February 8, 2019

Channel 4 Dispatches: Skipping School: Britains Invisible Children | My Thoughts

If you’ve not watched the Channel 4 Dispatches episode entitled Skipping School: Britains Invisible Kids then I urge you to familiarise yourself with it or this post won’t make an awful lot of sense.

Anyway, the description for it is

“As the number of children leaving school in favour of home education doubles, Dispatches asks why, and if parents’ rights to remove a child are coming before the education, or safety, of children”

I’ve hadn’t even watched the thing yet and immediately it reeked of biased opinions from extreme incidences with a topping of inexperience and lack of education (lol, ironic) when it comes to home education today, so I knew is was going to be a bit shit before I even clicked play but this episode was just the gift that keeps on giving and by gift I mean like an itchy sweater that is too tight in the arms and smells like mothballs.

Not even a minute in and they are talking about home education like we are the next case of swine flu ready to kill off the nation with a pandemic of kids who were more than likely failed by the education system and are much happier learning at home. I know I was, I’d go as far to say that’d I’d be dead if my Mum didn’t pull me out of school when she did. As a child who developed anxiety pretty early on at age 2, then School Refusal Disorder along with a colourful array of other mental health issues, all stemming from me not being able to cope with school.

Now this wasn’t because I had additional learning needs, I was top of most things so I can only imagine how many children who struggle academically as well as mentally with the state of the school system yet here these people are talking about parents who more than likely thought long an hard about their decision to home educate and chose to with their child’s welfare as their main reason for pulling them out, but here is this woman talking about how scary home educating is like we are locking our kids in the cupboard under the stairs Harry Potter style.

Yes, of course, there are exceptions to that and there are some sick individuals who are abusing their children but chances are they’d still be doing it if their kids went to mainstream school too. Home education doesnt make someone a sick fuck, being a sick fuck to start with does.

When it comes to terrible things happening to children, I ask you, how many times have you heard about an abused child being home educated on the news compared to those who attend school? I know the majority I’ve seen have attended school and I know a lot of stories don’t get the national news but my point still stands. I don’t know where this woman’s priorities are but they certainly aren’t where she claims them to be. To me she seems like an extremist, anti-home ed cultist. She seems to really have a bee in her bonnet over everything home education, it’s really strange to have such strong views yet clearly does not understand the reason the majority of parents choose that route. It’s most bizzare and really makes me feel uneasy how against it she is when she really doesn’t appear to have a clue about it at all.

One of the points she throws up is how we can makes sure these “vulnerable” and “invisible” kids are developing social skills. Now, this is something I can’t help but laugh at because it really is a common thing you get asked as a home educator – “when do they socialise?” How do you make sure they socialise enough?” *other variations of the same ridiculous question*.

Can I just stop here for a sec and just explain very slowly and clearly, that home educated children are not shut up in a room all day for hours and hours and told to be quiet. That my huns, is what happens during lessons at school.

Home educated children have access to clubs, home ed classes, play dates, themed events for kids, half term activities, home ed days out as well as talking to us and various other adults along the way. There are home education meet ups, events, trips, pen pals, days out, family visits, I could go on but I hope you get the picture.

School kids are around each other for 5 hours a day but the time period in which they can truly socialise without being told to shush is a fraction to that of a home ed kid in half that time because home ed kids have more freedom to socialise with their peers as well as children younger, older and adults of various ages. Another point which is pretty common with children who have gone on to be home educated is that they became withdrawn at school, often too anxious to attend or interact with their peers and for them, home education has allowed them to heal enough mentally to begin to form friendships and interact with other children. There also seems to be a huge fixation on socialisation only counting when the chidren are the same age which is utterly ridicululous. Home ed children are exposed to a wider range of ages and abilities so if anything, they have the advantage when it comes to social skills.

