Saturday, February 28, 2009

Birmingham LAs Response to the Home Education Review

...can be read here.

Here's a brief fisking of the first paragraph for any member of the public who could quite easily form the impression that HE kids are completely beyond the reach of the law:

From Birmingham's response:

"We are seriously concerned that an opportunity has been missed to safeguard these children to achieve the Every Child Matters outcomes. Children educated otherwise are held effectively outside the protections that we provide for other children in our schools. "

What are you talking about? If it is safeguarding, then HE kids are not beyond the reach of the law. Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 still applies, you know. Further, you do not have a duty to compel children to achieve the 5 outcomes. You only have a duty to co-operate with other agencies with the aim of achieving these ambitions. It does however seem to me that you should, as local government employees, actually understand the relevant legislation.

"The existing EHE guidelines fudge the real issues, including the conflict that can arise when considering the rights of the child, (where the LA would place the priority), against the rights of the parent."

Plenty of HE children want their Local Authorities to bog off and leave them alone. They are doing very nicely thank you. If you really are concerned with children's rights, then surely you will respect their right to be heard and to be taken seriously, Birmingham LA?

Let us reiterate, if there is genuine cause for concern, LAs already have powers to intervene. They should not be given automatic rights to invade the privacy of the home and to initiate the final indignities of the police state.

"The identification of neglect is known to be particularly difficult (intentional or otherwise) and early identification is dependent upon observation of the child that is able to identify the incremental harm to a child over a period of time."

So what exactly do you want? Do you want to put a camera in every corner of every house and garden? Do you not accept that invasion of privacy and destruction of family life and appropriation of parental responsibility by the state is highly damaging and abusive and that the law should therefore remain proportionate and balanced?

Let's ask if you personally are in the habit of routinely letting a powerful stranger into your home who has the right to talk to your child without you present, who can inspect every last bit of your private life, who could completely overturn and disrupt your life when you have not done anything to merit such a disruption? If not, then I hope you can understand why I would prefer this not to happen to us. Home education happens in our very intimate private lives. THIS IS WHY WE NEED BALANCED, NUANCED LAW that is CAREFULLY and appropriately IMPLEMENTED.

"The ability schools provide in regular sight of the child is therefore most helpful in protecting against neglect. This regular sight of the child is not available in home educated cases."

In fact, most HEks are routinely seen by family, neighbours, members of the community at large. Indeed HEks often feel highly conspicuous, given that they gad about during school hours! They are often referred to social services on no grounds at all other than they are not in school, and plenty of completely innocent HE families have to spend their valuable time trying to clear their names.

"No resources have been provided to LAs to deliver services to EHE parents and children."

Can't help you with that one, fraid.

"The national picture reveals LAs struggling to resource a duty which is fundamentally flawed."

How is a duty flawed which requires that the state only act if the family fails?

"We are seriously concerned that previous and recent consultation has completely ignored the concerns of this LA and others in this respect."

It didn't. It did its best to balance the rights of families to privacy and autonomy with the rights of the child to safety and well-being. It took a proportionate approach. LAs should try to understand this and get with the programme. Do they really want to appropriate all parental responsibilities? This does appear to be what Birmingham LA are proposing, and it will mean that they will be held liable when they fail as de facto parents?

"We are also concerned that alternative education provisions (often utilised by EHE parents) fall between DCSF and LA powers where these provisions do not qualify for registration as an independent school; or have failed to satisfy OFSTED in this respect, but where DCSF and the LA have no current powers to intervene or close that provision where teaching provision is inedequate."

Hang on...we just want to make our own choices. You cannot dictate to every child in this country. We need some air, let us make and stand by our own choices. My children choose to HE. It is up to them if it fails them (which it won't, by the way things are going at the present time).

Response from Glos Home Educators

Dear Tim Browne

We were interested to read your article in the Times Online on January 30th 2009. We are aware that Ann Newstead replied on behalf of Education Otherwise, but as local home educators who have been involved in liaising with Gloucestershire County Council over their policy on home education, we felt it was incumbent on us to reply also.

In your article you note that: “Current legislation makes it difficult to carry out this responsibility (to safeguard children) properly.” However we already have the 1989 Childrens Act (under which you have the right to look into any suspected cases of child abuse or neglect) and the 2004 Children Act. The 1996 Education Act allows Local Authorities who are concerned about a child’s education to make appropriate enquiries and issue a school attendance order if necessary. Are these not enough powers? If not perhaps this suggests that monitoring does not work.

In most high profile cases of child abuse Local Authorities (and often other agencies) were involved with the families, but this did not prevent the abuse. Eunice Spry was vetted for fostering and adoption – a long and involved procedure – how did Gloucestershire Local Authority not pick up the signs of abuse? The judge denounced the LA for the Spry case not home education. Are you scapegoating home educators to hide your department’s own failings?

You say abuse is not unheard of in home educating families – please let us have the statistics and evidence for this. In Gloucestershire Local Authority’s answers to the recent Independent Review of Home Education in England, it was stated that there is only 1 known case of child abuse related to home education – the Spry case. As we have already discounted this one because of the reasons cited above that would suggest there are none! Not only have you cited this information incorrectly for a newspaper article but it has been put forward as one of the Local Authority’s answers to the Review thereby skewing the evidence that might be quoted for the need to monitor Home Educators.

As you rightly say you are required to establish the identity of those children who are not receiving a suitable education – obviously you are not referring to home educators as their children are receiving a suitable education!

You state that the definition of a suitable education under the Education Act 1996 is ‘vague’. However, although an “efficient” and “suitable” education is not defined in the Education Act 1996, “efficient” has been broadly described in case law as an education that “achieves that which it sets out to achieve”, and a “suitable” education is one that “primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so”. See the Government Guidelines on Home Education, www.dcsf.gov.uk/localauthorities/_documents/content/7373-DCSF-Elective%20Home%20Education.pdf This does not seem vague to us – what part of this do you not accept?

Perhaps you could elaborate on this sentiment where you say: “We also need sufficient powers to determine if the education is suitable and of high quality ….” Does this mean you want a ‘school at home’ approach only and that the young person must show ‘outcomes’ such as exam results? What then of ‘autonomous’ education where there may be no visible outcomes unless the child wishes it? How also does this tally with the evidence that indicates home educated children outstrip their school counterparts on every level? (See Paula Rothermel, Expert Witness on Home Education and Alan Thomas’s book ‘Educating Your Child at Home’ to name but two sources).

Home educated children from all classes and backgrounds are ‘succeeding’. Many have attained degrees from top universities; others have attained skills or qualifications in their chosen interests. Most appear to have excellent reading and mathematical skills. There is no research to say they fail on any level including the ‘happiness’ score. Yet Britain was chastised by a fairly recent UNICEF study which showed the UK low down on the scale of child poverty and happiness. As most children attend school what does this suggest? Does this suggest that the Local Authority is really concerned about the welfare of children or is it just attempting to tick boxes for the ContactPoint database? Perhaps it is schools that need more monitoring, or perhaps every child should be home educated!

Yours

Pam Perryman

(for Gloucestershire Home Education Group)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

More on the BHA's Response to the Home Education Review

One of the main problems for many home educators with the British Humanist Association's answer to the home education review can be found in their answer to point 4 where the BHA stated that they believed that all home educators should be monitored. We took this to mean that they believe that home educators should be monitored for the suitability of education and to ensure that HE children are safe and well.

The problem here is that universal monitoring by the state, ie: monitoring which is not applied solely where it appears that parents are failing in their responsibilities, means in effect that the state becomes the ultimate arbiter of suitability. This represents a huge constitutional change between the individual and the state. There is, in effect, a thought police. I would be genuinely surprised if such a huge constitutional shift were to be endorsed by the BHA or any other humanist body.

