Protecting Children and Bridging Social Divides

What’s been said?

Following the publication of the Integrated Communities Strategy green paper, attention turned to questions in the Lords on Children: Missed Education and the Telegraph article “Plan for home school register dropped“. In the busyness of events some may not have noticed Lord Agnew, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, mentioning in one of his answers that he had written a piece in that morning’s Times.

His comment was entitled, “Shutting illegal schools protects children and helps bridge social divides.” For those already concerned by a new openness to EHE registration in Lord Agnew’s answers, this article will cause further alarm. Building on the green paper, Agnew’s message is “education plays a crucial role in bridging this [social] divide.” What is unclear is what he meant by plans “to ensure that any setting giving children a full time education has to register with us.” Does he mean any “institution”, or your dining room table which also multitasks as a craft bench, library and science lab? Only time will tell.

Why does it matter?

Since the Badman Review, the list of reasons used to justify EHE registration has increased. Whilst failing in her short term objective, Louise Casey has contributed to changing the conversation. Home education is now cited as a cause of social disharmony. It is disappointing therefore to hear that the government minister who had been responsible for resisting Lord Soley’s ill-conceived Bill is now “sympathetic to the arguments made” by its author.

If we were not already aware, the green paper demonstrates that most politicians are now very worried about the lack of social cohesion. How strange, when those who are now seeking cultural homogeny had been demanding a multicultural society for several decades! Education is now at the forefront of this new direction of travel. Agnew writes, “Schools are at the heart of our communities, bringing families from all walks of life together. Through education, we can ensure the next generation learns the values that underpin our society – fairness, tolerance and respect.” EHE is being portrayed as a threat to this objective.

Goodreads credits an author by the name of Andrew Smith with the addition of a second phrase to a well-known saying, “People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t conquer.” It is becoming increasingly clear that most politicians just don’t get home education. If Smith is correct, then parents who choose to ignore their efforts to provide mass education are also a threat to their sense of security. Could it be that those who are shouting most loudly about the need for a EHE register, and therefore control, are those whose objectives are threatened the most?

What can I do?

In concluding his article, Agnew wrote thus about the green paper; “This announcement goes beyond just education: it is the next step towards our vision for strong, integrated communities.” Unless politicians take time to understand those they are now fearing, they will fail in this initiative just as they have done in others.

If the HE community is to influence those politicians who are being swayed by the calls to control us, then we have to do all we can to help them understand why so many families value their freedom to spend precious time, effort and emotion in educating their own children. Shouting at them will not achieve that. Getting them to spend time with us may help. Perhaps they will discover that a high percentage of home educated children develop excellent skills at relating to those who are very different from them. After all, we are without doubt an incredibly diverse community!

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