The case is tragic. Dylan Seabridge died of scurvy (although apparently his parents dispute that) without contact with medical services. There *was* a family referral to the local authority a year before his death, but it’s unclear what form that took. That’s pretty much all we know, because nearly 5 years on, the SCR (serious case review) hasn’t been released. We have politicians saying lessons must be learnt, but without the review no one can really be learning anything.
And with nothing else to blame, it’s home education in the firing line. As Dylan was home educated, that obviously means he was invisible. (Remember that local authority referral? Not invisible.) From Neil Carmichael (chair of the education select committee and MP for Stroud) proposing a register on Radio 4, to the BBC Any Questions show today asking ‘do we even need homeschooling?’ everyone is up in arms.
We should be registered. We should be monitored. Our children should be tested regularly, seen monthly, and get at least 4 good GCSEs. (Yes, I’ve seen someone saying exactly that.)
But, as one home educator asked Neil Carmichael – how will putting my child’s name on a list make them safer?
It won’t. It can’t. So either this registration proposal is just a waste of time, or it’s the thin end of a wedge we’ve seen before. Get ready for schemes of work, annual inspections for all home educators and school at home for one and all.
Where’s the harm in that, people ask, surely if you’ve nothing to hide you’ve nothing to fear?
Well, for one thing, the act of inspection could be harmful in itself. Parents know that children in schools are tested regularly. Does this raise the standard of education? Politicians would say it does. Either way there’s plenty of evidence it raises the stress level of school children. Why would I want to bring that into my home?
I don’t follow the National Curriculum (I’m not legally required to, any more than free schools, academies or independent schools are). We don’t have set lesson times or subjects. We are rarely to be found sitting round the kitchen table except for at family mealtimes. Despite this, I’m confident that I’m following the law as specified in section 7 of the education act 1996
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—
(a)to his age, ability and aptitude, and
(b)to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
This house is bursting at the seams with educational stuff. We count birds, spot house numbers on nature walks, do montessori activities and paint. Oh, and we read, watch TV, play games, build duplo, draw, go skating, visit the zoo etc etc, so on and so forth.
The children also have a lot of time to follow their own special interests, which vary from child to child and time to time. This is how it should be.
How would I fit their learning into someone else’s boxes? I’m sure I could, but the time I would take doing that would be taken away from their days. The effort I would have to put in would be effort I couldn’t spend on them, and I might start worrying, and interfering, and trying to teach them, and the whole balance of their learning experiences would be disrupted. (Great post from Gill here that goes into this in more detail.)
Monitoring my children wouldn’t keep them safe, and it wouldn’t enhance their education. There’s nothing wrong with the safeguarding laws in this country as they stand – except that there are times when they aren’t applied.
Instead of spending money on consultations about pupil regulations and so on, how about spending money on that?