Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The House of Commons education committee's report on home education

I do not see how the home education section of the current Bill can be sensibly modified, in the time that we have, to take account of the committee's report.

There are too many of its recommendations that need careful analysis and discussion - the nature of registration, the definition of suitable education, LA officers' training and code of practice, the way support should be provided for HE - more, doubtless, when I have read the report carefully.

Also, first indications of the outcome of the Ofsted investigation are that it will be more on the side of HE than the Commons committee.

Given all this, I hope that the DCSF will take the opportunity of the committee's report to take a graceful step backwards. I shall not hold my breath, though, but I still expect the HE section of the bill to die when the election is called, if not before.

HE will remain unfinished business for the department and parliament. The conflicts evident in the committee's report, a compromise between strong and opposing views, will need to be resolved, and a strong, quarrel-free (which does not mean united) HE input will be important for the next couple of years at least.

I think that the most likely outcome is voluntary registration, withdrawal of registration subject to a proper court, support for HE from LAs, and training/standards for LAs - but it's clear from the committee's report that there's a strong thread of parliamentary thought that would prefer something that was much harsher on HE.

29 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

we will never register! and who cares what a bunch of over paid M.Ps think? You work for us and want to remember that Lord Lucas! are you off now on your long christmas break? very nice while everyone else has to work till the 24!

12:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I think you are right. Free people seem to be an anathema to the DCSF. Home educators might need to go to the law for every time any LA oversteps its boundaries, and many of them leap over their boundaries almost every day.

I think that, considering the disgusting condition of the state education that everyone pays for, home educators are being made scapegoats. Possibly the DCSF cannot tolerate the fact that ordinary parents can provide an education far superior to the run- of-the-mill kind promulgated by the state schools.

It's sad that the government feel they need to gobble up public money in order to persecute a minority group like home educators who are doing their best for their children. After all, it's a rare parent who does NOT want to see his or her child succeed in whichever way that child wishes to do so.

8:26 pm  
Blogger Heidi de Wet said...

If a "registration" can be "revoked", then it is *not* registration - it is a licence. Please call Balls's scheme by its proper name.

But the very idea of a voluntary licensing scheme is absurd (what effect does revoking a licence have if possession of the licence is voluntary?) so it should be no surprise that Labour will ignore the Select Committee on this point, as the Schools Minister has already indicated.

8:41 pm  
Anonymous Dave H said...

Not knowing exactly how the committee stage handles things, is it possible to just write an alternative Schedule 1 and propose that as an amendment? I had a go at amending it clause-by-clause but it's so inter-related that accepting a change to one clause implies accepting several others. I got to the end of the section 19 stuff.

Writing a complete set of clauses to effectively restate current good practice in law might be the simplest answer, then you can spend the time until the election debating that instead.

8:47 pm  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

Hello Lord Lucas

Thanks for all your work on this.

I heard you were going to be looking some more at the Impact Assessment(s). So I thought you might be interested in my notes on the main one and Gill's essay on the Equalities one.

Hope that's useful. I know you know some of it already but for myself I keep noticing new bits! e.g. the implications regarding possible increased rate of SAOs only dawned on me a few days ago as I was trying to write about it all.

Jennifer

4:48 am  
Blogger Ralph Lucas said...

Thankyou as usual, particularly Dave and Jennifer.

If the bill comes to the Lords then our main weapon is amendments, and I shall be tabling a host of them to allow us to explore all the excellent points that you have made here and elsewhere.

I still think that the timescale means that the bill will not have passed through the Lords before the election is called, and if so I expect the HE schedule to be struck out even if some of the rest survives in the washup, but if the Bill does come to the Lords then we, as the unelected house, must concentrate on making it better and not on destroying it.

So, what would one try to install as an alternative to the current schedule? Listening to the Commons committee, Ofsted et al it seems to me that the elements of a system agreeable to the rational elements of the bureacracy might include:

- a clear restatement of the right to home educate, and explicit recognition of autonomous education and other systems

- a clear right for LAs to apply to a court for the right to home educate to be rescinded (to deal principally with cases where the claim to HE was spurious). If the court was in the first instance a specialist tribunal then it could also hear complaints against LAs from HEers

- the expectation that LAs should
know about all children in their area who are HE (but no obligation on HEers to tell the LA), and should know that they are being educated.

