Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Home educators fight back

There's been a review of home education in the UK lately. I'm not a home educator, for reasons I've gone into before, but I know of a few people who choose this route for their children. Some of them are not happy about the review. One friend of mine has written a letter to Mr Ed Balls. She has kindly agreed to allow me to reproduce it verbatim here. The friend in question has recently been expressing her frustration that so few people appreciate the extent of the powers which the state has awarded itself. Some of the grounds for her alarm are to be found in her letter.

I would like to say that I wholeheartedly support the notion that the state is accountable to the parents in respect of education provision, not vice versa. I have put several teachers noses severely out of joint through the years by making it clear that I hold them accountable to me. In South Africa, this was more accepted, since parental involvement in state education was the norm. In the UK, where far more parents consider their contribution to extend no further than the delivery and collection of their children, this has gone down less well!

Dear Mr. Balls

I write with regard to the Review of Elective Home Education.

In the first instance, I wish to register the fact that I reject the legitimacy of the Review on various grounds:

1. Mr. Graham Badman is far from independent:
(a) He does not have personal experience of home educating, and is biased in favour of the school system
(b) As a form Education Welfare Officer, he was known for being openly hostile to home education, i.e. biased against home education
(c) His various affiliations and activities (i.e. Becta, IEE and others) represent a conflict of interests

2. Views of home educators, including those of home educated children themselves with regard to the need for registration and monitoring and to the suitability of their education and safeguarding appear to have been completely rejected out of hand, despite,

3. No evidence has been presented to indicate that there is any need whatsoever to monitor, register or regulate home educators. (The suggestion of a loophole is completely bogus, since all children (unless they have already committed a crime) are registered at birth, not to mention the Government's various databases.)

4. Evidence including academic research proving the efficacy of home education, and in particular autonomous methods, have been rejected on extremely flimsy and illegitimate grounds.

5. The Review panel was completely and unreasonably unbalanced and did not include any experts on home education whatsoever

6. The Questionnaire to LAs asked for evidence from ultra vires practices, showing a fundamental disrespect for the Law

7.The Consultation which opened the review did not conform to the standards of public consultations, and when this was challenged, it was claimed not to be a Consultation

8. The Consultation questions were phrased in such a manner that a number of them were ambiguous, which suggests they were deliberately designed to confuse and thus the responses may have been unreliable.

9. The remit of the Review was to consider the efficacy of the current provision for safeguarding home educated children from possible abuse. This has been conflated with the efficacy of educational provision, which was never previously in question.

Additionally, I wish to register the fact that I reject the vast majority of recommendations made by the Review, on the following grounds:

I. The recommendations severely challenge and threaten the presumption of innocence which has been a Common Law right for many centuries, hard fought for!

II. The recommendations challenge the Human Rights Act protocol 1 Article 2 which ensures that the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure education and teaching in conformity with their own religions and philosophical convictions.

III. The recommendations disregard the rights of privacy and a family life (HRA Article 8) where no evidence to suspect a crime is taking place or about to take place, and infer on LAs a power which is not even given to the police.

IV. The recommendations trample the right of a child to protection by its natural safeguarders - the parents by inferring on LAs the right to interview the child without the parents and against the parent's wishes where no evidence for child abuse exists. This is known to be harmful; indeed in itself consitutes child abuse, and is widely considered to be bad practice.

V. The recommendations ignore and challenge the relationship of citizen to State, and of parent and child to State. Where parents delegate responsibility for the education of their children to the State, the State becomes responsible to the parents for ensuring that education is acceptable to the parent. Where a parent fulfills that responsibility itself, he is responsible to himself, not to the State. To quote EU case law from the oppressive educational regime of Germany (which banned home education during the nazi era) to suggest the State becomes arbiter of the suitability of education is offensive in the extreme.

VI. From the outset, the Review was based on slanderous allegations which have never been justified because they cannot be, and instead the Review report is littered with opinion and prejudice, a patently obvious (if not even apparently willful) misunderstanding of home education, and in no way justifies the draconian measures recommended.

I reject the recommendation for Registration.

I reject the recommendation that the DCSF review the current statutory definition of what constitutes a "suitable" and "efficient" education, for the reasons stated above, i.e.that it is the parent who constitutionally determines what constitutes a suitable and efficient education, and the State has no busines intruding upon that right.

I reject the recommendation for monitoring, since the current powers for safeguarding children are more than sufficient, if properly applied, and the Law understood.

I reject the recommendation that that the parent should ‘provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child, since this implies that the parent is responsible to the State, and makes autonomous education (which is proven to be the most effective approach) almost impossible.

I welcome recommendation numbers 10 and 11 as a positive outcome, and number 9 with the caveat that I reject the recommendation implied therein for monitoring. I also reject all other recommendations not specifically mentioned.

Yours sincerely,

Ms. S. Tootill


Doug Belshaw said...

"I would like to say that I wholeheartedly support the notion that the state is accountable to the parents in respect of education provision, not vice versa."

Spot. On. :-)

Karyn Romeis said...

@Doug Glad you agree. Parents' evenings with teachers like you are less stressful than those with teachers who consider my stance unreasonable! And (sadly) there are many of them.