Saturday, 23 January 2016

The problems with registering and monitoring home educators

The education I offer to my children almost certainly doesn't look like yours.
The education I've offered to Tiger, Squirrel, and Shark has mostly been mud-based. Families like ours aren't sitting round the kitchen table looking at a maths book. We simply won't be at home for the doorstepping brigade. The workshop on field drainage or tidal flows will certainly take priority over pointless questions about maths books we don't do. How then would we be categorised in the council record sheets? As 'non-compliant parents refusing supportive visits'?

Home education can look A LOT like family life.
I would like school-choosers to think on this: how would you feel if your family life was suddenly required to be inspected because during the summer holidays it is suspected that you could harm your child, damage them emotionally, abuse them sexually or murder them? You have a lot of parental contact to do that. It's a gnat's crotchet between the state authorising access to our family life as a child is under the supervision of the parents, and the state authorising access to your family life because a school-going child is under the supervision of the parents.

There are many ways to skin a cat.
In some home educating families, literally. There isn't one method of education. Autonomous looks different from tutored looks different from child-led looks different from school. The government might like there to be a single method. One method - one approved approach - fits a tick-sheet easily! With one method, it's also very straightforward for the corporates, who can create off-the-shelf packages for learning. Am I being cynical, or realistically looking at how private companies are now being enabled to pick off large budget resource areas. Education budgets are huge.

But Welfare and Education are not the same thing.
These grand subjects are all mashed up now, brought into one breathless heap. That's so your consensus can be better managed. But please, don't be beguiled into thinking welfare and education are the same. Are teachers trained in social care because they spent three years at university studying Chemistry? Are social workers experts in the learning to be had from geology at the sea-side, maths from the pizza, biology from caring for the dog?

You're approaching home education all wrong.
People in the media, and those who are swayed by it, insist on calling what we do home schooling. A large number of us insist on returning you with the words home education. Education comes with a long philosophy of learning tracing back to Aristotle. School in its present form comes from the 19thC. We're not calling it education because we can't follow your argument. We're calling it education because we're acknowledging a long history of thinking about how humans acquire skills and knowledge. If you're not even respecting my language, I'm not letting you through my door.

The people sent to 'monitor' me will almost certainly have no experience of home educating.
Who does the council employ to 'support' home educators on their monitoring visit? Another home educator? Or a person who has worked in schools, has expectations what 'school-at-home' should look like, and happily goes about assessing my mud-based provision with the judgemental eye of a retired head teacher? Oh, I wonder how productive will be that 'supportive discussion'!

Er, how are you paying for registration and monitoring?
We had to fight to keep the library open. The hospital is running on emergency, and the food bank is open. And the discussion is about registration for home educators? Okay, so the ill woman in Pembrokeshire would have registered. Would the child be alive? Because she registered? There's no point to registration unless you back it up with a home visit. Who visits? An educational official, presumably, and not a social worker. Unless you are telling me that any child at home with a parent needs a social worker to check the child is okay? So, we register, then we sit at home and await the visit from the social worker and the educational official. Wow, think of the overtime. There are thousands of home educators, up and down the land. What a great way to spend your taxes!

Do you seriously think I am going to give anyone free access to my child?
Someone knocks at the door, shows me an official-looking badge, and says they have the right to 'see my child'. Maybe, they suggest, I should sit in another room? A complete stranger then sits with my child, perhaps inspecting them for bruising? Or perhaps they ask my child whether mummy and daddy argue over which book to read at bedtime? Can anyone see what's wrong with this scenario? Or do we just assume that all parents who have supervision over their children are beating them and coercing them into sex?

The state has a terrible record looking after children. Why does the state think it can 'help' me?
I gave birth to my three kids and I took responsibility for them. It's my job to feed them, look after them, tell them off, and take them to Shakespeare plays. It's not the council's job to do that. It's not the council's job to guide me on my choice of whether we see Macbeth for the ninth time or not. And it's not any council's job to inspect me so they can 'reassure' the general public that they are 'improving their safety records'. That's PR tosh and you all should call it out for what it is.