Where a child's rights are being infringed, home educators would have no problems with the state intervening, but we object to universal monitoring not simply because we feel it is totally unwarranted, - from our vantage point, we can see very, very clearly that far fewer HE kids suffer from contraventions of their rights than schooled children, who usually suffer from far higher levels of misery and lack of self-determination, but also because home education does not take place in a separate sphere to our most intimate, private lives. No innocent person should be subjected to state interference on this level if they have done nothing to deserve it.

In addition, the BHA would need to know that a huge majority of HE children would far rather not submit to state interference, so the state's duty to listen to the voice of the child is already contravened should it insist upon universal monitoring.

It is also the case that HE families are already frequently referred to services, often spuriously, and have to spend a considerable amount of time clearing their names. Universal monitoring of all home educators would result in more spurious referrals, and a considerable waste of public funds and time. Social services departments across the country are already desperately overstretched and fail to deal with children they already know are at serious risk. They could do without the added burden of having to deal with yet more unnecessary referrals.

The question that naturally arises at this point should be "how could interventions of the sort that would be necessary in the event of children's basic rights being violated be managed without universal monitoring. In other words, how would public authorities determine whether parents are failing in their responsibilities?"

To which I would answer that I believe that it has to be a question of balancing the risks and that very soon, the best possible balance will be achieved.

The Children Act 2004 has determined that the children's database ContactPoint will very soon begin to act as a de facto register of all HE children.

On top of that the recently released Guidance on section 436a of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 (Jan 2009) makes it clear that all local authorities will have a duty to identify children not in receipt of a suitable education and recommends that the Elective Home Education Guidelines 2007 be followed in order to manage this. This seems to make it clear that LAs should follow a proportionate approach - they should approach families gradually, in order to try to determine on balance of probabilities if the family is providing a suitable education. LAs would be right to ask first for written evidence, for example. If this proves unsatisfactory, or they have any other reason, (perhaps through cross referencing on the database) to be concerned, then they may communicate with the parents to pursue the matter further.

The fact is that there has never been an HE child who was abused for long periods who was not already known to the authorities in one way or another. HE children are actually highly conspicuous in the community. They frequently get referred for no better reason than somebody assumes they are truanting. Relatives, friends, members of the community refer them left right and centre!

It is also the case that if there are indeed a tiny number of hard cases, (of the kind of a child being completely hidden from view under the stairs), these hard cases would make bad laws. They would make bad laws because in the course of trying to find such children, every HE family in the land would have to waive all rights to privacy and autonomy whatsoever, and this because home education often (though by no means always) occurs in the most private and intimate areas of family life.

(NB in case I just gave the wrong impression there: HE kids are so far from being squirrelled away...they are out and about in the real world usually far more than most schooled kids!).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More on Schools in Melt-Down

...from Civitas:

According to the Children’s Society, ‘Disruption in the classrooms is one of the main impediments to learning’.

Consider some startling recent figures:

1 in 10 teachers in state schools claim to have been attacked and injured by their pupils.
Two thirds of 800 teachers surveyed in 2008 believed the behaviour of their pupils was getting worse.
3 out of 10 of them claimed to have been physically assaulted by their pupils.
75 per cent of them said they had been threatened or insulted by their pupils.
2,200 children were sent home every day for disruptive behaviour in 2007-8.
4,500 children were transferred from their schools to another in 2007-8.
A survey of key stage 3 pupils at metropolitan schools found 29 per cent claiming other pupils attempted to disrupt their lessons on a daily basis.
43 per cent of children surveyed said other pupils were “always” or “often” so noisy that they found it difficult to work.

One could go on and on. The suggestion that it has been an uninspiring curriculum or over-testing that has caused the misconduct is ludicrous, given how early on in schooling so much of it begins:

Primary schools barred pupils 46,710 times in 2007.
• More than 3,000 primary school pupils aged four and five were sent home in 2007 for disruptive behaviour.
1,540 nursery pupils in England were excluded from school during 2006-7.
Almost 1,000 of them were suspended for attacking teachers and fellow pupils, and hundreds more barred for verbal abuse and disruptive behaviour.
20 children aged two were suspended for physical or verbal assaults.

According to a 2008 study of the behaviour of primary schoolchildren, conducted for the NUT by researchers at Cambridge University, whereas ‘in the 2002 primary survey, classroom disruption was not highlighted as a major problem, five years on, teachers in the same schools regard it as a more significant priority… Even in the early years of primary education, [pupils] were reluctant to follow instructions… and a minority could be extremely confrontational use foul language and could even be physically aggressive.’

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

From the Hunts Post

Wow, a letter-writer understands!

Recent Blog Posts on Home Education

First there was home education through the eyes of the Liberal Conspiracy.

Then we had a response from David Semple in Scattered Thoughts about Home Schooling.

"Firstly, as a teacher, I’m not willing to be told what I can and can’t empirically examine by a political lobby. Those who provide education in schools are in a position to examine the education provided by home educators."

(...all of which rather suggests that an awareness of one's limits of knowledge and experience, a sense of fallibility and an openness to new knowledge aren't in David Semple's curriculum.)

Thankfully, a response to David's piece by the good Bishop.

The School System in Melt Down?

First we hear that 80% of teens think schooling is boring and irrelevant. Next we hear that as many as 25,000 teenagers disappear from school rolls in England when they are 14.

You would have thought the government would have been more prepared to listen to home educators, who know a thing or two about what to do to help a child who doesn't fit in with the school system! Instead, the government instigates a review, which looks as if it would far rather impose a school model upon home educators. Just how stupid would that be, one can't help thinking!

Monday, February 23, 2009

AHEd Press Release

Outraged families and support organisations flood the DCSF with 2000+ consultation responses to the elective home education review

The government's review of elective home education, which was announced in January in a blaze of scurrilous spin stating that home education could be used by parents as a cover for abuse and forced marriage, has provoked an unparalleled reaction from home educating families and support organisations, including Action for Home Education and the home educators' network Home Education Forums. Both AHEd and Home Education Forums have strongly rebutted the government's allegations as "vile and unsubstantiated" in their respective responses to the DCSF consultation.

By the close of the unusually short online consultation last Friday, over 2000 individual and organisational responses had been sent in by 'stakeholders' who have in recent weeks demonstrated their collective outrage at the "irresponsible scaremongering" perpetrated by government minister Delyth Morgan and Vijay Patel of the NSPCC, who was forced to admit on national radio that no evidence exists to support the suggestion that home educated children may be more likely than schooled children to suffer abuse or be coerced into marriage or domestic servitude.

AHEd supporter Clare Murton commented: "Apart from the clear incitement to hatred of home educators that Delyth Morgan's announcement provoked, this review by Graham Badman must represent the straw that breaks the camel's back. Home educators are trying to get on with the important work of bringing up their children, but over the past few years have been repeatedly distracted from that task by unwarranted and vicious attempts to usurp their parental rights.

"Multiple government consultations have concluded that home education is safe, efficient and in no need of tighter legal control and that local authorities need legal guidance. It is astounding, therefore, that they now give credence to slander such as Morgan's. This luckily has not defeated home educators and there will be no 'death by consultation' in our neck of the woods. Instead it has determined the home education community to put a stop to this unprecedented witch hunt.

"No other section of UK community has ever been so impassioned in its response to a DCSF consultation and I am proud to be part of a network of people who really do think that every single child matters."