- local HE consultative groups run by LAs

- a voluntary registration system linked to a pattern of support agreed with the consultative group

- clear guidance from government, modulated by the consultative group, for LA staff, and compulsory training too.

- explicit separation of the LA's educational and safeguarding roles for HE.

So where are the pitfalls for HEers in such a structure?

11:14 pm  
Anonymous Dave H said...

The main pitfall is the one induced by not-unreasonable paranoia that encourages the huge number of HE parents to avoid registering. We all work
on the principle that if they don't know we're here then they'll leave us alone. Having any sort of register means that next time we get a government with the mindset of the existing DCSF, it'll be so much easier for them to impose something on us next time. If they have to find us first then it slows them down a bit.

However, paranoia aside, I think it comes down to the fact that home educators do not trust government to abide by the rules and respect our freedoms. There are good reasons for this, with the tales of local authorities bullying parents and trying to enforce what they would like to
be the law instead of what is the law. Obviously not all local authorities or inspectors are like this, but as things can change from good to bad when someone retires or moves on, we are understandably cautious about basing our approach on the good times.

While being careful and saying that I don't claim to speak for anyone else, I think that what is needed is a legislative framework that explicitly lays down the duties of a local authority, so they know what they must do and
what they should try to do on a 'reasonable efforts' basis. It is a process that will take years, because they have to rebuild the trust that was patchy in places and almost completely disintegrated over the Badman saga. The law should make it very clear that the parents are responsible for their children's education and restate that the LA should only get involved if it
has reasonable grounds to believe there is a problem. I'd like to see an explicit mention that home educated children are not obliged to follow the national curriculum. Anything that might impose a legal requirement on parents via regulations needs to be tighly defined with clear limits on
what it can and cannot do, and there needs to be a clear statement that ultimately a court gets to decide if the LA considers that a child should be sent to school against the wishes of the family.

1:15 pm  
Anonymous Dave H said...

[...cont]
I think your proposals are reasonable, although I'm still twitchy about the voluntary registering part. I can see that if an LA is spending money on a
resource it wants to know something about where the money is going, but I actually think it would be a significant benefit for any talk of registration to be suspended for a while. Even with a voluntary scheme you have the interesting issue where a family is currently known to their LA
but refuse to fill in forms and register. What do the LA do, continue to try to send inspectors round or file their existing paperwork until the family chooses to register or the children grow up?

Based on my experience in California, over there, school districts run homeschool programmes and put on all sorts of useful courses. However, the
way they do it is that every child must be registered at a school, but it is possible for parents to register themselves as a school with as few as one pupil attending. I believe they are supposed to keep an attendance
register but there is no other oversight. They also have the concept of open schools, where a child can be registered and attend classes that the family wants them to, but are otherwise free to pursue education outside
the classroom. They do have the advantage that generally there is more money available and in the more populated areas it is possible to run a viable business running specific classes for home educated children because there are enough of them (parents pay for these classes, not the state). My son has extracted DNA from strawberries and attempted to genetically modify bacteria to make them glow as part of some biology classes we did. I never
had that much fun at age seven. I think there is funding available to the different county education authorities over there based on who they have registered, regardless of actual residence, so there is some degree of
competition to provide a good service in order attract out-of-county children to the events. Obviously we would have problems with such an approach over here, not least because schools are subject to all sorts of rules that home educators have chosen to avoid.

As a final short, sharp answer to your "So where are the pitfalls for HEers in such a structure?", I guess the answer is that we see problems in any proposal because (in a large, bold font) WE DON'T TRUST THE GOVERNMENT.

1:20 pm  
Blogger Sally said...

@Anonymous 1: prejudice is prejudice, which ever side of the tracks it lies on. You assume more from prejudice than judgment, it seems.

1:40 pm  
Blogger Raquel said...

