A detailed step-by-step analysis and response to the Channel 4 Dispatches programme “Skipping School: Britain’s Invisible Kids” on 4th February 2019

Home Education quote Dispatches introduces Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner, as the “eyes and ears of children in the system”. An interesting statement, considering how much harm is being caused to children by the school system, which Ms Longfield cannot be oblivious to and which goes on, continuously unaddressed.

There followed, abrupt verbiage from an apparent child welfare expert (who is later explained to be a consultant social worker named Gladys Rose White), as one of many experts who feel “alarm” about home-education. She is filmed, completely out of context, making statements about having had an image of a “pale child, with teeth falling out and bleeding gums” that was “harrowing” to her.  A bizarre and shocking statement to make about home-education, that didn’t make sense and was simply ludicrous. Clearly it was intended to scaremonger and sensationalise, to gain public agreement as to the unsuitability of home-education, the context for Ms Rose White’s statement was not explained until much later in the programme.

Dispatches stated that home-education figures have doubled in 5 years and that there are now more than 60k home-educators in the UK. Well, isn’t the Government fortunate, that all those children (many with special needs that cost additional money to support and who have been failed and traumatised by the school system) are being educated and kept safe, happy and well by their parents, at no cost to the Government.  Imagine what a massive amount of money they are saving, what heroes these parents are. It takes a lot of dedication to devote yourself 24/7 to your child’s entire wellbeing, education, stimulation and support, and to pay out-of-pocket expenses to do so as well.

The fact that schools are (supposedly) “tightly regulated and supervised” was given as a reason to believe that the education being provided by schools is of good quality. I’d love for Anne Longfield and Dispatches to explain in that case, why there are so many articles on the following:

  1. children not being provided enough skills for future life by the UK education system [1];
  2. funding for UK schools being insufficient [1];
  3. lack of teachers [1];
  4. poorer children being failed by UK education system [2];
  5. exclusions are occurring across the UK, the children often have special needs and often exclusions are illegal [3];
  6. boys are being failed by UK schools [4];
  7. autistic children are being failed by UK schools [5];
  8. adopted children are being failed by UK schools [6];
  9. children with a variety of special needs are being failed by UK schools [7];
  10. all children are being academically failed by UK schools [8];
  11. bullying is rife in UK schools and as a result, HALF of UKs children are scared to return to school after the holidays [9];
  12. ironically, only 11 hours ago at the point of writing this, the Government not only admits [10] that the Government is even failing early years education but that:

 

“A strong home learning environment can have a major impact on children’s life chances. The Government needs to come forward with a comprehensive strategy for early years services, including children’s centres and family hubs, to give disadvantaged children the best possible start in life”

 

Rather hypocritical then isn’t it, for Anne Longfield to come along and portray home-education as an abuser’s paradise and imply that home-educating parents aren’t up to the job.  The Government clearly recognises that up until legal school age (when children are often too young to speak up about abuse or neglect!) parents are trusted to be that ‘strong home learning environment’.  What changes when a child reaches five? There are umpteen more articles and statistics showing that the UK education system is not working well for our children.  It’s affecting their mental health negatively.  There are a variety of reasons for this, which would take more time to explain that I can devote here. But if Ms Longfield is truly “the eyes and ears” of UK’s children – shouldn’t she have instead, been invited by Dispatches to present a programme on our failing education system?  Yes, in case you missed it, Anne stated that not only did Dispatches invite her to do the programme (although how staged that is I don’t know) but that they even provided her statistics to quote from and details of a couple of serious case reviews into child deaths.

So, is this whole exercise simply for Channel 4 to obtain ratings by outraging people, or are there machinations behind the scenes (which would appear to be so) whereby the Government has entered into a mutually beneficial exercise. The Government is removing more and more rights and control from it’s citizen’s lives and stripping parental rights to bring up their children in the way they think best – and that’s what this is really about.  And perhaps for some parents, it is the very fact that schools are so “tightly regulated and supervised” that they don’t want their child in such an environment, where their true creativity and wonder is stifled, where they learn to conform like robots, rather than discover and learn in a relaxed, fun and exciting way.

Anne Longfield went on to say how home-educated children can fall between different services and professionals, “out-of-sight”, that LAs don’t know where they are. How is that so? Why is there an assumption that by being home-educated, means by default that children never see a GP, dentist, optician, hospital clinician, private professionals including OT, psychologist (to undo the trauma many have been caused by the school system) or speech and language therapist.  Because yes, as state services are often so shoddy, failing to diagnose many children’s difficulties or offer the right type of support, or simply leave children on interminable waiting lists, home-educating parents like other special needs parents, not infrequently do end up having to find the money for private professionals, to help their children.  Then of course most HE families have relatives, friends and acquaintances, by whom their children are seen.  They are also out and about in the community.  Professionals aren’t the only people capable of judging if a child is OK anyway.  If they were, there wouldn’t be any Daniel Pelka’s or Baby Ps.  So the description of home-educated children as “invisible” is nothing more than a lie.

