What’s been said?
A positive article entitled Forcing home-educated children into schools for child protection won’t work – and it’s not the job of teachers anyway was published in the TES in January 2016, written by Dr Bernard Trafford, Head of Newcastle upon Tyne Royal Grammar School and a former chair of the Headmasters’ & Headmistresses’ Conference.
Why does it matter?
The piece is interesting for several reasons. Firstly, the author is a person of standing in the educational world who actually home educated his own children for some years, so he has earned the right to have an opinion on the subject.
Secondly, he carefully unravels the twisted strands of parental responsibility; the remit of teachers; the issue of safeguarding, and other factors commonly conflated in media reports as soon as a case arises where either the abuse or death of a child could possibly be associated in even the most tenuous way with home education.
Trafford addresses the sloppy thinking evident in much of the criticism levelled at home educators in a way that is helpful for us because a) he is a credible witness, having personal experience, b) he has thought carefully about the issues involved, rather than having the common knee-jerk reaction to any story linking an abused child with home education. He takes the time to identify whose responsibility it should have been to investigate a particular area of concern, and helpfully reminds his readers that schools do not generally get scapegoated en masse for one tragic incident. Sadly that is not the case for home educators.
Trafford does not defend parents’ choice to home educate merely because he happens to be in agreement with them; but because “the right to choose the mode of education of one’s child, as long as it is adequate and appropriate, is a democratic and human right.”
This leads him to a robust conclusion: “Any measure that constrains the ability of home-educating families to take on that vital task freely, creatively and positively risks perpetrating a great wrong.”
What can I do?
Although two years old, this is still a useful item to be familiar with for anyone seeking to engage in credible, thinking conversations about home education, be that with family members, neighbours or an MP. It is always helpful to be able to refer to specific examples, and this article is of particular encouragement for us since its author is actually on side with home education rather than seeking to demolish its validity as an educational choice.