DISPATCHES- SKIPPING SCHOOL; BRITAINS INVISIBLE KIDS
I address this to you Anne Longfield, you’re quite difficult to get hold of currently.
Unfortunately, like many home educators, I wasn’t surprised at all when I watched Channel 4’s ‘Skipping School; Britain’s invisible kids aka utter propaganda. They have been trying to push this bill through for many years now. I shared the basics of this post in a Facebook message earlier on this afternoon and it has since been shared several time’s so I decided to turn it into a blog post. Like many home educators my email and post on the profile for Anne has fallen on closed ears. I want to make something very clear, incredibly clear, because this is the most important message I will likely ever write.
For home educating families to accept anything other than the current legal regulations in place is absolutely absurd.
In British law we are presumed to be, unless there is a suggestion to the contrary, living our lives in accordance to the law. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’. Nothing insults an educated person more than the phrase ‘you don’t need to worry if you have nothing to hide’. I am directing the initial following towards anything who has uttered that sentence in response to this bill.
Many women are killed each year by their partners, but the nation would be up in arms if social services wanted to turn up and interview all women in a newly initiated relationship, then every 3-4 months, just to check they were ok and not being abused.
Would you be happy to have the police come into your home and empty your cupboards and drawers to check for drugs, weapons and stolen items?
You’ve not broken any laws so you’ve nothing to hide right? Perhaps once a week at least will be sufficient to ensure you’re the law abiding citizen you claim to be.
This may sound ridiculous but bear with me here, I am actually building to a point.
What about a social worker within schools? Let’s give them a personal office so they are always on site and ready to step in as and when required.
6 weeks in the summer holidays sounds like an awfully long time to be off school without any monitoring. We should have them checked in on at least once just to make sure their parents are providing for their needs and not abusing them.
Or, should we just trust that you won’t break the law, but if evidence comes to light that you have potentially done so then let the relevant bodies get involved? Perhaps wait until concerns have become known? Afterall we are talking about services that are already overstretched, under funded and failing to support children who are already known to them from when they were schooled. Our children, despite what channel 4 tell you, are not invisible, they are just as visible as any other child in mainstream, or any child under 5 at home.
If you get to know the law and facts you’ll see that home education laws are more than adequate, especially when you have de-registered from the school system. When a parent de-registers the school automatically notifies the LA, although for the children Anne was targeting specifically last night, parents off rolled children have usually been in contact with the LA for quite some time beforehand when making endless requests for support. Granted, if your child has never attended school then no the LA likely don’t know about you, however, your birth will have been registered, you will have an NHS number and visit the Dentist and or the DR, hospitals when required, children clubs such as scouting, cadets or performing arts (to name a very select few), home education meet ups, workshops and events, shopping, neighbour’s, friends and family. The are visible. #wearevisible
The home ed team can make informal enquiries at any time because we already have those necessary regulations in place. They have an effective law already in place. Legally this contact shouldn’t be an attempt to monitor or tell you what to do in a draconian sense, a good LA offers support when it is needed, they help you make contact with others in your community, point you in the right direction for relevant resources, informs you of local events, helps signpost you to relevant establishments offering FE options, and acknowledges and understands the benefits of home education. I am lucky enough to have a fantastic Home Education Officer, she was invaluable in my early days and I know she is always there if I was to ever need her support. Unfortunately for every positive account there are many negative one’s , not every family is lucky enough to be in an area with an LA that operates within the regulations or lucky enough to have a home education officer that is supportive, knows their stuff and is respectful of their decision. There are thousands of accounts from parents were the LA have manipulated their case, demands for proof of a suitable education; that this one Home Ed officer, usually without experience or qualifications in teaching, mental health, medical limitations or SEND, gets to judge without guidelines for them to work off and base it all entirely on their own individual opinion and expectations. When this then goes wrong, which it does in most of these scenarios, it isn’t the LA that suffer as a result, it’s the child.