Then of course, there are many home-educating parents who belong to organisations such as Home-Ed Info[11], or the Home Education Advisory Service (HEAS)[12] which offer plenty of excellent advice and signposting to resources, but also there are plentiful local HE groups (a variety on Google groups for instance) where families meet up for socialising events, outings, sharing of parental expertise as a resource and even organising and funding private tuition groups for their children.

The Children’s Commissioner sees herself as a “defender of children’s rights” and “speaking up for children”, so Anne, why aren’t you telling the truth and speaking up for the many excellent HE parents out there who go out of their way to provide a good education for their children and of the huge benefit to those children and their rights to HE as an option? Whose children are much more relaxed, have better mental health, have freedom of expression and learn in a way tailored to their individual needs. Because Anne, there is no legal requirement to follow the National Curriculum, even for private schools and academies, let-alone for parents. Oh, did I mention that teachers voted the National Curriculum as unfit for purpose [22]?  Children are all unique individuals, not automatons and they all learn differently.

Anne Longfield believes that only schools can provide the “care, education and social skills needed”. In view of what I have described above, clearly that is not the case whatsoever and these types of statement have been made very deliberately to scaremonger and denigrate home-education.  Autistic children, who struggle greatly with socialising, can be utterly alone and bullied in the midst of a school full of children.  If that list above of all the failings going on within UK schools is supposed to be the right “care, education and social skills needed” according to Anne Longfield, then she should step down from her job without further ado, because such opinions in the face of evidence of harm, in someone tasked with speaking up for children, are clearly extremely disturbing.

Just to add to the shock tactics still further, Anne then makes an outrageous statement that in Germany HE is “outlawed”, but that in UK all you need to do is de-register your child by sending a letter to the LA.  Well, well, well. Who’d’a thunk it, a parent deciding what’s right for their child’s education – I mean, UK law states that the legal duty for their child’s education belongs to a parent, so what are parents doing complying with the law, strewth. I saw some great Tweets responding to this ridiculous statement:

Home-education Germany banned

Home-education Germany Nazis

How about the fact that home-education is legal in: Australia, Canada, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, USA (14 countries) and possibly other countries (source: http://home-ed.info/heabroad). Strangely omitted to mention this fact, did ‘ole Anne.

So Anne met up with some HE families, first up was Marcello. Ms Longfield  could barely hide her contempt, when she said “Marcello ‘thinks‘ (heavily emphasised with a sneer) he can do a better job”. Well Anne, considering that long list above, of all the serious ways schools are failing children academically, emotionally/mentally and practically, I’m sure Marcello is doing a better job.  Anne wanted immediately to know what Marcello’s son Coby liked about school, totally ignored his reply of “not much” and clearly only wanted to hear positives about it, so after she had pushed him to find one, she gave a big exaggerated “oh yeah”, when Coby said there was one thing he missed about school, which was seeing his friends every day.  An empty, unspoken question remains though Anne, despite you intentionally making it appear Coby was socially isolated. Does Coby instead see his friends 3-4 times a week, or every weekend? That’s not every single day as he would at school, but would be plenty anyway (and in a far more natural environment too).  Maybe he does, but your questioning deliberately made it appear he was losing out. Notably, Anne didn’t ask Coby what he liked about home-education, she left poor Marcello having to justify why it was a positive experience, in the face of her obvious disapproval.

When Anne asked Marcello whether he had opted to have a LA visit to check his educational provision, Marcello replied that he had “declined”, but Anne immediately reworded this to say that he “refused”.  Yet more parent-blame attitudes, portraying parents as unreasonable and obstructive, with the unspoken and lingering implication that such parents have something to hide and aren’t acting in their child’s best interests. The stench of extreme bias and disapproval was making me wilt by now, but I stuck it out until the end of the programme.

Anne spoke of how LAs had been surveyed about home-educating statistics, but we should be asking why there was no survey of home-educating parents to ensure the full picture was provided.  Isn’t the horse’s mouth more accurate?  Or is being mere parents not good enough, are they not trustworthy as a data source?  Never mind, the proof of the pudding is evidenced further down this article.  If this is the sort of reporting that Channel 4 Dispatches does, then I will never believe anything another of their programmes states.

