Contextual research – Anne Longfield ; Children’s commissioner ; Home educated children

17th Feb 2021.

Anne Longfield, outgoing Children’s commissioner for England made her final speech as Children’s commissioner last week, this is the first slide from her speech.

I think it’s important to include this here, as it needs to be known, and shown, what we are facing in the home-educating community. This is the current state of government thought towards home-educating families.

They class our children in the same categories as children in prisons, children in families suffering domestic abuse, substance abuse, or in street gangs. If you look at the images in my project, the fact their names are on here on ludicrous.

That’s not to say that there will not be any children who are home-educated will be abused or effected by any of the issues on this slide, however, the fact they are home-educated, we know by studies is statistically unlikely to play any part in that. We know through studies (Charles-Warner 2020) that in England, if you are a home-educated a 5-16 yr old, you are twice as likely to be reported to social services than your schooled counter parts. However the data collected by warner shows that you are three and a half, to five times LESS LIKELY for that referal to lead to a child protection plan being put in place.

The link to Warner’s research paper can be found here https://www.bambino-art.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/04-4453-page/2019-research-Home-Education-and-Child-Abuse-How-Media-Rhetoric-Drives-the-Myth.pdf

Statistically home-educated are less likely to be abused than their schooled counter parts, yet they are put on slides like this, which all lead to further misinformation being spread, and further prejudice from both local authorities and the general public towards home educators.

Click slide to be taken to the children’s commissioner’s speech and slides at https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/2021/02/17/building-back-better-reaching-englands-left-behind-children/

Until today I hadn’t read all of Longfield’s speech as I just can’t bring myself to have much to do with her in anything but tiny segments, as really, her ignorance is astounding for someone earning circa £120,000 (Children’s commissioner wages) . I bring your attention to the hypocrisy of the quote below , taken from Longfield’s speech –

“And I realised early on that we collect information in compartments – the number of children in jail, or in care, or who missed a centrally imposed target – but also that the people who make the big decisions about vulnerable children often know so little about them, about their lives and why they ended up in prison or in care or in a gang in the first place.”

Longfield, Anne. 2021.

In her role as Children’s commissioner Longfield produced one of the most damning reports on home-education ever, she used information received from only ELEVEN local authorities to construct her argument against home-education, and for registration and inspections.

Off the back of this research Longfield produced the dispatches Channel 4 documentary. I know of at least two of the parents in that show who were disgusted at the way their families were treated and the way they were misrepresented for sensationalism, and their wishes were ignored.

“So I set out to collate much better data about the lives of the children I was meeting, who were invisible to the system until they themselves become another statistic.”

Longfield, Anne. 2021.

So, whilst it seems that for her £120,000+ per year Longfield did in fact produce some research, it was totally and utterly useless, increased discrimination against a certain subset of children, produced a factly inacurrate representation of home education and traumatised more than one family. Not exactly a lasting legacy to be proud of.

“And every time I’ve pushed at the data, I’ve uncovered more vulnerable children out of sight – sometimes so many that people told me it couldn’t possibly be true. But it always is.”

Longfield, Anne. 2021.

The problem with “pushing for data” is that one finds things that actually aren’t true. You become SO hell bent on getting that data you forget about the people, considering in one part of her speech she says the following

“Instead the government machine seems to view them as remote concepts or data points on an annual return. “

Longfield, Anne. 2021.

it is slightly ironic , to say the least, that she doesn’t realise that that is exactly what she did with home-educated children. She lumped them in with off-rolled children, excluded children, and children in gangs, and thought that all would have the same issues, challenges, and came under the same bracket. Where as it may be true there are children that need help within the home-educating community, to imply all home-educated children are ‘suffering’ as those children have is just ridiculous and devalues your whole argument and makes everyone question, what your actual motives are/were.

REFERENCES

Cabinet Office.2020. HM Government Public Appointments. Wage information for Children’s commissioner for England. Available at https://publicappointments.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/appointment/childrens-commissioner-for-england/ (Accessed 21.02.2021)

CHARLES-WARNER. W. (2015) ‘RESEARCH: HOME EDUCATION AND THE SAFEGUARDING MYTH: ANALYSING THE FACTS BEHIND THE RHETORIC’ . PERSONALISED EDUCATION NOW.  HTTPS://WWW.PERSONALISEDEDUCATIONNOW.ORG.UK/2015/02/28/RESEARCH-HOME-EDUCATION-AND-THE-SAFEGUARDING-MYTH-ANALYSING-THE-FACTS-BEHIND-THE-RHETORIC/?FBCLID=IWAR2LZJB_REC83J79KDCZJIK_LYE_JWTUL5ADSP5XZWVY1ZEYRFXL8HL4DX0 (ACCESSED 02.12.19)

Charles-Warner, Wendy. 2019. Home Education and Child Abuse: How Media Rhetoric Drives the Myth. Available at https://www.bambino-art.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/04-4453-page/2019-research-Home-Education-and-Child-Abuse-How-Media-Rhetoric-Drives-the-Myth.pdf (Accessed 02.12.2019)

Children’s commissioner for England . 04.02.2019. Skipping school: Invisible children . Reports. Available at https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/report/skipping-school-invisible-children/ (Accessed 21.02.2021)

Longfield, Anne. 17.02.2021. “Building back better – Anne Longfield’s final speech as Children’s Commissioner” Available at https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/2021/02/17/building-back-better-reaching-englands-left-behind-children/ (Accessed 21.02.2021)

Longfield, Anne. Last speech as Children’s commissioner for England.Slides. Available at https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/cco-building-back-better-slides.pdf (Accessed 21.02.2021)

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This blog is written as part of my studies on the Falmouth University photography ma, an accredited educational programme.