Schoolgirls II

Baroness Deech

Once again I am fully in support of Lord Soley’s comments. I am impressed by the vigorous way in which the lobby for unregulated home education responded to this blog, but I remain concerned. If home education is as good as is claimed, then there is nothing to fear from some inspection. If a child is frightened when a stranger comes into the home, the child needs help, not continued protection from seeing any strangers. Other European countries seem to be running a lightly regulated system of home education and the UK is somewhat out of step. There should be information on (a) the numbers and results of home schooled children taking science A-levels, and (b) their entry to the top universities. There should be some safeguard against home educated Muslim girls, or any others, not receiving the equality of opportunity that would be offered at school, or should be; and reassurance that children who are not English speakers are learning the language. The whole of society has an interest in how each child is educated.

122 comments for “Schoolgirls II

  1. 12/02/2010 at 11:37 am

    This sort of ‘valuable asset’ unless you are very lucky!

    And maybe you should prepare for your own home inspections.

  2. Carl.H
    12/02/2010 at 11:57 am

    There are 3,225 secondary schools in the UK. Lowest estimates of home educated children are 7,400, highest 34,400.

    That equates to 2.5 home educated per school at the lowest to 10 at the highest.

    Around 4% of UK children truant persistently, according to data from a Youth Cohort Study. Around 2.5million attend secondary schools, 4% equates to 100,000 persistant truants.

    Present legislation regarding home education is thus:

    “The facts about home education are:

    you do not need to be a qualified teacher to educate your child at home
    your child is not obliged to follow the National Curriculum or take national tests, but as a parent you are required by law to ensure your child receives full-time education suitable to their age, ability and aptitude
    any special educational needs your child may have must be recognised
    you do not need special permission from a school or local authority to educate your child at home, but you do need to notify the school in writing if you’re taking your child out of school
    you will need to notify the local authority if you are removing your child from a special school
    you do not need to observe school hours, days or terms
    you do not need to have a fixed timetable, nor give formal lessons
    there are no funds directly available from central government for parents who decide to educate their children at home
    some local authorities provide guidance for parents, including free National Curriculum materials
    The role of your local authority
    Local authorities can make informal enquiries of parents who are educating their children at home to establish that a suitable education is being provided. If your local authority makes an informal enquiry, you can provide evidence your child is receiving an efficient and suitable education by:

    writing a report
    providing samples of your child’s work
    inviting a local authority representative to your home, with or without your child being present
    meeting a local authority representative outside the home, with or without your child being present (representatives have no automatic right of access to your home)
    If it appears to the local authority that a child is not receiving a suitable education, then it might serve a school attendance order.

    Although you’re not legally required to inform your local authority when you decide to educate your child at home, it is helpful if you do so. The only exception to this is where your child is attending a special school under arrangements made by the local authority. In this case additional permission is required from the authority before the child’s name can be removed from the register.

    If you are taking your child out of school to home educate them, you need to inform the school in writing. It’s advisable, but not compulsory, to inform your local authority of any significant changes in your circumstance relevant to your child’s education, like a change of address.”

    From existing law we can determine that the Local Authority can make an order if it believes the education the child is receiving is not suitable.

    Baroness Deech does not provide a burden of proof that this bill is necessary.

    “A” level science entries have dipped significantly in state secondary moderns. “A” levels are not compulsory at present.

    Entry into top Universities from secondary moderns/Comprehensives I would expect to be significantly low though I can find no data.

    There is no data, to my knowledge, suggesting Muslim girls, or other, are not receiving equal opportunities in education or that foreign language citizens are NOT teaching children English. If proof that this was occuring was available existing Local Authority Law provides they could serve a school attendance order.

    Should a citizen in this Country feel they need more education after school age, many avenues of help are available and there are no restrictions on age.

    There is no evidence that Home education is significant in child abuse statistics.

    There is, to my knowledge, no evidence to suggest that home educated children fair significantly worse than those in state comprehensives.

    There is evidence to suggest home educated children were removed from state education due to other childrens behavioural problems and schools inability to deal with that.

    If we accept a figure in the middle of the estimates of home educated children of 15,000. The cost of this bill per child to the LA to police and authorities to monitor would be unacceptable. Given the fact that LA`s already have enough leverage to inquire, although informally with the ability to make orders, I cannot see a significant gain.

    The ability to teach at home in a holistic manner appears to me to turn out happier, more wholesome young adults than the system of state schools we have at present.

    The Bill appears to be just another where freedoms are being taken away, Government jobs created,with no known improvement to the public at large. It will however create more costs and possibly a lot more problems for both parents and children who WILL be affected.

    • Dave H
      12/02/2010 at 12:47 pm

      Some of those numbers are incorrect. There appears to be 20,000 home educated children known to their local authorities by various means (usually because they deregistered from school) based on government figures, and the estimates for the total number ranges from 40,000 to as high as 150,000. My personal guess would be 70,000 to 80,000. The BBC figures are a couple of years out of date, looking at the article you quoted.

      Cost figures quoted by the government are almost certainly underestimates, and they assume willing cooperation from home educators, many of whom are not in a mood to be cooperative with a deaf and uncaring government.

  3. Twm O'r Nant
    12/02/2010 at 5:48 pm

    Those numbers Carl includes as home educated may also be all the Traveller sites round the country which have visiting Schools on wheels.

    “If a child is frightened when a stranger comes into the home, the child needs help, not continued protection from seeing any strangers.” With all due respect, you betray a misunderstanding of child development.”

    I would be very surprised indeed if Home educ could be done without employing peripatetic teachers/instructors for some of the disciplines beyond about age 13.

    I would also be very surprised indeed if Home edu is desirable without highly paid peripatetic teachers, paid either by the parent or by the County.

    If the parent is paying, then involvement with the county would be very rare indeed, possibly only done at the request of the parent or the peripatetic teacher.

    If the schooling of the child is paid for by the state, ie it is free, that may in reality be a very high cost indeed, in terms of the marshalling and ordering of the pupils at school.

    If you are prepared to pay that high cost yourself and leave the school place vacant,
    you may well be reducing the real life time cost of the FREE education.

    However you must pay for it yourself, and however well qualified or experienced you or the home educator may be, there are bound to be times when high costs will be incured.

    If you can pay those high costs then there is no reason why you should not be allowed to do your own home educating.

    However there may also be a Home educating high cost; that the “freedom” of home educating may itself come at a very high cost,a loss of social/personal skills at dealing with others.

    Through reading all the above post I am very much reminded of AS Neil, the founder of Summer Hill, the free school where children did what they wanted to do, smoked drank alcohol, ran around undressed, or in jim jams above, until persuaded by the sibling peer group that it was an undesirable thing to do.

    A good number of the pupils at his school came from such home where Home Education had been tried but without much success, and the parents who could afford his modest fees eventually had to back their principles by sending their children to his enlightened establishment. Modest fees at today prices probably means about £15-18000 per annum.

    If you can afford that kind of freedom, then go right ahead.

    All freedoms have a price, and that is probably the real price of inadequate learning, done by home educators, who give up the unequal struggle, and even if they do not, still need to pay peripatetic visitors
    to do the educational tasks that they really are not honestly capable of.

    • Rowan Fortune-Wood
      12/02/2010 at 6:47 pm

      I was home-educated, as were my three siblings, many of my friends and quite a few of my acquaintances. Online I have talked to many more home-educated people. I know some that have freely chosen to attend a college, some that have had no need of formal education and others that have taken on distance learning courses (myself included), but I have not heard of many needing costly peripatetic teachers or instructors. Home-education is not necessarily expensive; I know many that ably home-educate with very little money.

