What’s been said
“Home-schooling is just another way for controlling parents to dominate and diminish their children’s lives” cries the headline in the Independent on 5 April 2019. The article, written by broadcaster Janet Street-Porter, continues in the same vein opining, “these helicopter parents are turning their backs on classrooms, set books, any sort of structured curriculum.”
Ms Street-Porter welcomes registration and criticises the “militant parents (who) are outraged – insisting they are legally entitled to educate their children however they want.” Her self-confident belief that “some parents are behaving like rebellious pupils – determined to rail against a system that imposes any kind of rules” leads to her astonishing declaration that “parent power is out of control.”
By contrast, an item appeared in the same publication the following day, this time by writer Jai Breitnauer. Ms Breitnauer has lived in both the UK and New Zealand (NZ) and has home educated her SEN son on-and-off, according to his needs. She concisely sums up the feelings of many parents whose children simply cannot cope with school, “I know phrases like ‘school refusal’ and ‘high anxiety’ smack of ‘helicopter parenting’, but until you’ve seen your child self-harm to get out of going to school then you’ve got no idea.” She notes “desperate parents simply want what’s best for (their children), and this one-size-fits-all education system cannot provide it.”
Ms Breitnauer also compares the proposed English registration scheme with the equivalent in the NZ education system, in which it is the state that is legally responsible for schooling and permission is required to HE. Even if a parent has the agreed exemption “you are never completely free from the box-ticking activities of the state”. Although in the UK, under s7 of the Education Act 1996 it is parents who have the legal responsibility to provide an education for their child, Breitnauer warns “registering home-schooled children in the UK is the first step down a similar path of control (to that in NZ).”
Ms Breitnauer presents the crux of the matter “if this government were genuinely concerned about our children, they wouldn’t be asking what home schoolers are up to, they would be asking why there are so many.” She succinctly summarises, “if the major cause for concern is ensuring all children receive a good education that prepares them for life, it’s essential the lens of enquiry is turned in upon the system itself.”
Why does it matter?
There is much that could be dissected in the Janet Street-Porter article; loud voices tend to be heard, regardless of whether they present a reasoned argument! Indeed, Ms Street-Porter contradicts her own assertion that “parent power is out of control,” admitting that “the current system clearly needs improvement if so many parents don’t trust it.”
In her enthusiastic support of the proposed registration scheme as “just the first step to protecting (children’s) interests,” Janet Street-Porter fails to grasp that, in the vast majority of cases, children’s interests are best served and protected by their parents. She appears unaware of the legal position of parental responsibility to ensure a child receives suitable education and has bought into the opinion promoted by many in authority that, unless overseen by experts, parents cannot be trusted to raise their children.
Jai Breitnauer, however, hits the nail on the head for so many parents “…you’ve got to ask yourself, why would you be happy about changes that could force you to place your kids into an unsafe environment, under the guise of government concern over their wellbeing?”
What can I do?
Don’t give up! In the seemingly relentless anti-HE rhetoric it is easy to feel overwhelmed by negative press. It can be helpful to keep articles like Jai Breitnauer’s, as they provide useful counters to the ‘loud’ headlines of pieces like Janet Street-Porter’s.
Many people will not recognise the increasing state oversight of children as relevant to their children; they will see the issue as pertinent to home education only. Explain to friends & family the importance of maintaining parental responsibility for education and why that responsibility needs to be protected for the sake of all children, not just for those who are HE.