What’s been said?
According to an article in the Sunday Times (4 March 2018) police have been aware since 2015 of 35 extremists who removed their children to home education from state schools. The article comes as one of a series published by The Times, all of which link home education with illegal or unregistered schools. In particular, the article mentions the case of Umar Haque who has been convicted of plotting attacks in London and attempting to recruit a children’s jihadist army while he was an RE teacher in a school rated outstanding by Ofsted.
A confidential police report into the extremists who removed their children from school has now been made public, following a speech by Mark Rowley, the anti-terrorist police chief, in which he said that extremists, like paedophiles, should have their children removed from them. He quoted as evidence the “’alarming occurrence’ of known extremists removing their children from school and teaching them at home”.
Why does it matter?
These articles are orchestrated and they are becoming increasingly extreme in the allegations which they make against EHE parents. There is now, in the media, an explicit link being made between home education and child abuse, extremist indoctrination and radicalisation. The Liberal Democrats appear to be suggesting that there are only two different categories of children – those attending registered schools, and those not. The media is simply treating all of the latter group as being at risk, in need of registering and tracking throughout their lives. This narrative needs to be countered.
It also raises a question – if the police knew about this as long ago as 2015, why have they waited until now to make the report known? As is repeatedly said by the Department for Education, the police have all necessary powers to deal with children at risk – to suggest that there was nothing they could do is disingenuous.
The report on Umar Haque also points up the fact that nobody can find things that people want to keep hidden – in this case, as Scotland Yard’s head of counter-terrorism said, ‘He had instructed children not to say anything … We had a wall of silence.’ All Matthew Coffey, Ofsted’s chief operating officer had to say on its failure to protect children from Haque was that the “ability to do so is hampered by limitations on our powers.’ So, Ofsted is still shamelessly pitching for a power grab, blame-shifting rather than addressing the real problem.
There is also an inherent danger here in suggesting that all home educators are potential extremist abusers – as well as reshaping the public perception of home educating parents, it creates carte blanche for the removal into state care of all children whose education does not conform to state diktats.
What can I do?
Use every possible opportunity to refute these allegations against EHE parents. As twelve-year-old Lilian Hardy said when her mother told her that she may be featured in the media following the Westminster council dispute, “I think we need to educate people on home education.”