The freedom to home educate in Wales is under serious attack. If you don't mind ill-informed and patronising quotes, you can read about it here and here. You can check out the so-called consultation here. You can join Rhuad y Ddraig here. There is also a petition you can sign here and a Facebook group here. Something for everyone.
The points to be made are the same as ever:
- Parents have ultimate responsibilty for the education of their children, not the state, because they are (and can be held) accountable in a way that the state cannot.
- Parents are best placed to protect their children from unwarranted and potentially harmful intervention.
- No-one should be considered guilty until proven innocent.
- The state education system is by no means a panacea -- it has its flaws, it is inefficient and it fails a significant proportion of children.
- Conditional registration is actually licensing.
- Licensing and regulation will not solve the perceived "problem" of the provision of an unsuitable education because there is such wide disagreement on the notion of suitability, which is entirely unique to each child.
- Licensing and regulation costs money, and there is none available to introduce such a system, maintain it -- or enforce the penalties in the case of mass non-compliance.
All of this is even before we get to the inevitable conflation of education and welfare, and what we have learned from recent serious case reviews (which is that children who are failed by statutory services with wide-reaching legal powers to protect are well known to them, not hidden).
In summary, this article, by the Barefoot Social Worker, is well worth a read.
If it is the case that Badman's recommendations failed to be passed because of a string of random events, rather than the co-ordinated efforts of diverse home educators, the future in Wales is looking bleak -- unless people are prepared to take back their children and assert their intent to refuse to comply. This was not an idea that was particuarly well-received during Badman, when advocates of Just Say No were at times criticised for promoting an irresponsible and foolhardy course of action. This analysis is dependent on the context. A tiny number of people vocalising their intent to be non-compliant is vulnerable... But everyone speaking out is powerful indeed!
It seems to me to be a careful line to tread between showing steadfast support to our Welsh neighbours and inadvertantly causing more harm than good through careless wading in, as is ever the case with activism. I am a resource if required and I want my words and actions to be as helpful to home education as possible. I am thinking hard, not least because the outcome in Wales will likely lead on to what happens next in Engand -- if the situation is not already a fait accompli.
Here we have seen sporadic, goading mainstream media features on home education for the last 12 to 18 months, using the speculative rise in numbers of children who are home educated as a springboard to stir. Along the lines of the
deliberately conflated and manipulatively inflaming presentation on the Wright Stuff:
Home Schooling? It's all about the parents.... We're going to have another look at home schooling, a subject that always generates plenty of impassioned calls. Are the growing number of parents who are choosing to tutor their sprogs at home to be admired or are they arrogant and selfish? Even if a child has a terrible time in a bog standard comp, is that any reason to home school them?
More recently we have seen certain previously co-operative and forward thinking local authorities drawing back and disengaging from their local home educating communities for no obvious reason. The Select Committee inquiry into "support" for home education is ongoing, and we know from a recent FoI that the Department for Education has been discussing home education in secret meetings without minutes or notes. The policy papers presented for discussion did not meet the test of public interest.
None of this is anything new. It is a small part of a lengthy war of attrition that has been waged against home education for many years. Little by little, pieces of stability, safety and protection have been removed through guidance here and amendments there. It seems to me that these latest events have the potential to topple freedom in education as we know it, unless perhaps the response is is loud and unequivocal. This is why history is so very important and why home eductors who suffer the labels of "vociferous" and "militant" are so attached to it -- it enables us all to look for patterns and predict what is likely to happen in the future. It gives us clues so that we can take preemptive action and protect ourselves from what has gone before. Here's hoping that the developments in Wales offer useful and inspiring history for the next generation of home educators.