Memorandum submitted by Susanna Matthan and Chris Rogers
· The committee had insufficient representation from the home educating community
· The responses used were biased and poorly representative of home education
· The report used quotes very selectively
· The report demonstrates a very poor understanding of the width, breadth and depth of home education
· The report was unbalanced and ignorant in its representation of home education
· The reason for the continued attempts to prove that home education is somehow inferior to massed schooling has not been established
· Continued attempts to reassure home educators that the purpose of these reviews and consultations is for the benefit of home educators merely indicates the polar opposite
1. As experienced and active specialist teachers and long term home educators, we were surprised to hear that the composition of the review team was given the go ahead. This simply leaves us with the impression that the motives for the enquiry and the elected team were not entirely above board, transparent or crystal clear. Questions about the professional honesty, integrity and value of such a team have already brought the department into disrepute. The connections and activities of some of the team members have been widely investigated and reported (private consultancy businesses, IT connections etc). As teaching professionals, with professional bodies to protect us in our field of work, any similar enquiries and findings would have been widely questioned and disregarded. As home educators, without the privilege of the protection of such a body, the disregard and contempt with which ordinary citizens have been treated is truly shocking and contemptible. The only conclusion on this matter is that the team was brought together with a particular hidden agenda to engineer planned outcomes. To treat a minority social group in this manner is totally unprofessional, discriminatory and very bad practice for a government body. As professionals in our own field, if we had done this to a group of people we serve, we would have faced an enquiry and probably lost our jobs - and rightly so.
2. The selective use of quotes demonstrated the contempt with which home educators were viewed when quoted alongside the Church of England's views. Additionally, the Church of England's quote was selected in such a way as to demonstrate that they had serious doubts about home education, when their closing comments left their opinions much more open. The Church of England happens to be a very large provider of education, begging the question as to whether their views were used manipulatively.
3. The summary of recommendations clearly illustrates the lack of understanding regarding the nature of true elective home education. Genuine home educators choose to follow this life style and path because they are committed to their child's education. We do not consider the cases where Local Authorities have fraudulently persuaded or manipulated situations to get parents of children struggling to fit into schools to home educate, as genuine home educators. You must be aware of these figures. The handwritten notes from the press conference (accessed under FOI[i]) clearly indicate that the team was aware of this happening, "schools excluding kids and encouraging them to home educate - need to prevent this". Quite a shocking admission! The department should really be pouring resources into investigating WHY children are being excluded from state provided services in such desperate circumstances. Instead, it vilifies and harasses honest and law-abiding home educating families who are busy with the business of nurturing, caring and engaged in the business of natural learning. For us personally, the last few years have been spent under the threat of the law being changed to prevent us from carrying out our legitimate activities.
4. The recommendations are riddled with 'should' and 'must', the language of coercion, enforcement and oppression. The language of genuine home educators is very different. We are opposed to the stealthy moves towards introducing a police state by bringing in laws and rules that are expensive, unnecessary and burdensome. None of the recommendations figure in our lives and will not if we have anything to do with them.
5. A common complaint amongst the teaching profession is that education has become too prescriptive. Many home educators use their freedom to choose a less prescriptive approach to raise young people who prefer such an approach. Excellent teachers accept that it is impossible to be omnipresent or omniscient. Experienced teachers free themselves from the fallacy "that they really can teach all pupils with equal success... This is impossible."[ii] With over 35 years experience in education we find it incredible that approaches used in home education are not used more widely, rather than attempts made to regulate and destroy the creativity, personalisation and individuality that they advocate. The focus is more on enabling, empowering and allowing children to develop creativity in learning and thrive in less pressure-driven environments. Professionally speaking, we have seen incredible achievements when children are allowed to motivate themselves. Modern schooling is crushing young people and creating automatons dependent on external control (such as bells, buzzers, Brain Gym[iii], controlled playground games etc) rather than self-control. Young people are incredible when they are allowed to seek out the things that make them passionate. Home educators are trailblazers in this arena.