I see a pitfall with the registration. Now registration as in registering with a doctor is one thing. It just means you sign up for that doctors services and are put on their list, and you go off the list when you choose. There are many people who aren't registered with doctors or go the private route etc and not registering causes them no problems.
However, if registering voluntarily with the LA, I presume it will come with monitoring, and all the while you aren't registered I presume the LA will be trying to find you, and now *registration* of this form looks a lot less benign! It hardly encourages engagement.

I really wish that we could view the LA as a service and us as it's customers, which in my mind is how it should be. If the LA isn't providing the services and is acting like a bolshy shopkeeper (because it ha unwarrented powers over it's customers), then the customers won't come in the shop, so to speak.

It should be that if you sign up for services e.g. you want to have access to exam centres and want the LA to help, you shouldn't need to register indefinitely with the LA should you? You would simply join their exam access program and, (just as with the doctor's), leave it when you don't need it.

4:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you not on your christmas break yet Lord Lucas? I want one of those school attendance orders so that i can burn it on the fire! Get on and use those amendments,we may as well know that for once your doing something! What do you do up at the lords because i have no idea! but i bet you get paid well can i apply for a job they? shall we meet for dinner? do you spend more on a bottle of wine than working class people spend on shoping bill? do you agree you work for the tax payer?

6:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly, we do not live in a Libertarian society. Even so, the Law still respects and acknowledges that the responsibility for the education of a child, rests with the parent.

The purpose of the LA is to administrate State Education for those who choose to use it. They should have no 'responsibility' to anyone who chooses not to use State Education.

Hopefully, you are right and this bill will not pass. Luck may be on our side in terms of the timing and economic climate. If there is 'unfinished business', it may be for us home-educators to take the initiative and lobby for a change to the law. All State involvement and responsibilities for non-State education must be removed.

Meanwhile, as this corrupt and obscene system sinks to its knees, we need to fight it every inch of the way.

2:05 pm  
Blogger Heidi de Wet said...

"- a clear right for LAs to apply to a court for the right to home educate to be rescinded (to deal principally with cases where the claim to HE was spurious)."

This already exists in current law - it's a School Attendance Order, and the LA has a legal obligation to issue it if there is reason to believe that a child is receiving an education. Why does current law require amendment? The fact that most LAs understand neither their responsibilities nor their powers under current law is not a good enough reason.

"- the expectation that LAs should
know about all children in their area who are HE ..., and should know that they are being educated."

Why?

This is a serious question. You label yourself a libertarian; how does that fit with believing that the state has a duty to monitor the lives of ordinary, law-abiding citizens?

"So where are the pitfalls for HEers in such a structure?"

The major pitfall lies in any scheme which allocates to a state official, as a matter of routine, the role of approving/overruling the parent's judgement in respect of their child's upbringing. The obvious harm is that in order to justify their own existence, the offical will feel compelled to overrule a certain proportion of parents irrespective of whether the child is genuinely being harmed; the insidious harm to society is the underlying message that a box-ticking bureaucrat is always more capable of judging a child's needs than the child's own loving parents, and therefore that there is something incompetent, even suspicious about parents.

The only reasonable role for the state with respect to home education is to identify those situations where no attempt whatsoever is being made to educate the child. Once the parent has been established to be taking legal responsibility for the child's education, the state has no further business with that family - not in approval of the scope or methods of education, not in evaluating the performance of the child, and not in monitoring the progress of the family over time.

5:25 pm  
Anonymous Garett Ross said...

Thank you, Lord Lucas, for your post.

I agree with many of the points made. A possible pitfall could be in the restatement of the right to home educate. I think it could easily be turned into a modification of the current law. What is needed is a raw statement of the rights, duties, obligations etc. that is involved, for all interested parties.

I still do not see why LAs need to be able to revoke registration, or apply to a court to have a right rescinded, because they already have SAOs. I am aware that SAOs can be hard to implement, but it is only in this area that LAs are seeking extra power in this regard

Explicit separation of the LAs' educational and safeguarding functions is definitely necessary. The current conflation has caused much confusion, and very few of any involved parties know what they are supposed to be doing.

9:45 pm  
Blogger Ralph Lucas said...

Happy Christmas - I don't expect to post again on HE before then.

Dave H, thankyou, good advice and good examples.