While there is absolutely no evidence of any link between home education and child abuse, domestic servitude or forced marriage, there is plenty of evidence of the offence caused and anger unleashed within the home education community itself and among non home educating families who perceive the threat to home education as the "thin end of the wedge".

A Downing Street petition submitted by Roxane Featherstone on behalf of AHEd has attracted more than 2000 signatures in a fortnight, while the Stop the Government Stigmatising Home Educators group on the social networking site Facebook has more than 1500 members whose comments demonstrate a deep sense of collective outrage. Home education blogs, including the popular Sometimes It's Peaceful, have highlighted what appears to be a state sponsored campaign to persecute a minority group exercising a lawful choice and have strongly criticised some members of the team led by Graham Badman who are to participate in the inquiry as "partial" and "lacking in knowledge or experience of elective home education".

Alison Preuss, spokesperson for Home Education Forums, said: "I have only once witnessed such a mass reaction by the home education community and that was when the former Scottish Executive mounted a similar attack on home educating families north of the border. Overnight, they alienated every home educator across the land - and lost! This latest assault on educational freedom by people for whom child abuse represents a 'nice little earner' has provoked nothing short of fury among law abiding citizens who have in many cases had to remove their children from an unsafe and abusive school environment.

"While the economy tanks, our elderly folk are having to choose between eating and heating, and vulnerable children are being left unprotected due to lack of competence in social services, as demonstrated in the case of Victoria Climbie and the children abused by Eunice Spry (who was a Gloucestershire Council approved foster carer). We have to wonder why public funds are being diverted from frontline services into an unnecessary analysis by bureaucrats of 2000+ consultation responses and an equally unnecessary investigation of a non existent 'issue'. In our view, this whole exercise represents an abuse of public funds."

ENDS

For more information contact AHEd ahed@ahed.org.uk or Home Education Forums info@home-education.biz

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gloucestershire LA's Response to the Review

...has inspired a range of reactions from AHEd members so far. I think it is possible to be lulled into a false sense of security. You have to stay awake until you reach question 59.

Q1 Name of LA

Gloucestershire

Q4 Would you be willing to take part in the next phase of the research in February/March (including in-depth interviews with key personnel in your organisation)?

Yes

Q5 Which team(s) have the main responsibility for supporting and monitoring home educated children within the local authority and other agencies?

The Elective Home Education Service supports home educating families on behalf of the LA

Q6 List all teams / professionals involved in supporting home educating families

The Elective Home Education Service (EHEGLOS). Some children with a statement of need for SEN receive additional support from the Advisory Teaching Service when this forms part of the provision named on their statement.

Q7 List all teams / professionals involved in monitoring home educating families.

EHE advisors provide guidance to parents who request it with regard to the family’s current and future plans for their children’s education. The LA currently has no legal duty to monitor home educating families.

Q8 Describe how you ensure collaboration and communication between these teams / individuals

EHE advisors and the lead officer for elective home education meet fortnightly as a team. EHE advisors have separate casework meetings with the lead officer every three weeks. A Steering Group is established with representation from Social Care, Health, EPS and LA.

Data and Tracking

Q9 How many children are currently home educated in your local authority of primary age (Registered with LA)

62

Q10 How many children are currently home educated in your local authority of primary age (Non-registered with LA)

Not known

Q11 How many children are currently home educated in your local authority of secondary age (Registered with LA)

192

Q12 How many children are currently home educated in your local authority of secondary age (Non-registered with LA)

Not known

Q13 Total (Registered with LA)

254

Q14 Total (Non-registered with LA)

Not known

Q15 Are these figures accurate or based on estimates?

Accurate

Q16 If accurate, where do you get this data from?

EHEGLOS keeps the names of families known to be home educating on a register. Data on this list is supplied by parents who often contact EHEGLOS to request support or guidance. Schools are legally obliged to inform the LA when parents send deregistration letters to schools.

Q17 If accurate, how do you know the data is accurate?

EHEGLOS checks contact information with schools and parents. We also liaise with the SEN department of the LA about SEN if a home educated child has a statement of need.

Q18 If estimated, what data have you used to arrive at this figure? (List all sources)

Q19 How confident is the local authority in the accuracy of this data?

Very confident

Q20 How often does the local authority get updated data? (List frequency for each source separately)

Data about individual families who deregister their child is sent to EHEGLOS by schools immediately. EHEGLOS has produced guidance for schools to remind them about their duties in respect of elective home education.

Q21 What proportion (as a percentage) of your home educated population is statemented for SEN? (please state whether accurate or estimate)

7.5% - accurate 3- Autistic Spectrum Disorder, 1- Behaviour Emotional Social Disability, 1 - Hearing Impairment, 2 - Moderate Learning Difficulties, 3 - Physical Disability, 3 - Speech Language Comminication difficulties , 4 - Severe Learning Difficulties , 2 - Specific Learning Difficulties

Q22 What proportion (as a percentage) of your home educated population is non-statemented for SEN (please state whether accurate or estimate)

30% - estimate. This figure relates to children previously on roll at school and identified as having additional needs at school action and school action plus and does not include children who may have additional learning difficulties but who have never been at school. School Action and School Action Plus do not apply to children educated at home.

Q23 What proportion (as a percentage) of your home educated population is from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller heritage (please state whether accurate or estimate)

18.5%- accurate

Q24 What proportion (as a percentage) of your home educated population is made up of other Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups

7.08%

Q25 Please list which BME groups.

Indian, Chinese, White/Black African, White/Black Caribbean, White Eastern European, Irish, Welsh, Other White British, Other Mixed Background

Q26 Do you believe the local authority knows about all the home educated children in your area?

We think we know about the vast majority of home educated children in the area

Q27 Do you think that you will be better able to track children in your area in the near future? e.g. planned changes to your own systems, ContactPoint, other system improvements?

Yes

Q28 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

In cases where professionals have welfare concerns about children, ContactPoint will make it easier to keep track of children from an early age and from other LAs.

Supporting Home Educating Families

Q29 How does the local authority ensure families know about their rights and responsibilities in relation to home education? (List all approaches used)

The LA maintains up to date information for parents on the EHEGLOS pages of the County Council website. EHEGLOS send parents a detailed information pack written by EHEGLOS as well as information leaflets by Home Education Advisory Service and Education Otherwise on request. EHE advisors write to parents informing them of their right to receive or refuse support from the LA. Advisors also routinely advise parents about their rights and responsibilities by phone, email or during meetings.

Q30 What support does your local authority provide to home educating families? (List all forms of support offered)

EHE advisors offer advice to parents on request. Such advice covers a range of topics to do with the child’s current and future learning opportunities. EHEGLOS pays for families to use education packs provided by the Library Service for Education. The LA considers funding for young people to attend pre16 full-time college courses so that they can access GCSE or other external qualifications in cases where the EHE advisor knows the family and can provide a reference for the young person.

Q31 How does the local authority let families know about the services provided to support them in home educating their children? (List all approaches used)

The LA maintains up to date information for parents on the EHEGLOS pages of the County Council website. The EHE lead officer, administrator and advisors routinely informs parents who contact the LA by phone, email or in writing about the support offered by EHEGLOS as well as national support groups. EHEGLOS has devised guidance for schools and guidance for other professionals which recommends that families who may be considering EHE are given details of EHEGLOS to ensure the family is given up to date relevant information about the support offered by the LA.

Assessment and Monitoring

Q32 Following the initial assessment visit, are further monitoring visits made to a home educated child?

Yes

Q33 If yes, how often, on average, are these carried out?

Twice a year

Q34 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

Meetings or any other contact between families and EHEGLOS is discussed and agreed by EHE advisors and families. Many families request to meet advisors more than twice a year and in some cases monthly to discuss their child’s education and request advice on resources, support groups etc

Q35 On average, how often is the child seen when a visit is made?