Anne then visited Bailey, and his (dyslexic) mum Sam and narrated how concerned she was, about the fact that there could be multitudes of parents out there (meaning like Sam, who was displayed like a sacrificial lamb) who struggled to teach their children and who were without resources or adequate knowledge. But instantly I spotted the issue with this portrayal. There are in fact tons of resources out there including: free and paid websites for all subjects; subject books complete with tests freely available on the high street or online [23], not to mention private tutors and as mentioned above, other parents in the HE community who share their expertise as a resource to other HE families – and these families network and swap, donate and share other resources.  So really all it boils down to, is LAs needing to offer HE parents fact sheets with information on resources and how to link-up with other HE families, just in case they haven’t discovered this rich ocean of opportunities alone. Job done.  Only Anne wouldn’t have it. It turns out Sam did get hold of a list of websites at least, following a visit by an LA official, yet Anne wanted to scare Sam and make her lose confidence and spoke of how daunting the list was.  Once the LA official had visited, Sam’s educational provision must have been deemed at least satisfactory, otherwise Anne would have wasted no time in proclaiming she was failing her son on national TV.

Anne then discussed schools off-rolling. This is a big concern and there’s not much I can add here, other than, parents should never be forced into home-education because of poor practices by schools. The case of an autistic girl who this happened to, was then shared. The problem is, 70% of autistic children are forced into mainstream and it doesn’t work for so many of them. The Government isn’t providing enough special schools and almost none whatsoever geared towards autism.  The noise, chaos, uncertainty, socialising difficulties and unmet needs, make it a living hell for most autistic children [5]. Special Needs Jungle recently wrote articles on school-induced trauma [17] & [18]. When needs are unmet, behaviour escalates and the child can end up excluded.  There is a type of ASD known as pathological demand avoidance and the educational and support needs[13] of this profile, differ significantly to those of typically autistic children. Unless children with PDA are correctly diagnosed and supported, they can react with very extreme behaviours. Many NHS Trusts refuse to recognise this diagnosis (in breach of NICE Guidance, because PDA is an ASD and NICE requires the diagnosis to describe the child’s profile) and the standard ASD clinical tools aren’t very good at identifying this sub-type. This is a disaster waiting to happen for the child and their family.  The Children’s Commissioner spoke about barriers to learning, but when a child is autistic and in mainstream that is the barrier to learning.

Ms Longfield comments that parents don’t often know the law, the answer is simple. Inform them of it. Inform them of their rights, duties and provide information on resources. Instead of a knee-jerk reaction to HE and saying we need a register and to have inspections, look at WHY so many parents are HE in the first place and the fact that so many are children with SENs in the HE community. Fix the education system, put money in, build autism-specific schools, ensure all teachers have autism training and have resources to correctly support all children with SENs and you will find HE numbers would decline. If school is traumatising children, what parent in their right mind would make them continue going? That would be neglect. There are already more than enough suicides from bullying and pressures of exams, in schools. You don’t hear of children committing suicide because they are being home-educated though, do you Anne.  Anne says a child’s wellbeing must be put first, she talks about safeguarding, but if she really believes what she says, she would not only understand why parents are home-educating but appreciate the amazing job the vast majority of them do and how it is the best thing for their children compared to the alternative. And let’s not forget, the current law fully covers instances where parents might not be providing an adequate education and LAs can take parents to court to obtain an order for the child to be returned to school.  Just as if there is any reason to suspect a child is being neglected or abused, the LA has powers to investigate that too, whether a child is HE or not.

Anne wonders about HE children’s education being negatively impacted, about them losing out, but not only does research absolutely not bear this alleged concern out, but Anne needs to think bigger.  Children with SENs may mature later than typical children, this is definitely the case with children with conditions such as ADHD and ASD, which are both neurodevelopmental disorders.  Learning is lifelong, even if a child struggles academically and a parent delays their pace of learning during home-education, that doesn’t mean they won’t catch up, at a pace that meets their needs, later on. But most HE children are not losing out, quite the opposite in fact. If a HE child with a disability struggles to learn, it is almost definitely due to their SENs, not deficits in parental provision.

Evidence shows that HE children are in fact faring far better than school-educated children, so Dispatches have presented a totally dishonest programme and Anne Longfield should really be ashamed. She should be praising, endorsing and encouraging home-education (particularly where it is by parental choice) because it’s better for children! [14]

“studies confirm that home-educated children on average achieve higher intellectual scores than their school-going age-mates, regardless of whether the parents follow an existing (school) curriculum or whether education is child-led (ACTP, 1997-2001; Calvery et al., 1992; Galloway, 1995; Ray, 1994; Ray, 1997; Rothermel, 2002; Rudner, 1999; Sutton & Oliveira, 1995). Only Tipton 1990 reports no difference in the scores of home-educated children.