Heidi, I think the reason lies in the Every Child Matters agenda, and that while that is 'accepted' there will be pressure for authority (in some form or another) to know that children are being educated.

So how does HE get together and produce a set of proposals for the future? It would give your supporters something to aim for, an alternative to leaving the initiative with the DCSF.

1:48 pm  
Blogger Shena Deuchars said...

Ralph Lucas said:
>I think the reason lies in the Every Child Matters
>agenda, and that while that is 'accepted' there
>will be pressure for authority (in some form or
>another) to know that children are being educated.

What do you mean by 'accepted'? ECM is a government initiative that was initially intended to guide LAs in their work with children. It is becoming seen by government (both central and local) as a stick that it can use to beat people. We did not ask for ECM and I, for one, do not accept that it applies to me. Like almost every other parent in the country, I want my children to achieve the things that ECM mentions. I do NOT want government officials coming in and telling us what those things mean for us - that is up to us.

Most of the ECM things are ridiculous when you apply them to an individual child rather than to the guiding principles behind LA services. For example, if a child has diabetes, has that child "failed" to achieve the "be healthy" outcome? If so, is that the fault of the child, the family or the LA? It is clearly (I hope!) ridiculous to suggest that this is failure on anybody's part. However, it seems that the government wants to impose on individuals the requirement to ensure that their children achieve the "be healthy" outcome. Does that mean that we must all achieve it all the time? No colds allowed? If parliament thinks it can legislate to get rid of illness, poverty, etc. then it is time it was sacked and we started over.

11:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas, Lord Lucas.

The DCSF has and should have nothing to do with home educators. ECM is a monstrous insanity and should be tossed out immediately.

I left Doctor A's register to join Doctor B's. Doctor A no longer has responsbility for my health or lack of it. It's the same with school and home education. The LA could not guarantee a safe place for my children to be educated, therefore my youngsters are now home educated where I can guarantee (as much as anyone can guarantee safety to anyone) that they are safe and free to autonomously educate.

The law as it stands now is sufficient and this whole thing should never have happened. It would not have happened if LAs had not been so keen to regulate home education. LAs are largely hostile to home education and, at best, incompetent with a few reasonable ones in the mix. Really, you don't give someone you hates you the right to walk into your house, judge your lifestyle, criticise your children and send them to prison, yet that is what some of the LAs do to home educators.

I will not live my life trying to please bureaucrats. They should spend their working time trying to please me.

11:21 am  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

what would one try to install as an alternative to the current schedule?

I've been thinking about your proposals here and haven't managed to write up my thoughts yet. But meanwhile just wanted to suggest that you "promote" that comment to be a blog post (linking back to existing comments here too). I suspect that quite a few home ed parents are following your blog (perhaps in a feed reader) but may not be checking back to read every comment, and so probably haven't seen the question. So you'd probably get more answers if you asked the question again as a separate post.

Happy Christmas to you too!

4:52 am  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

Hello again! I wrote up (part of) my answer to your question as a blog post, To trust or not to trust.

It's not really just an answer to your question, though. It's about what I think is a pretty fundamental problem with any kind of monitoring of EHE: whether or not to trust the parents, who are the experts on their child(ren), and what happens if you don't.

9:15 am  
Anonymous z said...

What is "withdrawal of registration subject to a proper court"?

I think the idea that there will be an Act that makes local authorities have to take you to court if they want to remove your HE registration belongs in cloud-cuckoo land. But perhaps I read you wrongly and you mean something completely different?

Also, if registration is "voluntary", what would the effect of removing it actually be? The key point here is that if the position of an HE family with "registration removed" is the same as the position of a family with "registration never applied for", then that equation would work both ways.

In short, voluntary registration is a complete and utter con. Note that the select committee only went on about it in the context of a report where they also call for more use by LAs of info from the Revenue to track us down; and they also stupidly say that the point of registration would be to find out how many of us there are. When obviously that would not be the main point at all.

Kind of remarkable that no Committee member said "hey, wait a minute, this statement is obviously untrue".

Last thing - will you be chasing up the DCSF on their amazing refusal to publish the costs of the Badman inquiry.

