A Voice of Reason

What’s been said?

On 9 November 2018, The HE Byte published an article about the Tes Podcast of 2 November 2018 in which the reporters equated home educators’ reactions with those of the American Gun Lobby, whilst discussing Amanda Spielman’s letter to the Public Accounts Committee. Our article urged readers to contact Tes Editor, Ann Mroz, to express their opinions on the uninformed and unprofessional way in which this topic was discussed.

It would appear that Ms Mroz heard from quite a few home educators, as on 13 November 2018 Tes published Bernard Trafford’s follow-up piece entitled, “I understand why home educators feel threatened“.

In this article Mr Trafford challenges the assertions made in the podcast, and helps to put the reactions of home educators into perspective:

“Frequent loose use of language smears parents who home educate not to avoid scrutiny, not to hide abuse or indoctrination, but because they believe they can offer their child something better – or, rather, more suitable.”

Addressing the incorrect assumptions around the reasons parents choose to home educate, Trafford reminds his readers that parents have a legal right to determine what is suitable for their own child, and should not be demonised for reacting vocally to the possibility of having these rights undermined. Citing his own personal experience of home educators, Mr Trafford questions the (somewhat inflammatory) comment that they have a hold on “hard-core Brexiteers who are headcases for home education”, stating that he has not found this to be the case at all.

The article concludes by pointing out that “home educators risk being caught in the crossfire of yet another societal problem, schools condemned by Spielman for off-rolling underperforming or problem pupils and pushing them into a semblance of home education” something home educators have been trying to point out to whoever will listen. Whilst genuine cases of abuse, neglect, indoctrination or unregistered schooling should be investigated, “Instituting a register for all children not in school risks fuelling suspicion of the motives and actions of genuine, dedicated, sincere and inspirational home educators.”

Why does it matter?

This article was written to counter the negative and derogatory tone of the Tes Podcast because home educators put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards!) to hold Tes accountable for the words of their reporters. The Editor wisely sought to set the record straight by publishing an article by Bernard Trafford, who brings the other side of the argument using reason, perspective and insight rather than sensationalist reporting. This article highlights the importance of not sitting passively by, but engaging with the media to challenge inaccurate and biased reporting. Sensible reporting benefits all of us, and one can only hope that the message may finally hit home.

What can I do?

Firstly, if you were one of those who contacted Tes about their podcast, pat yourself on the back for a job well done! Secondly, you may now wish to contact Tes again to thank them for this sensible article. Positive feedback is just as valuable as negative comment! The HE Byte Team would also like to thank Bernard Trafford and Tes for showing that there is another side to the story!