But If You’ve Got Nothing To Hide…

Since I decided back in April to take a stand against Lincolnshire County Council’s home education power grab, I’ve had a depressing number of people shake their heads in bemusement at me or at Jon, online or in real life, asking why it matters and why, if we’ve got nothing to hide, we object to being monitored by the LA.

It’s not so much depressing that non home educators don’t understand the law on home education – that’s not surprising. It’s not even that depressing that so many non home educators believe home education *should* be regulated and monitored to within an inch of its life, and are often surprised at how little legal power a local authority has in this regard – that’s excusable, in the most part, because people with no experience of how home education works tend to just “not get it”.

No, it’s depressing because so many people don’t seem to understand that it matters when an authority tries to pretend that it has powers it does not have. It especially matters when a local authority takes the position that an entire section of its community is guilty until proven innocent. It’s home educators at the moment. Who might it be next?

It’s also depressing that people could think I would voluntarily put myself and my family through this hassle and stress for something which did not matter. It really, really matters.

There is, of course, the much quoted “First they came…” statement:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

….which so eloquently illustrates why it matters when no one takes a stand. But don’t be silly, I’m told. It won’t come to that. Of course they’re not going to start inspecting what we feed our children or checking whether schooled children are being abused at home during school holidays. It’s just a report, once a year. If you’ve got nothing to hide, why not?

I’ll tell you why not. Because my daughter is happy, healthy, well cared for, loved, adored, well educated and fully enjoying almost every single one of the rights afforded her by the UN Convention on The Rights of the Child. Except for one. She is not enjoying the right to privacy. Or at least – she will be, even if we have to go to court over it, but Lincolnshire County Council does not seem to believe that she is entitled to that right. She is discriminated against because of her (and our) lawful educational choice.

I’ll tell you why not. Because there are some children in Lincolnshire who are not as healthy, happy, loved, adored or well educated as my daughter, and who are not enjoying a full complement of rights. Those in abusive homes – Lincs CC does not have a very shiny record in this area of social services. Those “looked after” by the council – another not very shiny reputation there. Those in failing schools, and schools governed in the interests of making money for vested interests rather than in the interests of the children. Those in any kind of school who are suffering bullying; those who are bright but bored in school; those who need extra help with their education which they are not getting. While my daughter is one of the lucky ones, I will not permit interference in her life from those who inaccurately claim a duty to protect her rights, yet do so poorly in protecting those children who do need their help.

I’ll tell you why not. Because evidence suggests that when one home educator gives an inch, a local authority like Lincolnshire will take a mile from another family. But everyone allows visits, they’ll say. But everyone lets us speak to their child. But everyone can see that we’re fair and honest and protecting your child’s rights. They’ve already tried it in this complaint. The vast majority of families co-operate with us, said Debbie Barnes, as if this magically made their policy legal or ethical. And while my family has previously been judged “suitable” by this authority, what of a different family, perhaps a family with a more unorthodox set up, or a different style of education, or where there is illness or disability, or poverty, or where the parents are not middle class and well educated themselves? What if, by effectively colluding with this local authority, I make it easier for them to bully and harass a different family? Don’t think it doesn’t happen – every home educator knows it does. And for those who think that local authorities never get it wrong, or that social services only ever gets involved where they need to get involved, or that councils are never malicious or dishonest in their dealings with families, or that families are not sometimes, tragically, torn apart by those supposed to be serving them – wake up. Leave the fairy tales behind and do even the most basic research, and you’ll find that these things can and do happen. I will not play even the tiniest of parts in helping them to happen to someone else.

I’ll tell you why not. Because when my tiny daughter was at school, she suffered horrendously – at the hands of other children AND staff. Her head teacher did nothing. Nobody from a local authority came knocking at our door then to find out if her education was adequate or to make sure she was safe. Nobody cared, because the boxes were ticked and they had done their “duty” to my child. Like hell they had. We removed her from their system, opted out of their box ticking, took away their control over her life and vowed that we would never give it back. The ignorance and prejudice on display from them during this complaint has served to underline once more that we did the right thing picking up our bullied, bemused, frightened little girl, turning our backs and striding away from the system. On a point of principle, I cannot and will not ever accept this local authority pretending that they have my daughter’s interests at heart.