Some studies have even found that the lead of home-educated children can be considerable. Six-year-olds had a lead of one school-year, which increased during their school career to four years at the age of fourteen. This means that an average fourteen-year-old home-educated child is comparable – in terms of schooling – to an eighteen-year-old who goes to school (Ray, 1994; Ray 1997; Rothermel, 2002; Rudner, 1999).

HE also produces more well-rounded, mature, inquisitive children who are far better prepared for life than school-educated peers. They have far superior outcomes and score better, on all fronts! [15]  And this isn’t new information, there are quite old articles around about this. [16] (August 2000 article*) so the Government knows this. But they have an agenda for control and stripping of rights, an overlord mentality – and that’s what this is really about.

* “It discovered that home-educated children of working-class parents achieved considerably higher marks in tests than the children of professional, middle-class parents and that gender differences in exam results disappear among home-taught children.”

Anne Longfield stated that no matter how bad it is for a child in school, removing children from school is not the answer. Wow – and this is someone tasked with the best interests of children.  In view of everything shown here, I would like to know why ever not.  Of course for those parents forced into HE, improving the educational system and ensuring their children’s needs are met, is the answer. But the public sees no evidence of that any time soon.

The Children’s Commissioner then focused her disapproval on Leo and his siblings in Leicestershire. Leo’s mum’s face had a harried look, I wondered if it was her child’s special needs putting her under stress and making her appear that way.  Anne was keen to raise an eyebrow at the children’s lateness getting out of bed and a history of persistent lateness when in school, completely overlooking the fact that the family were dealing with special needs (health conditions/disabilities) and many children need a lengthy period of de-schooling once they leave school for HE. But then, she didn’t understand anything about HE and why it was better for many children, which was clear. The Government doesn’t get to dictate what time people get up and what time they do their learning.

It transpired Leo’s mum had a harried look, because she had been accused of fabricated and induced illness (FII) and of “keeping her children at home” and was under supervision by social services. And there we have it.  Another family with special needs and disabilities that were falsely accused by professionals, who wanted to disbelieve or misrepresent the child’s needs and put barriers in the way of support and help they needed. Falsely accusing parents of FII is a well-worn tactic towards special needs families, as testified all over the internet in blogs, forums and social media.  And it harms children, so we know these child protection “concerns” aren’t really about protecting the children, they are far more often about blocking state resources, covering-up NHS negligence, or punishing parents who persist in seeking support for their child.  There have been media articles about the harm these investigations cause to entire families [19].  Notably, the phone rang whilst Anne was visiting Leo’s family, social services were full of apologies all of a sudden and told Leo’s mum sorry, they didn’t even know why they had an open file as the family never met the criteria for child in need plans in the first place. Funny that.  No wonder this mum was clearly relieved, described it as having been “hell” and only half-jokingly, asked Anne Longfield whether she had told social services she was visiting. She then made a dark joke about “the Children’s Commissioner – or child snatcher” when Anne wasn’t around. What’s being done to special needs families is very wrong.

Anne said the biggest concern was about children’s wellbeing and said between 11-55% of HE families were known to social services” but for what reason? Doesn’t mean they were known as neglecting or abusing their children, being addicts or mentally unstable.  Considering the amount of children with SEN and disabilities being HE, many of them would have child in need plans and therefore of course would be “known” to social services.  Because the law says that every child with a disability is defined as a child in need, although they don’t all have a CiN plan. So this comment is somewhat disingenuous. Also, the fact that so many schools maliciously refer families to social services for child protection investigations, because the school isn’t meeting the child’s needs and the parent points this out to the school. Schools go on the defensive and start accusing their parenting [24].

Rochdale Council were interviewed and they said they don’t know if there is a concern, if families are not engaging with them (i.e. having educational inspections) but there is no reason that plenty of other professionals aren’t seeing the children as mentioned earlier, along with relatives and other adults in the community.  All the information provided in this programme was designed to mislead this way.

Someone by the name of Katy Fosgale-Hopper made a statement about there being less abuse (or chance of it) if a child is in school. But this is factually untrue.  Did they think nobody would check these claims?  The tragic case of Khyra Ishaq was cited.  But not only was she not home-educated, but she was seen by multiple professionals who all failed her – and what about Daniel Pelka who was starved and beaten to death right under his school’s nose?  Or the disabled, non-verbal 4yo autistic boy, Chadrack Mbala Mulo, who starved next to his epileptic mother’s dead body at home, because school staff didn’t check why he hadn’t been into school. Anne stated that there had been five ‘other’ cases of HE children who had died in ten years, but how many more died who were in school?  One death is one too many of course, but if it has taken ten whole years for a total of five deaths (with at least some with dubious or erroneous HE categorisation), when sixty thousand children are being home-educated, the facts speak for themselves.  The fact is, that rates of child abuse are significantly lower in home-educated children. But of course this inconvenient fact was kept out of the programme and avoided by Ms Longfield – and she is well aware of it because (1) she just is, in her role, and (2) I Tweeted the evidence* to her about a week before the programme.

