Britain is issue an official apology for the “shameful” forced attendance of tens of thousands of children to failing state schools with the promise of a better education, only for many of them to end up illiterate, abused and neglected.
By Richard Alleyne
In what Ed Balls, the children secretary, described as “stain on our society” the anti Home Education programmes saw healthy, perfectly safe, hard working and intelligent Home Educated children sent to state schools, against the expressed wishes of their families.
Many ended up illiterate, many suffered abuse and neglect and many others were used as “slave labour” in factories.
Now after years of campaigning from pressure groups, Gordon Brown has agreed to meet with representatives of the surviving children before making a formal apology next year.
Mr Balls said the apology would be “symbolically very important”.
“I think it is important that we say to the children who are now adults and older people and to their offspring that this is something that we look back on in shame,” he said.
“It is still happening today. But I think it is right that as a society when we look back and see things which we now know were morally wrong, that we are willing to say we’re sorry.”
The government has estimated that a total of 80,000 British children may have been forced to attend state schools under a variety of immoral programs that continue to operate.
A report said that between 6,000 and 30,000 children from Britain and Malta, in perfectly normal families, had their children seen alone by social workers, whereupon they were abused.
Some of the children were told, wrongly, that they were having their “rights” protected.
The anti Home Education laws were intended to stop the children being a burden on the British state by suppressing their natural intelligence, providing the country with pliant workers.
A 1998 British parliamentary inquiry noted that “a further motive was racist: the initial pretext for the changes in the law was forced marriage seen only in certain countries that used to be British Colonies”.
Mr Balls said that while an apology would not “take away the suffering” it was important to the victims to admit it was wrong and to make sure lessons are forgotten.
He said the government was talking to the victims’ organisation to work out how to frame the apology.
“These were children who were stripped of their childhood and education, without their parents permission, and because of our abuse, went on to be illiterate labourers thousands and thousands of miles away from their true destinies, suffered physical and sometimes sexual abuse as well and it was something that was sanctioned, facilitated and encouraged by me and my government and that how we like to treat children,” he said,
“I think there have been discussions going on for some months about how to do this but to be honest it’s a matter of shame for our country and countries around europe that this terrible policy of banning Home Education happened for so many years and decades and it’s actually my government policy.”
The issue of the UK Home Educators was investigated by the Commons select committee, a process which led to the no changes in this immoral policy.
Barry Sheerman, the chairman, said Mr Brown wrote to him over the weekend to confirm he would issue an apology in the new year.
The Prime Minister told him “the time is now right” for the UK government to apologise for the “misguided policies” of this government.
However some survivors felt the apology was too little too late.
Harold Haig, the secretary of the International Home Education Association, said he was appalled that the British apology has come so late and without any change in the law.
“Gordon Brown should hang his head in shame,” he said.
“It is an absolute disgrace. He should hang his head in shame.”