Okay, onto the next thing that she says that bothers me and we are only 2 minutes in by the way. Dad, Marcelo took his 7 year old son Coby out of school because he didn’t like it and the tone of voice this woman uses when she says “…because he thought that he could do a better job” just says it all really although Marcelo is probably right, in fact, I’m almost positive he could do a better job if his son wasn’t coping with school. He knows his son better than any school could and he’s right that school children have limited time for everything whereas home education can be completely child led and they can have unlimited access to things like playing outside, using the computer or just learning about things they’re actually interested in. Also, the way she asks the little boy whats he thinks of it all like she’s going to catch his Dad out is weird to say the least.

Home Education team Visits

Now, this is a topic I tend to have a different outlook on to quite a lot of home educators that I’ve spoken to. When you’ve sent the deregistration letter to your child’s school and you’ve started your home ed journey the school are obligated to 1. take your child off the register no questions asked and 2. alert the local education authority who will then send out a letter asking things like your ethos and plans for your child whether you plan on home educating indefinitely, or maybe you’re just doing it temporarily, whatever as well as some details about you and your kids. You are under no obligation to fill this in, however although I was more than happy to do this.

Your councils elected home education officer will then come and visit you at your home or wherever you wish to have a chat and look at any of your child’s work. Our first visit was about a year and a bit in and I had no wish to decline that visit. The home education officer talked about what sort of things we do, quickly flicked through Els massive pile of work and said she I can email some examples of Eloise’s work at some point next year and that will be that. My Mum didn’t decline when I was home educated and they’ve always been pleasant and helpful. The lady we got explained how originally she was quite opposed to the idea but after speaking to so many families who home educate she had come to realise just how fantastic it can be for children and I think that is the point that is very often missed; how can you conjure up such a negative outlook on something if you’ve never properly experienced it?

They also touch on the “loop hole” where if you’ve never registered your child with a school then the education authorities basically don’t even know you’re home educating or that your child exists. Now I am not against having a register of home educated children which seems to be on the contrary to quite a majority of home ed parents I’ve spoken to and I actually made sure the home education officer jotted Lily’s name down as we do plan on home educating her and when the time comes I will be ringing and letting them now because I don’t see an issue with that at all. I personally don’t see the issue with these visits, but perhaps I’ve just got lucky getting people who aren’t biased when these visits have come round. I do see how families point blank refusing them could throw up some red flags because really, if you’re doing it for the right reasons then you have nothing to be worrying about.

Next up we have Mum, Sam who is 4 weeks into home educating her 12-year-old son. She is dyslexic and I noticed how they used her getting stuck on a word as a cutaway in the beginning as well as fixating on her not being able to pronounce the word “cataclysmic” clearly in order to make her seem incompetent and thus feeding into their eccentric take on home education. I find Sam’s story a bit emotional because she’s questioning herself so much but she says that basically, she does think Bailey’s education is important but his mental health is top priority and at that point I just wanted to give her a hug because she is clearly doing it all right yet presenter lady carries on saying things like “what chance does Bailey have now” etc etc etc. Well hun, he has a chance of improving his mental health and being happier you absolute douche bag. I hate how they are so negative about Sam throughoutgh the entire thing. Imagine being her watching it back, it’s fucking awful what they’ve done there.

Lack of support

They do touch on a topic I actually agree with them with and that is the lack of support out there for home educated families. As they say, when you choose to opt out and home educate your child you really are taking on the big responsibility of their education and that is a huge, huge thing which can be very overwhelming for even those with a good support network. Take the support network away and it becomes even more overwhelming so I do think that as it’s becoming more and more popular that there should be a better, non biased system out there that is there to support parents who perhaps need that little bit of extra reasurance or help.

Off-rolling

Another topic they touch on is off-rolling which is basically where a school kick out kids who will make their overall exam grade percentages drop. If there is one thing that I have taken away from my eldest child’s school experience is that one of the many things they put above the kids is their percentages. Tick box after tick box, square peg, round holes, gold star here, attendance certificate there, all utterly ridiculous in my opinion. Oh, and don’t get me started on my opinion on SATS but I will give you a clue – it rhymes with shmullshmit.

