Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Why We Don't Need LA Visits

I have said before that as long as visits from the Local Authority are not a legal requirement for home educators, I will not have them.  A few misguided individuals in the last government tried to force the matter and lost - and although some HEors are fortunate enough to currently have LA workers who are friendly and well-meaning, for me it is the principle: I am not prepared to yield any ground that was fought so hard for by the HE community just a few years ago.  I wrote politely to our LA declining visits, and they have been fine with that.  No problem.  But occasionally the subject comes up again, and I read two articles this evening, back-to-back, that set me off on a bit of a rant.  I posted opinions online, raged mildly at hubby, and decided to get it off my chest here...

First, this article from the Guardian, about the home educators in Westminster having to take action against their council who want to enforce monitoring visits etc, despite there being no legal requirement to do so...

Second, this (seemingly unrelated) article from the Telegraph, about the compulsory promotion of Marxism in Chinese universities.

Actually I had also read an article this morning written by an unschooler in Canada.  With the inspiring words from the Canadian writer still ringing in my ears, the contrast between that and the Chinese system was so extreme.  I asked hubby incredulously how the Chinese could hope to produce world-leading inventors and creators if they don't allow free-thinking - and then realised that our own state system is not so different, with even primary schools being so tied up in targets, tests and league tables that the child has ceased to be seen as an individual and is rather just a statistic; an impersonal product - successful or otherwise - of a desperately over-burdened and hyper-legislated system.

Home educators in Westminster and all over the country have turned their back on the education system: some had high ideals and principles right from the very beginning of their children's lives, but many chose the HE route because their children had been badly let down by their school experience, and there was a sense of "we have no choice: we can't do any worse than leaving them in school".  As I have often said before, I have nothing against teachers - I have many teacher friends who are all diligent and dedicated professionals doing their very best for each child in their care, as evidenced by the children who do succeed in school.  BUT.  The system is broken.  It does not work for every child, it is not designed around the well-being of children, and it certainly does not work for most home educated children.

So - given that I have chosen to pursue an education for my children that I believe is better than the government can provide (not because I am so great but because they are so bad), where is the sense in my submitting to a Local Authority assessment on how I'm doing?  Even if I did somehow manage to satisfy their tick-box inspectors, how can I possibly accept advice from those who work for a system that I - and many, many experts and professionals - can see has failed?

Some of our friends do have visits from the LA: most are a rubber stamp; occasionally in specific circumstances they are helpful; many are a stressful and unproductive intrusion.  But as far as I am concerned, the LA team have nothing to do with my boys' education - they have no expertise in the style of education that I aspire to and no understanding of what drives us, as it is completely at odds with the targets set by the Government.

The education received by those two boys in Canada is so whole - so free - so healthy, it is utterly inspiring.  But can you imagine what a Chinese official would make of them?  Surely they would deem them to have completely failed, by their own narrow academic and ideological diktats. It may not be a fair comparison, as the two examples that fell into my lap appear to be so extreme in their opposition to each other - but in my opinion right now, sending a government official to assess home educators is as meaningless as a Chinese assessment of Canadian unschoolers.  And that is why we don't need LA visits.

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