Should there ever be a reason for concern, a fellow home educator, a neighbour or a relative can make a report to the EHE Teamof they have concerns relating to home education. If reported to the LA/EHE Team the family will receive a call or visit, from the officer that manages their area, depending on the severity of the allegations. They can then make further enquiries, asking for future visits, writing a report on the allegations and if needed serve a school attendance order. The family then have the opportunity to provide evodence to the contrary. Yes, if the EHE Team are not happy they can initiate a school attendance order which legally insists the child then returns to school if the parents dont provide their evodence (which takes many guises in our community). They can also contact SS and communicate professionally with them if they suspect a child is at risk. Just like anyone, including medical professionals and youth clubs, can make a report to SS at any point of concern. Home education is not a safeguarding concern, there has to be other factors at play.
In the case that Anne mentioned in the show the EHE officers went out to the home however after not seeing the child they didn’t fulfill their legal duties and make the report. They went away with concerns yet didn’t act on them. Not only that but he was known to SS before he ever left the school system and his death is down to the negligence of that organisation and is nothing to do with home education. He was an abused child hidden away, he wasn’t home educated in the slightest, there is a huge difference and that distinction failed to be made repeatedly.
Nearly every LA in the country has behaved appallingly over the last few years causing harm in the process to families that have already suffered enough. They demand far more than they are legally entitled to then call SS if you fail to comply and jump through those hoops. Hoops they have no right to be holding up in the first place. The one thing I have noticed most is that sadly most of these LA’s are not actually aware of the Law in relation to home education and providing a suitable education, many of them don’t know what a suitable education is and automatically expect a school environment in the home, when the child couldn’t cope within the school environment, it wasn’t conducive to their learning needs, which is one of the reasons many are removed in the first place. In this country it is referred to as home education and not home schooling for that reason. (please refer to my blog creating an environment conducive for learning). This is why the home ed community is as supportive and tight knit as it is, it is why we have representatives working tirelessly to support each other such as ‘Educational Freedom’, ‘Ed Yourself- The Home Education Consultancy’, ‘Home Education UK’, ‘Home Education UK Parliamentary and Media Monitoring & Action Group’ and obviously the newsletter ‘Home Ed Looks Like This’, initiated and written by home educated teens in response to the ‘Lord Soley bill’ last year as they wanted to show the true face of home education and build a community resource. They all work closely together to support the community and dispel the myths this ‘documentary’ has poured gas on.
If the LA cannot be trusted with the laws they currently have, (and sadly they ruin the trust the community has which naturally has a knock-on effect nationwide), then giving them more powers will do more harm than good. They are already under funded and many LAs struggle to cope with the workload they currently have, we are repeatedly told time and time again that the EHE officers don’t have time or funding to reach out to all families, or to even write a simplified newsletter and email it to all the families in their region (so we did one for them), organise networking gatherings so families can meet (again we all do this ourselves too), they don’t know where you can access exam centers, they don’t know which websites are good, they don’t know how to best support their SEN families or what to do when needs are not met through their EHCPs. Sadly many don’t have any adequate home ed, mental health or sen experience, understanding or training. Many parents take their child out of school expecting the home education team to at least have a pro home education ethos, instead they find that they end up with that one who doesn’t approve of home education, this is a grave injustice to the children and just another gov initiated failing.
If a parent is intent on harming their child a registration list isn’t going to pick that up.
Not a single serious case review was because of home education, it was because the parent/carer were abusers, the child was already known to the home education team, police, social services, old school and medical professionals who all failed those children. Home education doesn’t hurt children, if anything it empowers them, its abusers who hurt children and it is gov bodies who let them down because they consistently refuse to admit its their policies that has allowed these situations to develop, its their policies that have failed these children and its their policies that will continue to make children suffer until they are changed for the benefit of the children.
We need people to stop using this made up argument, stop trying to negate parents and children’s rights, when you do that you will realize that the current law is more than adequate when used properly.
Percentage wise more children in the school system are abused by their parents than those educated otherwise. This has been proven with research. Research heard by the government’s education select committee showed that home educated children were more visible than a schooled child, home ed kids were however at a higher risk of a malicious referral to social services.
The current education system is not fit for purpose, that needs changing. As does the behavior of EHE teams around the country. I wish I could package our EHE officer up and send her off to train the rest. Granted its only a few bad eggs, however when that word gets around it makes other parents more cautious, especially after having been treated awfully by previous involvement from educational establishments (school staff, LA etc).
