By Ali P

Carolyne Willow’s opinion piece in the Guardian, in which she criticises the Badman home education proposals as being unhelpful for children, has attracted a wide range of readers’ comments.

While some commentators clearly see his DCSF commissioned report for what it is: a blatant attack civil liberties and children’s rights, a depressing number of others still seem oblivious to the dangers inherent in shifting the long held presumption of innocence to one of guilt when it comes to parents opting for the default model of education for their children.

This is fairly unsurprising, since the school system has done such a good job of sheepifying Guardian and Sun readers alike. Only a freethinking minority appear to recognise the threat to all children and families from the state’s creeping surveillance agenda, which has only been dressed up in child protection clothing to make it seem more palatable (it isn’t).

Graham Badman’s selective quoting and outright spinning of various Articles of the UNCRC in his report demonstrate not only that he has failed to consider the Convention as a whole, but also that he has deliberately subverted its aims in order to advance his own (and his DCSF paymasters’) narrow view of how children should be educated, i.e. compulsorily, in schools. His report is poorly researched and embarrassingly partial, as might be expected from such a longstanding government lackey, and his motives are transparent to all who have a genuine interest in promoting children’s human rights and those of their parents. For readers who delight in digesting the detail, the report has been meticulously “stress tested” by Gill over at Sometimes It’s Peaceful .

The sinister, anti family agenda has, of course, been clear from the start. Spurred on by erstwhile Nazi impersonator Ed Balls, the odious Delyth Morgan who specialises in smear tactics, and the rent seeking NSPCC, Graham Badman makes a lot of noise in his report about children’s rights and listening to children’s views, but only if these views acccord with his own.

If, for example, wee Hamish decides he would like to be home educated and doesn’t want to go to school as it’s boring, full of bullies and not providing the sort of education he feels he needs, his voice will be ignored and/or silenced (unless of course he decides to bunk off, at which point his parents will be pursued, harassed and even imprisoned if they don’t force his attendance). Meanwhile, however, all the stops will be pulled out to ensure wee home educated Harry’s voice is heard just in case he decides he wants to go to school; otherwise, it will be ignored just like wee Hamish’s. Double standards or what?

Home educators have lost count of the number of times the point has been made that, while schooling can be forced upon children by parents and the state without the raising of a single eyebrow, home education (which is, after all, the default model, since the provision of compulsory education is a parental responsibility) is only acceptable if the young person’s “informed” consent is elicited by an uninvited state agent. Imagine if a similar genie was let out of the bottle for school pupils; of course it won’t be as it could seriously disrupt the mass production of compliant consumer drones.

Given that children’s voices are allegedly so very important to the government and all the self appointed children’s champions out there, home educated children and young people decided to respond in their droves to what they saw as a state sponsored attack on themselves, their families and their learning freedom following the announcement of the Badman review. A Facebook group provided the platform for them to share their views, which were duly relayed to CRAE and ARCH, along with a covering letter which went like this:

“On January 19th, 2009, DCSF, acting on the wishes of the NSPCC and local authorities, launched a consultation (since changed to a ‘review’) on home education; their grounds for this being that they believe Home Educated children are vulnerable to abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude etc.

DCSF issued a press release to this effect which was taken up across the media with headlines along the same lines as this one in The Times newspaper:

Home education ‘can be cover for abuse and forced marriage’

There is no evidence to suggest that Home Educated children are at an increased risk of being abused than are their schooled counterparts, in fact there is overwhelming evidence to suggest the opposite. Indeed when pressed for evidence, the NSPCC spokesperson stated on Radio 2 that they have no evidence or statistics to support their concerns.

The media, with government backing, have inferred that children are being abused by dint of the fact that they are Home Educated. Our children are hurt and angry at this suggestion, and at the thought that their non Home Educated friends will think this is the case. We believe this contravenes article 17 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, specifically:

(e) Encourage the development of appropriate guidelines for the protection of the child from information and material injurious to his or her well-being, bearing in mind the provisions of articles 13 and 18.

Some of our children have written letters expressing their feelings about this matter, which we have collected on our Facebook discussion board, and you can view them here.

On studying the 6 questions Home Educators and their children have been given to answer (the LAs have 60 by comparison!), question 6 is not qualified by a yes/no option and is proving very difficult for children to answer, and we are concerned that the children’s replies are at risk of being misinterpreted. As such we believe that DCSF has broken Article 12 of the UNCRC, which states:

Governments are to ensure that children have the right to express freely their views and to take account of children’s views. Children have the right to be heard in any legal or administrative matters that affect them.

Question 1 of the Local Authority questionnaire gives us cause for concern: it asks how many children are statemented – statementing is not common place in Home Education, although there are a number of children with autism/medical issues. We believe the DCSF has failed their statutory disability equality duty, and as such any conclusions drawn from the Local Authority responses will not take the disabled into proper consideration.

The ‘review’, as it has now been called, is due to end on February 20th 2009, with yet another consultation to follow on the back of it later in the year.

We would greatly appreciate your speedy advice on the matters broached within this email.

Yours faithfully,

Techla Wood

(on behalf of Stop the UK Government Stigmatising Home Educators)”

This was a polite request on behalf of children and young people who were concerned about a review which was going to significantly affect them. However, not even an acknowledgment has ever been received from CRAE or ARCH, which is not only extremely disappointing, but is also a kick in the teeth for the many children and young people who took the time to write.

The plot subsequently thickened when a conversation overheard by a delegate at the Convention on Modern Liberty event in London in late February confirmed that CRAE had decided simply to ignore the views expressed by the home educated children and young people in their letters.

Perhaps Carolyne Willow, as a fellow home educator described in the Guardian as being “on sabbatical from her post as national co-ordinator of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England”, will be able to shed some light on this glaring omission by CRAE? Then again, her own voice may well have been ignored, if not silenced altogether, on the subject.

Can anyone seriously believe that children’s rights are effectively safeguarded by the government? Or by third sector organisations which claim to do so? Don’t make us laugh!