So, it’s all gone a bit quiet at theJumps, hasn’t it? I expect you’ll be wondering what’s been going on.
Well, on the domestic front, we’ve just been pottering about. Seeing friends, learning about World War II (Daisy’s very interested, we talked about evacuees, this morning), visiting museums and galleries and whatnot, grabbing opportunities to get into the soft play cheaply, going to Gymbobs and Rainbows… you know, just stuff. Daisy’s in a very Resistant to Formal Education place, but I figure she’s five, she’d (hopefully) be spending most of her time playing even if she was in school, at this age, and the Formal Ed stuff is only to make me feel better, anyway. All the real learning around here goes on when I’m not looking.
On the political front – well, the government have published their education Bill, on the back of this week’s Queen’s Speech, and it represents an unmitigated catastrophe for home education. To summarize:-
- It demands that local authorities maintain a register of home educated children, then lists a comprehensive selection of ways to refuse to put people’s names on it. The Bill lays no duty on the parents to notify the authority that they are home educating (if, for example, their children have never been to school and they are therefore unknown to them), but if they discover you, they can hold it against you (that bit is here). It specifically says that whether or not the education being provided is suitable, should not be considered. The important thing is that you didn’t tell us.
- Similarly, it demands a detailed twelve month plan of how you plan to educate your child at home, to be submitted to the authority and accepted by them. If you deviate from the plan, then you will be judged, not on what you actually taught the child, but on the fact it was different to what you were permitted to teach them. Never mind if you quickly realised that your particular child needed something different – you will be punished for claiming the slightest degree of autonomy, for not taking your rightful place beneath our boots.
- If you have already been refused a place on the register, or had your registration revoked, then that in itself can be used as a reason to deny a reapplication. Once you’re off, you’re off for good.
- One of the reasons allowed for, for denying a child a place on the home education register, is “if the authority consider that it would be harmful to the child’s welfare for the child to become a home-educated child, or[…] to continue to be a home-educated child”. The subjectivity of this question is vast. Since there are local authority officials who believe that all home education is bad, and all children should be in school, then they could make this declaration about anyone. That single clause, there, has the potential to entirely outlaw all home education in England, irrespective of how good it might be. It’s almost enough to make you throw in the towel, isn’t it? For good measure, there are also officials who will see welfare issues for home educating disabled parents, unemployed parents, parents educated to a lower level than they would like, black parents, asian parents, gay parents, religious parents, etc, etc, etc…
- Ed Balls has stated in the House, this week, that there is no compulsory interview alone with the child, but he neglects to mention that the Bill specifically allows for authorities to deny registration if you object. So, I guess he means there’s no criminal come-back, but you don’t get to home educate.
- They have included the line about the child’s “wishes and feelings” about being home educated, both as an excuse to get them alone and ask, and as a BLATANT removal from parents the right to make unpopular decisions on their children’s behalf. How many children would rather not have to go to school every day?! I don’t see the DCSF enshrining THEIR right to over-ride their parents decision in law, do you?
All in all, it’s a very nasty piece of work. The thing I object to most, is the vindictiveness. It’s the idea that the education the child receives is of no importance, because we will use that child to punish you for not conforming to our absurdly convoluted and pointless bureaucracy. Home educators kicked up a fuss, and the Secretary of State appears to have responded by saying “I’ll teach you to argue with me”. Who was it who called him a bully? That’s exactly what violent partners do. They hit you round the head until you’ll agree with anything to make them stop.
Democracy is collapsing around our ears, people. I’m begging you – get up and do something to stop it.