Today I finally sent off my (scathing) response to the Welsh Assembly consultation on making the registration of Home Educators compulsory. I'm a great believer in the Edmund Burke quote,
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"
- so even though I'm a bit embarrassed to have left it until the last minute (it closes tomorrow), I'm glad I've done it at last. No, I don't live in Wales, but apart from the fact that if it is made law there, our own goverment are more likely to try again here sooner rather than later, it's just wrong. Nobody should have to fight a state system for the fundamental right to bring their children up in the way they see is best.
I don't get how people are so willing to hand over their rights and responsibilities. There was an article a while back (apologies for the lack of link - I can't find it now, but I don't think I dreamt it!) where Mr Gove came up with another ridiculous plan to have every school child undergo an annual health check-up... all under the guise of "safeguarding". I am beginning to strongly dislike that word - it is used to prey on all of our genuine concern for the children out there who are being abused and seem to be slipping through the system, but instead of addressing the real problem, which is a welfare service issue - it has been increasingly foisted onto the education system, as that is the only place where most of the nation's children can be observed. And that is often why home educators are viewed with such suspicion - why would we take our children out of school if we didn't have something to hide? Uh, well actually it's because the education system is failing almost as badly as the welfare system, and we are best equipped to provide our children with the individualised care and education that they need - but anyway, back to Michael Gove's silly proposal. The thing is, I've worked in enough schools to know that the staff already know which children give cause for concern. They don't need a health check-up to have suspicions alerted. This is just one more tool in the arsenal at the social services' disposal, giving them the right to remove a child from their family if they see fit. And the real problem I have is that this can often be down to the judgement (or misjudgement) of one person. Because it's a safeguarding issue, though, we all bleat and go along with it, agreeing that it must be best to be monitored. I have this nightmare that the way things are going, we're going to end up with this ideal picture of parenthood, and if we differ too widely from that, we will be judged even more harshly than we already are. All you have to do is go onto a parenting website to see that although there are different opinions on childcare, there is a generally accepted consensus about the "best" way to parent. Consider this questionnaire which is my take on public-opinion type judgementalism that I have found online and elsewhere, and then tell me if you have no idea what I'm talking about...
Section A - during pregnancy
1/ Did you smoke? (-1)
2/ Did you drink? (-1)
3/ Did you eat any of the foods that happen to be prohibited in pregnancy at that particular time? (-1 for each type of prohibited food)
4/ Did you do drugs? (-10)
5/ Did you talk to your unborn child? (+1)
6/ Did you attend every ante-natal clinic? (+1 for every clinic attended)
7/ Did you play Mozart to your belly? (+3 smug points)
8/ Did you find out the sex of your baby before birth? (-1)
9/ Did you join the NCT? (+1)
Section B - birth
1/ Did you give birth lying down? (-1)
2/ Did you have gas and air? (-1)
3/ Did you have stronger pain-killing drugs? (-3)
4/ Did you have a caesarian? (-3: sorry, but you know that's the way people are)
5/ Did you have an elective caesarian? (-10, however valid the reason)
6/ Did you make any noise? (-1 to -5, depending on volume - and that's me scuppered!)
7/ Was your partner present? (+1, even if he complained at the noise/ waiting/ lack of food/ pain caused by you squeezing his hand)
Section C - early years
1/ Did you breastfeed? (+10)
2/ Did you co-sleep? (-5)
3/ Did you put baby on their front to sleep? (-20)
4/ Did you go back to work? (-5)
5/ Did you wean them onto solids at 6months or later (+1)
6/ Did you feed them their allotted five-a-day? (+1, but -20 if you have no idea what I'm talking about)
7/ Did you ever give them crisps, biscuits or sweets? (-1)
Section D - school years
1/ Did you get your child into the best (as in 'Outstanding') local school? (+1, even though it really wasn't your decision)
2/ Did you help your child with their homework? (0 points - it's the least you could do)
3/ Did you do your child's homework for them to save them stress and get their scores up, cos you know they can do it when not overworked/ under pressure) (+1, I'm not kidding)
4/ Did you join the PTA/ Board of Governors? (+5 smug points)
8/ Did you fork out money you couldn't afford for every school trip and after-school club? (0 - again, the least you could do)
9/ Was your child the lead role in the Christmas pantomime? (+1, but only if they were also immaculately presented AND smiling in their school photographs)
10/ Did you home educate? (-50)
DISCLAIMER: The above is a complete load of tosh. The above is not permitted to be replicated anywhere without said disclaimer.
The fact is, there are many different ways to parent, and many different reasons for parenting in different ways - because there are many different types of children - and THAT IS A GOOD THING! But the way our governement - our country - are going, I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibilities that we could end up being assessed on this scale. And what if, like me, you ended up in minus figures? Should we expect a visit from Social Services?
I wasn't going to write any of this today - I was just going to mention the Welsh consultation briefly before getting on to the interesting stuff - but that's going to have to wait until next time now. I blame you lot - you got me going! Nah, not really - but I am tempted to blame the government and the people who go along with their ideas without stopping to consider that as parents we are in a process of handing our rights over to people who don't know our children.
PS, I'm sorry to do this to you, but for those of you who think I'm over-reacting and exaggerating to score some kind of cheap point, check out this link - it's Scotland's National Risk Framework to Support the Assessment of Children and Young People. If you're in Scotland, every professional you come across is already gathering 'tick-box' information about your children. Come to think of it, how do I know they aren't doing the same here? See how many boxes you tick, and then tell me you're OK with it.