Monday, 9 November 2009

Are Home Educators *Secretive*?

Apparently this is one of our *problems*, we are too secretive.

What does *secretive* mean?

one definition says: "inclined to secrecy or reticence about divulging information"

Why would many home educators be reticent about divulging information I wonder?

Apart from the fact that we are just getting on with our lives; happily and lawfully, and the minutiae of people's everyday lives is really nothing to do with anyone else, there are a multitude of reasons for being reticent about divulging information.

I'll blog some of my thoughts, but would be grateful if others would add theirs in the comments box.

The old postcode lottery cliché. Yes this is definitely in play across the country. Some LAs are understanding and even respectful, but many are anything but. They can and do make people's lives a never ending battle over the course of many years, and so quite understandably people who live in such an LA would be quite sensible to avoid contact. I have heard some really horrible tales over the years from families who are horribly bullied by LA officials, many of these families have fled to other counties to get away from the stress they are put under by officious officials. What is so frustrating is that these cases aren't rare, and if the Badman recommendations become law, these same officious LA folk will be in seventh heaven with the legal right to lord it over families who are doing nothing wrong.

The problem is that many people who take on the HE *inspector* roles come from school backgrounds. Often they are former headteachers - just like Mr Badman. I don't know what the headteachers were like when you were at school, but the ones I knew were mainly very authoritarian, and brooked no dissent. The problem with people like this is that they take this attitude into all other areas of their work, and many treat HEing parents as recalcitrant children who must be broken to fit their mold.

As their only experience of education is the school model, they simply cannot (and often will not) understand that there are other models of education that are equally (I might say more) successful and far more sustainable than the school one. Many see it as a personal affront to a lifetime's professional position to find that unqualified parents can and do as good (or better) a job than they ever did for all their years of chasing academic qualifications.

Then there are the *inspectors* who allow personal prejudices to influence the treatment of individual families. Some don't like religious families, some don't like single parent or same sex families, some don't like coloured families, some don't like those who live in council houses, some don't like those who don't use computers, some don't like those who paint their toe nails pink. Ok, the last one was me being flippant, but you get my point. They make personal value judgements about families that can have far reaching effects. This happens even in *good* authorities, and is more likely to happen when the family loses control of the information they provide - for instance by allowing home visits.

Now that last sentence might bring out the *if you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear* brigade, but just stop and think before trotting that one out. Do you have a disapproving mother in law who will find fault and criticise every little thing about your home? (Thankfully mine isn't like that, in case she's reading!) If you do then take the thought of how that feels and give it the power of a local authority employee who can bring the threat of social services to your door. Then you might be some of the way to understanding why we wouldn't want someone coming into our homes making judgements about us and the way we as a family live.

Right now i need to go and enjoy the sunshine with my children, so I will stop there and hope that others will put forward their reasoning in the comments box.


  1. In your list of LA attributes you missed out patronising. We're not secretive, just don't see the need to contact the council. They haven't got anything to offer us for starters. They have a paternalist agenda and I find their attitude to parents offensive. I'd no more contact an LA about home education than I would contact Defra about growing tomatoes.

  2. Home Educators do it in public - how secretive does that make us!!!! I do not know any home educators who sits behind closed doors to educate their child. Which is, is it not the way that schools educate their children.

  3. And dishonest. The "if you have nothing to hide" argument ignores the existence of LA officials who make things up and/or bully and then lie when challenged about it. Despite the occasional decent individual we are not taking about a group of people who deserve to be trusted.

  4. How does the LA engage with HEERs if they are reluctant to talk. Maybe talking will result in both sides understanding where they are coming from.

    Some in Local Government want to understand and help, but if they find no one willing to talk and explain, then nothing will ever improve.

  5. Yes mostly they are fundamentally dishonest, in the same way government is when it does not publicise home ed in the invitation to parents to register their child at a school. The implication that they are entitled to a visit is misinformation deliberately spread in an attempt to deprive us of our rights in favour of their own agenda in just the same way.

  6. In my experience we are only reluctant to talk because so many of us have tried and got nowhere. Also, now that OFSTED include the way a LA deals with it's HEers as part of it's reporting process, there is some scepticism as to what the engagement is really for.

    As Elaine said, there tends to be no benefit to be gained by *engaging* with the LA, so it can often seem pointless and a waste of our time. You have to remember that this is our life, we don't get paid for it, we have no duty to engage, and really, why should we? Perhaps if local authorities were able to show a genuine interest in proper, two way engagement, more people would step forward, but experience up and down the country shows us that more often than not it's absolutely pointless. Why would you engage with your enemy if you didn't have to? This has traditionally been the feeling about LAs, and with very good reason. If you are interested in the hows and whys look out *Children in Chancery* by Joy Baker.

    Badman said that it was time to come out of the trenches, and actually we were starting to, but this 11 months has sent us deeper into them, and it's going to be bloody hard to rebuild the trust that was starting to be built up in some LAs, mine included.

  7. Does the "we" and "our" refer to your family or are you speaking collectively for all home educators?

    Instead of the constant whinging about your rights (I use your in the collective sense ;-) would it not be better to start promoting the "other models of education that are equally (I might say more) successful and far more sustainable"?

    Educationally better for most children.
    Economically better.
    Environmentally better.

    But to answer the question... Yes home educators are far too secretive... and prejudiced... and dishonest and occasionally patronising.

  8. would the LA officers who want access to our homes to assess our parenting be happy for us to run through their bank statements with them? after all many of us are 'experts ' on household budgeting and I am sure it will benefit themselves and society a great deal if we can reassure those using money wisely that they are doing so, and that we will be back in a few months to do it all again to ensure they are still spending wisely, and of course those who are not managing their budget wisely we will bring in expert help and take over their finances until we feel they are able to manage better and thereafter will monitor them on a regular basis.
    I think that is a brilliant idea and they surely cannot object ! After all we will simply be assessing their ability to manage their money . People who want access to our homes and children so they can assess our ability to parent ...........................