Usually, but not always

Q36 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

The vast majority of parents meet EHE advisors in the family home with the children present. Some families initially chose to meet the advisor without their child but most are happy to meet as a family once parents meet the advisor and are clear about the advisor’s role.

Q37 If the child is seen, where is s/he usually seen?

In the home

Q38 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

Occasionally families prefer to meet the EHE advisor away from the family home. Advisors are happy to meet families in the local library, Shire Hall or other public buildings.

Q39 If you are not permitted access to a child, is any further action taken?

When access to a child is not permitted and where there is also uncertainty about the welfare of the child consideration is given to logging a child welfare concern.

The LA has a responsibility to ensure all children are safeguarded and where there are concerns about a child, Child Protection procedures are followed, concerns shared via a strategy meeting and actions taken as deemed appropriate.

Q40 If yes, what further steps are taken?

Q41 How is the suitability of the education provided to the child assessed? (Please describe)

EHE advisors offer support and guidance to families about their children’s education on request. Advisors understand that there are many different philosophical approaches to home education and talk to families about the suitability of their children’s education in terms of the definition provided by Mr Justice Woolf in the case of R v Secretary of State for Education and Science, ex parte Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass School Trust (1985)

"Education is ‘suitable’ if it primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so."

Q42 Is the local authority clear about what the definition of a 'suitable education' is?

Yes

Q43 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

EHEGLOS uses the above definition to inform discussions with parents about their child’s education. EHEGLOS understands that suitable can only be judged on the basis of information that would, on the balance of probabilities, convince a reasonable person that a suitable education is taking place.

Q44 Does the local authority have systems in place to track the educational progress of home educated children?

Yes

Q45 Please use this space to add further detail to the answer you have just given

EHE advisors report back to parents following any meeting. Reports take the form of a written summary of any discussion that has taken place. Such summaries include any points raised about the child’s progress in learning. It is the experience of EHEGLOS that most families are able and keen to demonstrate progress in the context of the aims they have for their child’s learning.

Q46 Of the home educated children in your area of whom you have knowledge, what proportion (as a percentage) in your estimation is receiving a suitable, full time (20hrs a week) education? (Please describe)

95%. Currently two children known to EHEGLOS are not, in the opinion of the EHE advisor in each case receiving a ‘suitable’ education. Although statutory guidance for schools is 22 to 25 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year this is not relevant to home education. Home education provision may span the whole calendar year; take place on a one-to-one basis, or in small groups, and under very different conditions.

Q47 Does the local authority take any further steps if a home educated child's education was found to be unsuitable or not full time?

Yes

Q48 Please use this space to add further detail to the answer you have just given

EHE advisors discuss any concerns about the suitability of a child’s education with the parents and write about this in their letter following any meeting. Parents are given time, advice and referred to support groups for additional support to adjust their provision or find more information supporting their provision to allay any concerns. In extreme cases where discussion and additional time has not been successful, EHEGLOS refers families to the EWS who can issue a School Attendance Order.

Q49 Does the local authority face any challenges in assessing whether home educated children receive a suitable education?

Yes

Q50 If you answered yes to Q49, please describe the challenges and what you think could be done to overcome these

EHEGLOS has anecdotal evidence and some written feedback form parents that many families are concerned that LAs across the country do not fully understand or support parents’ rights and responsibilities in relation to their children’s education. Consequently, some families do not want to be known to the LA. EHEGLOS receives much positive feedback from families informally about the support offered by advisors and formal written feedback to date is all positive. Clear government guidance about the scope of the LA role and responsibilities would help the LA to work in partnership with parents.

Q51 Thinking about your local area, in the last five years, how many cases have you come across that use the premise of home education as a 'cover' for child abuse, forced marriage or other aspects of child neglect?

One

Q52 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given. Please include the number of Serious Case Reviews you know about that have a home education element.

One foster parent of five children who went on to adopt two children in Gloucestershire was recently sent to prison for abuse inflicted both when the children were at school in two separate counties and subsequently when she removed them supposedly to home educate. A Serious Case Review was held.

Q53 Do you think the current system for safeguarding children who are educated at home is adequate?

No

Q54 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

Greater clarity about the need of the LA to check safeguarding would help.

Q55 Do you think that home educated children in your local authority are able to achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes? Please say why you think that for each of the five outcomes

Yes.

The vast majority of children known to EHEGLOS are physically healthy. Many have home educating experiences which provide a range of experiences that enhance their physical and mental wellbeing.

Most of the children report being happy with their education provision at home. EHEGLOS now reports to the EHEGLOS steering group on a range of educational achievements of home educating families known to the LA. A significant number of children educated at home with a statement of SEN have recently achieved well at GCSE level.

Most families meet with other home educating families or arrange for children to attend sporting, musical etc groups. Many also are part of religious or community groups.

Many families known to EHEGLOS maintain contact with advisors after their children reach 16 and report success for their children in finding employment or further education.

Q56 Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for supporting home educating families?

Yes

Q57 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

Currently there is no central pot of money allocated to the LA as a budget to support elective home education.

Q58 Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring home educating families and ensuring that home educated children are able to achieve the five outcomes?

Yes

Q59 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

LA should have access to the child to ensure suitable education is provided.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Prejudice is IGNORANCE.

Oh honestly. The Beeb supposedly has remit to educate the population, not to propagate ignorant prejudices, or offer up complete reversals of the truth of the matter. And yet this is precisely what they have done with their most recent episode of Waterloo Road in which we are sold the story of a home educating teen being kept at home against her will.

Look, dear public and ignorant script writers, it is worth trying to find out what the real world is actually like. I suggest the script writers go find some home educators and talk to them about what really happens.

OK, so I might save you some time. I'll tell you now. At last count, I know over 100 home educating children pretty well, and many, many more less well. NONE OF THESE HEKs ARE HOME EDUCATED AGAINST THEIR WILL.

I admit that as it happens I know fewer school children, but even so, I still KNOW SHED-LOADS OF SCHOOLED CHILDREN WHO ARE SCHOOLED AGAINST THEIR WILL.

If you doubt that Waterloo Road could possibly reverse the truth of the matter so completely, here's another clue: just look at the truancy rates from schools. That should tell you the real story. Truancy rates are still rising and this despite the threat of fines and jail for parents, and yet nothing is done to really remedy this situation.

On the other hand, I don't know a SINGLE home educated child who has expressed anything even vaguely resembling a serious desire to go to school who has not rapidly been allowed to go to school.

A further point: amongst our home educating bunch here, it is exceedingly rare to find them closeted in oppressed, highly controlled fashion round a computer in a front room. Yes, sure they use a computer, but most of the time, it is doing what they want to do, and therefore they are enjoying it. There is usually a considerable spark of energy emanating from rooms with children using PCs as they would like to use them.

The public also needs to know that home educated children DO play football - if they want to, that is. They get out and about all the time, they see their friends, they PLAY FOOTBALL, RUGBY, ROUNDERS, NETBALL, BASKETBALL, WATERPOLO, GYM and ATHLETICS. They go horse-riding and climbing together, they do judo and dance classes, they study Mandarin in entirely optional classes, which they love or else they would drop out of them, and OK, today my son is going PAINTBALLING with quite a number of his home educating mates. Yep, he has a fricking MISERABLE time...NOT!

Sorry to keep shouting but I don't know what else to do. Prejudice is ignorance and the schooling public and script writers need to listen and should do their research.

Complaints to the BBC may be sent here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

From 33452

...comes one of the most concise and sensible takes on the Home Education Review to date.

