There have been a number of newspaper headlines recently casting negative shadows over parents' right to home educate their children .... Fears of radicalisation, and the possibility some might be 'filling their children's minds with poison' (You can read more about government concern HERE); and another abuse case, this time the death of Dylan Seabridge in Wales, apparently from preventable scurvy following neglect. (More on that story HERE). It is perhaps inevitable that, in these rare abuse cases, if a child is home educated, the spotlight falls upon home education, but both Dylan Seabridge and Daniel Pelka (whose story you can read about HERE) - who was in school - are described in the media reports as being 'invisible to the authorities'. In seeming contradiction to that statement, though, concerns had been raised about both children before their deaths. It therefore seems logical that the spotlight needs to fall upon children's services, and child protection - rather than on home education. Abuse is abuse ... whether a child is in school or not.
Images the media choose to portray home education don't help ... dark images of solitary children, kept away from society. Nothing could be further from the reality of our own experience. In an attempt to combat some of the negative ideas flying around, the home ed community launched a campaign you might be interested in, showcasing more positive images of children learning outside school: #freedomtolearn #homeeducation and, most recently, #HandsUpForHomeEd.
(This picture featured beneath an article on home ed in The Guardian in April 2015 You can read it HERE.)
We can look back nostalgically on a time when communities knew each other well, and perhaps took more responsibility for watching out for one another. On the flipside, there was so much abuse in the past that was never exposed. In recent months, much abuse has come to light within institutions, particularly within the care system. With the state in a position of responsibility for everyone's welfare, if something goes wrong, fingers point, blame is assigned, heads roll. We have given the state this responsibility, and we expect a great deal ... but at the end of the day, how can 'the state' ensure that children are safe? The issue is not whether they are at school or not. Many children suffer at school, too. Schools can be rife with bullying, both of staff and students.
So, what do you think? How much responsibility should the state have for 'checking up' on people? How do we keep that in balance with the freedom we all enjoy? There are clearly no easy answers. If you tune in to Woman's Hour tomorrow at 10.00, there will be some interesting debate about home education. I know because I was contacted, and I thought I might have to go down and speak up for home ed on the programme ... But it wasn't to be this time around. Maybe on another occasion, because I'm pretty certain this debate is not going to go away!