Sunday, March 07, 2010

Trouble in the Kingdom:Home Education Under Attack

While we in the 'provinces' enjoy a relatively non-intrusive home education environment our brothers and sisters in the UK are not faring as well.
You might have already heard of the vicious anti-home education campaign that's occurring over on the home island with the new measures being put in place to 'keep an eye' so to speak on home educating families. Why is this happening?

Kelly Green is a Canadian doing a great job of keeping us up to date on the struggle for civil rights that UK home educators are going through and she has created a space for their voices to be heard in North America on her
She explains,

"The U.K. Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) [How sinister does that sound?] is currently proposing legislation which will remove parental authority from biological/adoptive parents and legal guardians in order to transfer this authority to the state. English home educators have repeatedly made the point that the proposed legislation, stemming from the discredited Badman Review on Elective Home Education (June 2009), will make the state the parent of first resort rather than last resort (as is the case with children taken into care).

....These changes will affect all English families.....the government has so successfully manipulated the mainstream media with Badman’s cooked statistics on child abuse, many people in the general public have come away with the impression that home educated children are at higher risk of abuse than children who attend normal schools.

....Thousands of home educators have been doing whatever they can. They have written and signed record-breaking numbers of petitions, contacted their MPs, blogged, started Facebook groups, participated in mass lobbies of Parliament, lobbied the House of Lords, created video documentaries, and prepared countless documents. More than 5000 responded to the DCSF consultation on the Badman proposals. The government promised that it would take these responses into consideration before it proposed any changes to legislation.

The consultation responses have never been published, but anecdotal evidence suggests that they were almost universally opposed to the Badman proposals. Nevertheless the government has drafted drastic changes to legislation regarding home education, changes which are based on those very proposals.

.....To summarize these changes very briefly, if the bill were to pass as proposed parents would no longer have the power to decide how their children will be educated. If they wish to educate their children at home, they will need permission from the state. Local authorities will be able to deny this permission on virtually any grounds they choose, and if permission is once denied, then it may be denied for all time. No second chance, no appeal.

Registration will not be compulsory, but parents who do not register their children (that is, request permission from the local authorities) run the risk of having their children automatically ordered to attend school.

Worst of all, if the family complies with these demands, they will still be forced to allow local authorities to inspect their homes and interrogate children as young as five years old for up to four hours at a time with no parent or trusted adult present. Parents who object to this or who refuse to allow their children to be questioned alone by local authorities education officers know that the local authorities can use their refusal as grounds to order the children to attend school."

In Canada where we're sitting comfortably it would behoove as to pay attention to the persecution going on over there and consider how we can lend a hand.
Thorsten Wetzig is a home-educating parent who has lived in the UK and now resides in Canada. He has observed that one very important way to further the cause and help home educators in the UK is by being open and public about how we home educate here in Canada.

To quote Wetzig: "In my eyes a major issue in the UK is that the Home-Education (HE) groups are pretty closed; at least less open than in Canada. It was not an easy thing for us to come in contact with homeschoolers in UK when we arrived......So what we could do from here is to show the British Home Schooling families how we do HS here in Canada and what we do and that we don't lock out the public. This is nothing we can force. It is a long lasting process and there is still lots of fear amongst UK Homeschoolers to come together with public and the government. Just my experience." 

In the majority of countries, including the UK and Germany (from where Wetzig hails and where home education is strictly verboten!) universal public schooling is one of the golden achievements of society. I don't disagree.

People in impoverished countries, or barbaric countries where women are still not allowed to get educated, would sell their souls to the devil in order to go to school and get a chance to improve their lives.

But we are not in those countries; we have alternatives. Doesn't it follow that being in a safe situation as we are, it behooves as to be more visible about the many ways that people can learn? We need to actively challenge this lack of public education and fear in a non-confrontational way.

Perhaps North Americans can help the UK by profiling our higher vis-ability through film, conferences, u tube, main stream publications and so on reaching out to the UK powers that be and general public there to say, "Hey. We're normal folks!"
Your comments and thoughts welcome!


Wendy Priesnitz said...

I agree that openness is the best strategy in the long term, and have been actively urging that for 35 years here in Canada. However, that's scary for some families in areas with a history of discrimination or persecution. And we must be sure not to blame the "victims" in England or elsewhere. Rights are rights, and when governments overstep their boundaries, they must be called to account.

rfs said...

You are absolutely right Wendy.
It is very scary what is happening and that's why i think we need to really pull together as an international effort.
Thanks for the great work you do here for us all.

Anonymous said...

It's a challenging situation; the inclination is to keep under the radar, avoid probing questions, people attacking your way of life (mostly out of ignorance) but it's one that pioneers in every field have had to face in order to make advances-'coming out of the closet' so to speak.

clementine said...

The world of alternative education is opening up. There is no way to stem the tide no matter how hard they might try. It's the way of life- everything changes.

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