Stop the UK Government Stigmatising Home Educators!

For Immediate Release, 2nd February 2009
The Good Childhood Inquiry by the Children’s Society will release the results of its study this week. Home educators have welcomed the review which reports that the children of Britain need more parental attention, more freedom to play, more access to the outdoors, and are harmed by junk food, peer pressure leading to consumerism and experimentation with alcohol and drugs, and the stresses of bullying, academic competition and exam anxiety.
These stresses and strains are some of the reasons why so many parents make the decision to home educate their children. Home educated children have greater familial contact and much less exposure to the negative social and academic pressures endemic in schools. They also have far more access to play and to the outdoors and are free of the rigours of constant testing and standardisation. Recent studies also show that most watch far less television than their schooled peers, and become more self-aware and community minded. [1] All of these are exactly what the Children’s Society recommends for a happy, healthy childhood and by extension, a happy, healthy society.
"When I went to school I was bullied and I didn’t get any help from the teachers. Now I’m doing home schooling, I get help if I need it and I don’t get bullied." – H, aged 12.
"I am loved and cared for and have great fun everyday, exploring, exercising, laughing and talking!" – A, aged 11.
A ‘slanderous’ review
Home educators were angered on 19th January by the announcement by the Department for Children, Schools and Families of an Independent Review of Home Education [2], the fourth such consultation since 2005. The review was especially surprising as guidelines to Local Authorities on home education have only recently been issued as a result of previous consultations.[3] This review targets home educators as potential abusers, but has nothing to say about the well documented abuse of children within the schools system. Home education organisations have repeatedly asked for statistical evidence to back up these claims, but according to Vijay Patel of the NSPCC there is no such evidence [4] and requests continue to be ignored.
The DCSF is ignoring the problems with their over-worked, under-funded and under-trained social care workers [5] and instead is looking into adding to their workload with the monitoring of a home educating minority, justifying their stance with unsubstantiated rumour, hearsay and little else.
Criticism for the DCSF
The DCSF has been criticised for its methods from the start of this review. Home educating parents in their hundreds have decided to use FaceBook as a tool to organise their protests, contesting the rights of the DCSF to interfere with their freedom to educate at home unmolested by bodies who have a history of hostility towards them and little apparent understanding of them. Several conclusions have been reached:
The branding of home educators by this review as potential child abusers is discriminatory and incites prejudice which actively harms children and their families.
There are concerns that issuing press statements that home education may be a cover for abuse may violate Article 17 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. [6]
Article 17 says that the Government must not allow the mass media to publish things which harm children, but "the media, with Government backing, has inferred that many children are being abused by dint of the fact they are home educated," says Techla, a home educating mother from West Yorkshire. "My children are hurt and angry at the suggestion, and at the thought that their non-HE friends will think this is the case." Other children have also expressed their feelings that inciting suspicion against mum and dad is causing them distress.
Also, by not considering disabled children or those with Special Educational Needs the review’s consultation of Local Authorities may actually be illegal. [7]
In-house Social Services and Local Authority publications have carried letters and articles criticising home education, and reports are that memos have been circulated advising on how the Local Authorities consultation should be answered. This will have undue influence over the results of that consultation.
Many children were removed from school because of bullying, abuse, neglect, or the lack of provision of a suitable education. In many cases the Local Authorities were at best apathetic, at worst openly hostile to the needs of the child. To suggest that these children and their parents should be investigated by the very agencies that failed them is insulting and dangerous.
Home education provides a good childhood
Independent research has shown home education provides many of the qualities that the Good Childhood Inquiry finds essential to a happy, healthy childhood, and therefore to a happy, healthy society. Home educators then ask why the Government is apparently intent on the regulation of HE in the face of yet another indictment of their failing schools system. The DCSF’s attitude seems to be that childhood should be managed by the State at any cost. The conclusion seems to be that parents will necessarily abuse or neglect their children if they are not supervised. With their placing of the rights of Local Authorities above those of parents and children, as advocated in this Review of Home Education, it looks like the Children’s Society report will fall on deaf ears.
As home educators and parents we support the findings of the Inquiry as outlined above and feel we demonstrate the positive nature of many of their recommendations. Home education should be seen as evidence of a supportive, loving and nurturing home, not as a potential cover for malefactors.
Issued by the Home Educators of FaceBook – "Stop the UK Government Stigmatising Home Educators!"
Notes for Editors:
[1] "How Children Learn at Home" by Alan Thomas, 2007.
[3] Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities, October 2007.
[4] Jeremy Vine show, Radio 2, 20th January 2009:
JEREMY VINE: "Vijay, have you got any statistical base at all?"
VIJAY PATEL (NSPCC Child Protection Policy Advisor): "We… the inf… We don’t have the evidence there statistically, no."
[5] UNISON report "Still Slipping Through The Net?" See
[7] The LA questionnaire asks about children who are statemented for SEN. This ignores children with other disabilities and those which have SEN but are not statemented (parents of many home educated children with SEN prefer that they not be statemented). Government has a legal duty to consider disabled/SEN children (statemented or not) in all its documentation.