Tes – 21 January 2019
The state is less likely to fail than homeschooling? History provides evidence to the contrary, writes one home educator
It is almost a decade since then education secretary Ed Balls questioned whether “home education [was] being used to cover child abuse”. There have subsequently been a number of high-profile and tragic cases where claims were made that electively home educated (EHE) children were “hidden” from their local authority. However, in their EHE Call for Evidence earlier this year, the Department for Education twice acknowledged that in such cases EHE “has not usually been a causative factor and the child has normally been known anyway to the relevant local authority.”
Safeguarding concerns remained the chief complaint until November 2015, when Sir Michael Wilshaw, then Ofsted’s chief inspector, linked EHE with “illegal schools”. He was concerned that children were at risk of harm in these unregistered settings, claiming parents were using EHE as a cover for sending their children there. Many of these “schools” were in Muslim communities – though that was rarely stated publicly – and it was not long before EHE was being linked with “radicalisation”.
Most recently, Labour peer Lord Solely echoed these fears whenever he promoted his Private Member’s Bill, often repeating the triple accusation of “radicalisation, trafficking and abuse“. To these have been added more recent concerns about parents being coerced into home education, as schools attempt to off-roll low-achieving and often difficult pupils in order to boost their GCSE ranking.
In view of all the above, it is surprising therefore that at the end of last year the government made a remarkable admission in response to a written question from Tulip Siddiq MP. Siddiq enquired about the DfE’s evidential basis behind the statement in the consultation, “that home education may present increased risk (a) to safeguarding and (b) of radicalisation”. Minister Anne Milton replied that the call for evidence “did not claim to present evidence to show whether this was, in fact, the case,” but provided an opportunity for “respondents to give information on views on these matters”. This suggests that the government had no actual evidence of EHE being used as a cover for radicalisation.