Saturday, August 15, 2009

Inspecting home educators is fair - CYPNow editorial

By Ravi Chandiramani, Editor

Graham Badman's review of home education has created an unrivalled storm of protest on CYP Now's online discussion forums in the past couple of months. Scores of parents are livid at his proposals.

Unfortunately for them, the government has said it will implement these in full. Mindful however of the army of home educators opposed to interference from the state, the Department for Children, Schools and Families has put them out to a public consultation first.

Badman's recommendations would mean parents who choose to educate their children from home become regulated like never before. Chief among the proposals are a compulsory registration scheme; annual statements outlining parents' educational approach and objectives for the coming year; and the right for local authority staff to speak alone with children educated at home.

Badman sought to probe the extent to which home education is used as a cover for child abuse. Foster mother and home educator Eunice Spry was last spring imprisoned for 14 years for abusing her children. While the review claimed to find evidence of a small number of cases where children have suffered harm, many home educators are understandably enraged at being made to feel guilty until proven innocent.

Home education can have many benefits. For children with special educational needs, in particular, it enables them to learn at their own pace in an environment in which they can feel more confident than they would at school. Indeed, Children's Secretary Ed Balls has been clear in endorsing home education as a "well established and important part of our education system".

But that isn't likely to quell the protests. It is natural for home educators to fight against plans for monitoring and registration because many will have taken the decision to remove their children from school, having been let down by the system. Now that same system is having the nerve to hold them to account.

However, if you educate your children from home, you are turning your home into a place of learning. Given schools are subject to regular monitoring, it is entirely reasonable for home education to be too. The challenge will be for local authority monitors to be sensitive and receptive, not box-ticking bureaucrats.

As we have seen, home educators are a vocal lot. You can be sure we haven't heard the last from them yet.

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