I’ll tell you why not. Because instead of writing a report or jumping through an unnecessary, ultra vires hoop so that the local authority can grab back some of its box ticking power, I prefer to spend my time with my daughter and my family. I have more important things to do than to co-operate with poorly phrased, vaguely threatening requests for information from a local authority which suddenly claims to care so much about my daughter, but which happily tramples both her rights and ours in its rush to exercise an ill-advised superiority complex.

And I’ll tell you why not once more. Because we are not criminals in waiting, who need to prove our innocence on a regular basis. We have broken no laws. If the law were changed tomorrow to allow home education monitoring, we would go along with it through gritted teeth, however much we disagree with it. Because, like most families, we are law abiding citizens. Yet this local authority breaks the law with impunity, simply because it disagrees with it – because it finds the current law on home education “unsustainable.” A fundamental right every British citizen should enjoy is the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. That this local authority can so blatantly disregard that right for home educating families tells you all you need to know about them, their agendas, and why we will stand and fight, for as long as it takes.

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About nikkielysian

Writer, astrologer, home educating Mum.
This entry was posted in Family Matters, Home Education, Home Education Law and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to But If You’ve Got Nothing To Hide…

  1. dawn says:

    am so sorry to read this hun xxx right behind you and very well said ! Thinking about you and will keep a careful eye out for your next post. Take care xx

  2. maire52 says:

    I agree with you on all of this, the hypocrisy is eye watering. Lots of people wishing you well with this.

  3. Jenny A says:

    I wish id been brave enough to do what you have,I stuck to the letter of the law and wound up being dragged into a child protection conference under “if she had nothing to hide she should let us in” you’re a brave lady and I salute you x

    • nikkielysian says:

      Jenny, that’s dreadful! I’m so sorry to hear that. Is it still ongoing, or is resolved now? I hope you had or are getting the necessary legal and moral support. If you need help, feel free to email me.

  4. Cheryl says:

    So brilliantly said.

  5. Sarah Scott says:

    Well said, and well done.

  6. Ali says:

    Great post. Good for you.

  7. Paul Barnard says:

    inspiring. thank you.

  8. Dave H says:

    I tend to turn it round and use it on them – if they’ve got nothing to hide then why are they not answering the questions. The written word doesn’t quite convey the irony in my tone when I say it, though.

  9. Phil Dillon says:

    This is an excellent blog. I’ll be pointing people towards it in future because it crystallises the issue perfectly. The point that “when one home educator gives an inch, a local authority like Lincolnshire will take a mile from another family” is particularly well put.

  10. aliportico says:

    Like they all said, beautifully put. You’re doing a good thing and I wish you strength for it.

  11. Thank you for all your hard work. It’s people like you – the fearless trailblazers – that make the rest of us feel confident in our decisions. I wish you all the best.

  12. nikkielysian says:

    Thank you so much, everyone, for your support. Sarah, I don’t know about a fearless trailblazer – possibly just an obstinate person with an innate objection to doing what I’m told πŸ˜‰ – but bless you for saying such a nice thing anyway πŸ™‚

  13. Anthony says:

    I can see how frustrating this has been, my argument would be that there are children out there who are not getting the support which you are obviously giving your child through home education. How do we ensure that they are?? I’m not sure that the local authority is the right body for ensuring that this is the case. So who should?

  14. Yes, that! Beautifully put

  15. Simon Webb says:

    One is forced to ask whether or not it is strictly necessary to use a quotation from the Holocaust to back up a complaint about a letter from your council? I honestly don’t think that you are facing a problem of anything like the magnitude of that faced by Pastor Niemoller!

  16. Ali says:

    Nikki, you are not alone. This family finds the attitude of Lincs towards home schooling to be bewildering, disturbing and offensive. I think a lot of it stems from ignorance – but can ignorance be a lawful excuse for an authority? We researched widely before embarking on this journey; something that’s open to the authority – in fact it’s mandated. If their officers were better trained, and better advised, I don’t think they would be behaving in this threatening, damaging way, or getting bound up in ultra vires policies. How could they?

    Did you know that CfBT guidelines to inspectors caution them that homeschooling parents can be agitated, and under the influence of alcohol? If that’s not guaranteed to make every decent homeschooling parent keep their door firmly shut against the authority, to PROTECT their child from such bigotry, I don’t know what is. Until we read that, and the recent letters they have been writing to you, we were open-minded about a visit. Now, on a point of principle, the authority will not be welcome here.