      As for the supposed lack of ‘social skills’: this frequently used clichéd criticism is nonsense. It relies on the misconception that school is the only place in which children can interact; in reality local communities, hobby groups, holiday gatherings, etc. afford plenty of opportunities. Indeed, I would turn this criticism on its head and say that the epidemic bullying highlighted by the Children’s Commissioner for England strongly indicates that schools are atrociously poor places for healthy socialisation.

      • Twm O'r Nant
        12/02/2010 at 7:28 pm

        Thank you for that courteous reply Rowan.

        Noble Baroness Deech makes various patronising remarks about home education to which some contributors have objected. That has been her calling in life to patronize/matronize, and she still makes some useful comments in doing.

        I actually doubt whether there are that many philosophies of learning and life which are a good fit with Home education, as she suggests there are.

        I can think of two, which are immediately relevant, one of whom suggests that Being against the use of tap water for Africans and in the modern Ecology context, in the UK, being in favor of bio-composting for all personal home effluent.

        Actually the tap water analogy also applies because it is provided to all people in the UK, as are main drains.

        Be that as it may, these are the two (and I have noticed a third who does not quite fit, because he does not object in the same way at all to institutionalism) (Paulo Freire)

        If you go onlooking for ” a bit like” philosophies you end up with a philosophy that is nothing like any of them!

        First and foremost Ivan Illich, who stand out in my view, in death as in life, head and shoulders above all other political and educational philosophers on the subject of schooling, and NOT going to it!

        I do not usually write about Education after being called out by a negativist Parliamentary committee on education about 15 years ago who knew sweet Fanny Adams about the subject, but presumed to know everything because they were school governors blahsee blahsee blahzzzze!

        Rudolf Steiner was a very different philosopher of education but was a very capable organizer of people and founded the many Steiner Schools round the world which adhere to various principles which were enunciated as good ones at the time.

        My ma/da owned a shool, of which I was the 4th pupil out of about four hundred over 15 years which was a hybrid between Steinerism and Neil’s Summerhill, if you can imagine that!

        Ivan illich is a very modern philosopher indeed and Ma would certainly not have understood the particular ethos very well, although she had Catholic sympathies as a young woman.

        Illich is so totally different and so totally
        anti establishment that it is a fascinating and very desirable exercise to read him and understand why he said what he did.

        I have said on so many occasions that I am
        Anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist, homestead loving philosopher, that it is rather boring and perhaps not very helpful, but is it not
        your objection to capitalism and your objection to mass markets of any sort which drives you to being a lover of your own home
        and hopefully homestead if you carry your principles through?

        Exactly the same considerations apply to
        NOT going to the supermarket, NOT using tap water but collecting it on the roof, and NOT
        using main drains, but bio-composting for the garden.

        All these things including provision of schooling are provisions of facilities for the masses.

        If you object to this mass provision then you are in the good company of vast numbers of ecologists/ green activists who have reached the same conclusion.

        Even some(not many) travellers have done too, but all too often their principles are limited to just one feature of anti-capitalism, or anti consumerism, that the argument is not consistent, because it is not followed through.

        Do home educators have a world view, and if not why not?

        If they do not, then the patronising nobilities of Soleys and Deeches of this world will have their way!

        I do have a world view; I am cautiously
        Anti-globalist (since the signing of the Lisbon Treaty for the EU)before that Iwas strongly anti globalist, but that is to digress.

        I am Anti-globalist, anti-capitalist, anti- consumerist, and a homestead loving philosopher!

        Ivan Illich had a very disciplined mind indeed. His day, he died in 2002, did not encompass, anti-globalism, which I willingly add to the things I know he was!

        He was a great teacher and decried schools!

        State schools are capitalist institutions, concerned with the very well hidden capitalism of the state. Free schooling comes at a very high cost indeed, and it is that high cost which is the capitalist feature of that schooling.

        If you do not want to become involved with the capitalism of the state in that way, as a home educator, then the only answer is not to become involved with the bill as it is being presented,at all, to pick it to pieces, until it is completely threadbare.

        I would say that Steiner’s educational “Anthroposophy” (the wisdom of man) is a very attractive learning
        milieu, based as it was on Indian mysticism, the upbringing of a Guru by the name of Krishna Murthi by Annie Besant, and the previous wisdom of what was almost a cult,
        of “Theosophy”(the wisdom of god). although eenutally denied by the god of it, Krisha Murti himself!

        I am actually surprised, looking at the encyclopedias that there is not more cross over between Illich and Steiner, although Illich is known to have admired him as an educational thinker.

        All this philosophy is applicable to homestead learning, being anti main drains anti-tap water, and self sufficient on the allotment!

    • sally
      12/02/2010 at 7:04 pm

      @Twm O’r Nant:
      I think your initial premise is in error and thus, the rest of your statement is unnecessary. It is useful to check what actually happens in the field before bothering to make plans and judgments accordingly.

      Twm O’r Nant is not alone in this error (and in good company with the Baroness) as it is the very one the Government has been making repeatedly. That is assuming we want to continue to pretend they don’t have other ulterior motivations, like using a minority group to set a legal precedent for undermining the right to be presumed innocent and privacy of the family home, etc … so that these powers can be extended to inspecting all families with children under 5. This is the group with the higher rate of welfare concerns. There are enough of us with under 5s to have created quite a stink if we had all been targeted. However, once the law exists for some of us, justifying it for others is far easier.

      Badman also had a sinister preoccupation with asking Islamic home educators if H.E. could be being used to teach fundamentalism. Is this another explanation for the Government’s desire to spend crazy amounts of money on this, despite plenty of evidence showing it to be disproportionate and likely to be ineffective for the purposes they are open about?

      I can’t understand their obtuseness otherwise than to gather that it is manipulative and disingenuous.

      However, their minions seem to be legitimately hood winked or obtuse.

      • Twm O'r Nant
        12/02/2010 at 8:18 pm


        Ok Thank you for the reply and reading what I wrote. I am not currently a home educator, other than lifelong learning of my own. I was.

        The idea that Home educators are being victimised is consistent with State Schooling being a state monopoly to which you object.

        That would be the one purpose of the bill, to bring those who see through the monopoly and what it is worth, in to line by Law.

        Is that a fair assessment?

        The State capitalism of Sweden has made it clear by law that it intends to enforce, according to the other post, complete compliance with the monopoly.

        If you object to that monopoly would it be fair to say that you object to state monopoly
        of any sort, in Hospital and medical services, for example?

        Would you refuse, in that case, to pay for private hospitalisation if necessary?

        What would happen if….?!
        (You may pay private medical bills with loans
        if you wish, at the time of need, or even with job opportunity)

        The state would in general like to be a monopoly in both examples of schooling and of Health/sickness, but is not, with about 10% of each, being privately provided.

    • Rowan Fortune-Wood
      12/02/2010 at 10:33 pm

      Hi Twm O’r Nant,

      Home-Educators are not particularly homogeneous; there are many worldviews within home-educating communities. Home-educating philosophies range from anti-authoritarian approaches (Autonomous Parenting, Taking Children Seriously, Radical Unschooling, deschooling à la Ivan Illich) to more standard homeschooling that emulates the school method in the home; with both religious and secular variants of this. And of course many home-educators would not claim to adhere to any philosophical motivation, but be compelled by practical concerns.

      A coherent perspective or worldview is definitely invaluable when defending our rights against draconian politicians like the Baroness Deech. However, I do not think there can be just one such perspective. I am pro-pluralism—something Baroness Deech clearly is not, as evidenced by her prejudiced remarks about Muslim girls. So, perhaps just as important as having a worldview is being willing to defend other worldviews against unjustified oppression.

      I have read and greatly admired Ivan Illich’s ‘Deschooling Society’, but I am less familiar with Steiner. If you have not already read it I would recommend the philosopher Max Stirner’s 1842 article ‘The False Principle of Our Education – or Humanism and Realism’, which is available online for free. I would also recommend this text to the Baroness Deech.

