“Non-judgemental engagement with families is providing better support for home educated children in Pembrokeshire as numbers continue to rise” ran the headlines in the Western Telegraph on 2 July, in a report of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Schools and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on 30 June. [video]
It seems to have been a revealing discussion, with a number of familiar stereotypes being trotted out by recently appointed members of the committee. “I don’t really agree with home learning, some parents don’t have any knowledge at all, what gives them the right to think they can home school their children, how do we know they are doing a good job?” Councillor Melanie Phillips (St Mary South) is quoted as saying. Councillor Sam Skyrme-Blackhall (Tenby South) voiced similar concerns.
Other members seemed better informed. “[I]t’s a valid lifestyle choice and we have to respect that,” explained Councillor Tom Moses (Haverfordwest, Prendergast). Councillor Alison Kavanagh (Hundleton),went further, calling it “disingenuous” to say that school is the ultimate model and best for everyone, and talking of a “transition” from a 19th century to 21st century model of education. Principal education welfare officer Cara Huggins said that a move towards requiring registration of home educated children was “welcomed” adding, “[o]ur concerns will always be the children we don’t know about. We would always like to see a move towards having children registered so that we can support them, [give] them appropriate advice and really hear the voice of the child.”