Skipping School – Children’s Commissioner’s Report

After several quiet months, waiting for updates on the EHE Guidance, and Lord Soley’s Bill losing some traction (thanks to Brexit!), the report by Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, released today, newspaper articles last week, and the prospect of Channel 4’s Dispatches program to be screened tonight, will no doubt stir up a fresh storm around home educators and whether they should be registered or not.

So, what are some of the reasons so many home educators are opposed to a register?

  1. Education and Welfare are two separate issues. Social Workers already have sufficient powers under the law to act should there be any welfare concerns (much as they would intervene in the case of preschool children)
  2. If parents were abusing their children, a register would be unlikely to protect such children. In countries where there are home education registers, abusers have simply covered up their abuse or not registered.
  3. Current Guidance on Home Education already provides sufficient powers for officials to act in cases where education is deemed to be unsuitable.
  4. Where children have already attended school and deregistered, they are already known to authorities, have not “disappeared”, and are not “invisible”. Local Authorities will know the names and addresses of such children, and have the statutory power to follow-up. It is only children who have never been to school that may not be known to authorities, but this still does not mean they are “invisible”.
  5. The majority of children who happen to have been abused under the guise of home education were already known to authorities. Whether due to overwhelming caseloads, or neglect of duty, these children were “missed” when they should not have been.
  6. Many children have been removed from school precisely because they suffered physical, emotional, mental and even sexual abuse within its walls. Parents rightly feel that the State has no right placing restrictions on families in such cases, when there has been such clear failure to protect the children in its care.
  7. Home education enables parents to facilitate their child’s learning using different methods to what schools would use. Children can learn at their own pace, and can explore their interests in a variety of ways. Local Authority officials may not necessarily have the appropriate training or expertise to be able to assess such learning.
  8. The majority of home educated children are not “invisible” but are actively engaged with home education groups and the wider community.
  9. A register implies that parents need to be watched and monitored by the State. This is dangerous as it can then open the door to parents being monitored and dictated to in other situations, i.e. parents of preschoolers, family diets, religious upbringing.
  10. While the case is often made that a register might bring with it support (SEN, exams, etc), in reality this is unlikely. Home educators currently save the State millions of pounds because they assume full financial responsibility for their child’s education.
  11. Home educators assume full responsibility for their child’s education, even though it costs them in terms of time, convenience and finances. The State should respect this, and only intervene in cases where it is evident that the child is actually at risk of harm.
  12. The State is not addressing the actual problem, which is WHY so many are opting out of the education system, but seeking to impose unreasonable restrictions on families for doing so. The State needs to get its own house in order, and reform the education system so that it provides a well-rounded, positive and robust education to the children of its taxpayers. Many parents only wished for their children to have a happy and successful school experience, but have had to take matters into their own hands because this has not been the case for their child.

As home educators it is important that we continue to make our voices heard, and not allow the State to cover up its failures by coming after us. There are many of us now, and if we can unite in opposing moves to try and control and penalise parents for choosing to home educate, we can win this battle again.

If you haven’t yet written or spoken to your MP, please make the effort to do so. Challenge your local home education groups to speak up – any law changes around home education will affect us all, even if “we have nothing to hide”. There are many home educators who are entirely unaware of the threats to our home education freedoms in the UK, so share articles and point them in the direction of this Facebook group for updates. 

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