An awful case of a Welsh boy who lived with his parents in a very isolated rural part of Wales, who didn’t go to school (but this may not mean he was HE either) and who starved to death, was shown.  This is the case that Gladys Rose White was speaking of at the beginning, that gave her harrowing images of bleeding gums and teeth coming out.  But as awful and tragic this event was, it didn’t happen because he was HE. It happened because his parents neglected him and not sending him to school was part of that. This very rare tragedy, even if it could be included as a HE family, still doesn’t change the fact that significantly less HE children are abused or neglected than those at school. This is another deliberately misleading case being used.

So this case was used as an illustration, that LAs simply not knowing, meant there could be thousands more cases like that. The evidence absolutely does not bear this out so lies and hysteria based on those lies, are being used to make people scared enough into agreeing that HE needs to be heavily overseen and controlled.  Very few families live so remotely as this poor Welsh child that died, even fewer who are home-educating.  What’s even worse, is when children attending school are dying right under the noses of so many professionals, even sometimes when there are additional professionals such as social workers seeing the family. And this is happening.  Where were those serious case reviews Dispatches? It’s clear that alleged fears of child abuse are being used to create a reason to monitor home-educators.

Dispatches then went on to the subject of illegal schools (which by the way aren’t HE so why would they be used). They used an example, where the set-up may not in fact have been intentionally run as a school, the people using an office space to provide tuition for HE children, stated that they found the law confusing and had inadvertently gone over the amount of hours, which made them classified as a school.  They had been to court and the finding was that they had run an illegal school. So Anne Longfield went along with Ofsted inspectors unannounced to catch them out.  The court had clarified that more than 25 hours a week is deemed a school. However, what Anne Longfield seemed not to understand (and the constant lack of awareness about HE means she was never going to provide an accurate portrayal of it), is that HE doesn’t only take place in the home!  It seems that Anne is subject to the same ignorance about HE as the general public are, taking the term “home” very literally. HE children as before stated learn not only in the home but out in the community, meeting other HE families and sometimes having private tuition elsewhere, going to clubs, libraries etc and sharing resources in other HE homes.  So this again was entirely misleading and it was notable that the court findings had not criticised the standard of provision these people were offering.

Exams The programme then moved on to the number of HE children taking exams and Anne said that no-one knows how HE children doing academically. The latter is simply not true as the referenced articles below prove.  The former, parents can enter their children at external exam centres, but there is no requirement to inform LAs that their children are taking exams.  Also, some will be doing distance learning courses and take exams that way, so any statistics collated won’t be accurate. Yet despite this, Anne claimed that out of 11k HE children, only 263 sat exams.  This simply cannot be true and the aforementioned quoted articles, must have incorporated exam results as part of their research.  Anne referred to an ADCS HE survey from 2018, which said that only 31 LAs kept records, but HE is not their business, why would they need to document this? And in any case, a successful life is not based on exams anyway. Universities can look not only at qualifications and points but other sources of learning and education (if they couldn’t, they wouldn’t consider mature students on this basis).  Here it describes other ways HE parents can track progress: https://www.theschoolrun.com/tracking-progress-in-home-education and also says of children in school, that: “Childline has reported a 200 per cent increase year-on-year in calls from young people about exam stress“.  That can as we know, sometimes tragically lead to child suicide.

Anne told us that data outlines HE children four times as likely end up NEET (not in education, employment or training), I find this impossible to believe in view of all the research on better outcomes for HE children. I would like to see the source of this data and which children are being included. If the vast majority are SEN children then it would be far more likely that it’s their SENs resulting in this, not by virtue of being HE.  She said that “parental rights” must not come before the best interests of the child, well clearly that’s not the case as the content of this article shows – the opposite is the case and these tactics won’t convince the public otherwise once they see all the facts.

The Children’s Commissioner finishes the programme by asserting that home-educators “must be registered and be visited” and she would be writing a report to the Government stating this. Well Anne, I will be sending a copy of this article to the Government also and sharing it across social media (send it viral folks!), to counter your wholly dishonest representation of home-education.

*  And Anne, research proves that regulation does not reduce (the already low) rates of abuse/neglect of home-educated children [20]. And yet HE families are disproportionately monitored and referred to social services already, without any basis for doing so [21] because the rates of abuse by HE parents is lower than school-educated children!

“…teaching staff with responsibility for caring for children during school hours, were found to be more likely to be guilty of abusing those children, than a home educated child was found likely to be abused. Clearly, the risk of a home educated child being subject to abuse is lower than the risk of an educational professional employed in a school being found guilty of abusing a child or children in their care.”

