Thursday, 21 July 2016
Causing trouble for home educating parents
There is a longstanding and mistaken idea that there exists in this country a powerful home education movement, which constantly agitates for and defends the supposed rights of, home educating parents. Even the Department for Education has fallen for this false belief and it is one of the reasons why there are no plans to slip through a new law to regulate and control home education in Britain. It is felt that the campaign which was waged in the aftermath of the Graham Badman report was so fierce and produced such bad publicity for the government, that it really is not worth repeating the exercise. This is the chief reason that the DfE has no intention currently of pressing for a change in the law; it would simply be more trouble than it is worth to fight all those home educators again!
In fact, despite there being anything up to 80,000 home educated children in this country, which would mean perhaps 140,000 or 150,000 home educating parents, opposition to any form of registration and monitoring is actively maintained by only a few hundred people; many of whom are not even home educators. I say a few hundred, there is probably a hard core of a few dozen who are doing all the work to maintain the position that registration of home educated children would be an intolerable imposition on parents. Hardly any of the parents of the 20,000 or more home educated children known to local authorities have any problem at all with being known and the vast majority cheerfully accept visits if their LA wished to make them.
How many parents are really determined to fight against things such as the registration of home educated children? This is very hard to say, because the tiny handful who fight against this idea manage to make themselves look far more numerous than is really the case. They do this by adopting false names and being very industrious in complaining to online newspapers and so on whenever any article appears about home education. If there is a poll on the internet on the subject of home education, they organise via Facebook groups for anti-registration messages to be sent in bulk. What this means is that an illusion is created that there is some kind of mass movement against registration and monitoring. A typical example of the way that this is done may be seen by looking at a Facebook group called Home Education and Your Local Authority; Help dealing With Officialdom. This is run by a former home educator called Wendy Charles-Warner, using the name Jennifer Downing. Many of those fighting against monitoring prefer to use false names in this way; why this should be is something of a mystery! The other person running the group is man called David Hough, who lives in California and will hardly be affected by any of the changes in British home education which he so vigorously opposes.
The two people who run what is generally known as the ‘Officialdom’ group are to be found all over the internet under various guises; seldom or never using their real names. If an article appears in a small, provincial newspaper which suggests that somebody wants the registration of home educated children, then people from this group will comment online, putting forward their anti-registration line. Here is an example; llondel is David Hough in America. He often uses this name or sometimes Thienz to post his comments;
Readers might care to look for similar examples online; there are many. This sort of thing creates the impression that a lot of people feel as David Hough and Wendy Charles-Warner, the owners of the face book group, do about registration and monitoring; there is no reason to suppose that this is the case. Their group is devoted to stirring up parents and trying to set them in opposition to their local authority and the advice they give is always aimed at confrontation, rather than cooperation. Here is David Hough advising a parent on the ’Officialdom’ group whose local authority wishes to speak to her about her home educated child;
post a letter with a second-class stamp on your last day there informing them that as of that date you're no longer in their area but that you will still be home educating. Don't give them your new address or area, and make sure the new occupants of the house and any neighbours also know not to tell them where you've gone if they know.
An atmosphere is created of people on the run from the authorities and anxious to hide their children. It need hardly be said that this sort of behaviour only makes local authorities more suspicious of home educators and more determined to track them down! It is counter-productive. I shall give other examples of these sorts of covert operations by small groups of militant former home educators in the next few days. In the meantime, it is worth bearing in mind that neither of the two people running this Facebook group are parents home educating their children in this country and so are not likely to be affected by any of the problems which might result from their activities.