If you don't have time to write a lengthy response to the consultation, I would fill it in as quick as you can and simply include the point that is made in the 33's penultimate paragraph.

Consultation Closing Very Soon

If like me, you have now sent in your consultation response here, and yet lie awake at night thinking, bother, I meant to say that too, you could still send your thoughts to this address:

homeeducation.review@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk

Of course, the consultation closes on the 20th, so if you haven't already, you will need to get those responses in now.

Latest count: 1129 responses.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

EO's Report of the Meeting with Mr Badman

...can be read here.

I added a couple of points to my consultation response after reading it and am now nearly ready to send it in. (Am not going to risk dealing with their unreliable closing times for consultations, so am definitely going to have the thing in by the 19th!).

Hope all is well with everyone else's responses. Dd is planning on doing hers today too. I suspect the reviewer should expect an earful!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dr. Roland Meighan

...on the most efficient way to learn.

4 days to go.

...till this part of the review process closes. If you haven't done so already, I would recommend getting those responses in now!

There were 947 already in at last count. Let's hope most of those were from home educators.

HE Parents Jailed for Truancy?

Well it could easily happen.

On the subject of regular truants, we hear from the BBC:

"...after more than a decade of crackdowns the most recent figures show that the rate of unauthorised absence in England is a third higher than in 1997. "

and

"...up to 2007 there have been 133 parents imprisoned in England and Wales."

Of course, if the government do change the law, as they seem to be threatening to do with this new review, we are likely to see a whole new swathe of parents fall into the "truancy" category and this time parents who are clearly providing a suitable education, but just not one of which the government approves.

If the law changes so that home educators everywhere must do the government bidding and be automatically assessed for suitability of education according to government criteria, we can expect to see more School Attendance Orders being issued to families who were in fact providing a perfectly suitable but not government-approved education. We can expect to see more of these SAOs being ignored by home educators who know that school is not the best place for the education of their children and we can therefore expect to see such parents to included amongst the number of those prosecuted, fined and imprisoned. All uselessly, expensively and damagingly.



Friday, February 13, 2009

What Mr Badman Said.

Hopefully this sentence still means something to Graham Badman:

"Mr Badman continues: "One of the things I most resented as a parent was being talked to as if I knew nothing about education. There's a thin line between engaging them and talking at them and we have to make sure we don't cross that line.""

I am off to put it into my consultation response, hopefully to remind him that he said it!

Every Parent Untrustworthy?

Have pinched ARCH's title because it makes the point very clearly.

The Government to Determine Suitability of Education?

I have revised my answer to question 5 of the consultation and this in the light of the admittedly still sketchy information about the meeting between Education Otherwise and Mr Badman who is to lead the review on home education, from which it was all too easy to draw the conclusion that the state is intent upon determining the precise nature of suitability of education, and possibly to deliver this through IT.

I have now written:

I would not be in favour of routine monitoring for suitability of all home education provision and this for a number of reasons.

Firstly, how would the state determine the nature of the suitability of an education? After all, there is no overall agreement upon the right way to achieve suitability according to age, ability and aptitude and as it stands, we know that huge numbers of children fail miserably in the so-called suitable provision that the state seems to prefer in the form of the deliverance of the National Curriculum in schools.

* http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/database/businessupdate.html#letting

Schooled teens are telling the government what they think:

"Eight out of 10 said they were fed up with school and almost half said there were not enough courses to choose from, which limited their options in later life."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/secondaryeducation/4297452/School-is-boring-and-irrelevant-say-teenagers.html

Would the government really contend that the education they offer is indeed suitable when it limits the options of the learners and boredom is the near universal reaction? (Boredom, please note, is not an efficient or suitable way to learn).

The government does not have the answers to the problem of a suitable education and yet it frequently appears to disallow challenges to its educational meme. When a number of experts recently questioned the age at which literacy should be taught:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/nov/22/earlyyearseducation.schools

the DCSF reacted extremely dogmatically to these criticisms, with biased and partial reporting of literacy success which continues to conflict with the evidence of employees, (see link* above) and a statement of determination to plough on with failing strategies come what may.

There are plenty of examples of this sort of governmental dogmatism and lack of openness in the face of evidence that the educational provision by the state is unsuitable for many children.

Another example: two friends of mine, experienced home educators, have recently undertaken a PGCE. They found the epistemology conveyed in this course for secondary school teachers frankly risible in the degree to which it failed to acknowledge it's own contradictions. For example, they accurately perceived that the concept of personalised learning in the classroom was absurd and unmanageable and mainly pushed as window dressing. They sadly also found that if they dared to question the inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the the standard schooling methodology, their lives were made very uncomfortable, and they felt that they would either have to shut up or leave. The system here appeared to be not open to criticism and from this simple point, would appear to be suspect.

This inability on the part of the DCSF to question it's own methods, its apparent certainty that it knows the right way makes home educators extremely anxious that the state will not be open to giving due weight to the now substantial body of evidence which proves that alternative models of education, for example of autonomous education, work EXTREMELY well for many children.

Autonomous educators go about things in a very different way. The provision they offer their children is indeed personalised. It is personalised to the interests of the child, it allows them the freedom to become experts in certain fields, it answers the questions they have, it allows the learner to direct their learning, to be responsible for it, to develop at their own pace, to manage all of their lives as they see fit. Autonomously educated children are far more empowered than schooled children and as such they grow up quickly, without the hostility between child and adult that is so frequently seen in schools, since they trust the adults around them to help them when they need it. They cope very well in the work and university environment.

Autonomous education has now come of age and there is now substantial evidence of it's almost outstanding success. We have seen way too many autonomously teens successfully graduate to adult life in one form or another for it to be a matter of chance or good genes. Every single autonomously educated person in all the areas we visit is now doing extremely well in further education. They are highly regarded by their tutors as they manage themselves so well. They are responsible individuals, who know themselves, know what they are interested in doing, know what they should specialise in, and know how to find things out for themselves.

And yet plenty of these children were not reading at all at the age of 7, even up to the age of 12.
One completely autonomously educated girl we know who had never been to school, was not reading a word at 11. By the time she was 12 and a half, she was almost never to be found without an adult-level book in her hands. And yet what would have happened to this kind of child had an EWO pitched up at her door, ignorant of the success of an alternative model? He might well have issued a SAO, or pressurised the family to return the child to school where evidence suggests that it is extremely difficult for such a child to catch up. The school child is labelled or else labels themselves as a non-achiever and it is extremely difficult to overcome these hurdles and not fulfill these labels.

Another autonomously educated boy, whose mother only ever gave him one very miserable formal lesson in maths when he was about 8, (she admits she is still not sure that he knows his times tables), has just been awarded a first, along with three prizes, at Imperial College for Maths and IT and has been offered a PhD off the back of it. He is a wonderful, thoughtful, articulate individual with a wide range of interests and yet had he been subjected to a monitoring regime from an LA official, it is highly likely that he would have been returned to school when he wasn't ready, he almost certainly would not have done nearly so well.

Autonomously educated children think it is normal to learn to read when you feel like it and they know that when it is done like this, you don't fall behind. In the real world outside of school, there are numerous ways of acquiring information other than by reading for yourself. You can talk to people, they can read to you, you can watch the Discovery channel, you can experiment with making a universal indicator out of a red cabbage, or you can find out how to make a scarf, create animations, keep a herb garden or care for a pet. Then you learn to read.

The DCSF must understand that plenty of home educated children are home educated precisely because the current state-determined model has failed them so appallingly, and we worry that should the state decide that it has the right and the duty to determine suitability, it will fall back on it's preferred models, and these children will be failed all over again.