“2014 NSPCC23 report refers specifically to home educated children being denied the right to formally express their views or participate in decision making in respect to home education. Yet no process is in place to allow schooled children to take part in the decision to send them to school or to express their views about being sent to school.”

“That perception of risk is also demonstrated to be false by the current research, which indicates that home educated children, whilst twice as likely to be referred to Social Services, are between 3.5 – 5 times less likely to have that referral lead to a CPP than are schooled children aged 5-16, and 5 – 7 times less likely than children aged 0-4 years.”

Footnote: Planet Autism wrote to the chief social worker for children, Isabelle Trowler, in May 2016 about one of the very issues raised by a featured home-educating parent – but unfortunately glossed over entirely in this programme, how special needs families are being failed by the system and falsely accused of child abuse, often fabricated and induced illness (FII) and how this traumatises families, including the children. Isabelle Trowler didn’t respond to the communication about this issue, although a DfE minion did, only to respond with generic blurb which is freely available online. Anne Longfield clearly must work closely with Isabelle Trowler as their roles by default strongly overlap. The Government has known of and ignored this issue for many years. And many of the population of home-educated children have special needs, these same families, as the Dispatches programme showed, are the same families who are being wrongly targeted with child protection investigations.

References:
 
[1] “How well do schools prepare children for their future? May 2017” (APPG on Education 2017)
[2] Poorest students in England nine times more likely to be in inadequate secondary schools, research shows (August 2018 article, based on Ofsted data obtained by the Labour party)
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/poor-children-schools-uk-poverty-secondary-education-state-angela-rayner-nick-gibb-a8500226.html
[3] ““Forgotten children”: Our education system is excluding, and failing, more pupils (July 2018 article based on Commons education select committee report)
https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/education/2018/07/forgotten-children-our-education-system-excluding-and-failing-more-pupils
[4] Boys left to fail at school because attempts to help them earn wrath of feminists, says ex-Ucas chief” (November 2018 article)
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2018/11/16/boys-left-fail-school-attempts-help-earn-wrath-feminists-says/
[5] National Autistic Society’s “School Report” (2016)
https://network.autism.org.uk/content/report-finds-new-education-system-failing-meet-needs-autistic-children
[7] Missing special needs support ‘a national scandal’
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-46400397
[8] Is Britain’s education system failing the next generation? (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) December 2016 report)
http://www.if.org.uk/2016/12/23/is-britains-education-system-failing-the-next-generation/
[9] “Half of Children Worried About Returning to School After the Holidays Because of Bullying” (2018 article)
[12] Home Education Advisory Servicwww.heas.org.uk
[13] “The Distinctive Clinical and Educational Needs of Children with Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome: Guidelines for Good Practice” (endorsed by DfE and Autism Education Trust)
[14] Home Education: A Successful Educational Experiment?

[15] Home Education Research http://edyourself.org/research/#icher.org
[16] “Children taught at home learn more. Youngsters of all social classes do better if they avoid school, study discovers
https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2000/aug/13/education.educationnews1
[17“How can children be traumatised just by going to school?”
https://specialneedsjungle.com/children-traumatised-just-going-school/
[18] “SEND children are being “traumatised” by not getting the help they need in schools”
https://specialneedsjungle.com/send-children-being-traumatised-by-not-getting-help-need-schools/?fbclid=IwAR3r574eNVD2cwDNR1G3-97JL26XyQKsUFoquEDbH7DM4_yd8-ZwMPCYxVQ
[19] “Rise in referrals to social services causing trauma to families, expert says”
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/15/rise-in-referrals-social-services-trauma-families-child-protection
[20] “The Relationship Between the Degree of State Regulation of Homeschooling and the Abuse of Homeschool Children (Students)”
https://www.nheri.org/degree-of-homeschool-regulation-no-relationship-to-homeschool-child-abuse/
[21] “Home Education and the Safeguarding Myth: Analysing the Facts Behind the Rhetoric.
http://www.home-education.org.uk/articles/article-safeguarding-myth.pdf
[22] Teachers reject national curriculum as ‘not fit for purpose’ in exclusive TES/YouGov poll”
https://www.tes.com/news/teachers-reject-national-curriculum-not-fit-purpose-exclusive-tesyougov-poll
[23] WHSmith education books examples: https://www.whsmith.co.uk/dept/books-education-02×00002
[24] “The Schools that Spy on ‘Munchausen’s Mums’ – Teachers accuse them of lying about children’s autism to get attention” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article2554867/The-schools-spy-Munchausen-Mums-Teachers-accuse-lying-childrens-autismattention.html

8 thoughts on “A detailed step-by-step analysis and response to the Channel 4 Dispatches programme “Skipping School: Britain’s Invisible Kids” on 4th February 2019

