I was hoping today to continue looking at the concerns of local authorities, with regard to home education. However, I think that I should first deal with one or two points which have come up elsewhere. The first of these was a comment on this blog a few days ago, the relevant part of which refers to home education;
30 odd years ago....back in the age where EVERYONE had visits
This is based upon a common misconception; that local authorities in the 1970s and 1980s were constantly chasing home educators and insisting that they had visits at home. This is of course absolutely false and is an old wives’ tale spread by people like Mike Fortune-Wood. He was at it again today, propagating another ancient myth; this time about Joy Baker. He says:
Joy home educated back in 1960 and went to hell and back to gain the right.
…She is regarded as a pioneer of home education and alongside such people as
Jean Harrison who also fought for the right. What Joy did is immensely important to home educators today.
Two things strike one about this sort of nonsense. The first is that if Joy Baker really did go to hell and back; it was largely because she chose to do so. There seems to be a widespread belief that Norfolk LEA pursued her during the 1950s because they were opposed to home education and that she stood up to them heroically; thus establishing the legality of home education. This is completely untrue. There were other home educators at that time, people whose names have been forgotten now. They were not taken to court for home educating. What was special about Joy Baker?
In 1952, Norfolk LEA realised that Joy Baker’s seven year-old son was not attending school. They wrote to her and asked if she could let them know a little about the education that she was providing for the child. Any normal person would at this point have reassured the LEA, by giving them some information and explaining what was being done. Mrs Baker decided that she was not going to tell them anything at all. Her attitude was that they should assume that the children were receiving an education, unless the LEA had grounds to think that she was lying. This is a pretty idiotic line to take. She could have avoided all the years of trouble which followed. Other letters followed and still Joy Baker resolutely refused to tell Norfolk LEA about the education that she was providing. The council bent over backwards to avoid taking legal action. They wrote, they sent people round in person; but still Mrs Baker refused to give any information at all about what she was doing. In the end, the LEA lost patience and issued a School Attendance Order. It really needn’t have come to that.
One can have some sympathy with the local authority in this case, because the girls in particular probably were not receiving a decent education. Mrs Baker thought that girls didn’t need as good an education as boys, because they would only go on to become housewives. Their education was a good deal more restricted than that provided to her eldest son.
The second point is that Mike Fortune-Wood talks of people gaining the ‘right’. Whose rights is he referring to here? Why, the rights of the adults of course! Not a thought for the rights of Joy Baker’s daughters to an education as good as that being provided for the boys! No, the important rights here are those of the adult. Terrible attitude.
Having disposed of this popular misunderstanding, I hope over the weekend to continue looking at the situation today.