I shall return to the theme of my last post in a couple of days time. I want first to examine the kind of thing which can happen with home education and about which local authorities are anxious. This is the enforced isolation of a child from all other adults under circumstances that make abuse easy to carry out. I am not suggesting for a moment that this is common; only that it can and does happen in home educating families.
My own daughter, like many home educated children was actually more visible in the community than children at school. They saw us all the time in the library, shopkeepers knew us and we were familiar figures in the local streets, a tall irritable looking middle aged man with a little girl in tow. I dare say that this is usual in most of the home educating parents who comment here; their children are anything but invisible. This is fine, but let us now see how things can work in such a setup.
Sarah Richardson was four in 1993 and living with her mother and young brother in the north of England, when her mother’s boyfriend moved in. From the beginning, he was unkind to the two children. Two years later, when she was six, the family moved to a caravan in a remote location with no neighbours. Sarah was withdrawn from school at the same time, supposedly in order to be home educated. Shortly afterwards, her mother’s boyfriend began to sexually abuse and then rape her. The family kept on the move, always to out of the way places. This continued until Sarah was sixteen, when she left. What is interesting about this case is that the mother, who was also allegedly working part-time as a prostitute, was not some feckless traveller who was out of touch with ordinary society. In fact she was heavily involved with Education Otherwise. Her name was of course Lianne Smith.
As I said at the beginning, there is no reason to suppose that this sort of thing is common with home educators; only that it can and does happen. Keeping the children out of school and moving frequently from place to place in order to avoid prying neighbours or the possibility of the children making friends, is much easier when you are home educating. There are without doubt other families of this sort and it is this kind of thing which makes many local authorities anxious. Here were two people, one wicked and the other psychologically abnormal, who used home education as part of a lifestyle which facilitated abuse, both sexual and physical. The mother went on to have two children by her boyfriend, both of whom she killed.
Perhaps the next time that home educating parents ridicule the idea that home education could be used as a cover for abuse, they might pause and remember cases like this. Local authorities do not need to invent such scenarios; they are already happening. They may be uncommon, we have no way of knowing how frequently this sort of thing goes on, but wicked home educators do exist; even ones who are working in a voluntary capacity for Education Otherwise!