having a voice... - LOU McGILL
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having a voice…

having a voice…

I recently contributed a post for purpos/ed (which is about opening a debate  around education) with my partner and son which I hope offered a voice for people outside the formal education system. I think we questioned that system and presented one view from the home education/home learning perspective and also from the perspetive of people living with autism every day…

The post actually had a really positive response (I confess I was a little suprised that no one challenged it – after all to a large extent is questions what most parents choose to do and what most educators are trying to do).

One of my colleagues has since said that they are enjoying the ‘purposed’ discussion so far but would like other voices from non formal education. He suggested some people  – all interesting thinkers for sure . But I would like to see more voices from people who don’t just speak from a ‘public’ or ‘professional’ perspective. There are many families who have experienced the same kinds of despair about the education system as we have…

People home educate for many reasons, and one of the issues in trying to represent this group of people is that the only thing that unites them is the fact that their children don’t go to school. They are as a diverse group of people you are every likely to meet. They have many different reasons for home educating. There is no one group that can represent the views of such a diverse group. So it is a group of many voices.

But one thing that home educators do have in common in the UK (although to a lesser extent in Scotland) is that we have just come through a very very tough year where our freedom to home educate has been seriously challenged by the previous labour government and several ‘well meaning’ charities…

This has affected the strength of our voice… it is tough enough to speak as one who has chosen a different path – our society doesn’t like difference. Hell that is why some of us end up home educating  – our children don’t conform to a norm and we choose not to force them to be the victims of daily abuse, sometimes physical harm, and poor educational opportunities. By speaking up we reveal ourselves… to well meaning members of the public who like to report our difference to the police or social services, to the local authorities who feel they know best, to the charities who think we hide our children and possibly abuse them, to a government who can’t monitor us if we are not in their databases…

I’m not exaggerating – last year England was very very close to passing a bill that would allow people into our homes to interview (interrogate) our children without us being present – yes really sensitive to our children with autism and other serious communication disorders. Thanks to a massive mobilisation and coming together of home educators (and several tory MPs with election goggles) England has a (probably brief) reprive… It wont last I’m sure…

So you can see why we don’t have a common voice, and why people might be tired, and why sometimes it is just easier to stay hidden…

And what about the voices of all those parents who do send their children to school. How can we add their voices to this debate, without it being a response to single issues – tuition fees, testing, etc.

Public debate is important but not everyone uses twitter or blogs. At best we can only capture some aspects. None of my family would contribute to this debate – for many reasons – lack of interest, lack of a public voice, lack of access to a digital debate, no concept that such a debate is possible.

We have to be realistic about what a debate like this can achieve and who it can include. We have to try to get many voices. We have to know that it will not be inclusive. I am not engaging in this debate for academic/intellectual pleasure but because it is important to me to have our voices heard.

Our voice was once heard at an exclusion tribunal but it was the voice of a family not a lawyer and it was drowned…

Our voice is a personal voice coloured by our experience. I cannot speak for others, but I do hope they join this debate because I know they have alot to say…


  • dkernohan
    Posted at 11:44h, 05 February Reply

    Completely agree with you Lou. The name I suggested we’re just people outside of formal education that “give good blog”, easy next steps if you like. But to get authentic user voices would be amazing!

    • Lou Mcgill
      Posted at 11:50h, 05 February Reply

      I blame you for keeping me awake last night thinking about it; ))
      …was even contemplating recording voices of people somehow.. can’t imaging when I’d fit that in….

      maybe others will have some good ideas…

      maybe some classroom blogs, recordings…

  • teresamac
    Posted at 12:12h, 05 February Reply

    can only echo your sentiments. having fought to give a voice to my son (who has a communication disorder)through specialist educational provision i’m now afraid that making my voice heard could lead to him losing the very opportunities he needs to support future independence. I wonder how many voices are silenced by fear?

    • Lou Mcgill
      Posted at 12:34h, 05 February Reply

      Thanks Teresa

      yes – silenced by fear – says it all really…

      that is so wrong… but our priority has to be to protect our children

      • teresamac
        Posted at 12:51h, 05 February Reply

        yes, protect and enable. my son attended a specialist school during the week from 11-19, each week we would drive the 200 miles round trip twice to take him up and back. it was hard but it helped him, he aqcquired skills i could not have given him. he is now in a college a mere 45 mins away learning skills he loves – woodland management, glassblowing, crafts that could help him make a living. his confidence is growing all the time but they want him to stay at weekends as they are afraid they may lose funding if he spends his weekends with his brother and parents. why should a disability mean you lose your human rights to spend time with those you love and who love you? even though he is older now we have not had the time together that we need as a family

  • lizit
    Posted at 14:41h, 05 February Reply

    Our situation was different. We never home-edded though my son was effectively out of school for about a year – but at that time relationships had all but broken down between us. In the end, he went to a residential school for 3 years, returning home each weekend. He decided he was not staying in the special needs system for 16-19, but would attend a local FE college. Although living at home was not the motivation, during the past two and a half years, we have established a relationship with each other I would never have thought possible 6/7 years ago.
    When we have talked about his schooling, my son is adamant that we did the wrong thing to send him away to school. We are equally convinced there was no other real option if any of us were to have any kind of life – but if different resources had been available to us earlier, things could have been very different.
    Now my son is doing a third year sixth, having already got qualifications in music technology, and is trying to decide what to do next year – difficult in the current economic climate for all young people and especially so for those that are that bit different.
    I am clear that all too often the formal education system does not serve the needs of children who are different. I am equally clear one size doesn’t fit all. However, I am not sure what kind of education system I want to see or why, but I don’t think families should be torn apart because the system isn’t working.
    Maybe if I ever get my head clearer, I may join in the purpose/ed debate, but at the moment, I find it difficult to be coherent.

    • Lou Mcgill
      Posted at 15:05h, 05 February Reply

      Thanks for adding to the conversation Liz and good to hear that you and your son are surviving – I’m not sure that my son will agree with our course of action in the longer term but you do what you can to limit the damage and then build a future.

      I find it very difficult to imagine what a system of formal education would look like that could prevent this kind of thing happening. I hear way too many stories like our own that should not be allowed to happen. Ignorance is one aspect , lack of funding and training are others. But trying to fix up a failing system probably isn’t the answer.

      Clearly our whole society is in for a tough time re the savage cuts and when people are fighting for basic rights to survive it is hard to imagine that the education agenda will feature highly in people’s minds…

      You sound very coherent to me.. and I do hope you will add you voice in other ways to this debate…

  • Collective knowledge to Collective Action | loumcgill
    Posted at 07:14h, 06 October Reply

    […] being a highly diverse set of people to fight against ill thought out legislation. see the post Having a voice for more information. This post is written from a personal perspective but I should acknowledge […]

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