Meanwhile, down in Dorset...

I have been trying to put myself in the position of some home educating parents in Dorset. Apparently, Education Welfare Officers have been turning up out of the blue, with requests to speak to the parents and see their children. I would guess that this is part of the aftermath of the Khyra Ishaq business, with the local authority making sure that they actually have sight of home educated children. They clearly want to know that the children on their books as being electively home educated are still in their area and alive. Predictably, a few people are complaining about this process and threatening to denounce the unitary authority in Poole to Nick Gibb.

Now I was never over keen on having any local authority check up on my child. Haringey were vaguely aware of her existence when we lived in Tottenham, but on moving here, she fell from sight entirely. I meant to notify Essex that we had moved here and that my daughter was being home educated, but somehow never got around to doing so. She finally came to their notice when we were stopped by a truancy patrol. I was happy to give my name and address, we were not hiding, and the result was more or less annual visits from then on.

Here is the question. if, in addition to those visits, an EWO from Essex had turned up on my doorstep, would I have been angry and refused her entry? Almost certainly not. I would most probably have been mildly irritated and I am sure that my daughter and I would have had a bit of fun at her expense, but I would have had no difficulty in allowing her into my home to see that my daughter was still alive and living in Essex. Why actually would I have objected? The local authority try to keep track of children coming in and out of their county and this is quite right and proper. I am not over concerned about the legal niceties of this; Section 436a or CME and so on. It just seems sensible to me that if Essex know of a child who is not at school, they might pop round and see the kid from time to time. if nothing else, this assures them that the child is still in the area and to some extent their responsibility.

I do get the impression sometimes that some home educating parents spend a lot of time looking for ways to be offended or discriminated against. It is as though they have hair triggers and the slightest thing sends them into a rage. Most of us try to rub along with officialdom as best we can, even if it means meeting and engaging with complete idiots. It is very rare for those working for hospitals, the police and local authorities to be actuated by malice. They may be blundering fools, but they usually mean well. Where children are involved, I think that everybody tries to do their best. I am sure that it might be slightly irritating to find an EWO on your doorstep, asking about your child. I am not quite so sure that an appropriate response is to contact a Minister of the Crown to complain about it!