    I am not sure the council has realised to what extent it is discriminating against us because of our philosophical beliefs. Were we from any other minority group, I think they would recognise their prejudices straight away. Just because we believe in home education doesn’t make us drunken child abusers! It looks ridiculous as I write it down, because IT IS RIDICULOUS! It’s also very, very, very offensive. This sort of prejudice is so very dangerous and damaging. Lincs’s actions are at odds with its words – this is from their web site:

    “The Public Sector Equality Duty requires public authorities to have due regard to:
    * Eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
    * Advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it
    * Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.”

    Do you feel they have had due regard, Nikki? I don’t. The ignorance is damaging and pervasive. When the officers don’t understand home education, or home education law, they can’t properly advise the councillors. Had he been properly advised, Councillor Williams would not have wanted or been able to write such an insulting and unhelpful letter to you. Surely?

    The reality that the authorities inexplicably find unpalatable is this: home education is growing in popularity because it is infinitely better than school education. It’s not just the most suitable education for our child or your child; it’s the most suitable education for *any* child, especially at the moment. Schools would have to change beyond all recognition before they would be able to offer the massive educational, social and other benefits we are able to bestow upon our lucky children at home. This may be our belief, but there’s plenty of evidence that we are right. The research is there for those who would dare/care to look. If Lincs. can’t take our word for it, perhaps it can take the word of the leading educationalists and psychologists of the day? Respected advocates for home education include:

    Sir Ken Robinson – on schools – “Schools Kill Creativity” http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html
    and on Home Education: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5qv9Qx4jGw),

    and Dr Alan Thomas – “Educating Children at Home” – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Educating-Children-Cassell-Education-Series/dp/0826452051

    and Professor Peter Gray – “School is a Prison”. http://board.freedomainradio.com/forums/p/31994/246218.aspx

    Elsewhere, in Lincs’s equality policy, it says it is prepared to admit mistakes, and to learn from them. Now would be a good time to start.

    Nikki, your stand against the unjust home education policy in this county is very much appreciated here.

    Ali

  17. Simon Webb says:

    ‘Did you know that CfBT guidelines to inspectors caution them that homeschooling parents can be agitated, and under the influence of alcohol?’

    This is a very strange suggestion. I telephoned CfBT to check this out. Their inspection team can be contacted on 01695 566 930. They say that they do not carry out any inspections of home educating families at all. Could we have some more details about these guidelines; where they can be found and so on?

  18. Ali says:

    Hello Simon,

    Although I mentioned CfBT guidelines to Lincs, I am not aware I mentioned CfBT inspectors.

    The guideline is a publicly-available policy, which can be found in the Local Democracy section of the Lincs web site, by searching for Home Education.

    The relevant exerpt is here, from “The Lincolnshire School Improvement Service – Guidance Policies and Standard Operating Procedures: Section 7 – Health and Safety”.

    >>Where a situation with a home visit appears in any way unsafe (eg parental agitation or the affects (sic) of alcohol) the Officer should use a prepared excuse and leave the premises immediately.<<

    Section 7 deals with the protection of officers, and is the only training in Home Education I could find.

    The whole policy document is here:

    http://www.cfbt.com/lincs/docs/JULY%2010%202.doc#_Toc265246853

    Ali

  19. Ali says:

    Excerpt, not exerpt. It’s been a long day…

  20. Allie says:

    Surely that’s just an employer making it clear that people working for them shouldn’t put themselves at risk while working? I don’t think it’s saying that anyone should *expect* to encounter aggressive or drunken parents, just that if such a situation occurs, then it’s advisable to make an excuse and leave.

    • Ali says:

      [post got garbled – deleted at Ali’s request by Nikki]

    • Ali says:

      Try this. Imagine, where the section heading says, “Home Visits for Elective Home Education”, that, instead, it said: “Home Visits for Black and Minority Ethnic Families”; or “Home Visits for Gypsy and Traveller Families”; or “Home Visits for LGBT Families”. Do you think it would be ok for the authority to publish the guidelines that follow, or would you deem them institutional racism/prejudice/discrimination/bias etc.?

  21. Ali says:

    Nikki, can you delete that post, please? For some reason it’s eaten the middle paragraph, in which I explore the difficulties facing CfBT in dealing with home education, when they know and promote only schools. Thanks.

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