Anne needs to stop using our community as a scape-goat, along with Lord Soley and the rest, they need to focus on the real concern at hand; the educational system that fails a huge percentage of schooled children and corruption at all levels within the system, where head teachers and staff are intentionally failing children by off-rolling them to ensure their data/stats are at the level Ofsted expect.
To remove this basic premise for one group is the thin edge of the wedge. Who will be next? Let’s be very frank here. I have never heard of a government keeping a list of law-abiding citizens for the purposes of monitoring them that has ended well. I can however think of a few that didn’t. the fact that she mentioned that home education is illegal in Germany without explaining that it was implemented by Hitler just speaks volumes. This bill isn’t just a home education bill, its an educational bill, it covers all children and everyone’s parental rights. You many think ‘I’m alright, this doesn’t affect me’ or ‘I have nothing to hide’, but it does affect you regardless. It affects all our rights. Once they start removing rights from one percentage of the population they soon begin on others.
Hear me well, and hear me now, this cannot be allowed to go ahead.
So what is the law that is currently in place?
The 1996 Education Act places a legal duty on the parents to ensure their child receives an education suitable to their age, ability and aptitude, taking into account any special needs they may have, through school or otherwise.
What does that imply?, I’m glad you asked. If the schools available to the family have continuously failed to provide an education that is suitable for the child, taking into account their ability and aptitude, and failed to take account of any additional needs, whether Sen, Mental and or physical health needs, then there is still a legal duty and responsibility for the parent to provide the suitable education, and the only remaining choice to meet that legal responsibility is to educate their children ‘otherwise’. AKA, home education.
Home educating Parents are doing exactly what the law expects them to do in such circumstances, by removing their children from a school system that has failed to meet their needs, failed to provide an environment conducive to learning and or failed to safeguard the child adequately.
Anne Longfield clearly makes the assumption that children are better and safer in school and bends the evidence to fit the facts. She hunted out the illegal Islamic school, the children with scurvy, and the children who were failed by the gov agencies that knew exactly who and where they were but failed to act, in an attempt to smear home education via stereotypes and cherry picking facts whilst dodging the very facts that led to the suffering of the children in the first place. Her argument that being in school would be overall safer and less risky is absurd, and it certainly doesn’t stand up to any real scrutiny.
There are equally if not more serious problems within the legal school system. There is endemic bullying in British schools. 2579 weapons were seized at schools between April 2015 and the beginning of 2017, having a child that was attacked with a knife in school this matter is very close to my heart. The tally included axes, air guns, almost 500 knives and over 5500 sexual offenses were reported to police as having taken place within UK schools over a three year period to July 2015. That statistic horrifyingly included over 600 rapes. There has also been a number of homicides in our schools, yet clearly Anne doesn’t feel any of this warrant’s attention. So lets not pretend that schools are wonderful, safe and nurturing places where nothing could ever go wrong. Many parents remove their children to safe guard them, like I myself did after my sons brutal attack, because they can no longer sit back and watch as more damage is done, listening to their child talk about suicide just to escape school and coming home in floods of tears whilst genuinely fearing for their lives because schools can not and do not safeguard every child.
In addition to the above, Anne Longfield’s replies have been peppered with phrases like ‘I think’ and ‘There should be’, however everything she has said has lacked any real supportive evidence to justify such a decision. Not once has she broken down what she feels the long-term outcome will be, how she feels a list of names (when the EHE Team already have a list with most names on it) and no explanation to where the extra manpower or funding is going to miraculously appear from. A few cherry-picked anecdotes and wishful thinking do not prove, justify or finance a case.
She also, at one point, states ‘they should also be asked why they are home educating and whether they intend for the child to re-enter mainstream education at some point’, without any explanation as to why or any indication as to what that information will be used for. Anne comes across as someone who doesn’t understand or appreciate the benefits of home education, the importance of it as an option or what it means to the children/ families. She demonstrates nothing but a personal opinion based on the prejudice that school is the right way of receiving an education and no other way compares let alone competes. No one in any position of power should have any degree of prejudice against the very people they are there to serve. Both these options of choice for education are legal and valid under UK law, they both have merit, and statistically home educated children that sit exams actually perform better on average than schooled children. Does she intend to also ask the parents of schooled children as to why they chose that option and do they intend on home educating at any point? Sadly, Anne came across as rather contemptuous of even the philosophical home educators who she allegedly supports.