  1. Regarding Khyra Ishaq’s death, it’s not quite as simple as “not home-educated”, although you’re correct that professionals were aware of her & her family, & some didn’t do their jobs right. Khyra’s mum did withdraw her and two of her siblings from school, and school staff flagged to social services at the time that they were worried about the children. I unpicked step by step how the system failed her, here:
    http://www.uncharted-worlds.org/blog/2010/07/systems-people-and-the-death-of-khyra-ishaq/

    1. Thanks for your comment although it’s not key to the point of the whole article, which is that rare tragedies such as that, are being misused in an attempt to insist on unnecessary oversight of all home-educating families. That’s one case, Daniel Pelka was killed whilst attending school so I’m not sure why you singled out that case. The programme used complete scaremongering tactics. The law already allows enough protection for children at risk and as you say professionals had already flagged concerns before the children were withdrawn from school. Clearly the parent didn’t intend home-education, it may have been used as a cover, but professionals already had concerns so it should never have happened. They simply didn’t exercise appropriate actions when they did have concerns. The law also already has a process for when there is suspicion that an education is not taking place. There are more abuses and child deaths among school-educated children. Home-education is not the problem. And in fact this programme could be dangerous to a minority, because some abusive parents may not have known they could home-educate and may be given the idea to withdraw their child from school under the guise of home-education and it could put some children at risk that might not otherwise have been. It was poorly handled. The vast majority of home-educating parents are looking after their child’s wellbeing and providing a decent education, which is why they do it in the first place, they look into it a bit before starting and do it with good intentions. Some may later return their children to school for a variety of reasons, including that it didn’t work out, or that they found a better school placement. But there are many satisfied and happy home-educating families. The whole programme was biased, dishonest and hid all the problems there are with the state educational system, in a bid to attack home-education. Very poor journalism.

  2. Phew! Don’t know where to start. But to say that home education saved me and my son. At the time i was a single mum and sent him off to school at 5 years old. We had always been great mates, and it was sad to see his personality go downhill, and witness his unhappiness. Having left school myself at age 15, as i loathed it, with no qualifications, i didn’t think was in a position to home educate and thought it was for the privilaged and educated. Fortunately while chatting to someone about how sad was feeling having to take Tim to school and how unhappy we both were, she told me that it was perfectly possible for me to home ed, gave me the number of a friend who home educated, who then lent me a book by John Holt..Teach Your Own…Amazing and Magnificent book! So inspiring!
    So long story cut short we were off. Wrote the letters to the head of the school, and education dept, and it was the best move EVER! And my son said the best birthday present for him. He was 6 years old. This was 1986, and our first home visit was fine, just a pleasant lady from the education dept., who didn’t seem that bothered, and then couple years later, a not nice man, who Tim took an instant dislike to as he didn’t know who wrote the Narnia books! Fortunately for me the headmaster of Tims old school was a lovely man and was always ready to help. And feeling a tad shaky after the second ED visit, i was able to visit the school to sit in on the class that my son would have been in, which turned out to be the heads wifes class. I will never forget this woman as she was So inspiring. She told me that i could do no wrong by having Tim out of school. Jenny she said…”if you can spend 15 mins a day just talking to your son, that is so much more than i can give to anyone of these children in this classroom”..She brought tears to my eyes with her positive approach to me..and when she asked for the name of the Ed. officer who had visited me…..she just laughed and said she knew the man and that he was quite useless, a failed teacher is what she called him, and had had a run in with him before when he was ‘inspecting’ her class and she told the kids to down tools and get to the windows as a rainbow had suddenly appeared. The ed officer in question did not approve.
    Anyway could rattle on for hours as it is a subject close to my heart.
    Was fortunate to meet my husband and we have a daughter, who never went to school at all. Both children are wonderful human beings, and i would recommend home education totally.

    1. Glad to hear you had such a great home-education experience and thanks for telling your story. And most stories are positive. Some people might have a nervous start and take some time getting into it, but once they have sourced out all the resources things settle down. It can be a positive learning experience for the parent as much as the child and gives the child opportunity for quality time with their parent(s). But that’s the thing about home-education, it makes people become more proactive and networking online is so easy these days to seek other home-educators and activities. Most parents, if they couldn’t manage it well enough, would admit it and return their child to the formal school system, some get private tutors to supplement if they can afford it. Families are not all cut from the same mould and schools are failing so many children. Parents know their children best and what works for them.