Several girls we know left school at 9 through to 11, completely unable to read and write. When left entirely to their own devices, (none of them were pressurised to read), they learned to read on their own, and once they started, they learnt extremely quickly and then went on to take exams and pursue higher education. Three of these girls were severely depressed when they were taken out of school, and two of them had threatened suicide. If the state is determined to put such children back in school, or even just to label them so that they don't have to back to school, you are highly likely to see a further rise in teenage depression and suicides.

So far we have concentrated upon the problems of efficacy as it relates to the determination of suitability in education, but there are also legal and constitutional problems in the situation that the state decides that it should determine the nature of suitability of education in all cases and on a routine basis. The government MUST consider that this will have huge implications for the relationship between person and state. Parents, in effect, will no longer be responsible for determining whether the education they are providing is suitable for their children. It will now be up to the state to make this ultimate determination and the status of section 7 of the Education Act 1996 would in effect change to mean that parents are now only responsible for provision of what is in fact a state-determined education.

This, of course, would override parental human rights as enshrined in Protocol 2 Article 1 of the ECHRs.

"In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religions and philosophical convictions."

It would also mean that should that state-determined education fail a child, (as it surely will), parents can no longer be held responsible. It is now the state which must be held liable and, given the currently enormously high failure rate of what is still parentally chosen state-determined education, it is not hard to envisage that a change to an entirely state-determined education would result in bankruptcy for the government and local authorities.

All this aside from the fact that we must also consider the practical implications to families of intrusion and loss of privacy, as explained above.

Another almost inevitable result of forcibly absolving parents of the duty to consider for themselves whether they are providing a suitable education is that they will stop asking themselves "am I meeting my duty to provide a suitable education" and instead ask themselves "do we appear to be meeting this duty?" which is not a good question as it is highly likely to result in a less suitable education for the child.

The problem of the state having to take on responsibility for determining suitability of education and therefore upon the limits of the form and content of an education would be avoided if LAs only investigated where there is reason to think that a suitable education is not being provided. This may seem like a subtle difference, but it is one. The state then only gets to determine a few cases of suitability, where there is some reason for concern and a good argument could be made for intervention. It does not dictate to the entire population.

The DCSF and schools have much to learn from the personalised learning of autonomous home educators if only they knew it. It is such a shame that more people don't understand how well it works, and how inspections of such children may well ruin this process as families struggle to provide the support the autonomous child needs but also to please the more formal demands of the home education inspector.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Boarding Schools are Brill

...according to this article.

They quote actress Sienna Miller on the subject:

"At first, I hated being away from home, then I loved it. Boarding school teaches you not to be selfish."

Am presuming this is the same Sienna Miller? Had to laugh!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Under 7, Too Young to Learn to Read"

Autonomous educators everywhere whose children usually don't start to read until about age 7 plus are striking their foreheads today at the idiocy of the DCSF response to this piece of news.

NB: Remedial learners at the DCSF: children who dictate the speed at which they acquire the ability to read, rapidly become competent and often avid readers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Catharsis

here.

The State as Parent?

It emerges from home education lists that the meme that was highly likely to flow from the Home Education Review is flowing indeed. Home educators have already received letters from their LAs insisting that LA personnel be allowed access to the home and child on the basis that the child must be assessed for the five "outcomes" of the Every Child Matters Agenda.

This is not surprising when you read questions such as this from the Review's LA Questionnaire:

"Q55 Do you think that home educated children in your local authority are able to achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes? Please say why you think that for each of the five outcomes."

We are left wondering if something legal has changed when we weren't looking. The Children Act 2004 didn't mention that the ambitions were to become targets that must be assessed for and we were under the impression that assessment and eCAF would only take place should a family request a service and then only with the consent of the family.

So is this new insistence on the part of the LAs ultra vires?

I suspect, though have yet to confirm this, that the answer is "yes". Of course the state had better hope that it is, for otherwise it really has become the parent of first resort, for what else is a parent meant to do if it is not to help a child establish his or her own personal ambitions, work with the child to achieve these outcomes, and then perhaps (depending upon a family's point of view on this particular subject) to assess to see whether these have been achieved? However, should the state have an automatic right of access to assess for the government's pre-determined five "outcomes" and this when a family has not even requested their services, it should be obvious to all that the state must accept that it now parents all English children everywhere.

The fact remains, however, that despite all the recent proliferation of policies which flesh out the Children Act ambitions, and which frequently portray them as outcomes that "must" be tested for, that there is no remit in law for the state to assess a child when the family are not using services.

Woe-betide you, however, if you are one of the 50% of children who the government estimates will need additional services. According to ARCH, you are unlikely to escape the full stare of the state, right down to the registration of the closest intimacies of your life, as undertaking an eCAF will be a condition of receipt of the service. Yep and all that information, you know all the stuff about how you the parent relate to the child (yeah - like that is going to be very normal when you know you are being assessed by a powerful person who could either remove your child themselves or recommend to others that they do), will be popped down on another national database. This from also from ARCH:

"Although eCAF is presented as a consent-based process, in practice there is considerable pressure to gain consent, with many practitioners making it a condition of receiving a service, and government guidance has suggested that parental consent can be dispensed with if a child is over 12 - although the form gathers sensitive information about parents and other family members."

It seems that the only sensible thing to do is not engage with state services at all. Don't tell your GP anything, don't ask for help, don't even start a trickle of anxiety in any state employees mind for that way NO PRIVACY, NO AUTONOMY, NADA, no parental duties, you are just there to do the bidding of the state. But if you think you might need a service, then you'd better jump to it and get about fulfilling government edicts on the state-determined ambitions for your child. For example, you have to make sure your child enjoys and achieves, which apparently means making sure they do well in primary and secondary school. (OK, failure number 1, home educating families everywhere in England.)

So this is what it has come to. You can now no longer trust anyone in any position of power, for they will spill your beans left right and centre, onto ContactPoint, into an eCAF entry, onto the NHS Spine, blaah, blaah, blaah, big brother blabber mouth.

And the effect? That families will stop talking. They will stop trusting government agencies and they won't get the small amount of help that they could have done with that would have helped them before a crisis blew up? Tell your GP you have a bit of post-natal depression? Not likely. She'll pop it on your NHS computer records. God knows who'll read it and if you want to work in the NHS somewhere down the line, you're probably screwed! It'll go everywhere. Your Health Visitor will get to hear about it, she can do an eCAF and your life is on record for god knows who to see. Not getting the private, confidential help you need will mean you might end up in a far worse situation that really will be desperate.

Honestly, I shouldn't have to be putting the arguments in favor of confidentiality, but it seems this government needs a lesson in it all over again.

And of course, the final irony is that all this assessment of far lower levels of concern is all so pointless, so much make-work. When it comes to solving the problems these assessments supposedly expose, there won't be any other solutions out there on the plate. Social services departments are massively understaffed and overstretched. They only just about cope with dealing with horrendous cases of abuse, let alone a child who has the occasional ding dong with his mum and dad. LAs round here are hugely strapped for cash. They are still paying out for flood damage, and now have to find the cash for snow damage.

We ran out of grit up here and couldn't get off the hill all week as a result. Wonder if that is a greater priority? And yeah, yeah, it IS a terrible example of citizenry incapacitated by the state. Had I imagined that the council wouldn't manage to keep up the supply of grit, I would have got my own supply!

Yep, get them off our backs. Let us supply our own grit and formulate our own ambitions for our families.

Monday, February 09, 2009

A Critique of Every Child Matters

....here.

Out of the Mouths....

Posted by Picasa

Some Respite!

