What’s been said?
This second comment on the Welsh consultation considers its numerous references to phrases such as “the rights of all children to receive an education.” In her Ministerial foreword, Kirsty Williams AM, mentions such rights five times and relies heavily upon them in the proposals to create LA databases to identify children who are “not on any maintained schools roll, not on any education other than at school (EOTAS) roll, or independent school roll, and not receiving a suitable education.”
We will consider data sharing concerns separately, but refer to data sharing here to ask, “what is the actual intention behind these proposals? “Essentially, behind the rhetoric of children’s rights is the intention to empower LAs to carry out regular inspections of home educated children to see if their education conforms to the criteria the Welsh Assembly Government [WAG] seeks to impose upon them.
Whilst there are many references to the rights of children in the draft guidance for LAs [DGLA] and other consultation documents, it is clear that some rights granted to children and their parents through the UNCRC and ECHR have been deemed expendable by those who drafted these guidelines. We have been provided with a sample response to the consultation, and in their comments on §1.4 of the DGLA, which provides an incomplete list of UNCRC Articles relevant to the rights of children, the author lists other Articles which have been either ignored or selectively cited. The omitted sections of the UNCRC are equally relevant to the well-being of children and also recognise the responsibilities of a child’s parents over and above those of the state.
The lack of respect in these proposals for the responsibilities of parents towards their children is part of an ongoing shift in the UK towards civic parenthood. It is important for the well-being of every family, not just those home educating , that this drift is resisted and the natural historic role of parents is not relinquished to state-employed professionals.
Why does it matter?
The main section in the DGLA dealing with children’s rights is §2.13 to 2.16 (p6). This section also references The Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011, The Children’s Rights Scheme 2014, and The Children’s Rights Wales website. The link to the Children’s Rights Scheme does not function, but it may refer to this PDF document. This legislation and the other sources quoted are very difficult to follow through logically, and it is therefore difficult to arrive at a clear understanding of what powers are actually provided by them to the WAG and to LAs. This is really territory for expensive lawyers, rather than for busy mums and dads. However, one can confidently say that if the way the relevant legislation is now being applied had been properly explained to citizens before these acts were approved, many parents would have raised their voices in opposition.
After sourcing further explanatory materials, it becomes clearer that these appeals to the rights of children are not about doing what can be done to encourage them to grow up into mature, independent thinking adults equipped to work out their own values as they progress through life. If one looks behind the Government-speak, one begins to gain the impression that phrases like “the right to an education” should be understood as “the right to the education which the state deems is best for a child.”
One resource for those with time available is the aforementioned The Children’s Rights Wales website. A briefer alternative is the material explaining the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 referred to in §1.8 of the DGLA. There we read about the Act promoting “a more equal Wales by supporting an inclusive, equitable education system where all children are supported to overcome barriers to learning and participation.”
More accessible than the legislation itself, two explanatory videos are available via this page. The first, seemingly a training resource, shares its title with the Act and features the Welsh Government’s vision for newborn Megan’s life. It is unsurprising to find reference to her need for a good education, but it is left to the other video to explain what is implied by that.
Entitled “Malala introducing the The Worlds Largest Lesson”, this was produced in partnership with UNICEF (the organisation charged with implementing the UNCRC) as part of The Worlds Largest Lesson project. The aim is to promote to children the UN’s “17 Global Goals to achieve these 3 extraordinary things by 2030“. Whilst many of these goals are commendable in themselves, it is debatable whether or not they are all achievable at any time in the future, not just within the next decade.
The relevance of this agenda to the consultation is that it is a philosophical world-view which is being marketed to children, rather than facts. Essentially it is aimed at teaching children what to think, not how to think and therefore reach their own well-reasoned convictions.
In this light it must be asked if the real reason why home education freedom is being systematically undermined in the UK and elsewhere (e.g South Africa) by appeals to “children’s rights”, is that HE does not squeeze children into the universal mould hidden behind what purports to be well-meaning legislation.
The title, The Worlds Largest Lesson, perhaps illustrates this better than anything else: this is battery education for the masses, intended to train them to think, not as their parents do, but according to the ideologies of global politicians. If this is so, then is it any wonder that those with such ideals fear free-range, home educated children maturing into thinking adults who will question their utopian ideals?
What can I do?
Watch the two videos mentioned above and make up your own mind about their underlying messages.
Find time to watch Neil Taylor’s two talks from the 2011 European Home Education Conference or read the transcripts below the video.
Discuss the implications of all this with other HE families.
Respond to the consultation.