      Thank you for the pleasant exchange in views.


  4. Peter
    12/02/2010 at 6:15 pm

    Are you suggesting that muslim girls are limited in choice? I do hope you are not being racist. I am a home educated child and I will not be complying with any inspections. It is a waste of time and money. The police do targeted intelligence which is a much better method. Perphaps you should ask them if they agree with Badman’s method. I would like to meet with you to discuss this further.

  5. sally
    12/02/2010 at 7:08 pm

    Other European countries have recently banned home education because the state professes to provide adequate resources to satisfy all philosophical viewpoints and religious needs …. Sweden.

    • Dave H
      12/02/2010 at 7:34 pm

      That’s a dangerous approach to take and is actually on a par with the actions of DCSF in assuming that the government knows best.

      Mind you, if they would provide me with a ‘school’ that met all my requirements (not necessarily what they thought were my requirements) then I’d be impressed and take them up on the offer. However, said requirements would include most of the features of how my family approaches education at present, so I doubt if it would be practical.

  6. sally
    12/02/2010 at 7:08 pm

    that is not what I’d call ‘light touch’!

    • Twm O'r Nant
      12/02/2010 at 7:35 pm

      Home educators need a guiding philosophy if they do not have one, and if they feel threatened by authority.

      One philosophy covers all!

      Ivan Illich is the one! Steiner is good too!

      Some body will say
      “What about this bloke or what about that bloke?” But Illich says it all, in the present context.

      De-school society and why?!

  7. Carl.H
    12/02/2010 at 9:09 pm

    Child abuse statistics gathered from FOIA

    abuse rate in HE community 48 cases from 15,274 0.31%

    national abuse rate (all children) 142,459 cases from 11,000,000 1.30%

  8. Carl.H
    12/02/2010 at 9:24 pm

    Dr. Alan Thomas and Harriet Pattison`s memorandum to Parliament on the Badman review.

  9. sally
    12/02/2010 at 9:45 pm

    In Derbyshire the LA give home educating parents grades according to whether they have an elaborated code or restrictive code, etc. If you are considered very articulate you will not be visited and will be given a ‘gold’ grade. If you are somewhere in the middle you will get ‘silver’ and fewer visits. If you have what is considered a restricted code you will get ‘bronze’ and will receive frequent visits.
    This is one of the most unreliable, assumption and prejudice based methods I can think of.
    My friend (who has a phd) speaks with a Yorkshire dialect and would use what would be considered a restricted code in everyday speech. Does that mean her educational provision needs oversight as a matter of course? Transmitting that code to her children: is that grounds for concern and for questioning her provision?

    My Mp said that ‘of course he could see we were providing an exemplary all round education to our children’ but he had concerns for others. He has met us once, in our house, with our children. He made his convictions based up immediate appearances and prejudiced assumptions. He heard our accents, gathered our qualifications, saw resources that may or may not actually be used, saw the size of our house and met our children briefly. In actual fact, I strongly doubt he would understand and give credence to the sort of education we do provide our children. We auto educate. Our children learn through day to day living and activities, much of which would scarcely be considered educational by most people. As it is, he is not wrong, but it is by chance rather than through his discerning judgment. What we do works, and works so surprisingly well that I often question the educative purpose of schools entirely (and have been an education researcher as sociologist and psychologist, and a state teacher in two countries, as well as a Montessori teacher in both countries also.)

    I consider my teaching qualification meaningless to educating my children, indeed, originally an impediment.

    There is enough evidence to show the damage schooling does to children and to certain groups in particular (such as Afro-Caribbean children, who come to school at well above average preparedness as a group, and leave it well below.) It would somewhat undermine the system for it to be revealed to be entirely unnecessary and counterproductive by enough proof that auto education is so effective. It is an economic model which supports the system as it is. It is not a system designed to support children or their education.

    This would be my third reasoning for understanding why the Government, at economic times like these, would want to put so much money in to this pointless exercise.

  10. The Sewist
    12/02/2010 at 9:59 pm

    To dismiss me as part of a lobby is insulting.

    Where is your evidence that Muslim girls are at risk? Do you have the name Khyra Ishaq on the tip of your tongue because her case was referred to in the news today? Please don’t jump on a bandwagon and tar all Muslims with that brush.

    Why have you picked science A level results and entry to top universities as essential data? Do you believe that children are only of any value if the get science A levels or go to university?

    If so, I suggest that you investigate the state school system and call the government to account for their failure to ensure that all children in state schools get the education you think they deserve.

  11. Jenny
    13/02/2010 at 12:03 am

    Dear Baroness Deech and Lord Soley,

    Thank you for your engagement in this matter, however it remains regrettable that the two of you remain either unconvinced or concerned that home education remains unregulated. Unfortunately your lack of flexibility in this regard is not surprising and undoubtedly you both will remain steadfast in your position despite the overwhelming arguments to the contrary.
    Alas I must confess that to put your minds at ease is simply impossible. Nothing can be said to defeat the dreaded ‘what if’. Nothing submitted can provide you and your like minded colleagues with a guarantee that no child educated outside the states direct or indirect influence will go uneducated or unharmed.
    No matter how may thousands of functionally illiterate children the state schools produce or the thousands of children Social Services allow to fester or slip through their ‘nets of safety’ each year, you will always be draw to highlight the inescapable reality that one day, one ‘home educated’ child will end up stupid, enslaved or dead in the basement of a madman’s home. This and the fact that some parents have the audacity to believe they themselves more capable than the state when it involves educating their children, is enough to make your skin crawl and reasoned justification to place further restrictions on our already dwindling freedoms.
    Instead of looking in the mirror and making radical reforms to this country’s educational institutions you slander a minority, hide behind a statistical insignificance and the phrases “if it saves just one child” or “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear”.
    Perhaps I’m too cynical but I believe many people in this country would agree with your position. Products of a cultural pedagogy which celebrates consumerism, celebrity culture, instantaneous gratification, violence, fear, money and outsourcing child rearing has taken its toll. People today have forgotten how or perhaps lost the ability to think critically and as such, appear willing to blindly hand over their precious freedoms for the illusion of increased security.
    The CSF Bill, no mater the intent, is destructive and must be stopped. I urge the both of you to reconsider your positions once more, taking the time to reread many of these posts. The decision to rescind our freedoms should not be taken because you have concerns or feel uneasy but only as a last resort when overwhelming unbiased evidence demonstrates the need.
    At present you have gut feelings and nothing else.



  12. Lucy
    13/02/2010 at 5:05 pm

    “If home education is as good as is claimed, then there is nothing to fear from some inspection.”

    My family have opted out of the school system, and we do not follow the national curriculum. My parents are retired academics – my mother was a head teacher and my father a science lecturer- and we now have their full support. But that is because they can see for themselves, slowly, and over time, and because they know their grandchildren very well, how our education works. At the beginning they were bemused, skeptical, and worried. Probably much like the mindset of an average LA inspector.

    I will simply not accept a Local Authority inspector, judging us by school criteria, to have any influence upon us. That inspector has nothing to offer us and would possibly be perplexed as to how my family fit into any of his/her tick boxes. If that inspector then has the power to enforce school upon my children, or even to enforce a school curriculum upon them, then yes, I have nothing to hide but everything to fear.

    If that inspector had been fully trained in how alternatives to education work, and the myriad of methods, including autonomous and child-led learning, that can be effective, then perhaps he/she might get over the threshold. And if I knew that the inspector would not have the final say in my child’s future, they might even get a cup of tea. But I cannot see that happening. I cannot see the country being able to afford the training, for one thing.

