A free society intervenes in parental choice with humility. Requiring children to be properly educated is, however, a hallmark of a civilised society

So proclaims The Times in a leading article applauding the Government’s proposal to require parents to register home-schooled children. The irony of its supposition that children are being ‘properly educated’ in our state schools and that this is ‘a hallmark of a civilised society’ appears to have been lost on the newspaper.

More than a third of last summer’s Year 6 pupils (10- to 11-year-olds) failed to reach the baseline standard in their SATs for literacy and numeracy. At GCSE the grade boundaries have had to be manipulated to ensure most candidates achieve a ‘good pass’. For mathematics this figure has ranged from 15 per cent to 20 per cent over the past two years, as even The Times has pointed out.

According to the OECD, the UK is up to three years behind the best education systems around the world. A BBC investigation in 2016 showed that the level of GCSE maths in the UK was around the level taught at primary school in South Korea (age 7 to 12). 

Employers’ organisations are consistently complaining that at least a fifth of school leavers are unemployable. Small wonder, then, that we are so reliant on immigrants.

Meanwhile, the current A-Level pass rate of 97.6 per cent has done nothing to alleviate ignorance. For several years universities have been running remedial catch-up courses for first-year students. 

This is the reality behind what The Times sees as children being ‘properly educated’ in mainstream, as opposed to home, schooling. This is the educational ‘hallmark’ of what the newspaper claims makes a ‘civilised society’.

Worse, in the wake of the November 2015 Paris terror attacks, the TES (formerly The Times Educational Supplement), published a model classroom lesson. It asked pupils to ‘give three good reasons for joining Islamic State’ and told children to imagine the world ‘from the point of view of a soldier of the faith’. ‘Isn’t it rather a challenge,’ it added, ‘rather a good way of getting to be important? Rather fun being awarded some female slaves? And you are one of the good guys too!’

Pupils were provided with ISIS propaganda and directed to the ISIS online magazine to assist them in being ‘properly educated’.

In its support for a home-schooling register The Times is in tune with the prevailing orthodoxies of current educational and sociological thinking. The intention, certainly, is to be helpful to children, to parents and to society as a whole.

Currently, we do not know how many children are being home-educated although the number appears to be growing significantly. A register will provide helpful statistical data; not least, the extent of parental desperation to find an escape route from failures in mainstream provision such as I have outlined.

The proposed register is, though, rather more than it seems and it is regrettable that The Times has not spotted what is going on. The BBC, though, has let the cat out of the bag:

Ministers say a register would help councils intervene when standards were poor or if children were at risk. 

The register is likely to become the government’s Trojan Horse. It will become the means by which the failed teaching and sociological ideologies of maintained schooling are foisted on to home-schoolers via local authority monitoring.

‘You are not teaching your child in line with best practice’ will be the reprimand of the home-schooling inspector. Either do as we say or we will serve a ‘child in danger’ order on you. Thus, the home-schooling escape route from low standards and PC brainwashing will be cut off.

There may be a need for a home-schooling register but there is an equal need for safeguards against educational ‘enforcers’ bullying parents into conformity with what is supposed to good for their children.

To adapt and paraphrase President Ronald Reagan, for home-schoolers the most terrifying words in the English language will soon be: ‘I am the home-schooling inspector and I am here to help.’

How sad that The Times, a respected and illustrious newspaper, can no longer recognise the threat to family life and a sound education posed by that knock on the door.

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