OK one and all, deep breath, here we go all over again. Yes, you've guessed it, another DfCSF consultation, this time on whether the new guidance for identifying children missing from education are working for the LAs.
Before going any further, it's worth mentioning that this consultation appears yet again to contravene the government's Better Regulation Executive's stipulations by failing to consult with key stakeholders (ie: home educators) before the consultation process begins, but hey ho, that aside, (and we may well have to return to this point later), the most relevant questions for home educators in this consultation seems to be:
"6. Does the guidance make clear the duties and powers that local authorities have in relation to home educated children when parents are not providing them with a suitable education?"
However, other questions in the consultation are also extremely relevant with regard to the issue of who is actually responsible for children - parents or the state. I personally think our time is up, (see argument in paragraph below) - parents should just roll over and finally concede that it is the agents of the state who are principally responsible for the education of children and, as has started to happen in Scotland, we should get suing to our heart's content. Let's not forget that there is now (apparently...I personally took my eye off the ball here), a duty on schools to promote the well-being of pupils...guidelines can be accessed here), and oh boy, could that be fun, though "promote" and "well-being" strike me as slippery terms.
But what makes me think we have now reached this parlous situation where the state has appropriated ultimate responsibility for the education of children? Well, there are several reasons but the most obvious one is that the much beloved (not) database Contactpoint, (now due to be in operation some time in 2009), will maintain a list of all children everywhere, whether or not they have been shown to be at risk. Couple that with the new CME Guidance where the flow chart on page 18 gives the impression that all children will be tracked in depth in order to "determine the child's needs", will have their attendance monitored "for all provision" and will have their movements tracked and reconciled (huh?) and if this is taken as read, you can only conclude that the parent is there to do the state's bidding. It is the state who has the ultimate power and say so when it comes to determining whether a child is receiving a suitable education and it is up to the parent simply to act on their orders.
Yep, so we must get suing. If the education that the state insists upon proves unsuitable for a child, parents should demand recompense.
Which doesn't, of course, solve the problem of what to do about answering the questions in the consultation. I will, I will, I WILL be writing a draft of this in the near future. I WON'T give up. (gritting teeth). It may be worthwhile...afterall, there are phrases in the guidance which lead one to suspect that previous pressure from home educators has had some effect, eg: from page 21:
"Where a local authority are satisfied that a parent is providing their child with a suitable education, the child is not a target of this duty."
...a fact which doesn't appear to be clearly stated in that flow chart on page 18, which would seem to give plenty of leeway for LAs to abuse their power further...and anyhoo, the state has already appropriated responsibility for education by insisting on assessing for a suitable education, and thereby implicitly imposing it's own standards upon the concept of a "suitable education". By this token alone, parents are simply there to do the state's bidding and could therefore sue when educational provision proves unsuitable.
But more on what perhaps makes responding worthwhile:
"Education of children at home by their parents is not in itself a cause for concern."
Yes, this can be read any which way to suit an LA's needs. For example, it should at the very least mean that an HE child isn't immediately slotted into the at risk category, though it could also mean that an LA continues to leave an HE family entirely alone, simply because they seem to be doing OK and no-one has complained about them, though I concede that this looks increasingly unlikely.
But I will respond, honestly, I will...