Does Barry Sheerman Speak Hungarian?

I recently went to a talk at the Institute of Education given by Barry Sheerman, the former Chair of the Children Schools and Families Select Committee.

During his talk, which ranged over a wide variety of topics including career advice, autism, cuts at Kirklees Council, faith groups, banter with the formerly home educated Caitlin Moran, the Trojan Horse inquiry in Birmingham, scruffy back rooms and so on, Barry told us he’d met a Hungarian lady recently who had 2 children she was going to home educate.

Barry was confident the audience would agree that this is simply not right.

I’m still puzzling about this.

Maybe the Hungarian lady had only recently come into the country and Barry was worried that the children wouldn’t be integrated into society?

Maybe there was more to the story than we heard on the night, for example that there weren’t enough school places or the Hungarian lady couldn’t navigate the admissions system or sort out  buses to the schools?

I thought at the time that he was implying that the children wouldn’t learn English, but when I thought about it afterwards I realised the mum must have talked to Barry in English.

Unless Barry Sheerman speaks Hungarian?

Barry said numbers had risen dramatically and home education now wasn’t just confined to a few middle class families. It seemed to prove to Barry – in a most worrying way – how far the news about home education had spread, if even this Hungarian lady had found out about it.

Barry’s talk seemed to be pretty much whatever popped into his head at the time, but much of it seemed familiar and when I googled Barry Sheerman + scruffy back room afterwards I found this from September last year:

“In my constituency and others, I find a lax attitude to home schooling, and the ease with which people can say a child is being home schooled is dangerous territory. When it was confined to a small number of middle-class families who thought their child might be bullied at school and needed that home support, it was perhaps something we could tolerate, but I always thought that we ought to know where every child is in this country … how it is being supported, how it is being stimulated and how it is being treated … I am also worried that people from a strong faith background are choosing to use home schooling.  I have a lot of evidence that the home school is not genuinely in the home, and the children are ending up in scruffy little back rooms being taught in a way that I do not approve of. I believe that we should know what children are being taught and how they are being taught”

14 thoughts on “Does Barry Sheerman Speak Hungarian?

  1. aunis

    “When it was confined to a small number of middle-class families who thought their child might be bullied at school and needed that home support, it was perhaps something we could tolerate, ”

    So as long as it is the middle classes (and presumably those “above”) it is merely tolerable to home educate! I guess Baz won’t be wanting the votes of the “lesser” classes or will he tolerate those of us in scruffy little back rooms to suit that particular purpose?

    I wonder if there any relationship between Government policies and the preponderance of scruffy little back rooms – surely not.


  2. Fiona Nicholson Post author

    The audience did try to quiz him about these scruffy back rooms. I got the impression they weren’t in the family’s own home. He’s a bit cryptic about all this, possibly because he doesn’t want to say anything which could be construed as racist. But you have to work quite hard to decode what he is saying, I’m still not entirely confident I understand.


  3. Clinton

    I agree with Barry Sheerman.

    Didn’t think I’d hear myself say this, but he’s got a point even if his choice of wording leaves much to be desired. (What’s it with you British and that four-letter “class” word anyway?)

    There’s a new breed of home educator constituting the majority of recent deregs. Not only do these parents have no ideological commitment to HE, they don’t even have a vague interest in HE or the confidence or will to take on the parental responsibility of provision. They are simply anti-school. No, scratch that. They are very pro-school, actually. They are just anti their local school, often with good reason. Their deregistration is demonstration of protest, or frustration, not a vote for HE.

    These parents encourage local authorities in all the so called “ultra vires” activities LA indulge in. They wax lyrical about the inspections – nay, “home visit” – from the LA rep. They encourage the LA to inspect ALL families. And LAs exploit these parents to the hilt often quoting them as “the majority who are happy with our treatment of HE”. These parents work in direct opposition to “real” home educators – because they are NOT home educators in many senses of the term – and they work to erode the hard won independence from state interference that we enjoy.

    They are a threat to HE. And they exist because of the ease with which parents can deregister. I confess I don’t have a solution and certainly don’t propose vetting of parents prior to allowing dereg (like Herefordshire’s small print demands – or, ever worse, like that experiement they did in Hertfordshire!) But if the HE community doesn’t recognise and deal with this threat I fear it doesn’t bode well for the future of EHE.

