Yesterday we had a visit from a children’s centre outreach worker. She was a very nice friendly lady, clearly coming round to tick boxes and do her job following a referral that she had received. She left, as expected, with the opinion that there was not much she could help us with as there was not much we needed help with. (apparently they don’t provide housekeepers or extra spending money) Obviously the centres are a great service for those in need of support in certain areas and they run a whole time table of activities, events and services for various different situations involving children aged 0-5. I was told that the aim is to get all children registered with their local children’s centre at birth and small was not yet registered so they asked me to do this. I did it without question, filled in the details and handed the form back, but why did I need to do this? Why is there this need for our children to be registered constantly?
There is call for home educators to register with their local authorities, this is being petitioned against and fought by many in the home ed community. The reason so many are against this is not due to widespread abuse or radicalisation, the vast majority of home educating parents are just doing what is honestly best for their children. Sure there may be some less than desirables out there, but exactly the same can be said for those parents who send their children to mainstream education. Generally if a parent were up to no good and not acting in the best interests of their child or was doing something morally or legally wrong I think its fairly safe to say that they will find way around compulsory registration of home education anyway. The concern that many parents are having is that with compulsory registration will come the checks, the monitoring, the enforced curriculum and structure. Along comes the very things that many home educating families have tried to escape from. There is no room then for unstructured, child led, autonomous learning. We receive no funding, no tax grants, no assistance as home educators. Local authorities fund free school places and the schools receive funding per student but we do not even get assistance with the costs of exams, there is actually no cap on what exam centres can charge us to enrol our children to set exams. We take full responsibility for our children’s education, physically, emotionally and financially. It is not easy, it is stressful, it is challenging, it is busy. To introduce a compulsory registration in to the mix only adds to the stress and work load of a parent for no actual real benefit.
Local authorities *should* have all the information that they require. We register our children when they are born. Nationwide, and have done for many many many years, with no major complications. We have to register births in order to receive birth certificates, our babies first ID, without which we can not get passports, bank accounts or any kind of financial aid. The government has the initiative to ensure all children are also registered with Children’s centres (though the fact that small is 2 and was not registered until yesterday clearly shows the success rate of that idea in practise). Generally though, from the children’s centres they would be able to record which children attend nursery places, pre school and start school and which children don’t. GPs, health visitors, play workers etc are all equipped to discuss with parents plans for their toddlers early “education” and to raise any welfare concerns regardless of that decision. All children who have been enrolled in a school at any stage, once they are being de registered will be on the local authorities system as it is the schools responsibility and duty to inform the local authority that a child has been deregistered to be home educated. So once again they will already have the information, no need to “register”. Sadly many children suffer neglect and abuse regardless of whether they are in formal education or not and some of the most high profile cases where home education has been mentioned also clearly state that workers and agencies had known of the children, so clearly they weren’t “under the radar”, so again a register would not help those cases either.
So I am left wondering what is the purpose of this need for registration. My youngest is registered with a GP and a dentist. He sees his physiotherapist at The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital Stanmore. He sees the clinic registrars at Great Ormond Street Hospital for his check ups. We have contact with our health visitor. So he is known and seens, the Children’s centres haven’t been able to offer anything that we need, we aren’t missing out. I am aware of their time tables as they are readily and easily available. So why did I need to register him, and why did I do this without thinking? Am I just creating that rod for my own back with the thoughtless signing over to organisations who ask me to?
I wondered, as I know that I am not alone amongst home educating parents, if this lady was going to recommend I take small along to some of their sessions. I was ready and prepared to hear her tell me how much he would benefit from social interactions with children his own age. How important these stay and play sessions are to development. It is something that I hear all too often, the big S word, “Socialisation”……. But it didn’t come. She chatted with me, she chatted with small, she observed him playing, singing, counting and messing around with his sister. She heard me explain our commitments, our activities and my priorities. We spoke about rules, about routines, about rewards. And I explained my thoughts around natural consequence and freedom of choice. She nodded. She didn’t even make any notes. She made no suggestions, no recommendations, simply told me that it was lovely to meet us and that she had enjoyed our chat and she asked if she could come back again in 6 weeks to see how we were doing. So he is registered with a service that we haven’t needed for the past 2 years, with no suggestions or ideas of how they can be of benefit to us, just to tick another box.