home education public consultation in the UK
Recently, I and Ira took part in the public consultation with the UK Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families who has commissioned an independent review to assess whether current systems that support and monitor home education are the right ones.
We share here what we have told the commission – if this is of some use for you. No secret here ..
Some parts will sound very ‘harsh’ and ‘difficult’ – but as this is a public consultation we have to make sure the voice is heard by the government.
Don’t get us wrong. We are not anti-school. And we also don’t think all school (and schooling) is a bad idea in its own right. No. We believe that school should indeed be a quality way of providing education to people. HE is just an alternative where the systems do not work or when parents (and children alike) would like to have an alternative.
So, what we do here is that we are just expressing our concern as a HE family in the UK, who often have to bear unnecessary problems as HE is viewed as ‘odd’ and even ‘illegal’ and this justifies annoying visits from LEA, and even DSS (this is the extent to which we ‘envy’ our friends practising HE in other countries … :-))
best – and btw, have a good weekend!
y (and i)
1. Do you think the current system for safeguarding children who are educated at home is adequate?
NO. Although we have not experienced directly (maybe because our children are still not at the compulsory school age yet), we are aware (from the group interaction among HE parents) that the government authority has perhaps intruded too much in the family’s choice to home educate their children over sending them to school.
I think despite that HE has already been formally acknowledged, many LEA staff are not aware of what the parents’ rights to home educate are and not aware of the limit of the ‘intrusion’ they can cause. I believe more training to LEA staff would be necessary to avoid unnecessary unpleasant interaction between parents and authority.
Secondly, but more importantly, as parents we have rights to determine what is best for our children and no one should refrain us from exercising these rights. The children too, when they due, they have freedom to chose the most-suited learning process for themselves. Sending them to school by force will not do any good. Home Education should be viewed as an alternative to common schooling. There are plenty examples that home educated children then attend school at later stage when they feel they are ready. These students, when entering the school at full will and consciousneess, perform much better than others who may have attended class just by ‘force’.
2. Do you think that home educated children are able to achieve the following five Every Child Matters outcomes?
2.a. Be healthy
YES – Being home educated parents can make sure children eat healthy food and have enough safe exercise. It is no secret that school meals are not so healthy and that PE has not always been safe. We take our kids regularly to museums, libraries, art galeries to learn; swimming pools and sport centres as well as having regular nature walk and other outdoor activities to have a healthy exercise. We cook our own food from organic raw materials. We use and consume neither pre-processed food nor MSG (monosodium glutamate). We know exactly what gets in to the stomach of our children and know exactly what they do.
2.b. Stay safe
YES – Home education is in fact the safest way to raise up young children. They will be free from abuse and bullying, be it from other children and teachers. We are aware the accusation of parents abusing children and we are also aware that it may have taken place somewhere else. But simply correlating (or worse: associating) this kind of abuse and HE parents is a big mistake. The first and main reason for homeschool (home education) is to protect children against this sort of violence.
2.c. Enjoy and achieve
YES – The basic principle of home education is ENJOYABLE LEARNING PROCESS both for parents and children. If either is unhappy and cannot enjoy the process then the whole home education scheme for the family is bound to fail. We believe firmly in this principle and so far we have been enjoying the learning process. Being in intensive contact with our kids has made us able to notice even the smallest achievement: progress in singing, knowing letters, readings, etc. Also, HE makes possible for kids to learn multi-cultural interaction through get-together activities with other cultural/ethnic groups which sometimes is difficult to be achieved at schools. For overseas/foreign families, HE enables families to nurture their own tradition. In our case, we are Asian living in British culture. While we encourage our children to blend-in with the local culture, HE gives us plenty opportunities to learn and revitalise our own cultures, languages, traditions and other cultural practices. These all give more enjoyment in learning.
