The Absurdity of Homeschooling Fanatics

The Absurdity of Homeschooling Fanatics

What’s been said?

Clare Foges, Times columnist and erstwhile speechwriter for David Cameron, shared some observations about British Values in the Comment section of the paper this week (10 March 2018). Her article was prompted by the Prime Minister’s announcement earlier in the week of the Integrated Communities Strategy for schools. Devised by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, the initiative will require all schools with a single cultural, racial or religious background to teach pluralistic British Values. Whether these differ from the Fundamental British Values already being taught is not clear, but the PM thinks it will offer a ‘step change’ to a cohesive society. No spokesperson from Downing Street was able to comment on whether the Strategy would have to be applied to schools in which pupils are predominantly white British.

None of this is new – Professor Ted Cantle was active in attempting to create a more cohesive society during the Blair government and this latest initiative simply proves that social engineering doesn’t work. There is one significant difference though – the 2001 Cantle Report described a multicultural nation of people living in parallel with each other and it suggested ways of encouraging integration. Today’s social cohesion narrative has much more to do with creating a homogenous society where no differences in belief or culture are expressed.

Why does it matter?

It may at first glance seem that this is an issue for children attending school. Although the writer describes the latest initiative as “baloney” she also talks about ghettoised parts of our society due to religion and culture. Her suggested answer is to ensure that the state should know where everyone is, saying that it’s absurd that parents have no legal responsibility to tell the authorities if they are educating their children outside of school. Wilfully conflating EHE with unregistered schools, she describes those who oppose her view as “homeschooling fanatics”.

Her solution to the perceived “problem” of EHE is the most radical yet – parents must be forced to opt out of state education should they not wish to use the service “with Ofsted or the local authority entitled to visit and monitor every place of education, be it school, home or other organisation”. The fact that this breaches human rights legislation seems to have evaded her.

She argues that instead of being taught British Values, children of different backgrounds should sit together in classrooms, befriend each other and “like each other”. She offers no suggestions about how teaching people to like each other might be achieved – given the failure of successive governments to teach people the meaning of respect, the probability of learning to “like” everyone is not high.

What can I do?

Counter the narrative that children need to be in mixed multicultural classrooms in order to become citizens of a future society founded on respect. It is homes, parents and communities who model and nurture children’s values, not schools.