There's a lot that could be said about the Draft HE Guidance for LAs upon which the government are currently consulting (finishing on July 2nd 2018). Home educators are hurrying to get it together to say it all, and it is a big task because the consultation is not only about the Draft Guidance for LAs, but is also about another Guidance, this one for parents, and not only that, but there is also a call for evidence on other questions which would involve the introduction of a whole new swathe of legislation.
And this consultation isn't the end of it! We have at least four, yes get that FOUR other consultations which also relate to many of the issues raised in the Home Education Consultation and which would be usefully completed by home educators as well as disgruntled schooling families.
Home educators could feel justifiably aggrieved about the monumental amount of work they have to do in order to preserve their way of life and that's before they have even sat down to speak to their children of a morning! If one were of a cynical persuasion, one might conclude that this confluence of consultations was deliberately engineered to render considered objection nigh impossible, but home educators are a resilient and ingenious bunch and can turn this sort of experience into a sparklingly stellar home education project. Plenty of HE young people ended up with a rigorous education in political theory, lobbying, history, law and argument the last time around with the Badman experience and this is almost certainly happening all over again.
As a priority, HEors are starting off by scrutinizing the LA Guidance as this seems most likely to be implemented and could be in place in as little as five months. Sadly, the new proposed guidance bares little resemblance to the current EHE guidance and there is a lot to worry about. It will be necessary to break this subject down into a number of different posts, which will be linked to here when written.
Let's start with one of the first concerns here:
There are a number of assertions in the guidance that appear to be just pulled out of the air for the purposes of muddying the waters and making home educators look suspect. For example:
2.2: ‘When the impetus (to home educate) is a negative one, that may well have implications for the quality of home education which can be provided – although it should not be assumed that this is inevitably the case’.
Where, oh where, did that come from, one wonders? Most HE parents, let's face it, could frame the reason why they want to HE in the negative. A family might say "We home educate because we believe that a child should be able to pursue their own interests to the full." The same family could also say entirely truthfully: "I home educate because the National Curriculum is way too restrictive and doesn't offer a suitable education to my children." It's doubtful that there's a single home educating family who couldn't frame their reasons for home educating in a negative way, one way or another, and actually some of the best home educators I have ever met, home educated because schools had failed their children in the most terrible way, so it is hard to know where this statement in the guidance came from.
The fact is that there is no reason for the LA to occupy themselves with the reasons for deregistration except in situations where families have, one way or another, been coerced into deregistering, either by the school's direct persuasion, or by the school failing to resolve a problem for the pupil.
An early idea that is being explored in HE groups in order to help solve the problem of off-rolling or otherwise coerced deregistration: it is being proposed that soon after de-registration, the LA could ask in a respectful letter to the family if the deregistration was coerced in any way, shape or form. If the family were indeed coerced into deregistering and wanted the LA's help, the LA should respond with the help the family request, whether that be mediating with the school, locating another school, providing EOTAs or supporting the family with HE, if they so desire it.
There are plenty of potential problems that must be avoided in this scenario. Over-zealous LAs would no doubt use every opportunity to step in and start bossing the family around, making them do things they don't want to do. In order to avoid this, the letter would have to be extremely tightly worded and the compulsory template of it would need to be included in the guidance for use by all LAs. LAs would also need to be instructed in guidance that they are there to assist the family, and not to force them to do things they do not want to do.
The letter must infallibly enshrine the principle that the state is the servant of the family here. This is not about the LA determining whether a suitable education is being provided. It is about LA ascertaining if the family want their help. If the family refuse that help, then the LA would have no cause to act and would make no assumptions about educational provision on that basis. If the family does want help, the LA should provide only the help they seek.
But back to the Guidance: sadly there are other unsupported assertions in the guidance which also cast a pall over the concept of home education, even before the guidance really gets going.
Take section 3.4: ‘However, few people would argue today that parents should be able to exercise their right to home educate children with absolutely no independent oversight, despite their having the legal responsibility set out above’.
Really? Hang on, is there any actual supporting evidence for this assertion? Even if there is actual documented evidence that there there are only a few who argue that independent oversight is wrong, it doesn't mean that the few are mistaken simply because there are only a few of them. What we have here is a painful demonstration of the "consensus fallacy" or the "argumentum ad populum". The writers of this document need to understand that they will need better arguments than this in order to work out right from wrong.
Sadly, however, this sort of thing - unsubstantiated assertions based on what appears to be prejudice, set the tone for the document, more on which to follow!