Deja vu, it would seem.

The DCFS is going for another round of consultations on home education policy. Technically, as we’re in Scotland, this isn’t immediately relevent. That said, we’re not likely to be north of the border forever and how homeschoolers are viewed is something that everyone should be concerned about, particularly as I’ve heard that this particular review is inspired by cases uncovered by the Crown Prosecution Service of children being listed as homeschooled when in fact they were forced into marriages. Here is my response:

Do you think the current system for safeguarding children who are educated at home is adequate? Please let us know why you think that.

No.

Comments: I don’t think it is acceptable that home educators do not necessarily have to make themselves known to the government. I also believe it is a mistake that, as far as I’m aware, the identities of home educators are kept by councils–there should be a centralized database that councils pull information from. Beyond names and addresses, I don’t believe the government is entitled to further information as 1. the government cannot ensure that the level of safety and education is sufficient within its own schools and 2. home educating parents are entitled to the same assumption of innocence and competence that parents of schooled children enjoy until there is evidence to the contrary.

Do you think that home educated children are able to achieve the following five Every Child Matters outcomes? Please let us know why you think that.

Be healthy

Yes

Comments: Parents are in the best position to monitor and ensure good health, and the government should assume that the vast majority of parents will do so.

Stay safe

Yes

Comments: It stands to reason that as parents tend to have the keenest interest in keeping their children safe, having more contact with them can only lead to increased safety. The thrust of questions relating to safety seem to be a veiled attempt to assess opinions on the degree to which home education is or can be used as a cover for abusive practices. I think, however, this is the result of faulty logic. There is no reason to assume that more abuse occurs in home educating households. Just as the government doesn’t uncover pockets of illegal activity in schools by turning the entire student population upside-down and shaking them, neither will Orwellian monitoring of home educators be an effective means of revealing child abuse. This mindset and the actions that follow from it only damage the home educating community and make them more distrustful of the government and its policies.

Enjoy and acheive *it makes me warm inside when education reps can’t spell ;)*

Yes

Comments: Again, parents can best assess the interests and abilities of their children and in the majority of cases will work to satisfy their needs.

Make a positive contribution.

Yes

Comments: While the desire to make a positive contribution has a great deal to do with intrinsic motivation and personality, home educating families are just as likely to provide the kinds of role-models that inspire such activities as schooling families. It is hurtful to home educators to imply otherwise.

achieve economic well-being

Yes

Comments: The ability to have economic well-being, whatever that is, is subject to so many factors and varies so widely across the entire population that I really don’t think this question merits a response, as indeed it cannot be answered honestly or in an informed way.

Do you think that Government and local authorities have an obligation to ensure that all children in this country are able to achieve the five outcomes? If you answered yes, how do you think Government should ensure this?. If you answered no, why do you think that?

No

Comments: I think the focus is misdirected. The government can hardly ensure that these goals are achieved in its own schools. Rather than focusing so keenly on intangibles like testing in schools and endless home education policy reviews, time and resources should be spent in making the country a friendlier and more supportive environment for families generally.

Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for supporting home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?

Yes

Comments: A home educated child should be entitled to the same level of government financial investment in learning materials and experiences as a schooled child. This should be a policy across the education system. More should be done for children who are being home educated because of failings on the part of the school/s. Certain community investments in the education of all children would be helpful. For example, children should be provided with free or deeply discounted public transport to encourage more outings. Policy-makers tend to overlook the fact that parents with children in school as well as homeschooling parents often find it difficult to find suitable work arrangements. In fact, the government ought to swiftly reverse the overall trend of encouraging work over family life.

Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?

Yes

Comments: Once a child is identified as being home-educated, there should be no monitoring unless there is evidence to suggest his or her rights are being breached.

Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this does not happen?

Answer: Abusive parents likely exist in similar proportion across all the spectrum of educational choice, and certainly many abuse in ways that are not readily detectable, even with monitoring. The government needs to accept that it is not wise nor is it even feasible to isolate a particular population with no proven increased risk of abuse and subject them to undue scrutiny. There needs to be a point at which the government can accept that it cannot read the hearts and minds of its populace and does not allow itself to engage in civil rights abuses simply so it can feel proactive.

*****

Saying that kids should all get funding is a tricky issue, I know. Basically, I don’t think that money should be the main entitler to a good education. Neither should testable/assessible ability! A poor child who doesn’t test well is left to the postcode lottery, which, from what I understand of government schools in this country, he’s unlikely to win. Some will argue that many private schools have bursaries, etc., but what if the child lacks parents who have the necessary awareness and wherewithal? And a bursary doesn’t alleviate the stress of having to compete to be able to attend a school. Does it seem right that a child is tested to be allowed his education, tested repeatedly while he’s receiving it, and then tested hugely at its completion? Is the stress associated with simply growing up and being deemed as having a proper chance at a successful life worth it? Is it not in itself a kind of human rights breach?

It’s simply unacceptable that there is such variance in school quality and that the bad ones are truly dire. If the government cannot find a solution, then it really is sort of left with the idea that keeps getting thrown around by US Republicans–the voucher system, which assumes that competition heals all. It seems to me that what is needed is a policy U-turn with regards to working with children, as I mentioned above, and a clear vision of a family-friendly culture. I’d say a good starting point would doubling the number of people working in education, and ensuring each of them, even those in support roles, earn a meaningful wage. You cannot change a nation of failing schools with endless policy consultations, particularly the pointless finger-pointing sort. Most people understand the importance of happy, educated children. What we need are lots more heads and hands on the ground assessing real problems and creating real solutions. As a society we generally need to be more friendly and responsive toward children, while at the same time challenging them to be good people. I get the general sense that children just really aren’t looked after very much. We plop them in front of a Disney film at the first holler when they’re tiny, and we continue keeping them disengaged thus until we deem it’s time they did something with their lives. I feel very bad for today’s teenagers, because now they also have to step into an adult world that is very badly off, because the grownups who were meant to keep the economy strong were similarly tuned out..

I dunno. It’s 4:30 in the morning, and the only reason I’m awake is because I have heartburn. 😛 I’m sure most of what I wrote will seem nonsensical after I’ve slept a bit. Yeah truly, I should definitely do my part for a child-friendly world and get enough sleep such that I’m not beastly to the kids tomorrow. 😉

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2 Responses to “Deja vu, it would seem.”

  1. amy_paperlady Says:

    Sounds pretty darn coherent to me!

    And I like your point about a meaningful wage for those in education, including those in support positions. Then again, I would, being, y’know, one of those in a support position 😉

    Of course, as you know, I’m in the wrong country entirely to really throw much backing behind you LOL

  2. liveotherwise Says:

    excellent response

    Have just done mine.

    Found you via a link from the Guardian 🙂

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