School Trauma

Next up we have Louise and her family who has a son, Leo, with joint hypermobility and POTS pulled him out because he wasn’t coping and the school was unsupportive of coming together to properly discuss and meet his needs. Now this is something I can really resonate with because one of the reasons we pulled Eloise out of her first school (although we changed to a different school at that point) was because they were unsupportive of loose joints and igored letters from us asking to let her sit out of PE on bad pain days which resulted in her screaming in pain all night and being off school the next day to recover which eventually met us with attendance issues. Percentages over children’s welfare yet again. Anyway, the presenter who I still haven’t caught the name of makes a face at him being in bed still at 9:30am. Now, JHMS comes had in hand with fatigue, I have it, I know, but this lady is literally clutching at anything she can to twist and make it seem like the kid is up there single handedly starting world war three when in reality the poor bastard is sleeping. She continues to make faces whenever the Mum leaves the room. Gross.

Bullying

Another thing they mention is that Leo was bullied and they took him to a private therapist who diagnosed him with school trauma and recommended he had a break. Now the school disagreed with this and said he was fine yet him Mum obviously knew he wasn’t. This is what we had with Eloise’s first school, they were saying she was acting fine at school but what they didn’t see was her crying about having to go back or have angry outbursts at home because kids are great at holding in emotions until they’re back where they feel safe and this is something that they massively overlook.

Additional Needs

Next, we have 12-year-old Lily and her Mum was my Mum when I was a teen. She says how she doesn’t understand how it can be called elective home educating when there is nothing elective about it. She then goes on to say that her daughter said she would rather be dead than go to school, and that was me.

A lot of the time home education is the last resort and people fixating on how home education puts children at a disadvantage because often parents aren’t qualified teachers but we taught them how to eat, crawl, walk, jump, clap, count, read etc and everyone is ok with that, most parents don’t have experience with child development or qualifications in EYFS yet we all do it and home ed is an extension of that; we are capable. Having people question our ability when our initial reason for deregistering our child was to spare their mental health from being further damaged is an unwelcome kick in the gut. Yes, education is important, exams are questionably important but mental health should be way, way above any of those things. Just look at the statistics of how many primary aged children have killed themselves as a result of bullying in schools and my point is proven.

One thing that really stuck out for me and I wholeheartedly agree with is something that a head teacher said and that is that he shouldn’t be put in a position where he has to choose what is best for the child or what is best for Ofsted because they should be that same thing. I could not agree more with that if I tried; If schools threw out exams and tests, tick boxes and ratings then it would be a much better place that allows breathing room to be able to cater to every child’s individual needs rather than try and force square pegs through round holes.

Abuse stories

Near the end of the documentary, it brings us to the story of a little boy called Dylan who essentially died of starvation hidden away in the home of his mother who actually worked in a local school. Now this story is horrific and I can’t imagine what that poor, poor little boy went through but this was not because he was home educated but because other authorities failed him. The headmaster of the school his mother worked at hand-delivered a letter one day and came away with concerns about the child and as you are under no obligation to allow home education officers into your home they were turned away but there are many other avenues that he could have gone down and expressed his concerns to which could have prevented the terrible outcome for that poor boy.

Illegal Schools

Lastly, they touch on unregistered schools where abuse is taking place or just generally warped, extremist views on things are being taught as gospel to the children by “teachers” who haven’t gone through necessary safeguarding checks to ensure they aren’t nutters basically but yet again something extreme to shock viewers and tarnish home education with ridiculously biased stories just for the shock factor. The presenter lady even says that’s not home education so I’m not sure why they even showed it.

They also seem to cling onto a quote about home educated children being at a disadvantage yet that was said when describing the children in the illegal school…which the woman said wasn’t home education…ok then hun.

Exams

Examination wise, I didn’t sit my GCSE’s until college, I smashed them all and left with A*’s and a B and didn’t feel disadvantaged at all. In fact, had I not been home educated I don’t think I will have healed enough from the trauma of school to be able to attend college and sit those exams. Which by the way, have done absolutely nothing to help me get the job I do now.