I don't support harassment, but harassment is a criminal offence and if anyone thinks they are being harassed they should contact the police. Otherwise, it's just words. If the DCSF have not contacted the police, then "harassment" is just a dishonest excuse for keeping quiet about how they've spent public money.

Go get 'em, lordy!

z

5:06 pm  
Blogger Mrs Boho said...

"I think that the most likely outcome is voluntary registration, withdrawal of registration subject to a proper court, support for HE from LAs, and training/standards for LAs - but it's clear from the committee's report that there's a strong thread of parliamentary thought that would prefer something that was much harsher on HE."

Actually, half of this is already in place. Registration with LAs is already voluntary: the current law indicates that home educators do not have to register with their LAs (despite most LAs sending out misleading information which stipulates that registration is a must) but a percentage of home educators do choose, voluntarily, to register with their LAs and to have an annual visit already. Others will register, refuse a visit but send in some form of a yearly report/educational statement. This is already an accepted practice for those who wish to do so. The issue of whether to register or not will ALWAYS be dependent on whether their particular LA is anti-HE or pro-HE.

The issue of rescinding via court is also already in place with the SAO. When it goes to court, if the home educator can prove that they are home educating to a satisfactory standard then the judge is unlikely to issue an SAO. Rightly so, because if there was no defence against an SAO, LAs would be issuing them (school places allowing) maliciously, left, right and centre.

Support from LAs for home educators can only happen if there is money in the pot to pay for extra staff and resources, likewise training. Given the economic climate where is the money going to come from?

The fundamental truth behind any law or guideline is how it is interpreted by the person who has the power to enforce said law or guideline. In the case of home education, it will depend on whether the person is pro-HE or anti-HE.

It seems to me that we are edging towards a stale-mate on this issue, given the timing. I guess the saddest part about all of this is that the home-educators who have been working, voluntarily, towards building rapport and understanding with their local LAs will watch their hard work smashed to bits.

Happy New Year.

1:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your interest. Our children are learning so much about politics through this process! They are also learning that although the petitions handed in amounted to an historic figure - they were only noted as "several petitions" in the research paper that has just been published.
My family and I are really tired of all this, we just want to get on with our family life, enjoying our time together learning new things - not being made to have 5 hours of PE if we dont want it, and not being intruded on in our own home. We meet up with our inspector in the park, this is where PE takes place and I will not tolerate someone coming into my home telling me what I can and cannot do with my children, under any circumstances.
Please do whatever you can to protect our freedoms, we really do care about how our children are, and their happiness. We dont want to have to keep justifying ourselves to people who just dont understand what we do or why we are doing it.
My son says - home education gives him his freedom - please dont take it away!

7:19 pm  
Blogger OneVoice said...

I am sending you a copy of the letter that Autism-in-Mind has sent to Ed Balls re the Equalities Impact Assessment. I thought that you might like a copy of the letter, not necessarily for your blog but for information.

Dear Mr. Balls,

As you are aware the current Children Schools and Families Bill has its second reading in the House of Commons on January 11th. Autism-in-Mind (AIM) can find no evidence that an assessment was carried out regarding the impact that this Bill could potentially have, either within the Impact Assessment or the Equalities Impact Assessment, for children who have a Disability or a Special Educational Need and who are potentially going to be visited by their LAs in their homes. Nor does it appear that advisory groups or parents of children being home educated were consulted in relation to the Impact Assessments.

1. Impact on children

AIM has grave concerns about untrained Local Authority officers going into the homes of parents who are home educating their autistic children and the potential impact that these visits could have on the emotional well-being of autistic children. Our concerns were voiced during an informal meeting with Iain Campbell, who is a member of the DCSF Elective Home Education Team, and also when AIM gave evidence to the Children Schools and Families Select Committee on Wednesday October 14th last year. Our concerns were noted in the Report which was published on December 15th 2009.

Taken from the Children Schools and Families Select Committee Report

Monitoring where the child has special educational needs Where the home educated child has special educational needs (SEN), further issues are raised in relation to the monitoring recommendation. The National Autistic Society notes that the population of home educated children is likely to include a relatively high proportion of children with autism. This, it suggests, is due to the difficulties that many children with autism face at school, whether with regard to a lack of understanding within schools of the condition, difficulty accessing the necessary support, the pressures of social interaction in a school setting, or bullying.

