Memorandum submitted by Alison Tindale

 

A Parent's View

 

This submission aims to give a parent's personal view to help the committee understand

the value that many home educators place on their practice of autonomous education within home education

why they feel the practice of autonomous education is threatened by recommendations in the Review

why the recommendations which they feel threaten autonomous education are not justified by concerns about safeguarding and the ability of every child to receive a suitable education.

 

1. My husband and I have been involved in home education since the birth of our eldest son in 1994. We now have two sons aged 15 and 9 both of whom have been home-educated and have never attended school.

 

2. Our children's education has generally been child-led (autonomous) in nature. We attempt to stay in tune with their present interests and to help them follow these in depth by providing suitable resources (from books and DVDs to educational visits and access to knowledgeable people). This is the approach we have come to favour over 15 years of home education. Why? Because at this point of interest the children have been at their most alert, receptive to new learning, alive with new ideas and happy. We make sense of this by supposing that, because the interest has arisen naturally from the place the children are "at" in their developing relationship with the world, the subsequent learning is easily and securely incorporated into their intellect, physique and self-esteem. We have come to see this as the best way, when educating, to fully develop our children's personalities, talents and mental and physical abilities.

 

3. The children's interests, however, change over time and we could not produce a plan containing meaningful outcomes for a twelve month period, which would be required of us by the registration scheme in Recommendation 1 of the Review. The very inclusion of this requirement in the Review, and the requirement in Recommendation 7 that parents be required to allow children to demonstrate attainment and progress in accord with the plan, makes us wonder whether Mr Graham Badman does not understand the nature of autonomous education or whether, perhaps, he understands it but is antagonistic towards it.

 

4. Autonomous education, essentially, seems to lie outside the prevailing educational paradigm of the time, a paradigm which dictates that all education has to be planned, carried out and then assessed. Even if local authority officials receive the training recommended by the Review (Recommendation 9), this paradigm is so all-prevailing that it is unlikely that they will be trained to find alternative means to judge that the educational provision is adequate.

 

5. We fear that, in consequence of 3 above, a) officials will judge the provided education as inadequate and take steps towards School Attendance Orders for our children or b) be tempted to raise false safe-guarding concerns in order to refuse re-registration.

 

6. We feel we are facing this attack on our rights to home-educate according to our philosophical principles for no good reason; it does not appear that the recommendations are justified on the grounds of readdressing the balance between the rights of children and the rights of the parents.

Local authorities already have sufficient powers to intervene if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education for their children (Section 437(1) of the Education Act 1996) and powers to intervene in order to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (Sections 17 and 47 of the Education Act 1989).

The Review found no evidence that home education was being used a cover for child-abuse. Evidence that the number of home-educated children 'known' to children's social care in some local authorities is disproportionately high relative to the size of the home education authority was put forward in the Review. But this appears to be both inaccurate and irrelevant (irrelevant because many of the children were known for reasons other than being at risk of abuse) (http://ahed.pbworks.com/LiesDamnedLiesStatistics#BadPressandStatistics) Independent statistics indicate that the prevalence of abuse amongst home-educating families is considerably below the figure for the general population. (http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=rbrk5-GEdrUdcmfi670Mihg&gid=2)

Finally we cannot see how the recommendations in the Review (essentially an annual visit) will make children any safer even if they are at risk - they will however take up considerable resources which would be better spent on helping social care authorities to keep children safe by exercising the powers they already have.

 

September 2009