An open letter to Women’s Hour at BBC Radio 4
Before this Thursday’s programme entitled “How can we best safeguard children who are home schooled?” is aired I just want to make sure that Jenni understands the difference between ‘home education’ concerns and ‘safeguarding’ concerns. But before I talk about that, can I point out that here in the UK it is called ‘home education’; ‘home schooling’ is the American term. It is not used here in the UK as we would like people to realise we are generally not replicating school at home.
‘Safeguarding’ is an issue for the UK’s many social service departments to handle; it is not the responsibility of the LA. When there is any ‘safeguarding’ concern raised for any child in the UK, home educated or not, the responsibility is with the social services department to investigate. If a home educator has a knock on the door from a social service worker, we are bound, like any other parent, to comply with their investigation. If we refuse, it is the social workers job to make sure they get access—there are laws in place for this for all children, regardless of where they get their educational provision from. (Section 47 of the Children Act 1989)
The only reason an LA can make an inquiry is if there is a report of an ‘educational’ concern. As the law states that as the parent I am responsible for my child’s education, unless the LA has a verifiable complaint on my child’s educational provision, I am not bound to discuss any educational issue with her. If she still feels there is an educational issue, she also has laws in place for her to gain access.
If your new found interest for protecting the ‘hidden home educated children’ is based on the very tragic Dylan Seabridge case—please get all the facts. The year before Dylan died, it is reported that a welfare concern was raised—why did Social Services not deal with this?
If we are going to use Dylan’s case, why not report on the case of Daniel Pelka? Was Daniel hidden while he was in his classroom surrounded by the other students? Here is the link for the BBC report on his case: BBC report on Daniel Pelka
Would you like to use the Kyra Ishaq case, where her teachers, the social service and police failed to help her while she was also being starved to death? She was in school for most of this abuse—and yet the school and social services failed to protect her.
Shall we talk about the thousands of abuse claims every year here in the UK? How many of those children are home educated? Does being in school protect any of those children from being abused at home? No. Nor does being in school keep a child safe, if they were safe places, there wouldn’t be such a huge campaign here in the UK to stop bullying in schools.
Now please—can you please stop insinuating that home educated children are ‘hidden’? I have taken my children to thousands of places and activities their whole life—they are not hidden. They have even been on BBC TV (Real Rescues 2011). When they were young and we would go places, they were the only children there. The other adults couldn’t understand why the children were there, would question us & then smile when they realised what freedom our children had to explore and to be fully immersed members of society. My children haven’t been shut away for up to 7 hours a day since they were 3 years old. Nope, they have gone shopping, to the parks, to the museums, to National Trust houses and English Heritage locations, to daytime and evening concerts, to astronomical & scientific lectures, to local reserves, to the local recreation centre and to special classes arranged for home educated children. Hidden? I’d say not.
If you would like to learn more about home education, we would love to tell you our stories. There are as many different types of families home educating as there are who use the schools. And like all the other parents in this country, on the whole we are not radicals, we are not child beaters, we do not neglect our children. We have dedicated all of our time and effort to our children out of love & respect for our children—we like everyone else, want the best for them. Please, please stop insinuating to the world that as a group, we are some heinous secret sect hiding our children away to do them harm. Our children listen to your programme—and I really don’t want to see them hurt or feel the need to defend their lifestyle again.