Carole Rutherford, co-founder of AIM, a national campaign and support
group for parents and carers living with autism, elaborated on the added considerations for these families in relation to home visits and interviews:


‘Children with autism find change very difficult and often hold fixed and rigid views about people and the places where they are used to coming into contact with that person. If a child is used to seeing a professional/ teacher therapist in school then bringing that person into their home places that person out of context in their minds, and they can find it very difficult to interact with that person even though they are well used to doing so in school.’

2. Consultation of advisory groups

Neither AIM nor the National Autistic Society was consulted about the Impact Assessments which would have enabled us to officially register any concerns that we had regarding home visits. It is AIMs understanding that as stakeholders we should have been consulted.

The only evidence that has been cited is written evidence from a feasibility study carried out by the York Consulting Group for the DCSF in December 2006 and the Review of Elective Home Education in England July 2009.

3. Consultation of parents and children

We can see no evidence of involvement of parents of home educated children within the Impact Assessments. The conclusion of the Equalities Impact Assessment was that:

‘An adverse impact is unlikely, and on the contrary the policy has the clear potential to have a positive impact by reducing and removing barriers and inequalities that currently exist.’

12:35 am  
Blogger OneVoice said...

The Graham Badman Review and its subsequent recommendations have in some instances already created barriers and raised tensions between some parents and their Local Authorities. Not all parents who are home educating their autistic children enjoy a good relationship with their LAs.

The majority of parents who contact AIM have removed their children from the state school system after long and protracted battles with their LAs, usually having failed to secure support or the correct educational provision for their children.

These parents now have to come to terms with having the people who failed their children coming into their homes to monitor their educational provision and to carry out safe and well checks.

Some of the children that were removed from the system were self harming and suicidal. It is understandable that the parents of these children are now concerned about the prospect of having LA officials coming into their homes on a regular basis.

Had families who are living with autism who are home educating their children been offered the opportunity of a ‘key worker’ as outlined in the Autism Exemplar, these families would already be in regular contact with a trusted person who has regularly see the family.

AIM believe that the Government has a responsibility to those families who are home educating their disabled and/or special educational needs children to assess for any potential impact that home visits could have on the emotional well-being of the children or the family as a whole.

Training is another huge concern for us. We do not feel that training and the costs which will be incurred for the necessary and accredited training was adequately budgeted for within the Impact Assessment.

We note that the Impact Assessment states that ‘it is reasonable to assume that a child with SEN will often warrant more in-year monitoring’. We can see no costing within the Impact Assessment for the training package that the Equalities Impact Assessment says will be developed for local authority officers, with particular reference to SEN and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children. Local authority officers will require a great deal more training than ‘particular reference’ to SEN if they are to be adequately trained to enter into the homes of families living with autism. Autism is a very complex condition and no two children with autism will present in the same way.

AIM would like to know why the Equalities Impact Assessment did not address the issue of home visits and the impact that they might have on children who are disabled or have SEN? We would also like to know why stakeholders were not consulted during the Impact Assessment process.
As we are fully aware that the current Bill is progressing through the system with some considerable speed we look forward to an early reply from you in response to this letter.

Yours Sincerely

Carole Rutherford
Co-Founder
Autism-in-Mind
aim1voice@btinternet.com

12:36 am  
Anonymous Dave H said...

If this is government-funded, perhaps you could ask why home educated children are excluded?

http://www.homeaccess.org.uk/Information-for-parents/

Surely if the government wish to follow the Badman recommendations and provide more help for home educators, this is the sort of thing they should be offering to those who need it. Or is this just proof that they only plan to implement the regulation aspects and merely make noises about improving services?

10:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You back at work yet Lord Lucas? everyone else has been hard at it for well over a week! one other question do you ever have to worry about paying a heating bill? and how much do you spend on food each week?

6:17 pm  
Anonymous Dave H said...

