Shame on them

This week saw the details of the tragic case of Khyra Ishaq hit the headlines. Khyra Ishaq was failed by a system that knew about her, and did not protect her. And yet her sad story is being used to justify an attack on another group of people. People who may have to prove yearly that they are innocent of any wrong doing; people who may be forced to “allow” officialdom into their homes; people who may be coerced into presenting their children for interview without them present.
So who are these people? Surely they must be guilty of some crime? They certainly can’t be decent, honest, law-abiding people like us. Like you? Like me? Can they? Yes, they can. This story could become your story. All you have to do is to decide to exercise your legal right to educate your children outside of the school system. And then every year officialdom will come along and monitor, evaluate and judge you – not even as a good educator – but as a suitable person to be with your own children. Because this isn’t even about educational provision. This is about not trusting parents with their own children. And as an added bonus, every time some poor child dies, you will be vilified in the media, suspicions will be raised about you and your motives, and you will be required, yet again, to divert energy that you might have spent with your kids, into defending yourself and your life style. Sounds like fun.
Yesterday I was driving to a meeting and listening to Fern Britton on the Jeremy Vine programme, and I cried. She asked something along the lines of “should home-educators be required to follow the same rules as the rest of us?” Does she mean the rule that says “all children should be in state sanctioned childcare settings?” She can’t have meant that, because that’s not a rule. It’s an expectation, but not a rule. Or perhaps she meant the rule that says “parents are only allowed to be with their own kids after 4 pm, at weekends, and during some government sanctioned holidays?” Surely not. I don’t think that’s a rule yet. Most people do it, but it’s not a rule. Ah, then she must mean that new “rule” that government is trying to push through – that rule about evaluating, monitoring and inspecting parents, interviewing their children, and giving them a permit to continue to live within the law for another year. But wait – she can’t mean that either, because that doesn’t happen to MOST parents.
And neither should it. Not to you. Not to me. Not to the thousands of families that lawfully home educate their children.
But home education is a convenient distraction to what really failed Khyra Ishaq. And to pretend otherwise not only vilifies a community, it does nothing to ameliorate the system failures which allowed her to die. The government is using the death of a little girl to hide its own inadequacies.
The new proposals would not have saved her – Khyra was not a missing child -in fact she was known already to Social Services, and while at school her teachers had expressed concern. And yet no one acted on these concerns. Khyra was let down by the systems that were already in place, and which could have protected her. To bring home education into this is disingenuous at best. Khyra was not a cared for child before she was withdrawn from school. Home education did not fail her. And to imply it did seems to be simply a means to divert attention from the fact that people failed. Professionals failed to do the job they are paid to do. Within existing legislation, there was every means to save this child – and yet people chose not to use them.
And you may say that this doesn’t apply to you – you would never home educate. Many, many of the home educators I know thought that once. And then their child fell behind at school, and no one helped. Their child was bullied, and no one intervened. Their child’s teacher went on long term sick leave, and they had a different supply teacher every few days. Their child developed type 1 diabetes, and no one would learn how to check blood or give insulin. Their child was recovering from septicaemia, and the school would not accommodate her exhaustion and need for sleep in the middle of the day.
So never say never.
And if one day that parent is you, making that choice you think now you would never make, think about how it might feel to have yourself under suspicion. Simply for choosing to exercise your legal right to take back the responsibility for your child’s education. A responsibility that was, after all, always yours. You had only elected to delegate that to the school, you know – you were never required to do so.
Or perhaps you are right – and you will never want or need to home educate. But this is the thin end of the wedge – because after all, how long will it be before we can stop assuming that under 5s are generally safe with their parents. Starting to feel worried? You should be.
And finally, may that little girl, abused in life and then used in death, have some peace.



  1. Maire said

    Very eloquent post, thank you.

  2. naomi said

    Beautifully written .Thanks for sharing .

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: