All this review stuff has had me thinking a lot about children, families and the state. I’m not someone who believes that the state has no place in family life. I believe that the family home is not a safe place for far too many children – and indeed women. I should probably say men too but the figures do reveal that it’s far more often women and children who bear the brunt of abusive family relationships. I am aware that the NSPCC might not be the most trusted of organisations among home educators at the moment, but I’m prepared to accept their figures as they’re properly sourced. I’m no fan of this government and I think they have control freaky tendencies but I also think that we need to be honest about the fact that family homes are not always a refuge from the harsh world outside – sometimes they are a prison. That is, I imagine, as likely to be true in home educating families as any other.
So, if I accept this, why don’t I like the premise of the current home education ‘review’? Well, for a start there is the assumption that home educated children are *more* at risk of living in an abusive background than schooled children. But what really worries me is that the ‘solution’ that the government will likely propose will be based on inspection – by people who will probably be fairly ignorant of the theories and practice of home education. If I were to suggest one thing to the government that would increase the likelihood of home educating families engaging with state services – of all kinds – it would be to ensure that the relevant staff have been given proper training with regard to home education.
In short, I believe that the government could do a great deal to increase trust in its already existing social services, if it were to train its staff properly and challenge the prejudiced and suspicious attitudes that many of them display when they encounter home educating families. People won’t come and ask for support if they know that their choice of education will be under threat and/or seen as a symptom of a dysfunctional family. Should a home educator have a concern about another home educating family, they will be wary of services staffed by people taught that ‘regular school attendance’ is the key to healthy child development. They may also be aware that the reputation of home educators as a whole can be at stake when social services staff, or others, generalise from a position of ignorance. I think it is this ignorance – something the government could certainly attempt to rectify – that they should sort out, before they start to suggest that increased *inspection* will be in anyone’s best interest.