step taken for the benefit of the child. Equally likely, is that it is as a consequence of a row with a teacher or a gambit to force the local authority to offer a place at a different school. Sometimes, these things misfire and then the parent, unwilling to back down, is stuck with the kid at home; which was not really her intention at all. This is to say nothing of those children who have been removed at the suggestion of the school, because they find themselves unable to cope with a child. I will be doing a post about this kind of thing. Over part of the summer, from May to July, I was working at a special school and I want to share some of my experiences there.

  4. I think the kind of situation you describe, where the parent doesn't really want to be home educating but can't back down, is worth exploring further. I think it's not uncommon among parents who start home educating as part of an "alternative" lifestyle, rather than because they want their kids to have the best possible education. In that case, sending their kids to school means both humiliation and losing their (the parent's) social circle. It's also interesting that, in many of the horrific abuse cases from the USA, parents see home ed as part of their religious duty, rather than having actively chosen it.

    Personally, I don't think any local authority should be letting parents get away with downloading an educational philosophy from the internet, as mine apparently does. Any parent who can't either write their own ed phil or talk passionately about the nitty-gritty of their children's education should be a cause of concern. I'd hazard a guess that that nearly all the abusive parents fall into that category (although possibly not the artificial insemination case).

    Anyway, I'm not really sure what the answer is to this. It might help if local authorities could be seen to offer support to home educators, rather than just checking up on them, perhaps supporting families for whom home ed isn't working to help them settle their kids into school. But I don't see that happening any time soon!