An opinion piece by a head teacher which was recently published in the ‘What keeps me awake at night’ column of the TES magazine evidently drew a strong reaction from readers. So much so, the editor has made a plea for ‘other teachers and professionals’ to share their views and experiences, in confidence, for a feature article he is writing on the ‘sensitive’ subject of parents exercising their legal right to remove their children from school.
In true heart rending form, the article – School was Jamie’s only refuge. But not any more – describes the wretched life of a pupil in the author’s care during school hours, who has a drug addicted parent, visible cigarette burns, head lice infestation and no underwear. Readers are informed that the poor kid regularly has to sit in a freezing car after school as his mother doesn’t allow him to be home alone. Just for good measure, there is reference to a sibling with learning difficulties and a puppy with a broken leg. Oh, and by the way, he has a social worker.
Perhaps unsurprisingly (except to the TES editor and his ‘professional’ colleagues) there was an equally strong reaction, verging on furore, when home educators picked up on the original article. It was described on our forum as nothing short of a propaganda piece and widely expected to herald yet another hatchet job on home education, euphemistically presented as a feature article on a sensitive subject.
A consensus soon emerged among home educators that most of the ‘facts’ didn’t stand up to scrutiny and, if the author’s account were to be believed, he was confessing to professional negligence for failing to implement child protection procedures appropriately and/or was dropping the child’s social worker in the midden for failing to protect a vulnerable youngster under his/her care.
The comments sections under the article and on the TES Facebook page, from which our comment and link to our own discussion was summarily removed (only to be reposted by another individual), have been forceful but courteous, and both the author and editor will probably have a number of direct emails to digest in the wake of this episode.
Let’s hope, therefore, that the ‘feature article’ sensitively addresses the salient points made by the experts on home education: home educating parents and home educated young people. Its writer might also care to reflect on the root cause of the head teacher’s sleepless nights between salary cheques: consistent multi-agency failure to exercise existing statutory powers to protect poor Jamie from the dire effects of poverty, addiction and family breakdown.