Thursday, December 21, 2006

More on the Prospective DfES Consultation on Home Education

It would be infinitely preferable not to have to send out alarming messages at this time of year, but I thought it nonetheless best to post this Education Otherwise Government Policy Group update on the prospective DfES consultation on home education, since it contains clarification on the issues of the subject, object and timing of the exercise, along with EO's reaction so far.

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From The EO Government Policy Group

"The DfES have been signalling over the last few weeks that they are about to conduct a new review of local authority arrangements for home educators. The news was first given to Stephen Tarlton, EO East London Local Contact, who was told that previous consultations had "raised concerns about lack of access to the child" and that some parents opting for home education "may not be in a position to offer their children the well rounded education to which they are entitled". DfES said that they plan to consult on "what light touch changes we might implement to strenthen the monitoring arrangements for home education".

Further responses from DfES to home educators have indicated that DfES have a range of issues they are wanting to address and that the scope of the consultation will be broad. The consultation will look at the following issues, (but there may be more, DfES have not yet given a formal statement about the planned scope):

Standards of educational provision.
DfES have said that the state prescribes the form of education at schools but not in the home, and described that as an anomaly at odds with the improvement of educational standards for all children.

Monitoring of educational provision.
DfES believe they have a duty to ensure parents are able to provide an education that meets the requirements of being suitable and efficient.

Lack of access to home educated children.
There are contradictory signals as to whether the focus of this is on checking general welfare, or about assessing a childs progress and hearing their views.

The DfES have sought to reassure home educators about their intentions by saying that the intention of a full consultation is to open up a constructive debate on whether or not changes are required, and that the consultation will consider "light touch" changes. However it is clear from the use of a full public consultation and other signals, that changes in the law are being considered through primary legislation (ie future amendments to, or a new Education Act in parliament).

The group have been speaking to DfES and the phrase they are using is "We are consulting in the New Year on the regulations on home education". They have not yet set the consultation dates, but plan to start in January with the usual 12 week period.

EO's Government Policy Group have accepted an invitation to DfES to hear from them the intended content of the consultation and have an initial "exchange of views". The meeting will take place in London Tuesday 18th December. The EO team will consist of Jill Fisher (former chair of EO), Martin Wise (Vice chair of EO) and Phil Hicks (Govt Policy Group).

Following the meeting we will give a report. "

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Thanks. Yep, whilst we can't say we actually look forward to it, we are grateful for your work!

The only thing I would wish for: that the relevant parties in the DfES do their homework, in the spirit of which, below is a reading list that immediately springs to mind:

Children in Chancery by Joy Baker. (Thanks so much to Gill who forwarded a copy of this to me).

The New Thought Police by Tammy Bruce

The Abolition of Liberty by Peter Hitchens

The Welfare State We're In by James Bartholomew, for an overview of the reasons for scepticism about the efficacy of state interference.


UPDATE:

Below, an EO Government Policy Group report of their meeting with the DfES:

"In brief, the situation is very much as has been signalled: The DfES have concerns about the educational provision that parents in the traveller communities give children who are deregistered at the transition to secondary school. (Ivatts report)

The policy solution they are"exploring" is to set a standard local authorities can apply so that they can concretely assess when provision is not up to standard. Monitoring to ensure that the standard is being met, and compulsory registration to make sure they have the opportunity to monitor all families."

My immediate reaction: "What IS the problem with the DfES? The law already makes provision for Local Authorites to deal with families who are failing their children educationally. The law may not be extremely easy to implement in this regard, but that is a GOOD thing, since otherwise families run a very real risk of having no privacy and no freedom to educate as they see fit. As parents, we would effectively stop being responsible for the education of our children, and we would then be compelled to require other legislative changes in order to reflect this fact. Once it is enshrined in law that the state is responsible for the education of our children, the government can then expect to be sued, and sued extensively, as and when our children fail in their state-enforced form of education.

10 comments:

Ruth said...

My concerns with this they are picking on a group of people and using them as an excuse to regulate all of us, unless I have read it wrong. The group they are picking on are unlikely to ever come under fire as they can just move on. How do they intend to enforce registration on HE they do not know exist? My other concern is how can they set a standard for children they do not know? How will they decide if the standard has been reached without changing the whole education act to include enforced testing and change the part that HE chidren do not have to be at school based levels or standards? Will parents be penalised if they kids are doing better than the enforced standard or by pass set ideas of routes to education like GCSE's and go on to higher education without jumping through the GCSE hoops? What about children with disablities such as autism that has such a wide ranging spectrum of problems no way can any one body decide if a child is "up to standard" as all perform so differently? What will they do if we refuse assessment? Will they just put a SAO on in case the child is not up to their standard? Can they fund the hundreds of SAO appeals they will have to face? Also who will make sure, if it comes to it, that the standard is not higher than schooled children have to attain even tho the majority in school do not attain it? Why are schools allowed to have children at all different levels in a class but it seems they are not happy with HE children being like this?