  3. What a fantastic and detailed article presented with facts and evidence, unlike the dispatches programme.

    I removed 2 of my children from school in 2015 when my then 5 year old was csa. In essence choosing to home educate 3 children. My eldest daughter had completed the school system, and though she did well, it was not without trials or credit to that system but because I paid for her to be assessed for a private diagnosis at age 14 for dyslexia and despite diagnosis the school still would not accommodate without more fighting. At this point she was bullied so badly that police were involved and then she started truanting, scared to go to school. There were 3 court cases due to unsavoury characters she was associating with whilst truanting. She would leave school after I had taken her there, sometimes she would sit in the school toilets for 3 and more hours in hiding.

    My second eldest, was removed from school age 13, she was identified as gifted and talented with an IQ of 130. She was very popular and described as a key child and a leader in the class until she started secondary school where I suppose others were jealous and she became the target of bullying too. She was also not challenged in school, would finish gcse level work at a* grade within 10 minutes of lesson and was never given anything at a higher level. For her, this was like being forced to do primary level school work when you are at a level. In fact, 2 weeks after deregistering, she won an internship at university where the tutor described her as her most mature student and told me she could easily do a degree. She was only 13 and I still have a reference in my email from this university tutor saying the same thing as she said to me that day. My daughter had poetry published, designed an invention for talent 2030, young female engineers competition, though never submitted it, and achieved a level 1 and 2 diploma by the age of 15. She was home educated for 3 years and is now in college.

    My 11 year old who was home educated for 3 years is set to open her own business by September when she turns 12. She wants to be a carpenter and has kitted the shed out as her workshop. She also enjoys a wide variety of other subjects and projects, both academic and creative ones, I believe she seems to be heading in a similar direction to her older sister and intend to also enter her for a supervised mensa test to discover her IQ, though I believe IQ is something that can grow. She also decided last year when she was 9, to become vegan and is environmentally conscience and shows great interest in sustainability.

    My 8 year old only started school March last year, part time and as she is thriving and asked to go fulltime, she is now attending fulltime since January this year (notice she got to participate in the decision just as my other children all have and unlike most other school children, and how she knows if it isn’t working for her, she can change school or be home educated).

    My 3 year old who is non verbal, partially sighted and has sensory issues will be home educated when he turns 5 unless I see a massive investment into sen and he shows interest in going to school at that time. I know from experience that schools will not be able to meet his additional needs and will not help him to teach his full potential. During an MDA assessment, he was described as having shocking positive results as being ahead for his age in many areas and in those he was slightly behind it was still further ahead than they expected considering his disabilities. They agreed with me that this was because of all the opportunities I give him and activities we participate in as in my mind, I am already taking responsibility for educating him as I am now used to doing as a home educator and mother of children with additional needs. Nobody that meets him has ever noticed that he is almost blind by the way he gets around or by his motor skills. As for being non verbal, nobody has ever struggled to understand him or know what he wants or needs as from a very early age, he learnt his own effective non verbal communication using body language, noises, signals and self made signs. He now uses a communication book that he was never taught to use (that was meant to be taught the week after he was given it, but as soon as he was given it, he opened it up and used it without being shown) and uses aac app on his ipad without having been taught too, he is able to open his ipad himself, find the app he wants and use the app (he does this with Netflix too, even identifying his own user account and picking what he wants to watch), physically he is able to use climbing walls, play football, run up and down stairs after he has bum shuffled up them one time, all due to his extremely awe inspiring ability to mind map very fast. He also tidies after himself (and others), tries to polish and hoover, tries to carry bags for us, is so well behaved, always happy, sleeps well, rarely gets upset or has tantrums, is very affectionate and if he sees someone upset he will cuddle them and pat their back or stroke their arm.

    We have been on child protection, but only because I refused to allow a home visit and to see the children following an incident with my mental health following trauma. Ths was stepped down the beginning of the month and I was told from the start that had I agreed to an early assessment, social services would have been out of our lives a long time ago, and at most would have been on a low level voluntary plan, that they had not wanted to put us on child protection but that I left them no choice.

    With all this, I am also studying for my bachelors degree with honours in forensic psychology and living as a single mother with my own complex health issues and disabilities. And I’m still doing a better job than the schools ever did.

    1. Thanks for your comment. You and your children sound amazing and well done for what you have been doing. It makes it all the more tragic that social services interfered in your life, as you are clearly dedicated and caring as a parent. It’s about control and hysteria so often with social services. Parents aren’t allowed to have a mind of their own, so refusing a visit, as is your legal right, in the absence of any evidence of harm to your children, is ridiculous. I saw an Tweet about a week ago, it was either research or an article, stating that lack of engagement with social workers is the reason so many families are on child protection plans in comparison to others with the same reasons for ‘concerns’ which have been closed. It proves that they are treating parents as suspicious simply for having a voice. If having a voice and opinions and defending your Article 8 rights is enough to put families on child protection plans, it shows how out of control social services are in this country.

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