Most of the ‘documentary’ was misleading, misinforming, negatively directed towards the victims and biased with cherry picked information.
I do have to wonder where children under the school age figure in your compulsory register? I also wonder how this register and the termly inspections for each home educating family be financed? Especially when you consider that the local authorities have literally been cut to the quick, rather like the schooling system, whilst we currently save the LA hundreds of thousands per year in school fee’s. The city I reside in have been completely neglected by government for decades and relied soley on grants from the EU, without that funding coming through I cannot see how this is even going to be practical. I would be most grateful if Ms Longfield could explain the miracles of this fully costed plan in a struggling economy? I am also confused as to how this compulsory register could ever prevent or catch abuse in the first place? Why would a register succeed where social services has failed? Why should a child be more at risk once they turn 5 years old than they were beforehand? Apparently, once we have taught our children to walk, talk and use a toilet once that clock strikes midnight and they turn 5 years old we become completely inept at teaching them anything and in addition potential abusers. As usual nothing more than assumptions and generalizations.
There is a significant difference in the pupil profile between home educators and mainstream education. It is therefore meaningless to compare the outcomes of the two when there is no way of ensuring that the controls used are credible.
In addition to this you appear to make the assumption (and we all know what they say about assumptions) that G.C.S.Es are more important than mental health. This is one of the main attitudes that lets so many children down. G.C.S.Es or the equivalent qualifications can be taken at any time, education is a never ending journey and colleges don’t tend to have an upper age limit for the majority of their courses. Regaining your child’s mental health, and ensuring their emotional and physical well-being, should always be the number one priority for any parent. So many children leave school with anxiety and depression because of how the system is set up, it doesn’t work for the children at all, they then leave their schools and enter the world of employment or further education where their mental health tends to cause long-term interference having an impact on every aspect of their lives from relationships to professional development. Once they are well into adulthood and still have unresolved unsupported mental health problems, it is so much harder for them to recover. They tend to spend most of their lives fighting the pain inside, which almost always starts whilst being in the school system. By removing our children we give them a safe space to heal, a space to build their confidence again and they grow up empowered becoming the innovators of tomorrow. Most universities absolutely love home educated children because they already know how to research effectively and are capable of working independently and in a team, they don’t expect the answers to be spoon fed and they have amazing analytical and critical thinking skills. Couple that with their amazing interpersonal communication skills and you have unlimited potential.
A child who is in a loving secure environment will always find that environment conducive to learning and will naturally seek out varied experiences. Humans are an inquisitive species with an innate thirst for knowledge and when in the right environment that thirst intensifies, for many home is that environment. Having studied and graduated in educational child development I can tell you as a qualified professional our school system is holding every child back in some degree as it just isn’t geared for experiential learning which is the most effective way for any child to learn. Anne, if you truly want to ensure the success of todays youth that is the first thing you will focus on changing, not some register you know wont actually do anything but appease those watching and make you look proactive.
Home education is not an example of parental rights coming before the child’s. It is the child’s right to receive the education they deserve and if the school system isn’t fit for purpose then as parents we have to put our children’s right to an education first.
When I first started home educating the one aspect that surprised me most was that I wasn’t the only one qualified in teaching and childhood education. In our home city there are 100s of teachers who choose to home educate their children, primarily because we have been in those environments and wouldn’t wish what schools have become on our children any further. My one regret is not removing mine sooner. Teachers are refusing to send their children to school because they live and breathe the realities of it day in day out. We would never have opted to home educate if schools could effectively safeguard and meet the needs of all children. Under the current Ofsted regime, with a focus on exam results instead of the quality of learning and the absorption of information, school is very rarely an environment conducive to learning.
