Home education

Lord Soley

I have received a number of letters and emails expressing concern about Schedule 1 of Clause 26 of the Children, Schools and Families Bill which sets out the Government’s scheme for compulsory registration and monitoring of all home educated children in England. 

The Home Education Advisory Service believes that the proposed powers of local authorities to check on children being educated at home are excessive.

I am not convinced by their argument. Of course we want to allow parents to educate at home but there are risks attached to that and in one of the letters to me they hint at that difficulty. They say:  “It is unacceptable for public servants to undertake routine intervention on this scale in the lives of private individuals when it is acknowledged that the majority of parents are providing satisfactory educational arrangements”. The five words that worry me here are ‘the vast majority of parents’ . Of course the majority are good but by implication they accept there maybe a problem with a minority. Many of our laws would be unnecessary if it wasn’t for a minority. Only a minority of parents abuse their children and only a minority of home educating parents won’t teach their children necessary basic skills but they are the problem.

Problems can arise in a number of ways. It maybe extreme battering or cruelty where the parents are anxious to keep the child out of site of any authority figure. Or it maybe parents who believe that a girl should not receive education because in their view the role of a girl is to be trained as a mother and housewife. Or it maybe because the parents are providing a level of education that fails to enable the child to learn basic skills like reading and writing. So if we are to protect the minority we will need some power of intervention. I’m not sure if the Bill has the right safeguards in it but that is why we have Parliamentary scrutiny. To claim it is excessive for the state to have a checking role here is I think wrong.

Imagine the headlines when a case first appears of a child grossly abused and hidden from authority by the home educating parents. I don’t think the Home Education Advisory Service knows what will hit it if that should happen. 

107 comments for “Home education

  1. 31/05/2010 at 2:12 am

    Prep-dictionarying: “Training” (versus) “schooling” vs “inculcation” vs “education” vs “enablement” vs “empowerment” vs “what-all-else” ?
    [We all, from cradle to grave very often need to be reading the same definiens from the same dictionary].

    Glimpse also a quite sober-minded professorial statement:
    (“)You can become the best lawyer in the world, or the best doctor in the world, without any education whatsoever(“).

    Your workplace employs you for only 25% of your time, dictates what skill you must use, and pays you one, two, three, up to twenty or more human-livings for applying that skill, for that 25% timeframe.
    (We prefer to say ‘pay’ or ‘being given money’ and to avoid the trap of thinking ‘earnings’).

    The workplace requires a fully-trained job-skill.

    Your life-place on the contrary occupies you for a 75% timeframe, in which you apply a variety of living-abilities or borrowed-microskills (usually from one of your past workplaces) to spend what you have been given for selling yourself and your jobskill to the workplace in a 25% timeframe.

    The dominant performance-principle at every level in both child-development and adult-reward systems is ‘Positive/Negative Reinforcement’ (“Good girl, go to the top of the class”; “Bad performance again last month, mister; the company has to let you go” [((Avoidance-whitewash terminology for “You-re sacked”))].

    In the long-term ‘Reinforcement’ shows up as being very seriously flawed, in both its positive and negative arms.

    It is being replaced, in a few isolated places including in the USA, by three more modern principles and models:
    1. The friendly Method III of Needs-recognition and win-win-win cooperative problem-solving (Gordon);
    2. Perceptual self-control theory (Powers); and
    3. Self theory (Dweck);

    each of which gets down to each individual’s real underlying need (including that of the teacher, parent, employer, other authority), firstly (Method III) cooperatively planning how each such basic need may best be met; secondly (Perceptual self-control) nurturing the individual’s inner achievement and ensuing sense of achievement in self-control more attractive and acceptable rewards than “bad girl, pay a fine”/”good man, we’re doubling your pay”; and thirdly (Self theory) encouraging all-round capability rather than exclusive focus on one specialist skill, coupled to objective-evaluation of others in comparison with self.
    (Prof Caroline Dwecks universities team found that through the schooling and universities systems the ‘All-round’ stream which faced into their failures in a spirit of “that’s both interesting and challenging, apart from being a bit embarassing” and set about brushing them up to a pass level, ultimately equalled the stream of ‘Specialists’ who had been turning their backs on their failures and focusing on the one thing they had always been best at, in a spirit of “let’s not waste time on what we’re so obviously useless at”.

    In each of the above three new learning/training/performance/reward models, those who become both willing and able to learn and apply their principles and practical-steps become more exemplarily co-constructive, more reliably workplace efficient, and less expensively community-supportive.

    Relevance to ‘Home education’ ?

    Given that both the local Education Authority and the Parent-and-Pupil neighbourhood body are fully familiar with and leaderfully/facilitation competent in the application of at least the Friendly Method III as the first and voluntary resort in every case of need, how or problem; it is quite probable that the other two similarly more cooperatively-participative and effective models, of Perceptual self-control and Self-theorisation attunement, will follow ‘naturally’, ‘evolutionarily’.

    It is also probable that schooling and university training will re-order the existing priorities between the three learning modes, namely
    (1)competitive(2)individual(3)cooperative teaching/learning, such that (1) cooperative learning comes first, (2) individual learning second, and (3) competitive learning third in importance and timeframing.

    Simple closed-circuit surveillance of every teaching/learning session, whether in a schoolroom or home-room, administered by a coalition-body of fully-versed (Method III + Perceptual self-control + Self-thoerisation insight) educationists, teachers, civil-servants, parents/citizens, and mature-level students, should be a sufficient ‘win-win-win’ monitoring for each participant and responsible-stakeholder.

    Contrasted with the huge amounts of money being splashed out in the open social market on private computers and webcams, such teaching/learning-place monitoring would surely be much more agreeably cost-effective than older-fashioned well-intentioned but now seriously-depreciating models of schooling, training, teaching & ‘education’, such as Reinforcement Theory ?

  2. 10/12/2010 at 4:24 pm

    It’s fine when the state has the power to intervene in a child’s home life when something is seriously wrong.

    In such cases it’s arguable whether the state’s range of remedies actually makes the individual child better off in the long run, but these measures serve to reinforce the idea that society has standards of parental care that must be achieved.

    However, the routine monitoring and right to intrusion into family life by the state is insulting, unnecessary and cost-inefficient.

    Better risk management and less frequent intrusion is a far better way of helping families whose children are educated at home.

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