Tennyson's schooldays were unhappy, and the future laureate was once heard to declare “How I did hate that school! The only good I ever got from it was the memory of the words ‘sonus desilientis aquae’ [which translates to the poet’s longing for still water], on an old wall covered with wild weeds opposite the school windows.”

He later left the school to be educated at home and found the peace he desired, continuing to write and recalled making a line he regarded as ‘grander than Campbell, Byron or Scott’. Entering Cambridge in 1827 and being awarded the University Chancellor’s Gold Medal for one of his early pieces, the poet’s solo debut in 1830 entitled Juvenilia – ..."

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Mr Badman Wrote...

....in a letter to Directors of Children's Services:

"I know you and your staff are committed to ensuring that all children are able to achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes. However, we know that some colleagues feel that they are not able to ensure that all home educated children are able to do so. The Secretary of State has asked me to investigate if and how far children who are educated at home are able to achieve the five outcomes..."

He wrote this on the 19th January. Let's hope he's read and understood the Children Act 2004 in the interim.

1. The ECM ideas are framed as ambitions, not as outcomes for assessment.

2. Local authorities only have a duty to co-operate to promote them and parents should remain the parent of first resort.

3. LAs only have a duty to step in where there is a serious problem. They should not be using the ECM ambitions to intervene at a lower level of concern.

If you believe, unlike Mr Badman, that parents should be the parents of first resort, and that families should be allowed to work out for themselves what ambitions they want to strive for, sign the petition here.

Friday, February 06, 2009

A Summary from Freedom for Children to Grow

...of the situation with regard to the current Home Education Review can be found here.

Everything summarised, all the important links you would need, no excuse not to sign the petition and send in a consultation response.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Petition Update

The petition is now, after only 2 days, SO close to being within the top 100 out of over 4,800 other petitions. 1065 signatures in 48 hours. Home educators and other parents all over the place are doing a grand job of explaining their rights to government.

Do sign if you're a British resident and you haven't done so already.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A Typical Reply from DCSF and a Typical Response from a Home Educator

DCSF in blue.
Me in blood red. Oh all right. Have toned it down. Now in black.
____________________________________________________________________

"Thank you for your email of 28 January regarding the Home Education Review which has been passed to me for reply.

The Review of Home Education is being led by Graham Badman, former Director of Children's Services at Kent County Council. Mr Badman has decided that he wants his review to be informed by material from a wide range of stakeholders, so he decided to offer the opportunity for organisations and individuals to contribute to the review by filling in a questionnaire."

We are very concerned that this review is but nominally independent. Mr Badman, as a local authority employee, is strongly connected with government. We wonder whether there is any hope of the results of this review being genuinely unbiased. Our doubts are further strengthened by the fact that Mr Badman's CV demonstrates that he has plenty of experience as a teacher and headmaster but, as almost all home educators are aware, home education is a completely different kettle of fish: it is NOT school at home. It is not clear that Mr Badman has anything like an equivalent experience of home education. How can this review possibly be properly informed and unbiased?

"The new Code of Practice on Consultation issued by BERR says that:

'...a formal, written, public consultation will not be the most effective or proportionate way of seeking input from interested parties eg when engaging stakeholders very early in policy development (preceding formal consultation) ......In such cases an exercise under this Code would not be appropriate. There is, moreover, a variety of other ways available to seek input from interested parties other than a formal consultation'

What do you think all the previous consultations were about? You garnered exactly the same set of views, on several occasions, such as in 2007 for the consultation on Elective Home Education Guidelines. Why on earth are you doing it again?

To us, there is no difference between this preliminary garnering of views, and a full time consultation except that the department seems to exempt itself from it's own rules. We still have to devote time, energy and thought to answering the same set of questions all over again. This therefore rightly should contravene the BRE Code of Practice on Consultations Criterion 5.

"Once the Review is complete it will be presented to Ministers who will then decide whether or not to take forward any of the recommendations. We anticipate that any Review recommendations that trigger proposals to change the law or guidance would be subject to a full public consultation."

Yes, by which time, we will have undergone 5 or, if you use skewed government stats, 6, yes that's at least 6 closely related consultations in just over 3 years. This is ridiculous. You have conceded to sense, legal advice and the overwhelming force of argument in previous consultations. Don't forget this.

"We are committed to ensuring that systems for keeping children safe, and ensuring that they receive a suitable education, are as robust as possible. We have been progressively strengthening the systems and it is good practice to ensure that they are operating as intended. An independent review of home education is part of this continuing commitment to strengthening the system and* to ensure all children achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes."

As robust as leaving families with no privacy? Of leaving families with NO AUTONOMY AT ALL. You want to take the voice of the child seriously. My children here are saying to the LA and to government "LEAVE ME ALONE." My daughter has a fully prepared speech for any unwitting EWO who pitches up at our door. At the age of 6, she has a fluent lecture on the meaning of personal autonomy, on the sense of actually listening to what children really want and of not just pretending to do this. She will be telling the hapless clipboard numpty that she loves home education and that she has absolutely no intention of going to an institution where she hears that some 80% of teens think their education is boring and irrelevant and that plenty of children are utterly miserable. She will also be telling them to go away please, now. Stop bothering us.

Plus, honestly, PLEASE read your own legislation. You DO NOT HAVE A DUTY TO ENSURE THAT CHILDREN ACHIEVE THE FIVE OUTCOMES. That "and*" gives you away. You have a duty to co-operate to promote the outcomes. Don't shift the goalposts as otherwise you will appropriate parental responsibilities. If my children don't achieve these outcomes, what should I do? Sue you?

"The guidelines on home education that we issued last year have not resolved the concerns of some LAs about their ability to fulfil their responsibilities in relation to home educated children."

That is because they don't understand their responsibilities, imagine that they have more than they have, don't understand how home education works, and don't use the powers they already have with sufficient discrimination. Their jobs are meant to be difficult. That is what they are paid for. It might be easier for them to put CCTVs in every room in our houses, but this is not the country we should seek to be living in.

"The recent public consultation suggested that many people – home educating parents and local authorities included – feel the guidelines and legislation are confusing and sometimes perhaps at odds with each other. We know there is an issue now and it is right that we identify any barriers – perceived or real – to children’s entitlement to achieve the five outcomes. We will take whatever action is necessary to strengthen the arrangements."

Legislation has created a bind for itself. Parts of it want to override parental responsibilities to determine a suitable education for their children. This is contained in the duty to identify children missing a suitable education and is a problem for the state in that if they enact this duty in the positive, ie: if they screen the entire population without there being any reason to suspect that a suitable education is not being provided, they will in effect become the ultimate arbiters of the determination of a suitable education. We must concede that there has hereby been instigated a fully fledged "thought government."

However this problem would be avoided if LAs only investigated where there is reason to think that a suitable education is not being provided. This may seem like a subtle difference, but it is one. The state then only gets to determine a few cases of suitability, where there is some reason for concern and a good argument could be made for intervention. It does not dictate to the entire population.

Plus, unsurprisingly perhaps, you are fiddling the stats. Home educators often felt that the guidelines were confusing for a number of other often subtle reasons, not because they felt that the law was insufficient to protect the child.

"We are not singling out home educating families. Every child – whether home or school educated, is entitled to the five Every Child Matters outcomes."

What? Where did these entitlements come from exactly? I personally wasn't so foolhardy at the birth of my child to suggest to them that they are entitled to stay safe for the rest of their young lives, or that they are entitled to be healthy. This is just ridiculous. If you say that the Children Act legislates for this entitlement, then OK, but children will be coming for you the next time they catch the flu or fall out of a tree.

"We need to ensure that home educated children are able to achieve the five outcomes, just as children in maintained schools do. "

My argument in the above paragraph applies. You are just being silly.

