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.
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. "
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.
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.