I had the misfortune to be in Lincolnshire over the weekend. For those unfamiliar with this ghastly part of the country, it provides a glimpse of Britain before the Industrial Revolution; peopled as it is in the main by half-witted agricultural workers. My wife’s family live there and so we have to visit the county pretty regularly. Mind you, they live in Grimsby, which is positively cosmopolitan and sophisticated compared with the little hamlets one finds tucked away between the potato fields. Most of the inhabitants of these places look like inbred mutants who might have wandered off the set of The Hills have Eyes. Still, enough about my daughter’s family. While we were there, I looked in on a family I know who teach their own children. I don’t really mind this myth that I never meet real-life home educators, as long as people realise that it is a complete nonsense. I was given a copy of a letter which they recently received. Blogger won’t let me put pictures here at the moment and so I shall have to type it out. It says:
Dear Mrs. XXXX,
We are doing a review of children electively home educated from XXX, to ascertain if sufficient support is being provided to yourselves and child/ren from Lincolnshire County Council. It is also important that we understand that the educational provision your child is receiving is an appropriate and comprehensive one.
In order to undertake this review we have agreed that an Education Welfare Officer will visit you at a time convenient to yourself. It would be helpful if you are in agreement, that this officer talk to your child to hear from her first hand how they are finding the education provided, and whether there is anything else we need to assist them in providing additional support services.
It is also important that we understand whether there are any additional needs in relation to your child and whether we can provide any assistance.
I am sure that you will find these visits helpful to your family.
Seldom have I seen such a horror! If somebody wished to check on the education which I was providing for a child, the very least I might require is that the people doing the checking were themselves educated to a reasonably high standard. This is manifestly not the case here; the letter being written by somebody unable to express herself in ordinary, plain English. This communication is couched in what I call ‘ill-educated formal’. This is a style of writing beloved of the barely literate, who use odd constructions which they fondly imagine deceives readers into believing that the letter has been penned by an educated and intelligent person! Almost unbelievably, the above letter was signed by the Assistant Director of Children's Services! Let us look at this monstrosity in a little detail.
It begins ‘Dear Mrs. XXX’ and then goes on to refer to ‘yourselves’. This is of course an illicit concordance between the singular ‘Mrs. XXX’ and plural ‘yourselves’. The same solecism occurs a few lines down with ‘your child’, singular, and ‘how they are finding’, plural. Awful basic grammatical error, which alone suggests that the writer has not been educated beyond primary school. And why on earth talk of support being provided to ‘yourselves’? The correct word here is ‘you’; not ‘to ascertain if sufficient support is being provided to yourselves’, but rather ‘to ascertain if sufficient support is being provided to you’. The use of ‘yourself’ instead of ‘you’ is of course another turn of phrase popular with the illiterate and inarticulate. This is also to be found a few lines later, ’ at a time convenient to yourself’. Why not simply, ’at a convenient time’?
The second sentence begins, ‘It is also important that we ..’ In order to use the word ‘also’ in this way, it must first have been show that a previous item was important. This was not even hinted at during mention of the review of electively home educated children. On another note, one is tempted to ask to whom all this is important. Important for the child? The parent? Lincolnshire County Council? It is heartening, if a little surprising, that Lincolnshire will be talking to these children to find out, ‘how they are finding the education provided, and whether there is anything else we need to assist them in providing additional support services‘. Are only home educated children to be favoured in this way, or will the local authority be speaking to children at their schools to see how they are finding their education and whether there are any additional services which they could do with?
All in all, I do not think that this letter would encourage me to engage with Lincolnshire County Council. It is semi-literate and incoherent; not at all a good advertisement for an education department!