"The Department has recently announced a review of safeguarding in independent schools, non maintained special schools and boarding schools. The circumstances of a child educated at home are different from those educated at school and we need to be sure that the systems and procedures that are in place to protect these children are fit for purpose."

They are. Procedures at the moment are just about fine. The problem is enacting them properly, and this is ALWAYS going to be a problem of fine judgement and experience of the people on the ground and they are ALWAYS going to make mistakes because human behaviour is not predictable.

"Government has also commissioned reviews of Local Safeguarding Children Boards and Serious Case Reviews. These reviews are part of our ongoing commitment to ensure that all children are safe and well."

You cannot ever ensure such a thing. Please stop suggesting that you could if only, if only, if only...if only what? That you are entitled to wrap people in cotton wool, that you sterilise everything they touch, that you remove all their autonomy?

"Most home educated children are neither abused nor neglected. However, parents who abuse or neglect their children will find it easier to conceal this if they say they are educating their child at home as they will not be seen regularly by a teacher or other professional. This means that LAs do not have the same level of assurance about the welfare of children being educated at home, and there is a greater risk that the warning signs of abuse of a child not in school will not be picked up at an early stage."

ContactPoint will act as a de facto register of home educated children. We will all be known about very shortly, which will mean that the current legislation will then be sufficient to deal with this problem.

The fact that ContactPoint has yet to go live of course begs the question of why instigate a review now when we cannot tell what effects there will be from previous alterations in policy? It really is a waste of everyone's time.

"That is something that the Review will look at. We are aware of allegations and concerns in this area but we want to establish what evidence is available. This is not just about that whether or not home education is currently used to cover child abuse, but also about ensuring that proportionate measures are in place to prevent it being used in future as a cover for neglect, forced marriage, or other forms of child abuse."

Proportionate measures are already in place. We have thrashed this issue out already. You will know about all HEks through ContactPoint. HEks don't live in isolation. They are continually getting referred, often spuriously, to social services by neighbours, friends, relatives. Local Authorities have the right to demand entry should they think there is a problem. They now just have to get on with the task of making good calls, and accepting that there will always be risk, however many CCTV cameras they install.

"Home education is protected through the Human Rights Act. The Review is about ensuring that the right mechanisms are in place to ensure that all home educated children are safe and well and are able to achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes. There are no plans to change the right to educate at home."

No, but you could all but destroy that experience as a positive one, as one that has saved SO many children who were failed by the school system, as one that has enhanced the lives of the many who freely chose it.

"I hope this is helpful and goes some way to allay your concerns."

No, it doesn't.

The Questionnaire for Local Authorities

Name of LA

2.Tel. No of main contact

Q3 E-mail of main contact

Q4 Would you be willing to take part in the next phase of the research in February/March (including in-depth interviews with key personnel in your organisation)?

yes

no

Q5 Which team(s) have the main responsibility for supporting and monitoring home educated children within the local authority and other agencies?

Q6 List all teams / professionals involved in supporting home educating families

Q7 List all teams / professionals involved in monitoring home educating families.

Q8 Describe how you ensure collaboration and communication between these teams / individuals

Data and Tracking

Q9 How many children are currently home educated in your local authority of primary age (Registered with LA)

Q10 How many children are currently home educated in your local authority of primary age (Non-registered with LA)

Q11 How many children are currently home educated in your local authority of secondary age (Registered with LA)

Q12 How many children are currently home educated in your local authority of secondary age (Non-registered with LA)

Q13 Total (Registered with LA)

Q14 Total (Non-registered with LA)

Q15 Are these figures accurate or based on estimates?

Accurate

Estimate

Q16 If accurate, where do you get this data from?

Q17 If accurate, how do you know the data is accurate?

Q18 If estimated, what data have you used to arrive at this figure? (List all sources)

Q19 How confident is the local authority in the accuracy of this data?

Very confident

Fairly confident

Don't know

Not very confident

Not at all confident

Q20 How often does the local authority get updated data? (List frequency for each source separately)

Q21 What proportion (as a percentage) of your home educated population is statemented for SEN? (please state whether accurate or estimate)

Q22 What proportion (as a percentage) of your home educated population is non-statemented for SEN (please state whether accurate or estimate)

Q23 What proportion (as a percentage) of your home educated population is from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller heritage (please state whether accurate or estimate)

Q24 What proportion (as a percentage) of your home educated population is made up of other Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups

Q25 Please list which BME groups.

Q26 Do you believe the local authority knows about all the home educated children in your area?

Yes, we are confident we know of all the children in the area

We think we know about the vast majority of home educated children in the area

We probably do not know about a fair number of home educated children in the area

We probably do not know about a significant proportion of home educated children in the area

Q27 Do you think that you will be better able to track children in your area in the near future? e.g. planned changes to your own systems, ContactPoint, other system improvements?

yes

no

Q28 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

Supporting Home Educating Families

Q29 How does the local authority ensure families know about their rights and responsibilities in relation to home education? (List all approaches used)Q30 What support does your local authority provide to home educating families? (List all forms of support offered)

Q31 How does the local authority let families know about the services provided to support them in home educating their children? (List all approaches used)

Assessment and Monitoring

Q32 Following the initial assessment visit, are further monitoring visits made to a home educated child?

Yes

No

Don't know

Q33 If yes, how often, on average, are these carried out?

More than twice a year

Twice a year

Once a year

Less than once a year


Q34 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

Q35 On average, how often is the child seen when a visit is made?

Always, at each visit

Usually, but not always

Sometimes

Never

Depends on the child / circumstances


Q36 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given


Q37 If the child is seen, where is s/he usually seen?

In the home

At the home, but do not go inside

Another venue

Depends on the child / circumstances

Q38 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

Q39 If you are not permitted access to a child, is any further action taken?

Yes

No


Don't know


Q40 If yes, what further steps are taken?

Q41 How is the suitability of the education provided to the child assessed? (Please describe)

Q42 Is the local authority clear about what the definition of a 'suitable education' is?

yes

no

Q43 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

Q44 Does the local authority have systems in place to track the educational progress of home educated children?

Yes

No

Don't know

Q45 Please use this space to add further detail to the answer you have just given

Q46 Of the home educated children in your area of whom you have knowledge, what proportion (as a percentage) in your estimation is receiving a suitable, full time (20hrs a week) education? (Please describe)

Q47 Does the local authority take any further steps if a home educated child's education was found to be unsuitable or not full time?

Yes

No

Don't

Q48 Please use this space to add further detail to the answer you have just given

Q49 Does the local authority face any challenges in assessing whether home educated children receive a suitable education?

Yes

No

Don't know

Q50 If you answered yes to Q49, please describe the challenges and what you think could be done to overcome these

Q51 Thinking about your local area, in the last five years, how many cases have you come across that use the premise of home education as a 'cover' for child abuse, forced marriage or other aspects of child neglect?

Q52 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given. Please include the number of Serious Case Reviews you know about that have a home education element.

Q53 Do you think the current system for safeguarding children who are educated at home is adequate?

Yes

No

Don't know

Q54 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

Q55 Do you think that home educated children in your local authority are able to achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes? Please say why you think that for each of the five outcomes

Q56 Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for supporting home educating families?

Yes

No

Don't know

Q57 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

Q58 Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring home educating families and ensuring that home educated children are able to achieve the five outcomes?

Yes

No

Don't know

Q59 Please use this space to add detail to the answer you have just given

Declaration

Q60 Has the Director of Children's Services and the Lead Member for Children and Young People seen and agreed with the answers you have given above?

DCS

Lead member