Thursday, 4 February 2010


Call me a glutton for punishment, but today I watched the final sitting of the CSF Bill Committee.

I'm rather glad that I did because it confirmed something that I have always asserted: Local Authority Officers make prejudicial assessments of Home Educating families based on their own value systems.

Caroline Flint stood up and spoke about a report, written about a home educating family's educational provision, in which the officer saw fit to note that the family burned incense.

She went on to comment that perhaps the officer saw the family as a bit *brown rice and sandals* but that such personal prejudice had no place in a report into educational provision, and that this is the type of thing that Home Educators experience across the country. [I am paraphrasing the gist of her speech, and will add links in to the relevant sections of Hansard when they are available.]

I have always warned families against accepting home visits from LA officers precisely because of this kind of personal prejudice. Our homes are, by definition, incredibly personal spaces. People have very individual tastes and preferences, which is precisely as it should be. When we invite people into our homes we should not expect to be judged on our belongings or whether we use plug in air freshners or incense to fragrance our private spaces.

Human beings make judgements incredibly quickly:

“We know from carefully controlled laboratory studies that we form opinions very rapidly and dramatically based on appearance,” says Alexander Todorov, an assistant professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University. “In only about 100 milliseconds, a person will determine whether they like or don’t like another person based on their face.”

If a human being can make an arbitrary judgement so quickly, based merely on a person's face, then imagine what judgements they could jump to when allowed into the home of a stranger. The scope for all kinds of personal value judgements is enormous. What if they have an aversion to the colour red and your front room is painted red? What if they have bad memories associated with the smell of lemons and you have just cleaned your home with a lemon scented product? What if they have deep seated anxieties about large dogs and you own a couple of great danes?

Previously people would laugh at the idea that someone in a position of power would act in such an unprofessional manner as to allow such things to influence their decisions, but we now have it as a matter of public record (or we will when the Hansard entry has been published) that this is exactly the kind of thing that *professionals* do. Currently such things are irritating but generally not a huge cause for concern, however if the CSF Bill becomes law, these are the kinds of personal prejudices that many home educators will have to face, and I am in no doubt that many perfectly good home educators will have their license refused because of such prejudices.

ETA: Caroline Flint's speech can be read here at column 493.


  1. I haven't seen the session yet...and gulp...feeling terrified...don't want to look!

    Am hoping that Caroline Flint was quoting this case in our defence?

  2. She was, she made a great speech against the bill... then went and voted with the government :(

  3. You'd think that given their treatment of her in recent times, that she'd take the oppo to help shaft them. Obviously those Fabian ties to Ed Balls are stronger than a strong thing.....

  4. Some of these politicians are amoral. Say one thing in good conscience and do the exact opposite in blissful good faith for the greater good - allegedly. At least Graham Stuart has been consistent. Su xx

  5. Wicked good points, Tech.

  6. Great post Tech. Glad you are still around. I miss you.

  7. Great post - very hard if not impossible to vote against the whip at this stage I understand.
    It's ridiculous that an MP cannot vote against their party when their party is wrong and their constituents are being wronged. This is NOT democracy......