    If my children decide to take science A levels and gain entrance to uni, then I am assuming that the mechanisms are in place to collate their results and gather the information you think you require.

    However, if an inspector came into our house on any day this week he/she would have seen my 6 year old daughter, still in her pajamas by mid afternoon, poring over the various specimens she has collected and loaded onto her digital microscope. Obviously, knowing that the inspector was due I would have insisted she get dressed, get her hair brushed, would probably have insisted she clear up the detritus all over her study. I would have cleared up all her sketches of plants and left out only the ‘best’ ones. I would have hated myself for doing so and I would have recognised the damage I was doing to my daughter, but I would feel I had no choice. I possibly also would have been quizzing her for days on what she’s doing with her science, asking her to verbalise what she’s exploring, preparing her in subtle and not-so-subtle ways for having to explain it to the inspector. By the time the inspector actually turned up my 6 year old would quite likely have been put off science for life. Bang goes that potential science A level. The inspector would certainly be presented with a sulky child who would not appear interested in anything at all.

    To justify my interference in her self-directed schedule I would have to try to explain to my daughter why an inspector was coming to visit. When she asks whether the inspector has the power to send her to school – a place she does not want to be – if she does not perform adequately, I would either have to soften the truth, or risk her being frightened of the inspection. In either case, my relationship with my daughter would be damaged, and my daughter would have nothing to hide and everything to fear.

    The attitude that comes across in your posting both disgusts and dismays me. I had hoped for better.

  13. Outraged of Swindon
    13/02/2010 at 10:07 pm

    It is quite apparent from comments by Baroness Deech and Lord Soley that ONLY home educated children are of interest to the ‘safeguarding’ crowd in society. Presumably the school children who are regularly physically, mentally and emotionally abused every day in schools up and down Great Britain are to be left to lump it.

    Quite clearly local authorities are incapable of rescuing all these poor children from the torture they are suffering and should be summarily disbanded as being ‘unfit for purpose.’ As the funders of council tax across our once-great nation we will have to decide whether or not to continue to supply money to people who cannot keep school children safe and are incapable of providing them with a decent-enough education.

    We have the power after all. No government can function if all the citizens withdraw their financial support from that government.

    Something, perhaps, to chew over as you prepare for the travesty of Clause 26 and 27 to pass before you.

  14. Alex
    14/02/2010 at 12:13 am

    I am 19 and currently studying at the Open Uni. I have never done GCSE’s or A Levels and have no intention of doing them.

    I am very concerned about these proposals so feel fortunate that I am old enough for them not to affect me, if they are implemented. I would have felt very uneasy about a stranger coming into my home to interview me and not because I have any difficulty dealing with a stranger.

    To me, an interview would have felt like an assessment of my intelligence and a test of how well my parents were teaching me. Plus, I attended school for one summer term at the age of 10 and while I did not hate it and I managed to do quite well, I spent most of the time very bored. It seemed like every time I was finding a task interesting, the lesson would end and I would have to stop. And there was no time for learning anything that wasn’t strictly necessary because the SAT’s were just weeks away. If I thought that one wrong answer could leave me being forced to attend school when I had no desire to go, I would not be able to do one of these interviews. The same will hold true for many children.

  15. Carl.H
    14/02/2010 at 1:28 pm

    I find myself deeply concerned about this bill and it`s implications. It in no way concerns my personal circumstances as my children are in state education. I do though have vast experience of 27 years of dealing with state schools from a parents perspective.

    My concern is the welfare of the at present EHE children. If this Bill goes through, as I understand it, a lot of these children will end up back in state education. Some parents maybe able to cope with the new regime being presented and some will stay EHE. Some parents, being protective, will either hide, move or do whatever it takes including prison if that occurs- No more than most would do to protect their child.

    As some of you will know I am in IT, I run a very small company repairing home computers. Most of those are accessed by teenage kids so I am aware of what occurs online and at school with a lot of kids.I also oversee all data across my network from my three teenage kids in the house. It is not pretty. Bullying and violence is prevelent in our state schools, it frequently spills over to home via the internet. I have personally had to get involved more times than I care to mention. Peer pressure is far worse than I remember at their ages and gangs are rife.

    I am deeply concerned that putting these EHE children back into state education will damage them especially over the age 11, secondary school age. Being different they will be bullied, they will come under extreme pressure to conform to their peers and prove it. Through personal experience I know what this entails, some will go further than these unruly peers in order to prove themselves worthy. Some will not be able to take the strain and it may cause mental health issues.

    Our state schools and teachers are far from perfect, as a parent I had issues with them time and again and it is frustrating when they do not follow the rules, which is frequent. I am at present having an issue with a school because a teacher refused to give receipts to my 14 yo for £150 of trip money, this money has now gone missing. She was told to get receipts, the teacher refused and said later – the obvious has occured. Now I am odds with the establishment, again, frustrated and knowing the school and teachers will stick together against an outsider. This may not seem like a major thing but it is time and again schools are in the wrong. The £150 payment cannot be replaced, my child will lose a trip to Spain, I will be extremely angry if this occurs As I try to give my children what they deserve.

    Over the years I have had many arguments with schools mostly because they do not follow the rules. Getting a result can often mean months of heartache,LEA`s, MP`s, the DSCF and it`s not guaranteed but I have proved the institution is not what it is cracked upto be more than once. I have yet to find an answer to the constant bullying that goes on under the noses of teachers who are constantly told but seem unable to address the issues.

    If you suddenly dump,that is the correct word, these EHE children back into mainstream education the shock will be tremendous. Not only for them but for the parents and believe me should this occur these protective parents will be willing to fight.

    Having withdrawn a child from Secondary school once because of major complaints, meetings with Governers (who are biased), dealt with LA`s who had little power because of Foundation status, MP, ED Balls..blah..blah…blah. I can tell you now my child sat around for 3 months and no one, not the LA or the DSCF contacted me about schooling for my child, no checks, nada, zip, nothing. I got her into another school when I was ready. So the system is rubbish, the rules over complicated, not enough recourse in some schools against them and teachers unable to control major elements such as bullying.

    Now I have a great deal of concern that these precious children, that are not “owned” by anyone are going to be left to fend for themselves in an environment that will appear about as hostile as one can get.

    If this bill cannot be stopped, I ask, beg that the children of Secondary age at least be allowed to finish their education as is. That these children in their formative,pubescent years be allowed a chance, a chance not to have to undego such a traumatic experience as being put in with what will appear to them wild animals.

    My Lords, what you may see even on visits to selected schools will have been elaborately staged. What you will have been told will have been from one side who would wish you to see the good.

    When legislation is put forward it is not normally backdated. These children have been committed to a form of education that has been /is perfectly legal. We would not expect changes to 10 year old cars to make them fit in with new legislation.

    I am asking that the children already EHE be allowed to continue, possibly registered yes but without traumatic changes to their circumstances. New legislation if necessary be bought in to apply to new EHE children only.

    I have no contact with anyone who is EHE, I do have grave misgivings and concerns of how this new legislation may affect those already being taught at home.

    • Carl.H
      14/02/2010 at 3:54 pm

      Just to give you some idea of what I deal with regularly. The link below is a pcture of a remark on Facebook from yesterday, nothing out of the norm I`m afraid and a regular occurence. The Coral in question is my grand daughter, the remarks are aimed at her 15 year old friend. The language is extreme so please be fully aware. I might add there is nowhere on Facebook to report such an incident which I try on a regular basis. This type of thing along with threats are all too common I`m afraid, parents do not know what their children are doing. That is to say more likely State educated childrens parents.

      This is state school day in and out.

