If you look through the wrong end of a telescope you can get an entirely different perspective on what you are seeing. When you do this everything around you is much more important that those things that are now even further away, and diminished.
I’ve had some interesting discussions today. Some have been less than satisfactory because my perspective started so far away from the person I was trying to converse with. And, I’ll admit, that perhaps my approach wasn’t as conciliatory as it could have been. That’s largely because I don’t like people making assumptions about what I think, but I’ll take that and try and be better in future. It also didn’t help that the client I was using restricted me to 140 characters, though that’s no excuse, really. But mainly it’s because this is as important to me as it is for the people I was talking to. For entirely different reasons.
I was conversing largely with people who home school their kids. That was my first mistake, of course. The preferred term is Home Educate. So that didn’t help, and that’s my fault. The conversations stemmed from this tweet:-
If I can try and distill the reaction (and this is genuine attempt) most of the replies were from parents who were home educating because their children had already been let down by the system. Their schools had failed them by being unable (or unwilling) to meet the needs of their children. This was compounded by either LA indifference or by LA bullying. These were people who in trying circumstances were trying to protect their children and having to battle against the odds to do that.
So when some know-it-all pops up and explains that they have to register their home education and allow the LA into their house to inspect what they are doing their reaction was understandable.
I do get it. I get that schools fail (often through no fault of their own, but they do fail). I get that LAs can seem to be, and be, overbearing and officious. I get that the fight for what your child needs can seem uphill and lonely. So I get that from that end of the telescope I could possibly have come over as a bit of a prick.
So I want to just say a little about the view from my end of the telescope.
Avid readers of this blog (and yes, I think I’m justified in using the plural there) will know that my children are adopted. Aside from all the various sessions you have to go through to adopt which talk about why children are placed from adoption, before you actually adopt you have to what is possibly the worst thing I have ever had to do. And I did it twice.
Once you have discussed the characteristics of the children you are prepared to adopt (and this is time and a place where you learn a lot about yourself) you then get “offered” children to adopt. What you actually get is various forms about them and the family they come from. Sometimes you get pictures. If you get to a certain stage, you get a video. The forms are not great reading. When you understand that behind every form is a real child it takes you to a dark place. The worse part? That you have to turn down many before you find the right child for you. I can still see the face of every child we rejected. I can play the videos in my head frame by frame. I know it was right that we did so. But still. I hope they’re safe. I hope they’re happy.
Many of these children have lived in hell. They have been ignored. They have been lost to the system (even when the families are known to it). They have had no voice. They have had no one to protect them. And then you realise that for the 3,000 children that are adopted each year there are ten times that who are taken into, and stay in, care. And then, if you are really into truth, there are probably ten times that number who aren’t living quite in enough hell to be rescued and the system can’t cope with that many so they are just left where they are. Teetering on the edge.
The point here is that they are not small in number.
So from my end of the telescope local authorities, social workers and referring schools aren’t the enemy. They’re not the bad guys. They’re the heroes that go into these hell houses and rescue children. And the idea that we should know where every child is, and that they are being properly educated is not an infringement of parental rights but an affirmation of the rights of the child.
The view from where I am is not right and the home educators wrong. Or vice versa. They’re both an accurate view of the reality from our end of the telescope. Both viewpoints are true, for different parents, children, local authorities, social workers and schools. I’m not suggesting in any way that home education is bad for children. Or that home educators care less for their children than any other parent. Or that all schools are great. Or that all local authorities always get it right all the time.
All I’m saying is that the rights of the child are paramount. I’ll die fighting in that ditch. And that sometimes defending them looks like trampling over the rights of parents. And that most of the time schools, local authorities and social workers get it right and deserve our support in upholding the rights of children.
My original tweet came from a position of being unhappy with the level of school off-rolling, nothing to do with home educating. Without a proper register we have no national picture of why this is happening and therefore little hope of reducing it.
When I say there should be a register its not in ignorance of the likelihood that it won’t solve all problems (or that in a number of cases it might actually make things worse for a small number of children) but in the belief that it is the best response overall. Of course the effects of any registration should be mitigated, and it would be best that instead of being a private members bill this was a government initiative with a proper consultation.
If someone has a better way of doing this, I’m all ears.