Ruth said...

Erm scrap that comment. It is not about children's educational standards at all is it? It is about educational provision standards - or so it seems. Tho surely the two go hand in hand? This could be even worse than it looks. I am wondering if the not having to keep school terms, hours or follow a curriculum, provide lessons or be at school based levels is about to go out of the window? We will all have to be qualified teachers soon.

Carlotta said...

Hi Ruth,

I think it could well be about standards and I think your anxieties are entirely appropriate.

Will have to watch them like a hawk.

I understand Florida home educators have had to deal with similar issues in the past, and the good news is that the HEors there came up trumps. There was a significant amount of activism apparently....there must be hope as long as we have the energy!

JJ Ross, Ed.D. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JJ Ross, Ed.D. said...

Legislatively weather-beaten Florida mom here. (I love Carlotta's blog description!)

Our child-focused, non-coersive, learning-over-schooling arguments pointed a whole different direction for the debate, contrasted with other headings such as convenience of the courts, punishing the parent, enriching the employee, reelecting the ranter and pandering to a population of publicly schooled adults.

Most of us moms didn't debate, campaign or lobby per se. Changing the tide of public opinion takes more than the usual linear kinds of "activism by disseminating information." One also needs power of story, leadership to help change the culture and respond to new rhythms, setting a tone, telling stories in which authoritarianism fares badly, using humor to get folks to think -- the kind of thing creative bloggers are good at, for example!

I happened to blog an essay last summer featuring UK laws and culture, trying to raise some cautionary power of story about freedom, schooling and private life.

Note that the whole site where this appears is a progressive, public labor union-defending audience. My idea was to come in the back door of some cherished beliefs and open up minds beyond the usual entrenched positions.

By my definition that is effective activism, with the power to influence public attitudes in ways that will interconnect to make the world a better, freer place for us all to live and learn -- and if it's home educators leading the way, so much the better! :)
JJ in Tallahassee

Fiona M said...

I emailed the DfES to ask why they were having this consultation, and this is what they had to say:

All children of compulsory school age must receive an efficient or
suitable full-time education, either by regular attendance at school or
otherwise. If they attend an independent establishment which provides
full time education for five or more pupils of compulsory school age or
one or more such pupils with a statement of special educational needs or
who is in public care, that establishment must register with this
Department as an independent school. This requirement is set out in
legislation. Independent schools which meet the current guidelines for
maintained schools or provided less than 21 hours per week, but which
are the major provider of the child's education have, in the past,
invariably registered. However a recent case of a school that declined
to register meant that we need to further consider what constitutes full
time for the purposes of registration as an independent school. We have
therefore undertaken this consultation to enable us to provide clear
guidance as to which establishments will be required to register. We aim
to provide this guidance as soon as possible after the consultation has
ended.

The definition you have quoted relates solely to independent schools.
There are no plans to widen the scope of the definition. Our intention
is to provide clearer guidance as to what constitutes full time
education for the purposes of registration as an independent school

So as Ruth says it does seem as if they want to legislate because one group of people who don't have a legal obligation to register with them don't want to register! Do you know who this group is? Is it a group of home educators or an independent school? I haven't replied yet.

Fiona M

Carlotta said...

JJ,

Thanks so much for your perspective. I think you are right in your suggestions as to how to approach this kind of problem and will be looking very closely at how your "real" versus "fake" homeschooler situation panned out, (as you explained at Daryl's...thanks), for inspiration in the forthcoming battle.

Carlotta said...

Thanks v. much for the clarification Fiona M..

"yeah right", would be my reaction to the claim that they don't intend to impose this definition of full time ed more widely than independent schools!

My guess is that they could pick on any example in order to argue that they need to set about this objective...they could pick on an initiative that started out in Hereford for example...a teacher set about offering HEors a place that was not quite school, not quite home, but the whole thing evaporated immediately upon threats of Ofsted inspection, which was a great shame for some HEors.

I suspect there could be many other examples of such initiatives being stifled at birth.

Ferris said...

Hi Fi,
The group concerned is Tyndale Academy. I am the principal tutor of the class which consists of a maximum of 14 children educated from 9 am to 1 pm each day. We have argued with the DfES over the psat three years that we are providing part time education in terms of the guidance. They gave us thirty days to register as an independent school or be prosecuted during 2005. They now are taking the route of a consultation. Our website is www.TyndaleTuition.co.uk . We do try to appear like a school (although I home educate with my wife). But we make it clear to parents that we are not a school and we spell out the legal situation in full for them. The use of the word Academy is simply to set us apart from after school tuition groups.
We do want to fight these proposals and retain what has been a freedom to educate according to the parents wishes. We feel that the consultation process itself may be flawed and that the approach being taken by the DfES may not actually do for them what they wish.

Yours

Ferris

Ferris said...

sorry I meant to write Fiona not Fi

Yours

Ferris