      I am fully aware my Lord that this is unlikely to get past moderation

      • Concerned Home Edder
        14/02/2010 at 5:31 pm

        Carl, thanks for this. What a terrible situation.
        Along the same lines: I have a Home Educating friend who recently sent his 2 children school for personal reasons. They are late primary age and had never been to school before. They both lasted 4 days. They liked the school, they made friends quickly. They didn’t mind the timetables etc. But they couldn’t put up with being pressured by their so called friends to bully other children. It was for any reason – fat, thin, tall, short, glasses etc. The children had been taught to respect other children and if they didn’t like other children then they made friends elsewhere or just put up with them. In the end one was pushed to ground because she wouldn’t partake in bullying.
        My friend now realises that there is no other alternative to Home Education. He describes it as their “week of hell” the week his children went to school.
        I know all schools aren’t like this, and I have another friend who flexi-schools her kids at a primary and secondary and there isn’t anywhere near that amount of bullying. But their might be. You just don’t know.
        In my area, I regularly get parents of the primary school telling me there is a culture of bullying, that their child is bullied. Yet the Ofsted report doesn’t mention it. I wonder why.
        At the Home Ed groups I go to, I’ve never witnessed any bullying. Disagreements and arguments between kids yes, but never bullying. Whether that’s because at least one parent is always with each child them is unclear.
        The government needs to fix it’s own backyard before peering over the fence into mine.

      • Gareth Howell
        14/02/2010 at 5:59 pm

        The fairly drastic changes that occurred in society at the end of the 19thC ie the Education act, main drains in towns, clean tap water, came with sets of regulations which were necessary for the mass provision of hygiene or education and so on.

        It is difficult if not impossible to go off main drains unless you know how to use bio compost loos.

        You COULD avoid the water rate entirely, if you collect your own rain water and no longer use the drains. It is so far fetched that
        it is highly unlikely to occur, especially since those suffering hardship have their Water charges waived.

        However if you chose as a matter of principle not to use the tap water and not to use the drains, by whatever ever means of catchment and effluent, having to be lawful ones, which is just about possible, you would be doing the same in principle as home educators are doing with the Education acts and the laws prescribed over the last century for that.

        If you never touch supermarket food and produce your own, you are ALSO consistent with the principles that home Educators have here enunciated.

        The grading that Derbyshire CC uses, would factor such things.

        If you insist on Home education and then go buy vastly fattening foods, at high cost, at a supermarket every day, then you are quite inconsistent with any principle at all; in fact a thoroughgoing hypocrite intent on DEFECTING from the system!

      • Carl.H
        14/02/2010 at 7:30 pm

        “especially since those suffering hardship have their Water charges waived.”

        Gareth can you point me to information on this as to my knowledge this appears untrue. Off topic I know.

        I`m not sure I follow your point either.

  16. bettycake28
    14/02/2010 at 5:30 pm

    Meet with me and my Autistic son and let us explain this to you in person Baroness. Perhaps then you will remove your blinkers!

    • Bill Frenzee
      14/02/2010 at 6:02 pm

      Steiner is very keen on Autistic learning in with all the other kids, if you can find a Steiner school near you; they are deeply caring of such learning difficulties.

      Rudolf Steiner schools

  17. 14/02/2010 at 10:19 pm

    What is it about the crime of child abuse that means that hundreds of years of civil liberties can be chucked out the window?

    For any other suspected crime you need a search warrant to enter the home. Are you suggesting that all homes in this country are to be subject to warrantless searches if there is a suspicion of child abuse? If not, why is it that suspicion of child abuse by home educators is considered so much worse than child abuse by other members of society?

    I’d really appreciate an explanation.

    Thank you.

    • Gareth Howell
      15/02/2010 at 4:25 pm

      It would usually be incest and not just paedophilia, and actually no little difference in degree of seriousness.

      Carl; people don’t generally discuss that waiver; they are just thankful for it.

      The point I make is not difficult if you do a fairly basic analysis of Ivan Illich and his philosophy.

      Self reliance and self sufficency to counteract the incompetence of most state systems, health, medicine,and others.

      Mrs Thatcher’s philosophy too really, but her answer was to privatize everything in sight.

      • Carl.H
        15/02/2010 at 6:28 pm

        “Carl; people don’t generally discuss that waiver; they are just thankful for it.”

        Gareth as far as I`m aware and I have been to the bottom of the well there are no waivers for any untiliy bill even at the bottom of social payments. Heating help is made available in times of real cold to the frail but absolutely no help with water payments AT ALL.

  18. Carl.H
    15/02/2010 at 12:09 pm

    I have now removed all references to the exact school (in hope of passing moderation) as well as the names in the hope of showing a parents frustration and why some children are taken out of state education.

    I related somewhere above to an incident about my now 15yo daughter and trouble with a secondary school which eventually led to my removing her and placing her elsewhere.

    I`d like to show if I can the type of frustration parents go through with state schools often leading to the children being withdrawn from state education.

    I have put together an internet page with just some of the emails between myself and the DCFS/DFES. There were many others including ones to James Duddridge, the LA and of course the School. As you will see the scenario carried on from May until late September in these emails and infact I got my child reintegrated in another school mid November.

    I have removed the names of teachers and contacts.

  19. Jem
    15/02/2010 at 2:29 pm

    “The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism.”
    – Sir William Osler

    Has there ever been a greater exhibition of dogma than New Labour’s CSF Bill?

  20. Jem
    15/02/2010 at 2:43 pm


    Please could you arrange the regulation of the raising of children aged 0 to 5. I am very concerned that parents have these children in their homes and can do whatever they wish to them out of sight of any teacher or Local authority officer. Anything could be happening to them! Children in social care are have an extra level of protection which is missing from these children’s lives, and I think it is about time this was rectified; after all, these children have rights too!

    All these children should be registered with a welfare officer and the parents interviewed in the home within 3 weeks of birth, then annually. The setting of the child’s raising should be assessed and targets for their development should be set at interview, and the previous year’s attainment reviewed. If progress is not satisfactory despite input from approved childcare experts, the children should be served with a SCAO (Social Care Attendance Order).

    I am sure that no one can object to such light-touch registration and annual monitoring of pre-school children. After all, if their parenting is good, they will have nothing to fear!

    • Jenny
      15/02/2010 at 8:16 pm

      I think that’s a fantasitc idea Jem. I feel safer already. I know all the parents who think I’m crazy for having difficulty with this CSF Bill would welcome the helpful support (intervention)from birth. Personally I think the LA’s should come around once a month at least considering the risk. Our children will be so much safer for it.

      I mean really, parents who don’t want to send their children to day care must be crazy anyway. And mums who brest feed thier children must have some weird fetish. They really need to be watched.

      Baroness you and Eddy Balls, get this sorted out quick time. The fate of our young is in your hands.

  21. Jem
    15/02/2010 at 4:54 pm

    “If home education is as good as is claimed, then there is nothing to fear from some inspection.”

    The inadequacy of the “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” position as an argument for anything is so self-evident as to be laughable. The Baroness obviously is rather lacking in her history education. There are a wealth of examples throughout history of people or groups who were doing nothing wrong, yet still fell foul of Ill-judged laws or malevolent bodies. Indeed, given her family history one would think she would be the last person to say this (“Deech is the daughter of the late historian and journalist, Josef Fraenkel, who fled Vienna and then Prague from the Nazis in 1939. Several other members of her family were murdered in German concentration camps in Poland during World War II.” – Wikipedia).

    The need for fear is entirely dependent upon the motives and the competence of those whose actions one fears. These are both in serious question in relation to the architects and executioners of the proposed legislation.

    “If a child is frightened when a stranger comes into the home, the child needs help, not continued protection from seeing any strangers.”

    This shows an amazing lack of knowledge of, and an astounding lack of sympathy for children with special needs – autism has been mentioned by other people here, for example.