6. The independence of the chair of the committee, Mr Graham Badman[iv], is far from transparent. His latest attempt to collect more evidence (for his evidence) takes the biscuit. Home educators have spent considerable time (in addition to facilitating the education of their children) attempting to prove their innocence after Badman launched his vitriolic attack on their credibility - with accusations of child abuse, forced marriage and domestic servitude. In all our years as home educators, we have NEVER had cause to suspect genuine home educating parents of any of these accusations. Professionally, we have been through several rounds of Child Protection training (in all its forms) throughout our careers, so do know what we are talking about. Perhaps this subtle attempt to lure the public into believing that home educators are all paedophiles and cruel isolated parents was a deliberate ploy and that they should be naturally suspicious of home educators. As teaching professionals, we have had several occasions to suspect and act on child protection matters - but not as home educators. These statistics have been collated by home educators and proved beyond doubt that schooled children are more likely to suffer abuse than home educated children[v].
7. The report failed to clearly state the current legal situation with regard to the responsibility of all parents regarding their child's education. A convenient omission. Why?
8. The financial responsibilities of Local Authorities carrying out these recommendations will be astronomical. We work for a Local Authority that is reducing support for the most vulnerable schooled children by attempting to reduce the reliance on Statements of Special Educational Need (SEN) leaving children without essential support in many cases. There is next to no budget for children who are home educated - families seeking advice on home education have no access to anyone in the LA who has any credible experience of home education, either professionally or personally. This is repeated around the country. How does the team propose to address this massive professional training and development issue? Our Local Authority has consistently refused to accept official offers of assistance in developing proper care support where it is needed or requested. The only people who are ever roped in to 'inspect' home educating families who agree to such inspections are former teachers or head teachers - in general, advocates of the schooling system, with little or no training or understanding of genuine home education. Unacceptable.
9. We are sure that other home educators will have addressed many of the points that we simply have not got time for. We have been amazed at the unity present in a usually diverse community which has certainly seen the potential for irresponsible damage caused to innocent children should Local Authority inspectors decide not to 'allow' them to continue with home education. Do you propose to introduce 'forced schooling' as an alternative? The failure to evaluate existing international evidence in favour of home education is another glaring omission. Our democratic attempts (to challenge this review) made through our MP, came to nothing, as his Eton education has put him in an elevated and superior position, bequeathing him with the view that some people may be in a position to home educate, but that it is acceptable to forbid others. The aristocracy continues to rule this classless society.
10. A considerable amount of our time has been spent purely in attempting to defend our innocence. This review has presumed us guilty in an unprecedented manner. Human rights have been torn down in the name of child protection and surveillance of family life. Are home educators not entitled to privacy in our family lives? The attempts to damage homes up and down the country, the ring of distressed and fearful cries of children on realising that strangers may have access to them without the people they love present, makes us question why we call this society civilised. Professionally, we have witnessed the cruel and frequently covered up cases of bullying of innocent children, often with Special Education Needs. Many of the children the review claims to be helping, have formerly been schooled, but their courageous parents have not relied on schools to resolve bullying matters and have decided to protect these young people themselves. Have you any idea how many schooled children attempt (or consider) suicide, on a regular basis? Our education system is in crisis, and all you do is pick on young people who are now regaining their lives and achieving.
11. Do what you will, cover up this review spectacularly, but NEVER underestimate the power of true internal freedom. We will always be free, whether chained to desks forcibly or playing instruments in the sunshine. We suspect that the Select Committee may not be able to break free of your past, as Badman is well known to you, and his ability to cover up previous enquiries, with his expertise, is evident. Our child's education, learning, musical gifts and talents, facilitated entirely by us, will never feature on a school's list of successes. She owes nothing to the current system. We are so proud of her daily achievements, her development and most of all, her beautiful character. You can never steal this from us. We are not paedophiles or child abusers, but we could have been fooled into believing it if we'd believed this review. Get real. Develop a conscience. Get rid of the roots of coercive schooling that blight your view.