Home Educators everywhere:
If you are not already aware, it may be of interest to Home Educators to know that the government are preparing to look at the way that home education is monitored and otherwise controlled. This is being done under the aegis of the Department for Education and Skills, (the DfES), the government dep't that is responsible for developing strategies in education. Part of their remit is to aim to achieve excellence for all and their functions will accord with the Every Child Matters agenda. http://www.dfes.gov.uk/aboutus/
Following last year's DfES consultation on draft local authority Home Education guidelines, in which many local authorities expressed frustration at not being able to monitor home education as they would prefer, and which many HEors felt did not adequately or fairly represent the views of a large portion of the HE community, the DfES intend to conduct another consultation on Elective Home Education. The DfES describe the proposed consultation as being "a full one, conducted via the Department's consultation website."..where they hope to ensure that the documents are accessible to as many people as possible. http://www.dfes.gov.uk/consultations/
Put simply, it appears that the DfES is considering using the Every Child Matters Agenda to insist that HEors conform to standards as decided by the state. This could mean that they would like to impose a system of routine monitoring to assess progress. It would
also, in all probability, mean that they would like to intervene in the matter of educational content, either explicitly through the imposition of a curriculum or through the method of punitive monitoring.
The DfES's complaint with the current system is that whilst schools are subject to close inspection, home educators appear to get away with it and that "whilst s437 of the Education Act 1996 provides a remedy for LAs which have concerns that there may be no suitable provision, this is unwieldy, time consuming and expensive and in some cases will be nugatory where home educators are making good provision but are resistant to LA enquiries."
To keep Home Education as we know and love it,
1/ Write to Elaine Haste of the Elective Home Education Department (DfES) at Elaine.HASTE@dfes.gsi.gov.uk or at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be included on a list of those who receive information about the consultation.
sample letter/email to DFES :
"I am a home educating parent. I understand that there is to be a DFES consultation about light touch changes to the "monitoring" of home educated children. Please keep me informed of any further developments with regard to this consultation.
Elective Home Education
( If you would rather remain more anonymous, I understand that you can create a hotmail account, or use a new e-mail address, but I do need to research this more, I'm afraid. )
NB: This does NOT mean that you have taken part in the consultation and the DfES cannot honestly claim that you have. The reason why this last point is important is that HEors who are experienced in the area of government consultations are rightfully cynical about the uses to which these exercises are put. On previous occasions, HEors have found that they may as well have been shouting at the moon, since their views were not adequately or fairly represented in any conclusions or practice, though the DfES nonetheless was able to band it about that they had consulted us.
So why bother signing up now if we don't plan to actually take part in the consultation? Signing up is important because the DfES needs to know just how many of us they are going to have to deal with. They need to realise just how many of us will resist changes in a serious way. If the ptb think that they currently have significant problems with the dealing with HEors under the present legislation, they need to realise just how many more problems they are going to have should they change the situation in the way they appear to intend. This will only happen if the numbers of us who look as if we are going to be resistant to change really stack up.
If thousands of us dig in our heals, refuse automatic monitoring, refuse to use their curricula, and make it quite clear how much trouble we are going to give them, I think they will think twice about going down the route of increased monitoring and interference. The law may be awkward to enforce now, (and so it should be, imo, for otherwise we would live in a police state) but it will be a damn sight more difficult for them to enforce if they try to change it, for not only will they find themselves issuing bundles of expensive SAOs, but they will also find out that many of our children have unusual educational needs for which they will rightfully have to cater.
2/ Spread awareness. Send this post (or improved version) anywhere you think helpful. Tell at least 4 other HEors what is going on and get them to sign up, as above. Get them to tell at least 4 others. Put this on Local HE Lists everywhere. Blog the story if you have an HE or any other kind of blog. Use this explanation there if you don't have the time to re-write it fully.
3/ Spread the positive word about home education (personalised learning, healthy happy children etc ) possibly using the recent media stuff about "toxic childhood". This would be the "battle of hearts n minds" stuff.
4/Sign the petition at: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/HErights/
5/ If you are a member of Education Otherwise you might want to communicate your feelings to the EO Government Policy Group about what you would ideally like EO to be doing about all this. You could also speak to your Local Contact. If you are a member of any other home education support organisation (or you know anyone who is) please pass on general information about the forthcoming DFES consultation.
6/ If you have any energy left, I would also write to your MP, whose seat will doubtless be a much more marginal than it has been for years. Tell her/him , for example, that you don't want your private family life invaded, that should the situation change and HEors be told what to do, you believe that changes will lead to a challenge in the law that holds that parents should be responsible for the education of their children and that you will encourage parents everywhere whose children are failed by the state system to sue the state for it's woeful failure....see this by way of an example.
HEors managed to resist similar state encroachment in the US. They jammed the switchboards, looked as if they could be an expensive problem, and frightened candidates by threatening to use their vote in this consideration alone. We can do it here too.
Do copy anywhere if useful.