07 SES 12 B, Inclusion at Risk
This paper examines the experiences of Muslim families who choose to home educate their children. Drawing on 10 case studies with Muslim families from a larger study exploring the experiences of a diverse range of home educators (including middle class families, families whose children had special educational needs, families from different religious backgrounds and different ethnicities). The work of Ulrich Beck (1992, 2006) is used to discuss how ‘risk’ is understood in relation to home education generally and Muslim home educators specifically.
Many families choose home education in response to identifying risks associated with schooling; simultaneously home educators themselves are often identified as putting their children ‘at risk’ (Bhopal and Myers, 2018). These already ambiguous patterns of risk, sit within more complex narratives in which different types of family are identified as being more or less likely to put their children ‘at risk’ depending on their class or ethnicity (Bhopal and Myers, 2016). Muslim home educating families were identified by OFSTED (2016) as putting children ‘at risk’ of radicalisation.
This research is unique in its exploration of British Muslim home educators.
Case studies were used in order to gain a detailed understanding and analysis of why parents made their decision; to situate this within detailed local accounts; and, to examine a key issue over a period of time (Hartley, 2004; Yin, 2003). Families were accessed via specific home education organisations and, after our initial contact with families, we used a snowball sample and asked respondents if they knew of other families who may be interested in participating in the study. Once we had made the initial contact, at least one parent from each family was interviewed on two separate occasions. Ethical clearance was obtained from the participating universities and all interview questions were piloted. Interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed. The data was analysed via an iterative process through the development of different categories exploring patterns of family behaviours and practices of home educating to understand the meanings families gave to particular events and experiences (Neuman, 1997). Data analysis consisted of three stages; drawing on theoretical propositions, exploring different explanations of these and developing descriptions of each of the cases (Yin, 2003). We organised the data based on our key research questions and our data analysis was based on ‘…examining, categorising, tabulating and testing’ (Yin, 2003: 109).
Our findings suggest that Muslim families chose to home educate for a number of reasons including an awareness of their communal otherness and difference; and the identification of risks related to this positioning within British society. For example, all the Muslim families in our research described examples of racism encountered by their children in school. Home education was often a strategy to minimise such risks and to protect their family and community. By doing so, Muslim home educators were characterised in OFSTED and media accounts as potentially radicalising their children and their communities. A vicious circle emerges in which Muslim children encounter racism and bullying at school because of their religious background, this causes families to withdraw children from school, which feeds further narratives in which Muslim communities are demonised. In many respects Muslim home educators mirror the reflexive cosmopolitan identities identified by Beck (2006). They are framed by global understandings of Islamic radicalisation and terror as a threat to the non-Islamic, western world. This poses risks to the individual, to families and communities; which need to be managed at the very local, family level. We argue that policy making should consider the wider context of how home education is understood in terms of citizenship, belonging and difference. Furthermore, we argue that a consideration is needed on how risk is racialized and assigned differently in relation to marginalised communities who choose to home educate.
Beck, U. 1992. Risk Society: Towards a new modernity. London: Sage. Beck, U. 2006. The Cosmopolitan Vision. Cambridge: Polity. Bhopal, K. and Myers, M. 2016. ‘Marginal groups in marginal times: Gypsy and Traveller parents and home education in England’. British Educational Research Journal. 42 (1): 5-20. Hartley, J. 2004. Case study research, in Cassell, C. and S. Gillian (eds) pp 323-333. Essential Guide to Qualitative Methods in Organizational Research. London: Sage. OFSTED. 2016. Advice letter from Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector in respect of suspected illegal schools. London: OFSTED Neuman, W. 1997. Social Research Methods: qualitative and qualitative. London: Allyn and Bacon. Yin, R. 2003. Applications of case study research. London: Sage.
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