    Apart from which, it is not necessarily the fact of a stranger in the home which would distress a child, but rather who that stranger is and what they represent. The Baroness seems ignorant of the inspectors already in place in some areas who will often lie, bully and cheat to try to get a child or parent to give them cause to serve a SAO. After such treatment, this is a healthy fear of a real threat. If the Baroness wanted to actually help home educated children, she could start by improving the regulation of such inspectors and suggesting a mechanism for some sort of professional standards of conduct and accountability.

    “Other European countries seem to be running a lightly regulated system of home education and the UK is somewhat out of step.”

    Just because something is done in othe EU countries it doesn’t mean it is right. You still ignore the largest EHE community in the world, North America, which indeed is regulated in some places, but for which the trend (like New Zealand) has recently been to loosen their regulatory grip.

    “There should be information on (a) the numbers and results of home schooled children taking science A-levels, and (b) their entry to the top universities.”

    More schools- and systems-based assumptions here. Science A Levels and Oxbridge places are not a useful measure of outcomes, especially for a community with a high proportion of special needs children. Nor are they the be-all and end-all of success any more than material wealth or salary. Some things in life are more important to some people, children included. Absence from the consumer culture and performance pressure that exists in school may lead children to find happy, fulfilled and useful lives outside these narrow parameters.

    I also see your inference that science is superior to the arts or social sciences as another reason why the biases of the state school system
    you reflect mean that it is an unrealistic and unhealthy social and academic model, both for children and the state.

    “There should be some safeguard against home educated Muslim girls, or any others, not receiving the equality of opportunity that would be offered at school, or should be; and reassurance that children who are not English speakers are learning the language.”

    Sweeping and uninformed prejudice has no place in serious debate. I suggest you meet more Muslims as well as some home educators.

    “The whole of society has an interest in how each child is educated.”

    And as I have pointed out before, just because society has an interest does not mean its interest should be fulfilled. Human beings (and that includes children) have a God-given right to privacy and the quiet enjoyment of their lives, and to maintain their own principles, beliefs and philosophies. State must prove that there is a necessity for it to interfere in the private lives of its citizens – again, children included – and that it is competent to do so. In casually throwing around insults, the Baroness has not demonstrated necessity, and gives a fairly damning case for her lack of competence.

  22. Rossi
    18/02/2010 at 9:24 am

    Perhaps the government should look at the amount of A levels being acieved in sciences and how many are getting into top universities from state schools in socially deprived areas. The government should start by ensuring they are providing a good education for ALL children in state schools. Baroness Deech you are obviously so detached from reality in your privileged life that you are unaware of schools were children carry knives, supply teachers sit reading a paper throughout a lesson and education is poor to say the least. Yet this very system that allows this to happen feel they know better than we do.

  23. dawn
    21/02/2010 at 2:49 pm

    my heart is really heavy at your words

    and even my child who goes to school is never asked to be interviewed at length by a stranger , people in schools are not strangers.
    And even my school child would not be asked to be interviewed at home on his own without me present ………… so why should my two home educated children have to do it.
    In fact do you ever get asked to be interviewed at home on your own without anyone present??? even criminals get better rights than that – you make my blood boil on behalf of my very outgoing social home ed children who have done no wrong and do NOT deserve this abuse.

  24. Elaine
    21/02/2010 at 9:05 pm

    Many of the elderly and infirm are abused in their own homes and those of relatives in whom they have placed their trust, many lay in sodden beds drinking only water, dependant on their abuser to offer them some form of nourishment but knowing that any nourishment they do get will probably be basic. Many of then fear the carer entering the room preferring the semi concious state that malnourishment leaves them in than the beating they will get when it is discovered they have soiled.
    Why is there not an inspection and monitoring system in place ? why are you not highlighting their plight in the press?
    Should I answer my own question? It is because thousands upon thousands of caring relatives day in day out provide our elderly and infirm with a standard of care that cannot be found in any state provision, it is because these same people give their loved ones the emotional security of knowing that no matter how painful and debilitating their journey to the end of life may be they will be loved and cared for.
    Should we explore the impact that bringing in a scheme of inspection and monitoring would have on the elderly and infirm and their relatives/carers ? Or is there any point in exploring such a suggestion because we both know, don’t we, that to suggest such a thing would be met with an outcry.
    May I go so far as to suggest that you dwell not on the what if’s, the false statistics etc but concentrate your mind on the good that twice the amount of money Ed Balls has quoted this as costing, it has to be double because we have a 2006 DFES/DCSF document showing they estimate the number of home educators to be 40,000 , take that money and use it to reduce the national debt because that is the biggest threat to the majority of children in England today, they face a future working not to provide for their own children but to pay of the excesses of the past few years of Labour Government .

  25. Clover
    23/02/2010 at 8:30 pm

    I think you misunderstand the reasons for not wanting inspection. I have perfectly nice, healthy legs, but that doesn’t mean I would let a doctor look at them each year just to check they were in good working order. I should not have to prove the worth of any aspect of my life, as I am breaking no laws and causing nobody any trouble.

    On the point of children being afraid of strangers – that is not what is meant when I say I don’t want to see an inspector. I don’t want anybody I do not trust having any power over me. Inspection from somebody you don’t know, who has the power to uproot your lifestyle on nothing more than bias and your reluctance to see them alone is terrifying for a child. Even more so in cases where they have been previously abused by government funded authorities.

    On the EU front – we are not merely international sheep. There is nothing bad in being different, and if you think otherwise, I would suggest your schooling may have indoctrinated you into such a narrow attitude. Also, families from other European countries flee to England specifically because it is one of the last decent countries in this respect!

    You demand information on academic qualifications, of a community that have no obligation to take any exams. That is ludicrous, as they cannot be compared meaningfully with the results from schools. On the second though, there may well be information. I would suggest that you ask the universities, as they ask the educational background of their applicants.

    I do not accept that muslim girls, or any other minority you care to choose, are any more at risk of being denied their rights than any other home educated child. There is no evidence, just your opinion, which I am afraid I must conclude is terribly ill informed.

    Lastly, I do not accept that society has any more interest, nor a right to interest in myself, than I, my parents, and my friends. I owe society nothing, and if society’s ‘interest’ in me leads to my rights being violated, I will seek reocmpense from it.

    I will not comply with this Bill.


    • Louisa
      23/02/2010 at 10:35 pm

      I will not comply either. This bill is a grab for state ownership of my children’s lives. I am morally bound to defy this bill, if it becomes law, because my children own their own lives, learning and outcomes not the government and I am morally obligated to defend the rights of my children. I expect that many HEers will be doing the same.

  26. roadslesstravelled
    09/03/2010 at 1:38 am

    I do wonder if Bns Deech will be door knocking every child in England to ascertain their preference for schooled or home education.

    Logically it must follow that if the rights of the child are to be heard and listened too, then every child in England should be visited and interviewed ‘alone’ without their parents to find out where their preferences lie.

  27. 09/03/2010 at 5:43 am

    Dearest Baroness Deech,
    Having watched you speak in the House of Lords this evening, I thought I should let you know that this situation may be far worse than you feared… Some *working class* parents, such as myself, are sacrificing a career outside the home in order to educating their own children of *mixed ethnicity* by the *autonomous method*, whilst living on *widows pensions* and all of this irrespective of the duties “pledged in international treaties” by our mighty unelected.

  28. Elaine
    09/03/2010 at 12:42 pm

    To say ”produce the child”, as you did during the csf bill debate, is to imply that the child has no right to self determination. To raise a child in modern England who has their right to self determination taken from them by physical/emotional threat is abusive .
    The state only has a proactive role in a childs life when it is determined by a court of law that to not interfere could result in the child coming to harm.
    That is made clear in the uncrc .
    If there is no evidence that a child is at risk then the states role in a childs life is that of facilitator.