Come on, they really want to register everyone at birth with a unique Pupil Identifier Number.
Let's look at a problem: abuse in the home begins when a child is a toddler. It has been said that the child in Pembrokeshire wasn't seen by a doctor after 13 months old. Then surely, there's no point in registering children for educational monitoring on welfare grounds only from age 5. The solution needs to be registration with a pupil reference number which stays with a person through their life, like an NHS number. Howabout that for an ultimate goal? From a corporate point of view, they could sell you a whack load of early learning packages because you, parent as first teacher, are also home educating your offspring from the time they're born.

'How do we make make home schooling safe'? 'How do we make school safe'?
I hear on the radio the fretful inquiry, 'How do we make make home schooling safe'? And straightaway I ask that of school, too. Tell me the number of children who attend school and who are abused and it's not noticed. Tell me the number where abuse is suspected and not acted upon. Tell me the number of children suffering abuse from someone at the school. Talk to me about bullying, emotional manipulation, fear of the playground, attack by predators on school premises. Is school keeping children safe, and observation by professionals working? How accommodating do you think a home educator will be, having withdrawn a child from school where abuse has been ongoing, to allowing themselves to be inspected in case they, the parent, is repeating that abuse?

The system in place can work, but when it doesn't, someone has to be blamed.
The child in Pembrokeshire died a few years ago. But only now is the case splattered all over the media? The time is right... or so think the powers-that-be. But the child in Pembrokeshire was visible to professionals who already knew about mother's state of health, and they already alerted the local authorities. So forgive me, but how is beginning an expensive and time-consuming registration process on all home educators going to help? You get mad parents everywhere. The only answer I can think of is: first to distract attention away from the failings in this case and others of the bodies that already exist to protect children - social workers already have powers to see a child where education officials do not. And second, to gather us all up on a very large surveillance system so that we can be watched: our actions, choices, preferences recorded, managed and ultimately, sold. Follow the money. Someone can make a great deal of cash out of this one.


jennifer devers said...

Brilliant, post. They were talking about this on The Wright Stuff, I didn't watch it as we don't have a T.V. However, I was told they tried to give a balanced view of the topic but we still came across as monsters hiding dark secrets.

Fiona said...

Thriftily recycling my own comment from my own blog ... From the facts reported, there doesn’t seem to have been any assessment of the impact of (alleged) mental health concerns, which the guidance to me suggests should have happened It is also relevant I think that for whatever reason, the parents were ultimately not prosecuted for “neglect” and there can be other reasons for a particular child having a very restricted diet (making the assumption that the inquest verdict of scurvy was correct and that it was due to an actual LACK of Vit C rather than eg inability to absorb Vit C) Deciding whether “parenting” is “harmful” when it is below the threshold for actual “harm” can be intensely subjective, and difficulties could be compounded by the fact that the person making the assessment might be wary of being rebuffed by the parents, and how “harmful” could that potentially be. Much easier when caregivers present as obviously “evil” or at least ill-intentioned

Jax Blunt said...

Spot on as ever. Long time no see, must have a catch up!

madamesmokingun at sceneofthecrime said...

I've been wittering on about just this for seemingly aeons. Sense does not a government make. Media makes it. Sense does not a news story make. Media makes that too. Wot larks...

No idea wot name I'll be allowed to comment under - seems my old name doesn't register with anything digital anymore - used to be MadameSmokingun - I wonder who I'll be allowed to be these days. Haven't peeked at Blogworld for so long...

madamesmokingun at sceneofthecrime said...

Wow I've got my name back!!!

The happy potter said...

Well written informative blog, much needed after all the ill informed media reports and comments being flung around!

sustainablemum said...

I am hoping that, like in 2009, we can come out good again but it may be a long battle. I am unknown to my local authority so have never had a visit although I think they are better than some. My children have also never been to the doctors..........perhaps I should be worried but they are never ill so why waste everyone's time just to provide they are ok. It troubles me that once again we are scapegoated, perhaps we are seen as an easy target as we don't appear to be a conhesive group. But its those ill informed comments the happy potter mentions that bother me the most, a fear of the unknown which the media takes great steps to play on.

Emma Louise said...

Bit of a lurker here!

I am unsure how school = safety and protection for abused children. Poor Daniel Pelka starved to death and was attending school, yet it was not picked up by the authorities.

Terrible things happen all the time in all settings and pushing the blame towards unregulated home education is just smoke and mirrors.

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