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  10. Duncan generally I speak for myself and my family, but I see nothing wrong in using *we* and *our* when talking about opinions and values that are shared by a hell of a lot of people that I actually know, especially on my own blog. Patronising, yes, I think that cap must fit you quite snuggly. In all the years that you have been doing *whatever it is that you and M do* you have not once actually taken the time and effort to explain your snarky little comments, and some good people have tried very hard to engage with you, to try to further understand what the hell it is that you've been on about. Personally I can't see the point, from where I stand you appear no better than some of the worst inspectors.

  11. It seems that now Duncan's home educated children are grown up and no longer a target he uses his time to take a snide pop at those of us still in the fray. Gee thanks so much.

    Every post I've seen of Duncan's is snarkey and patronising. He can't be arsed to tackle anything like government or LAs. Oh no, he'd much rather spend his time home educator baiting when they're at their most tired and stretched.

    Piss off Duncan. You used to be amusing and have something valid and interesting to say. Now you're just a sad old twat trying to wind people up for your own amusement.

  12. @Andrew Wallis. There have been an awful lot of home educators who have engaged with their LAs and are still doing so. It has proved pointless. Even when they do make some headway the minute there's a change of staff it's back to square one.

    There is also the problem that many LAs appear to believe that we are not their equals, pretty much treat us as subjects and believe they are there to dictate the course of our lives with our children. For our own good of course!

    Some home educators have been banging their heads against the brick wall of local authorities for over two decades. At some point most give up as it is a fruitless exercise.

  13. I was thinking whilst we were out, that the *secretive* thing really is a bit much. I'll talk to anyone about Home Ed if they are interested. We get asked about it all the time because we are out and about when most children are in school, so we stick out like sore thumbs, and people feel they have to right to question us. Generally people are positive and interested, but I do worry that with all this negative press that this will change. So I'd have to say no, not secretive, quite open and willing to talk, if shown respect in return.

  14. Another thing, Andrew you say some LAs want to help. What does *help* mean? I can't honestly think of anything that my family needs help with from the LA. Reminds me of that saying of Ronald Reagan's:

    “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

    The problem we face is that if we are able to manage without help, we are seen as *service refusers* which creates flags of concern. How bizarre is it that if you don't need help you are considered a concern, but equally if you need help and ask for it you risk bringing a whole heap of trouble down on your head?

    Just have a read of this blog post and the comments box.

  15. Blimey! It was a serious question. The we/our thing could read either way; hence my clarification of my own usage of "your'.

    Always happy to clarify but the (increasingly) entrenched/narrow/bigoted (delete as appropriate) views of some home educators does make it difficult sometimes.

    So what are you struggling with here? I broadly concurred with your sentiment that "other models of education that are equally (I might say more) successful and far more sustainable"?"

    Which I summarised as simple "sellable" points:


Educationally better for most children.

    Economically better.

Environmentally better.

    "Generally people are positive and interested" - why wouldn’t they be?

    Here's a handy cut-out-and-keep tip:
    After twenty years of banging their heads against walls most people would have realised that it was getting them nowhere and that another tact may be beneficial.

    I shall be starting a campaign....
    Stop the UK HEers stigmatising sad old twats.

  16. @Andrew Wallis: What many, many home educators want is to be left alone. This is not a public service we're running, it's our homes and our families and our lives.

    Why do we have to keep "engaging" with officialdom just to explain that we don't need anything from you but respect for our privacy? Doesn't that sound a tad counter-productive to you?

  17. Duncan don't sound so surprised at the reaction you received. Call people dumbos and you're not going to get a welcoming committee. There's nothing in this particular comment that I am struggling with, but you know perfectly well that you are guilty as charged of being an obtuse old curmudgeon the last couple of years.

    I find your comment re head banging/trying a different tact awfully presumptuous. You have no idea what else I do in the world to promote alternative forms of education, nor of what I do to protect and defend the model my family chooses to use. If you want to offer constructive comments then you are welcome here, but if you are going to carry on as you have in the past couple of years, you can do what Elaine suggests.

  18. Thanks for raising this issue, Tech.

    Well, from where I am sitting it looks more like the authorities who are secretive. [Watched a programme on the Life of the Berlin Wall and a policeman said that they all had instant telephone access to the Stasi if they needed anyone sorting out. Instant access to a nameless servant of the state. No name, just job done!]

    Our state education system gives away precious little about the information it holds in filing cabinets up and down the country on what is written about your child (if they are schooled). Yes, as a parent you can ask to see it, but with schools holding the upper hand it would take a bold parent to read every document and add corrections to opinions about your child or family. Secretive? Yes, schools and LAs are secretive.

    With the clampdowns on FoI requests, inspectors who do not give out names before they visit homes, SS and EHE LA contacts who hide behind a title etc, I really have no problem seeing who actually is being secretive.

    A significant number of home educators are vociferous bloggers, eloquent writers and spirited supporters of freedom and liberty. No hiding there! We're risking our families, not just hiding behind a title, job or role. We're actually giving of ourselves, the real us.

    Home educators are crawling all over the media, responding to consultations and reviews, turning up at the Houses of Parliament, writing to MPs, DCSF officials, the press, each other... and we're secretive? One has got to be blind not to notice. Herein lies the problem....

    “I might show facts as plain as day: but, since your eyes are blind, you'd say, 'Where? What?' and turn away." - Christina G. Rossetti