    Aunis: “…or will he tolerate those of us in scruffy little back rooms to suit that particular purpose”

    I suspect he was referring to the numerous unregistered Jewish Yeshivas and Muslim Madrasas (2000+) many of which are operating illegally in scruffy back rooms. They have no planning permission, no fire protection, no safety checks, no care for the children beyond packing them in like sardines and drilling them in doctrine. And they exist because of the ease with which parents can deregister and claim to be home educating.

    Anyway, got your email, Fionna. I know your son’s good at that stuff we spoke about but let me know if you need any assistance.



  4. Fiona Nicholson Post author

    Hi Clinton, have I got this right? 1/ You think there are growing numbers of parents who are happy for the LA to visit their homes? 2/ You think that unregistered faith schools are populated with children whose parents told the schools they were going to home educate? 3/ And both the first group and the second group of families are in their different ways making life more difficult for “real” home educators because they have an impact on the attitude of the person tasked with oversight of home education at the local council?


  5. Clinton

    1. Absolutely! You should see the livid response I got in the Yahoo Essex forum when I applauded the Essex LA decision to do away with COMPULSORY home inspections! In at least three other LAs I know about, the situation is the same. This new breed of parent wants LA inspections, wants the periodic LA pat on the back, needs reassurance from the state … and doesn’t like it if other parents aren’t being similarly inspected. The problem is these parents will soon constitute the majority of home educators (if we’re not already there!)

    2. The unregistered faith schools either take children in before CSA or, if the child has already attended a mainstream school, they advise the parents to deregister. There is no deregistration-to-send-to-Madrasa option; if you’re deregistering it’s on the pretext of home educating. I know a bit about this given our close connections with (and relations within) the Muslim community.

    3. The second group presents a major problem for LAs and Westminster re. radicalisation. While I support parents’ right to teach their children about whatever man/woman in the sky theory they subscribe to, I do sympathise with the government’s position. Radicalisation needs to be addressed if for no other reason than pressure from “intelligence partners”. Government will use this as the excuse for HE legislation and the first group will provide them all the survey responses, support and feedback necessary to win the argument.

    As long as HE was limited to a few “middle class” / educated / ideologically committed / genuine home educators it was fine. To the extent that hard won freedoms are being exploited by “temporary” home educators in an attempt to blackmail schools/LAs, by schools trying to get rid of “troublesome” children they have no power to simply kick out and by religious nuts who want children to attend school to learn only about religion and nothing else … it spells doom.

    This is a bit like what happened with Flexischooling – that Alison woman went promoting to schools that there’s easy money to be made putting HE children on the books just prior to the annual census… and what happened? The DfE reversed/sorta reversed their Feb 2013 decision, but I don’t expect it to last for long.

    Unfortunately for us a lot of the wrong sort have heard about EHE and are exploiting it in ways that will force the state to act.


  6. Clinton

    Hmm. The authorities don’t act to shut them down. They can’t act because parents of children in these schools claim to be HE and have the right you and I enjoy to get a few children together for an activity or to let someone else teach them. Close the 20 kid class in one person’s lounge and it’ll move to someone else’s house.

    What’s the difference between an unregistered school and what most HE parents do? How would you legislate against these “schools”? Bear in mind they can run for up to 2.5 days a week without even needing to register.

    BTW, in my last post “blackmail” wasn’t the mot juste. I was searching for brow beat.

    Anyway, speaking of the wrong sort of home educator – here’s another one: Parents temporarily deregistering so they can enjoy term time holidays without a fine. This, of course, works only if your child is not in an oversubscribed school. So children in less desirable schools, often in areas of economic deprivation, are effectively exempt from the rule on not taking holidays in term. If Joe Public doesn’t cotton on to this loophole it won’t be long before a journalist sees potential in the story. Wait for the Daily Mail headline: “Benefit claimants are mostly exempt from ban on in-term holidays”. How do you think that’s going to impact on the easy deregistration we currently have?


  7. Fiona Nicholson Post author

    DfE has asked LAs to notify them about this type of unregistered school. If it’s deemed to be a school it can be closed down or else needs to become registered. What could happen is it opens for fewer hours – I’m told Ofsted unofficial cut-off point is 18 per week – but that’s less popular with parents.


  8. Clinton

    So two unregistered schools reach an agreement. Each group of kids spends 18 hours in one school and 18 hours in the other.

    Your move.


  9. Fiona Nicholson Post author

    This is probably as far as the conversation can go. I have a different approach. I’m suggesting things that I think would make it less bad; you want something that will fix it once and for all.


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