I think that’s something else people don’t realise about home ed and that is for a lot of kids it’s a healing process. Now I’m not saying all school are bad, years 5 and 6 for me were the best years of my school life and those were spent at a little village school and there really are some gems in the rubble that really go above and beyond for every single child in their care, but it’s all too common to hear of schools failing the children in their care one way or another and I feel like if the documentary concerntrated on just that it would have been much better.

In conclusion, while I don’t disagree with a fair few points they made I think the whole things stunk of negativity and extremism and I hate how they made digs at Sam constantly because we are all more than capable of educating our children. I think it would have gone down better had it shown a more “normal” outlook on what home education is actually like, without just going from one extreme case to the next.

I think the documentary has very little to do with home education really and more to do with the failure of schools and they just threw home ed in there for the shock factor because it’s yet another parenting avenue that throws up a heck of a lot of judgment from people in different positions with next to no knowledge on the matter. I’m surprised they didn’t have a debate about breast vs bottle feeding because that’s the tone it gave me the whole way through.

While I can really appreciate some of the points they made and I do agree that some kind of register would be perhaps a good idea but all they’ve achieved is make people think home educators are these awful Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia’s when we really aren’t. We are just Mums and Dads trying to do whats best for our kids.

One response to “Channel 4 Dispatches: Skipping School: Britains Invisible Children | My Thoughts”

  1. Thank you for sharing that you wold be dead if it was not for your mum Homeschooling you! I feel sorry for every child that has to suffer this way because of State Education. I cured my daughters anxiety by Home Educating. So I fully support what you say. What a fantastic, and caring mother you have! Please tell her thank you from me.

    Anxiety caused by stress or bullying (or both) is very harmful to children and some adults, very uneducated for people to ignore this. Parents have a duty to listen to children and try and help them, and that goes for the State School system as well. They are not race horses, but human beings who need love, compassion and understanding. So many children today are suffering from Anxiety. Check out Lee Sibley’s petition against Homework (Homework not related to Exams). He has raised concerns over serious anxiety (mental health) problems in State School. Two MPs ignored him. One Conservative the other Labour. I am shocked at how uncaring some mothers are, they have refused to help this young man get his voice heard. Thankfully, his mother supports him. And so do I. Two mothers I know are going to try and help him get his message across and get people to listen, instead of bullying him to be quiet. My Local Independent Councillor also supports him.

    Check out the really odd Homework given to children on his video. Seriously, why would any teacher give children who are already suffering from mental health issues due to school pressures, Homework on Child Killers. Awful people that cut children up and stick them in a cooking pot:

    https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-mp-stop-homework-in-secondary-school-around-england

    Sadly, some mothers believe bullying and stress is part of life. WRONG! I was never bullied in school. And actually stood up to bullying girls who picked on my friend. I was shy and short, but by shouting, “LEAVE HER ALONE!” They actually took notice. And were shocked that someone had the guts to stand up to them. If we all educated our children to protect their friends and help one another, there would be no bullying. Lets face it the State School System PROTECTS AND REWARDS BULLIES! Hence why so many children leave State Education.

    Did you know that Richard Branson was beaten by his headmaster for being Dyslexic. The video is on my blog.
    And I have added your article on Invisible Children to my blog as well. There are also videos on my blog about a young boy that took his own life because of Exam pressures. So very sad. How people can ignore this, is beyond me. Where is the love? And there is a young teenage girl talking about mental health issues caused by exams.

    https://butterflylullaby.blogspot.com/2019/02/skipping-school-britains-invisible-kids.html

    Well done for blogging about this very important issue. I hope we can team up, and help the children that are being ignored get their voices heard loud and clear. After all Tax Payers money should be used to help children, not destroy them!

    Kind wishes,
    Sharon J. Bainbridge

    https://butterflylullaby.blogspot.com/2019/02/skipping-school-britains-invisible-kids.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.