We do not discount the fact that learning process in school is also enjoyable — and it has actually to be enjoyable for both pupils/students and teachers but what is missing there is the parents involvement. Perhaps in the society like ours which nurtures “both parents work and children learn at school” we lose sense of how important the involvement of parents in children education is. It is not that schooling is bad, but that home education would provide more opportunities for parents to be involved in their children education — although there is a price: not both parents can work full time in a certain period. there has to be a different arrangement. (In my family only one of us works full time). Again, in the society which glorifies financial gain above everything else, this will be looked as pitty and odd. But, this is the hard truth: there is a trade-off between enjoying learning with your own children and earning merely for more income.
2.d. Make a positive contribution
YES – Often home educated children (and parents) are accused of being less able to socialise. This is a very wrong misconception. Not only that we (HE parents and children) regularly get together in groups, regularly join social gathering, take part in organising meetings in community centres, but that we build the sense of sociality since the very early time of our children’s age by taking them in these activities. We bring our children to social events, public places, etc., and involve them in social activities serving other groups (e.g. in our case, we participate in locally-organised parents and toddler’s groups). This makes the children even more socially conscious and socially aware not only about their own family but also about other’s needs. In turn, they learn more and contribute more to their society when they grow up because they know the reality in which they live. There are many grown-up home educated people who make posit
ive contribution to the society. And it is not uncommon. In fact home educated children will have more opportunities to contribute as they experience society in real sense –rather than in experimental/laboratory/just-in-the-class experience.
2.e. Achieve economic well-being
YES – The main problematic aspect of ‘economic well-being’ as the majority would understand –especially in our society– is that we are bound to earn income as much as possible. By doing so, parents, inadvertently, have been forced to retreat from their main responsibility to play the most important part of their children’s education. Instead, they send children to school and hand over this responsibility to school.
This is the view that we oppose. being economically well-being does not necessarily mean we have to refrain from our responsibility to be involved in our children education. Furthermore, many of us live an unbalanced and an unhealthy life in which the pursuit of economic income leads everything else and is at the expense of other needs — including proper children education. We know many HE families, including ours, live simple life, economically and physically healthy despite single income. We eat organic and healthy food sourced from local market. We enjoy socialisation at public places like libraries and museums. We have access to basic health services. This list goes on and on. The main message is that: economic well-being is a matter of mental state rather than financial saving.
This is the value we would like to ‘implant’ in our children minds when they grow up. We believe if they are let to learn anything they want, they will excel in the field and expertise in which they have passion and interest. If they become expert in that field, economic well-being will follow. Economic well-being is a result, rather than a cause.
3. Do you think that Government and local authorities have an obligation to ensure that all children in this country are able to achieve the five outcomes?
YES – Clear cut answers:
One. Ensure the provision of good schooling service. Government has done fairly well. But there are many things that need improvement: from policies to capacity building of teachers.
Two. Ensure adequate support to home education scheme. Home education should be socialised to all LEA staff so that they are fully aware that the government supports the idea and they stop intruding families’ (peaceful) life.
4. Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for supporting home educating families?
1. Clearly LEA staffs at all localities need more information about HE – most importantly the message should come across clearly that HE is *not* illegal and that HE is parents’ rights and is supported by the government. Then come the more detailed things: capacity building to LEA staff, etc.
2. Make a country-wide information campaign that HE is legal and supported by government as alternative to conventional schooling.
3. The issuance of HE ID cards for both children and parents that can be used to protect the families against unnecessary (but which might still happen) intrusion from authorities.
5. Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring home educating families?
YES – Clear: The government should remove all policies to monitor home educating families. They are (we are) not criminals that have to be under surveillance.
6. Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this does not happen?
Firstly, these ‘some people’ do not understand the difference between what home education is and what ‘bad family conduct’ is. So, please check the statistics to see if those cases directly link to home education. I have a strong belief that this stems from a suspicion towards Asian culture. Being Asian family ourselves, we can assure you that our culture has nothing to do with this sort of abuse.
In a healthy society, people know each other. The government know what their people are doing and the people trust their government and enjoys freedom and privacy. This is the vision we should build. Not the surveillance society in which everyone fears of being monitored.
Enabling neighbourhood wardens might be a solution, or other community-based local group in which government representative can be present in the regular meeting — is more than enough to address this concern.