  29. Concerned Home Edder
    09/03/2010 at 5:37 pm

    Baroness Deech, you have caused much amusement amoungst the home education community by saying yesterday that you have immersed yourself in the subject, yet you seem to know nothing about Home Education. I assume from your position in academia that immersion has different levels, and you were only dipping your toes in the paddling pool rather than diving in at the deep end.

  30. Simon Webb
    09/03/2010 at 11:54 pm

    My daughter and I were watching your performance during the second reading of the Children, Schools and Families Bill. My daughter, who has never attended school and is now sixteen, said, “The voice of reason!” She was very impressed with what you said, as was I. Well done.

  31. elsie
    11/03/2010 at 8:36 am

    I became aware of the Baroness’s interest in home education only after her speech on Monday, which has prompted me to respond to the points she raises in this blog.

    Lobbying: Given the number of people involved with the EHE review who have commented on the lack of consensus amongst home educators, I am surprised that the Baroness sees responses from parents as a ‘lobby’.

    Inspection: As the Baroness must be aware, systems of inspection involve two principle factors; what, or whom is inspected, and who is doing the inspecting. There are significant constitutional implications in making home educators (council tax payers) accountable to their local authorities (service providers/commissioners). In addition, local authorities can hardly be expected to be impartial in respect of the assessment of a ‘service’ competing against one they themselves provide. Also, you make the implicit assumption that the model of education adopted by the local authority must be the right one. Given the demonstrable failure of local authorities all over the country to provide a suitable efficient education to many children, I feel this assumption is questionable.

    Strangers: As the parent of an autistic child I would welcome help for my son to overcome his developmental difficulties – which include his reluctance to talk to some strangers. The Baroness does not appear to be aware of the scarcity of support services in this area. In addition, as previous posters have pointed out, the child might not be afraid of strangers per se, but might, with good reason be afraid of someone who had the power to return them to a school where they had been failed educationally or bullied. I am aware that home education is being seen by some as a legal loophole that allows them to escape the consequences of truancy or repeated school exclusions, but the number of children now being home educated must surely raise questions about the level of satisfaction with school amongst parents and children – and let’s hear the voice of the child about school as well as home education.

    Regulation: I fail to see why the UK has to be ‘in step’ with other European countries in terms of regulating home education. There are very good reasons why, in contrast to Germany, the UK didn’t ban home education when it had the opportunity to do so in 1944. I’m surprised that these reasons are frequently overlooked by commentators. Education is an exclusive competence under the Lisbon treaty. The only valid reason for regulating home education is if there is evidence that home education is failing a higher proportion of children than school education fails; and such evidence has not so far emerged.

    Information: I would certainly welcome more information on home education, but fail to see why science A levels and entry to ‘top’ universities (Oxbridge, presumably) are significant. Many parents home educate their children until they are 16. Few children under 16 take A levels, so the number of home educated children taking A levels from home would be small anyway – most would be taking them at schools and colleges. And if measured against criteria (a) and (b), the state education system is not doing too well.

    Equal opportunity: The first home educating family I ever met, thirty years ago, were fundamentalist Christians. Their social life revolved around church. Their four children, in order two girls and two boys, became respectively, an architect, a social services manager, a software engineer and a documentary maker. This example proves nothing of course, but it is important to note that religious fundamentalism does not necessarily close down a child’s options. And although the state education system might offer equality of opportunity, there are no ‘safeguards in place’ to ensure that young people take up that offer, because people’s careers are the outcome of the interaction of many factors, not just equality of opportunity.

    For 150 years, state education in the UK has been largely structured around ideological and economic principles, rather than on evidence of the efficacy of educational methods. For 150 years, state education has consistently failed the 20% of the population with learning difficulties or physical disabilities. For years, GCSE A-C rates, the government’s own measure of educational success, have hovered around 60%. To an outside observer without children or whose children have done well in the system, a success rate of 60% and gradually improving might appear acceptable, but that might not be a view shared by one of the 40% who don’t meet that target – or by their parents.

    Assessing home education using criteria derived from state education, especially criteria that state education consistently fails to meet, is a pointless exercise. You are quite right in saying that the whole of society has an interest in how each child is educated. It’s high time we, as a society, stepped back and took a good long look at how we educate our children, what works well and what doesn’t, and listened to what everybody who has been educated, including children, has to say about it.

  32. Norma W
    12/03/2010 at 1:05 pm

    Dear Baroness Deech,

    Although I disagree with much of what you said about Schedule 1 of the CSF Bill, the reason for my post is to complain about the way you represented information put on this blog by Mrs Janet Ford, about her daughter’s social life and education. I have permission from Mrs Ford to raise this matter, as she has a busy schedule for the next couple of weeks.

    You said: ”The home educators were insistent that their children had socialising experiences, although whether it is correct to include trips to the supermarket, as one did, or learning French with a grandfather learning at the same time, was open to question.” (Hansard)

    This made it sound like a home educator said a French lesson with a grandfather, made for a social life, and it came across as belittling to Mrs Ford and to home education. In fact, Mrs Ford included the French lesson as only one in a long list of weekly activities, to show the overall variety of home ed activities as well as socialisation. You failed to mention her daughter’s weekly activities with 80 other home educated children, or her skating, dancing and trampolining sessions or regular sleepovers — surely more fair examples of Mrs Ford’s description of home ed socialisation.

    Many home educators have been upset since the Badman Report because, in that report and afterwards, they have been misquoted, statistics have been skewed and partial information has been given. As I am sure you are aware, the Select Committee had strong criticism for Mr Badman’s methodology and for many of his conclusions.

    Obviously, people have different opinions over whether the state should have more powers than it already has in family life. Many home educators have a different philosophy than you do about this.

    But I would hope that you would share a desire for accurate reporting of what people have said.


    Original post of Mrs Ford 9th February 2010

    I do wish you could see my daughter’s schedule before you make such comments. This week – Monday – skating with the home ed group (she got asked out by a school kid there, who thought it appropriate to follow her round shouting he wanted to bang her), followed by a French lesson with her Grandad (they are really enjoying learning the language together in spite of a 66 year age gap), Tuesday – English GCSE oral (two years early),but would usually be the weekly home ed meeting where she meets up with 80 or so other kids, Wednesday GCSE English Oral, but would usually be her Japanese lesson followed by a dancing session with the home ed group, Thursday – trampolining, followed by a talk on healthy eating followed by swimming (the home ed group has had to organise 3 groups to run concurrently at the leisure centre as over 70 kids signed up to this), Friday – meeting with friends to go shopping in town, Saturday – lunch with family and friends, Sunday – meeting with friends to go to the cinema. She is actually at home this weekend, usually she is booked up for sleepovers with her schooled friends who are not available during the week, poor things.

    Incidentally, even though she didn’t decide to do a GCSE English and English lit until very late, and so had to do her 18 months worth of coursework within 6 weeks, we just got her marks for the coursework, A for English Lang and A* for English Lit, so her hectic social schedule doesn’t seem to be affecting her marks.

    We would love to meet some of you people who have the power to completely change our lives and the way we educate our children, and as you have this power, it does seem only fair that you should at least make the attempt to understand how it can affect us. It is very easy to make judgements and pass laws without understanding the devastating effect this could have.

    In our case, as we educate autonomously, with very little written evidence, using conversation, exploration, hands on experience and experimentation rather than workbooks, so anyone judging the content of our education would probably decide our children were not doing enough – yet our daughter has been tested by the school that is hosting her GCSE work, and got the highest score of any child they had ever tested, and our son was the youngest ever entrant on a PhD course at Manchester school of medicine. This is why we object to having people coming into our homes to make judgments on the content of our educational provision, who don’t have any knowledge of the methods used, as autonomous home education looks nothing like conventional school education, and yet it works exceptionally well.

