Trusting Parents to Know What’s Best for Their Children

What’s been said?

Sophia Moss’ balanced and comprehensive article in the 10th July edition of Prospect magazine is well worth its 10-12 minutes’ estimated reading time. Entitled “Home education: can we really trust parents to know what’s best for their children?”, it opens with the heart-wrenching circumstances which caused one set of parents to turn to HE for their daughter.

After some statistics and background to the recent consultation, Moss quickly and lucidly focuses on the key issues which HE parents need to be aware of if they are to turn the tide in the propaganda war raging around the public perception of EHE:

“Why should you care? Home education is a niche subject which may not personally affect you, but the debate about compulsory registration is a debate about the rights of the parent vs the role of the state. Can we trust parents to know what’s best for their children, or should the government have more power to intervene?” [Emphasis added]

After further information on what’s expected of parents and LAs with regard to EHE, Moss brings things right up to date by citing Lord Soley’s views, “Some believe a compulsory register is necessary to protect children from abuse… Soley believes home educators should give up a little privacy for the greater good. He compares it to accepting baggage checks at the airport.”

She then explores valid and important issues such as

  • Would this register change anything?
  • Are home educated children at greater risk of abuse? (Wendy Charles-Warner’s work referenced here.)
  • Why would parents who have nothing to hide be against compulsory registration? (The infringement of our rights and liberties aspect.)
  • Other home educators don’t think it’s anything to worry about. (The “I don’t have anything to hide” view.)
  • Contrasting interactions with LAs. (Some pleasant, others feeling “intimidated and misinformed.”)

Moss concludes by putting the onus on LAs to work harder at their attitude and approach if they genuinely desire productive dialogue with the EHE community.

Why does this matter?

Moss has identified some key questions which exist, not just in the minds of politicians but in the thinking of ordinary people who keep up with current affairs.

If the EHE community is to have an influence in the public arena, we need to have cogent and well-reasoned responses to the type of issues listed above, and be able to demonstrate possibly unforeseen outcomes of various policy options.

What can I do?

Use Sophia Moss’ article as a personal stimulus to reason things through, join the dots and work towards solutions which could provide a constructive way forward without the loss of freedom.

Encourage those in your local HE community to do likewise, rather than investing their emotional energy in panicking, complaining or hiding their heads in the sand.

Be aware that the prevailing mindset has subtly altered since the days of Badman. Note well the increased fears about terrorism, a higher profile for off rolling and the problem of increasing school exclusions, the issues around safeguarding, all of which potentially lead to more determined incursions by the state into family territory.

If we are to win the day, these changes mean that we must prepare ourselves thoroughly with arguments which have traction for today’s issues rather than yesterday’s. Whoever spoke of army personnel failing to prepare for future conflicts if they spent peace time thinking about how they won the last war, was not far wrong.

Let’s wake up and avoid that pitfall, seeking to be relevant and challenging in our interactions with MPs, acquaintances in the community or wherever we find an opening to put forward the case for HE and the effect for all our freedoms of its possible constraint.