Now that the Bill is getting closer to the Lords, can I ask that you review what we've got on the wiki at http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Children_Schools_and_Families_Bill#Possible_amendments_to_the_Bill for wording (allowing for the fact that Commons changes might cause a slight revision or even do better than what's proposed) and whether you'd be happy to personally propose any of it? I don't know the etiquette for who can propose what and how much, and whether it's OK for one person to propose multiple conflicting amendments to a clause.

If you think we can get away with more radical proposals for dismembering the registration clauses then I'll happily write up a few ideas for that - I as trying to come up with a minimum and gentle set for my first attempt. I'm happy to discuss by email or other means if that's easier.

6:35 pm  
Blogger Snuffyisabear said...

The key to this is trust. The government and LA's do not trust home educators because they have no control over what they do. Home educators do not trust government or LA's because they know of or have been victims of too many examples of poor practices (for instance,at local level, LA officials who try to insist on 'school at home' models and give out information that is inconsistent with the law, at government level, laws are made that take little or no account of home education as a legitimate practice and therefore make life difficult such as the truancy laws)Home educators therefore attempt to keep the LA's at arms length, which makes LA's more suspicious of their 'hiding, leading them to demand new powers and further misuse the ones they have, making home educators draw back even further. And so the cycle continues. All the current politics has done is infused an already fraught relationship with a hefty dose of poison that will take decades to recover from even if the clause is wiped from the bill.
Currently, registration offers most home educating families nothing but hassle, there are few if any LA services available and those that are are not always useful and can often depend on who is in charge. This means that the current voluntary registration process does not work as few people wish to give up time they could be spending with their children to go through the process of filling in forms, meeting officials who they often have to educate about home education and worrying about what will happen if they don't adhere to 'advice' in return for nothing of value to them.
The current bill does nothing to help this, offering nothing home educators want, but does a huge amount to make it worse by handing over more powers to LA's (that are, by the way, extremely ill-defined, relying on the good judgement of the official rather than making clear what powers are to be used in what circumstances leading inevitably to a 'postcode lottery' as the personal bias of said officials will get you struck off the register in one area for something considered good practice in another. As it is impossible to guarantee LA's will use their current powers wisely, giving them more does not simply anger home educators, it strikes fear into them. LA's too, in many cases do not want these powers as they stand because they put too much responsibility on them for welfare - this is in the select committee report.
In an ideal world, to achieve that which those who wrote it state they wish to achieve, the bill would contain support proposals such as access to exam centres, tax breaks, access to discounts that schools are entitled to, clarity over the provision of health care (some families find it hard to access services for their children that are normally provided in school, even minor things like eye tests and injections as well as bigger things like Special Needs therapies), a need for LA's to ensure their information on home education is correct in law and that officials get appropriate training, a system that makes it easier for transient populations who are registered to move their information smoothly from one LA to the next etc. etc. with nothing at all on monitoring and licensing. Things that would encourage people to register voluntarily by providing real benefits if they did so.

7:24 pm  
Blogger Snuffyisabear said...

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and this sort of thing would go towards showing understanding of home education and a desire to improve relationships and accept it as a perfectly respectable choice. What we have is a heavy-handed 'Do As You Are Told!' bill that doesn't just avoid providing any benefits for home educators whatsoever, but actually increases the reasons for avoiding it by showing no understanding whatsoever but rather a poisonous suspicion of home educators far beyond what has ever gone before. Who in their right mind wants to be forced to allow someone they do not trust into their home for hours on end, to examine their lifestyle in detail and interogate their vunerable children as a matter of course? No one. Not even those who wrote this.
If it is amendments not complete removal you want, you will be hard pressed to find anything home educators will agree with now - the cards are on the table and now it is apparent how the DCSF views home education it is all rejected as something that opens a door for further toxic interference. If you can change it completely to offer services available with registration in place of the excessive control over the lives of normal families it might be viewed as a change for the better and would be a start on the long road to improvements, but it will be some time before such services got too much uptake as the destruction of a people's trust in it's government is not one that is easily overcome. Populations have long memories and this is a time that will not be erased from the collective home education memory. Nor, I feel, that of the LA's, who are going to find their job made even harder with more responsibility for a less compliant population.

7:24 pm  

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