Monday, 18 November 2013
The growth of confrontation over the last fifteen years between home educators and local authorities
I have long thought that some of the more aggressive home educators bear a good deal of the responsibility for the antagonism which presently exists between local authorities and the home educating community. Apropos of this, I was looking recently at a book which I acquired in 1998, when my daughter became five and I was, at a stroke, officially transformed into a home educator. It is called The Home Education Handbook and was written by Jane Lowe, who has been mentioned here recently.
The astonishing thing about The Home Education Handbook is that although it was published in 1996, it portrays a world that is scarcely recognisable now. Many home educating parents today seem to think that until people like Mike Fortune-Wood and others of his militant ilk took a hand in things, home educators were being bossed about and bullied by local authorities left, right and centre. The picture drawn by Jane Lowe in 1996 is very different. Let me quote a few passages, to show you what I mean:
Most parents do not have any objection to a visit, because it helps to place the education in context.
It would hardly be possible to make such a statement today, where visits are widely regarded as being one of the most contentious issues in home education.
Many advisers are friendly and sympathetic and they may be able to give you helpful ideas and suggestions, but they are not obliged to give advice to home educators. The adviser’s remit is to check that you are providing proper education.
Once again, this sounds very different from the attitudes that one typically sees in places such as the HE-UK internet list!
The adviser has to assess the entire scope of your home education…Before the visit you could get out all the books and materials which you are using and arrange them on a table with the child’s own work. It is helpful if the work is arranged in order in files, exercise books and folders…The adviser will be looking for some evidence of progress in the work that has been covered, and he will be checking to see that the work is at a level which is appropriate to the child’s age and capabilities.
I think that this is enough to give us a flavour of the thing. As I said, a little over fifteen years ago; but just imagine an organisation run by and for home educators producing this today! So different is the atmosphere now, that had I not mentioned beforehand that this was produced by Jane Lowe and the Home Education Advisory Service, readers might have been forgiven for thinking that I was quoting from some local authority website; one which was particularly strict and unfriendly to home educators at that! Yet this was the general feeling among home educating parents at that time and there was not the slightest hint of conflict with local authorities. My question is a simple one. To what do readers attribute the great change in attitude which has taken place since this was written? In the late 1990s, one of the main home education support groups was in perfect accord with local authorities and advising parents to work alongside their LA and cooperate with them as far as possible. What has changed?
Just to anticipate one possible suggestion, that Jane Lowe was some sort of collaborator and her views suspect, I would ask readers to bear in mind that she was close to Alan Thomas and they wrote a book together.