...to the Consultation on Elective Home Education Guidelines (Thanks, DD for all of this.)
Have high-lighted some pointed bits in blue.
1. Do you agree that it is helpful for the DfES to issue guidelines to LAs?
It would depend on the nature of the final guidelines. If the guidelines accurately interpret the law and demonstrate a proper understanding of HE, they are likely to be helpful. However, these guidelines are apparently not enforceable, and so I envisage that LAs will continue to overstep their duties and do damage to otherwise well-functioning families.
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2. Do you agree that the description of the law (paragraphs 2.1- 2.3) relating to elective home education is accurate and clear?
The primacy of parental responsibility for education could so easily be compromised if LAs do try to insist on more duties and more powers. LAs need to realise that if they create duties for themselves, they may in effect take over responsibility for educating our children. Further, they will also be held responsible should they fail to those duties. It may be helpful to try to stress this point here.
Also, the section on section 7, it should be stressed in guidance that an education has to be SUITABLE for the child, not suitable for the standards of someone else. Many children have been failed by the school system, eg:
"David Frost, the director general of the BCC, said: "It is unacceptable that only 45% of school leavers are getting five A* to C grades when English and maths are included. Instead of leaving school ready for the world of work, too many teenagers simply do not have the necessary skills to enter the workforce."
It is therefore necessary that LAs accept that forcing home educators to impose standard schooling upon children, many of whom will have been failing within that system, is very likely to be counter-productive in terms of suitability of the education provided. It may be worth stressing this point either here or at some later stage.
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3. Do you agree that the description of local authorities' responsibilities (paragraphs 2.5 - 2.11) is accurate and helpful?
The phrase "reasonable progress" is not required in law. Rather education should be suited to age, ability and aptitude". In some instances, this could mean that there is no discernable progress. It is not clear that the phrase "reasonable" rescues this idea from ultra vires and at times impractical implications.
Paragraph 2.6 could stress that when a child has been identified as being home educated, LAs do not have a duty to take any further action with regard to Children Missing from Education.
Despite these guidelines, we envisage that LAs are likely to continue to overstep the duties and indeed with the Children Act, this situation may well worsen. LAs need to realise that intervention in a family can be highly stressful and damaging for that family. LAs only have a duty to act when there is good reason to believe that there are problems. They do not otherwise have any call to intrude. It may be necessary to confirm explicitly that the Children Act does not extend their duties in this regard, otherwise the principle of respect for the privacy of family life, (when there is no reason to violate it), will have to be abandoned. Families do not want to feel as if their every move, their every intimate moment is in effect subject to oversight. Further, the state risks acting in loco parentis, if it is understood that they are making the final judgement on all aspects of parenting.
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4. Do you agree that the section on contact with the local authority (paragraphs 3.4-3.7) is accurate and helpful?
I think these paragraphs are broadly accurate, though am not sure that many HE parents actively welcome regular contact with the LA. It might be more accurate to say that they tolerate it. These visits are rarely unstressful for HE families or undisruptive for the education of the child, being almost entirely a matter of satisfying the LA, rather than developing the educational provision. The option to communicate with LAs other than by visits must be maintained and respected.
It is little wonder that these visits are mostly deemed very stressful. Home education is integral to the life of a home educating family and HEors are acutely aware that in the course of an LA assessment, their whole lives become subject to the vagaries of the judgement of one individual, and often a complete or relative stranger at that. Further, there is often almost nothing in it for families: even those families who appear to have satisfactory relationships with the LA report that the advise offered by LA visitors is often not appropriate to the needs of their children.
If LAs are given a duty to inspect, and in effect to inspect the whole way of life of a family, thereby assuming for themselves the responsibility for making the final judgement about that way of life, and potentially significantly changing the course of those lives, the state will in effect be taking upon itself the final responsibility for parenting. This could set a dangerous precedent for the state. Does the state really want to take on this role?
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5. Do you agree that the section on providing a full-time education (paragraphs 3.11-3.14) - and in particular, the characteristics of provision (paragraphs 3.13) is accurate and helpful?
6. Do you agree that the section on developing relationships (section 4) is helpful?
re: paragraph 4.1. The central aim of these guidelines should not be about developing relationships. Rather, it should be about helping LAs adhere to the law. From my reading of the introduction, it is far from clear that this is indeed the main purpose of the guidelines. Paragraph 1.3 appears to deal with this issue, and makes no mention of the primacy of this purpose.
re: paragaraph 4.3 In my experience, it is not the case that there is any link between parents who are also schooling some of their children, providing structured education for their HE children. The phrase "especially those who have other children attending school" could usefully be removed, since it could create a number of false assumptions about the nature of much educational provision at home.
re: paragraph 4.9 It should be made explicit here that the duty to promote the welfare of children is the principal responsibility of parents/guardians and that any responsibilities in this regard only fall upon a community or the state in the situation that a parent fails to act appropriately. The first sentence in this paragraph therefore needs to be re-written.
7a. Are the suggested recourses in section 5 and appendix 2 useful?
7b. Should any other contacts be included?
Please use this space for any other comments you wish to make about the guidance.