    I am saddened that you appear to disregard people who are trying to reach out to you – Real people who are trying to tell you that Schedule 1 has great potential to harm their families and hence their children.

    Norma Wilshaw

  33. Rowan Fortune-Wood
    14/03/2010 at 2:20 pm

    Baroness Deech, having apparently ‘immersed’ herself in the subject, has recently spewed a vitriolic tirade against the home-education community in which she employed a range of dubious rhetorical devices to demonise an already marginalised group. She sets the mood with the ominous tautology, ‘We do not know what we do not know.’ Proceeding to wildly speculate on the numbers of home-educators and how representative those speaking out against the bill are; she uses this lack of knowledge to give an impression of a silent majority—freeing her to unleash her bile against those who dare to speak without, of course, tarring us all. A good home-educator, it seems, is a silent home-educator.

    According to her we are expressing ‘rage and resentment’ from a ‘mishmash of ideological views’, daring to reject ‘state interference’ and are indifferent ‘to the rights of the child’. Worse still, we make ‘accusations of totalitarianism’ and feel superior to those, no doubt including Baroness Deech, ‘who would like to help the child’. To summarise in my own words, she paints a picture of an angry, ideologically diverse, paranoid, selfish and smug group. She rightly concludes that this does ‘not paint a good picture of home educators.’ But then as it is a picture of her concoction, so that is not surprising. Yes we are angry; when people are caricatured to justify oppression that is only natural. Ideological diversity is healthy. Paranoid, selfish and smug? We are not the people meddling with her life to further a political career because we feel the need to stop unsubstantiated and imagined cases of abuse. Projection is an ugly thing.

    After citing Germany (with its Adolf Hitler and EU endorsed law banning home-education) to give legal validity to her perspective, she continues on her journey into the scary unknown. ‘Since home education has no minimum hours, no curriculum and no examinations, there can be no assurance that home-educated children will receive suitable education.’ Nor can this be reason to assume that they don’t, but she goes on, ‘There are no statistics about their GCSE and A-level results, or even their 3R competence, let alone university entrance.’ Shock horror, I guess you do not know what you do not know then? Allow me to address Baroness Deech directly for a moment. Your ignorance is not a sign of our wrongdoing or a justification for intrusion; you do not investigate because something bad might be happening; you simply assume nothing bad is happening until you have genuine reason to believe otherwise. And no, your caricature is not a genuine reason for such investigation.

    This is not good enough for Baroness Deech, who complains that, ‘There can be no guarantee that home-educated children will receive reproductive, personal, social, health and economic education, as is compulsory-or will be-for others over 15; nor will they receive any guarantee of careers guidance. There is no assurance that migrant children who are being educated at home, even if they can be tracked, are learning English.’ So it’s guilty until proven innocent. What guarantee do we have, Baroness Deech, that you are not a criminal of some description? None. Well I guess we will have to treat you like a criminal! Invade your home, destroy your family, mock your feeble pleas to be left alone, belittle your rage, etc. What, are you indifferent to crime? Do you think yourself superior to those who would like to stop it?

    Not content to malign home-educators and conceitedly demean our attempts to defend ourselves Baroness Deech then turns her attention to an even more marginalised group, Autonomous Educators. And for someone who has ‘immersed’ herself in the topic of home-education her ignorance here is breathtaking. This is her one sentence definition of Autonomous education, the, ‘belief that children can just learn autonomously without being taught.’ What she hints at is laissez-faire parenting: neglect. Autonomous parents facilitate their children’s education. They are entirely willing to teach, but they do so with their child’s consent. They teach autonomously. And they allow the child to learn in other ways too, id est. autodidactically.

    Baroness Deech wonders ‘how this worked with, say, physics, and fear that those children are being experimented on in a way that may blight their only chance in a lifetime to be presented with the knowledge and life skills that they will need.’ I can supply just such an example. My sister, autonomously educated, learnt physics at an advanced degree level through the OU. She chose to learn. And, as someone who was formerly amongst that group of children Baroness Deech is so fearful about, allow me to say; mind your own damn business. It was thanks to my education that I now have a good 2:1 degree and am working towards an MA from Manchester Metropolitan University.

    And the accusation that autonomous educators are experimenting on their children from a voice of the state! Autonomous home-educators adopt a moral position; they refuse to coerce because, unlike Baroness Deech, they believe coercion is evil. They do not try to produce children according to some preconceived ideal. Whereas schools do coerce because they believe it does produce children according to their preconceived ideal—and they fall short, producing academic failure, epidemic bullying and widespread youth malaise. Resulting in BBC headlines like ‘Teens “cannot function in work”‘, ‘More schools are failing under new Ofsted checks’, ‘The school bullying epidemic’, ‘Half of British kids “don’t read”‘ and ‘UK is accused of failing children’.

    Having satisfied herself with such a flippant and ignorant dismissal of autonomous parents, Baroness Deech returns her attention to the general. She adds to her caricature; apparently some of us express ‘contempt for the state in all its manifestations.’ What a crime! How dare we critique government? Note that it is not even the content of the critique that upsets Baroness Deech; it is the audacity to have contempt for the state at all. And not one of us, apparently, has ‘mentioned the welfare of the child.’ Nonsense. The entire reason we oppose this legislation is the welfare of children. Perhaps if Baroness Deech would stop talking and start listening she would be able to… but no, what am I saying? Politicians like her are singularly incapable of understanding—even when they, apparently, ‘immerse’ themselves in a subject.

    And what of the successful home-educators; surely Baroness Deech does not deny that there is such a group. She does not, but in her usual style she decides that this can be dismissed on the basis of conjecture. For the successful, you see, are, ‘overwhelmingly middle class, and it struck me that the provision of home education must be an expensive effort, involving not only the likely sacrifice of a career outside the home by the educating parent, but, as has been mentioned, payment for all the outings and extracurricular activities that are usually provided by the school-not to mention the examinations and equipment.’ Again I must question this ‘immersion’ of hers. Surely she has heard of Dr. Paula Rothermel’s research demonstrating that home-educating working class parents outperform not only middle class home-educators, but middle class school attendees?

    Baroness Deech then moves on to the tired cliché of socialisation. Here she faces a problem though; on her blog she has been bombarded with examples of people who home-educate and have no difficulty with socialisation. However, when the truth interferes with your ideological bias you can always resort to deception and distortion. In what amounts to the most disgraceful piece of her disgraceful speech she says that home-educators ‘were insistent that their children had socialising experiences, although whether it is correct to include trips to the supermarket, as one did, or learning French with a grandfather learning at the same time, was open to question.’ Another poster on Baroness Deech’s blog, Norma W, has ably corrected the two-faced politician:

    ‘This made it sound like a home educator said a French lesson with a grandfather, made for a social life, and it came across as belittling to Mrs Ford and to home education. In fact, Mrs Ford included the French lesson as only one in a long list of weekly activities, to show the overall variety of home ed activities as well as socialisation. You failed to mention her daughter’s weekly activities with 80 other home educated children, or her skating, dancing and trampolining sessions or regular sleepovers — surely more fair examples of Mrs Ford’s description of home ed socialisation.’

    Baroness Deech finishes by saying that even the intrusion the government is proscribing is not enough. Home-educators should just be grateful that we are not living under Hitler’s ban in Germany, the legitimacy of which she seems to approve. She urges the political elite to ignore home-educators as she has; we are just lobbyists—a category she does not try to justify. Don’t listen to the people whose lives we plan to ruin, this unelected clown urges. After all, home educators are not representative, unlike the unelected Baroness Deech.

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