‘Please, I've only got so many ribs, Noel Coward,’ as RikMayall’s Richie said. (Not that your ribs belong to you, either, from April (1st?) nextyear; not unless you have found that opt-out page buried in the NHS Organ Donation Register – and provided the doctors remember to check it.)
This is the big theme of our age: the Power versus the People.
At present, the Education Act 1996 says the same as its 1944 predecessor, except for the addition of the special needs aspect:
The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable —
(a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and
(b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.
There are various reasons why the State may feel the need to intervene, but please note the order in which they appear in the announcement:
A register of children not in school will transform a local council’s capacity to identify and intervene where the standard of a child’s education isn’t good enough or, in the rare instances, where they are at risk of harm. It will also help the authorities spot young people who may be receiving a solely religious education, attending an unregistered school or not receiving an education at all.
The word ‘efficient’ has remained undefined for the last 75 years, but it is a hinge on which the great door of officialdom can – and will - turn open.
Yet what if you turn the question round: why would you send your child to school?
One answer is socialisation. But this is exactly why some people have withdrawn their offspring: bullying. Anybody here watch Noel Fitzpatrick, aka TV’s The Supervet ? A rural farmboy with a gift of empathy with animals, here is his treatment at secondary school (p.75):
I remember one time going back into class after a particularly bad and mucky bruising when five boys set on me again, one on each arm, one on each leg, giving me the bumps, throwing me up in the air, while the fifth came down hard with his fists on my stomach as I bounced.
It's left its mental marks, even though he struggled on heroically to become a world-class animal surgeon who has much to teach human medicine too. Would we have heard of Isaac Newton or Michael Faraday if they’d been regularly beaten as swots?
My friends educated their three children at home. Two went on to do second degrees and the third has such personality that he has gone to the other side of the world and found jobs for which he wasn’t technically qualified – but which he soon learned to do, well.
Early on, a man from the LEA came round, but soon withdrew when father adopted the strategy of asking eagerly for materials and financial contributions. It’s funny how Ofsted and Education Ministers issue librariesful of advice and instruction to teachers, yet they never fund for a range of approved coursebooks that deliver the curriculum they are so sure is right for children. Why don’t they put ‘their’ money where their mouth is?
And I must have missed it: which Ministry philosopher has managed to answer the millennia-long question, ‘what exactly is education for?’