I hate this

It makes me feel dirty. I’ve already posted one link to Facebook, and balked at posting another, because I hate it, and it makes me feel dirty.

But if I don’t, then I’m standing by and letting liars and bullies have the last word about what happened to the poor child, and I’m letting them tar me with their slanderous, defamatory brush, and I’m letting them abuse her memory almost as badly as her body was abused in life. Insult added to injury, when injury was horriffic enough.

You need to know that Khyra Ishaq was not home educated. Many news articles have implied that she was, over the last nine months or so, though I am relieved to note that most of them have dropped that angle, when it became apparent that she wasn’t. The BBC, however, are still touting the line of the Labour machine, that she was home educated, that there was nothing the authorities could do, that the only thing that could have saved her was the introduction of the faltering legislation that has this week been signed off by the Commons, and moved on to the Lords.

Guess what, folks? It isn’t true. So much of it isn’t true, it’s difficult to know where to start, but let’s start with “Was Khyra home educated?”

When a child is registered to a school, and the parents wish to end that arrangement, there is a set procedure. It is laid down in law, it is neither difficult nor complicated, but it is necessary. The parents must write to the school, stating clearly that the child is to be taken off the roll, since s/he will, from that point forward, be recieving their education at home.

It has to be a letter. It doesn’t have to be recorded delivery, though some would recommend that it should be, as protection from accusations of truancy amid claims that letter did not arrive. It just has to be a letter, and it has to be sent to the school.

On receipt of the letter, the head has a legal responsibility to notify the local authority. What the LA choose to do with the information does vary from area to area, but generally speaking, parents are likely to hear from them within a few weeks, with a request for some reassurance that education is taking place.

As far as I can gather, from the various things I have read, including this FOI request, that letter was not sent. But guess what? The local authority didn’t know their own legal procedures, and deregistered her anyway. The school, at one point, had a telephone conversation in which the parents told them of their intention to home educate, but that does not make for a deregistration. The local authority, later, recieved a letter of deregistration, but the local authority CAN’T deregister a child – only the school can. They all muddled their own procedures, and behaved as if she were home educated, but she was not.

For months and months, Khyra was, or should have been, on the roll of her school, but was not attending. She hadn’t gone anywhere, they knew where she was. Teaching staff went to her house to try and see her, but failed. The school, who were actually very worried about her, reported her to social services, who by all accounts, went to the house once, got no answer, and never tried again. The neighbours knew that odd things were going on, including leaving Khyra outside in winter in her underwear, but did not see fit to play the merry hell with social services that really should have been played.

That child was let down – not so much by the school, though some training issues appear to have arisen there, too, but certainly by social services, by her community, and most importantly, BY HER PARENTS.

Guess what, folks? It was her mother, and her mother’s boyfriend, who killed her. Nobody else. It was them. They did it. Nobody stopped them, and plenty of people could have at least tried, but ultimately, their contribution would not have been required if those two people had fulfilled their legal and moral obligation to feed her. To FEED HER, for crying out loud! The blame lies with them.

Where the blame does not lie, is with me. Khyra had a whole community around her, and that community failed to save her. Her father failed to save her. I, however, am not a part of that community. I did not know Khyra. I wasn’t there. There was nothing I could do. It is not my fault.

The thing is, even if Khyra HAD been home educated, and it’s perfectly possible, given a slightly more robust investigation of the procedure by her parents, and even if Schedule 1 of the Children, Schools and Families Bill had been enacted into law, SHE WOULD STILL HAVE DIED. Schedule 1 allows for two days a year spent with the family – less, by the time travelling time, report writing, and so on, are factored in – and Khyra was starved in five months. Schedule 1 of the CSF Bill is about giving local authorities carte blanche to arbitrarily reject the provision that home educators are making for their children’s learning, on the basis of a wide range of equally spurious reasons. It is about taking responsibility for the education of children away from parents, and handing it to bureaucracies. It is about, incidentally, setting the legal precedent for YOU, oh school-using friends who think this doesn’t affect you, to be unable to choose the school that is right for your child, that fits your belief system, or even that accepts your cheques.

Being enrolled at school did not save Khyra. Being a long-term truant certainly didn’t save her, since no-one quite noticed. Serving up the education of my children on a platter, in the wake of an unjustified, unsubstantiated, just plain incorrect moral panic over children being “seen” certainly wouldn’t have saved her. It won’t save anyone.