Khyra Ishaq – a tragedy that has nothing to do with home educatorsPosted on March 15th, 2010 1 comment
Now that the court case involving Angela Gordon and her partner, Junaid Abuhamza, has come to an end with both receiving significant jail sentences, it seems appropriate that we at NorthStarUK make seem comment on the tragic case of Khyra Ishaq’s death. Ed Balls and Graham Badman have both used Khyra Ishaq’s death as an excuse to attack the freedom of home educating families in England; both pointing to the fact that Khyra Ishaq had been home educated for the final few months of her short life. According to Balls and Badman, this is justification enough to warrant wholesale changes to the legislative framework involving elective home education and the establishment of the right of local authority staff to interview any home educated child alone and without the parents being present. Indeed, Graham Badman, in an attempt to link this tragedy with home education in general went so far as to say “There are a tiny minority of people who use the home education system as a mask for sometimes horrific abuse of their children.” For Balls and Badman, Khyra Ishaq was let down by an inadequate legal system that did not give local authority staff sufficient powers to step in and protect this poor child when she was in harm’s way.
The reality. however, was quite different. Concerns for Khyra’s safety were expressed within weeks of her removal from school, in fact the deputy head of her former school tried to visit the family and raise concerns . She expressed concerns to social services who refused to accept that there was any need for urgent action. In the ensuing months, the police, social services and educational staff all visited the home and Tony Brownbill, Birmingham City Council’s spokesman said that it had done all that it could, going on “Something happened in the house that no-one could get to because there wasn’t sufficient legislation to get in.” On 17th May 2008, Khyra Ishaq died.
In our opinion, the current legislative position is robust and clear – local authority staff are not obliged to agree to a parent’s request to home educate until they are satisfied with the provision being made by the child’s parents. Whilst the law provides considerable flexibility about how this is to be achieved, it is nevertheless clear where the power lies – it is with the local authority. The 1997 Education Act states “If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education.” Ultimately, the local authority can compel parents to send children to school if they are seriously concerned with the educational provision being made by parents.
There is no need for the laws regarding home education to be altered and there is certainly no need to provide local authorities with greater powers. After all, Khyra Ishaq was known to the local authority and it was Birmingham City Council staff who took the decision that she was not in any danger. Not only is there no evidence that greater powers are need, but there is precious little indication that these greater powers, if granted, would be applied with any greater wisdom the next time.
One response to “Khyra Ishaq – a tragedy that has nothing to do with home educators”
shelleyt March 25th, 2010 at 13:43
It’s always fascinating when people suggest that some kind of legislation will STOP behaviours and the tragedies that follow from those behaviours.
For a start, the villification of home schooling for the behaviour of Gordon and Abuhamza will not help. Many children who attend school and interact with teachers and other students are abused at home on a daily basis. They are often so frightened and no more talkative than they would be if the abuser were present.
There’s a saying “locks only keep good people out”. People who will do something truly vile will continue to do it whether there is a law there or not. And there are any number of ways to hide the abuse of a child. The situation in the US with Jaycee Lee Dugard proves that.
Fine tooth legislation is just going to create a police state to the point that moral and honest people will have to break the law to do what they consider is right.
There should always be legislation that protects children but it needs to protect them not infringe on their rights. Where school does not offer an education consistent with beliefs and values then children have a right to seek their education elsewhere.
Legislating home schooling out of existence appears, to me, just another way for a secular pressure group to outlaw any belief system that isn’t PoMo Atheism.
It would be quite easy to guard children’s rights another way. In Australia a homeschooler has to be registered with the education system and home schooling representatives are vetoed and vetted by the education system and given a group to audit and administer. Of course, the homeschooler can choose and request a particular representative. The christians tend to ask for a christian one, the muslims seek out a muslim representative and so on. The representatives are all screened by the government so that they are there to protect the children, make sure some progress is made in the children’s education and that the children are not being abused in any way. That’s it, the content and nature of the children’s education is still with the parent. This creates a pretty harmonious relationship between churched and state. It works here, it’s far simpler than outlawing homeschooling and allows for freedom of thought.
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