I was dedicated to my learners, yet I still couldn’t cater to the needs of every child and I certainly couldn’t cover all learning preferences every single lesson, so someone always missed out. It broke my heart, many teachers found themselves unable to actually deliver teaching because the focus is no longer on the learners it’s on achieving the statistics that will be the most financially beneficial to the school long-term and making choices that boost up statistics instead of boosting up the learner. My students attained great grades, most retained the lessons and they were all happy to be there in that room. Yet, an awful lot of staff room conversation factored around how they aimed most of their lessons at the same 6/7 children as they would bring the best results to the school, when they should have been trying everything to ensure they met as many diverse needs as possible. You cant meet them all in such large class sizes but you aim to. They regularly stated they didn’t know how to reach certain learners or that there wasn’t enough resources. These class sizes may have been practical at some point however our current generation has a lot of children with mental, emotional and physical needs, on one occasion I had 14 in one class alone. Yes, one class! All of whom should have had support or one to one assistance, instead there was just myself and a lone teaching assistant clearly overwhelmed. This would then cause disruption as I always tried to hold off moving on until everyone at least had some decent amount of understanding on the topic we had covered. I refused to let them down for a stamp off Ofsted.
Home education is not the issue you are trying to tackle. We want positive changes to the system too in order to further protect children. Bravo for noticing the problem, however your approach will only add to the issues further whilst helping no children, especially not those who need it the most. The real issue is our archaic educational system. Maybe you could consider curriculum changes such as the ‘Phenomenal earning’ being introduced in Norway, target bullying, instead of lying about its existence, victim blaming and schools off-rolling the victims, and on occasion the teachers have even been known to join in with the bullying! I have lost count of how many times I witnessed teachers aiding and abetting bullies and worse, bullying themselves. The ‘boys will be boys’, ‘girls will be girls’ and ‘grow a tougher skin’ mentality has no place in any school.
The Office of the children’s commissioner (currently represented by Anne Longfield) has the potential to be part of the solution here, not part of the problem. It is a high profile role with influence in government, yet she wastes valuable time, effort and resources on a pointless endeavor, when by working towards resolving the issues within our educational system she can help create an environment conducive to learning, where children feel hear and safeguarded and staff no longer feel the need to off-roll in the first place. Instead it’s more of a typical gov band aid response using a percentage of the community as a scape goat to influence changed they know the public would never willingly vote for otherwise.
She could at least engage with the very community she says she wishes to help, by responding to their reactions to the programme Anne was the driving force behind. Its all a bit, sling-a-lot-of-slop-then-duck-for-shelter. These parents invited her into their homes, shared their difficulties, trusted Anne, and had high hopes of receiving help following her involvement. Instead she broke that trust and enabled in their public ridicule. A very sad return for those yet again requesting help from those in the position to do so. Predictable yet still disappointing. I suppose showing the true facts and benefits about home education wouldn’t serve your agenda though, after all parents would be de-registering in droves, and we can’t have that. You’re an educated woman, you knew the result would be division and an overall negative view of home education in the eyes of the public. I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting otherwise.
So, who has benefited? The children certainly haven’t. the only people to benefit are, yet again, the governing bodies and schools responsible for failing children on mass. If you genuinely want to help these children, fix the source of the problem, you will likely then find the symptoms resolve themselves. Fixing the system will result in more children receiving the education they deserve, a curriculum that prepares them for modern day life, an environment conducive to learning, an environment that supports their mental, emotional and physical well-being and therefore not only less off-rolling but also less parents choosing home education out of necessity. A register without the foundations in place will just add more strain to an already stretched service and will result in more failed children. This bill has been getting pushed for years, so no doubt your working in-line with government expectations and demands, however, if you genuinely care for the children of this nation you will work effectively to resolve the actual cause and apologize to the parents who have to step into the shoe’s government fails to fill time and time again.
Can you explain how you will justify breaching our basic human rights under article 3 (t the right to be free from degradation, article 6 (the right to a fair trial which includes innocent until proven guilty), 8 (the right to enjoyment of private life and family life) 9 (the right to freedom of religion and belief which includes philosophical beliefs) and 14 (freedom from discrimination)?
One concerned home educating mother