Thursday, January 28, 2010

What Happens Next...

Thanks due to Fiona N who worked out how this works:

Monday 1st February is the last date for Commons amendments to the Bill Committee.

The Bill Committee will meet on Tuesday 2nd and Thursday 4th next week. The Committee stage will close on Thursday February 4th.

After Committee Stage, if the Bill has been amended, the Bill is reprinted before its next stage and then returns to the floor of the House of Commons for its Report Stage, where the amended Bill can be debated and further amendments proposed.

Report stage gives MPs an opportunity, on the floor of the House, to consider further amendments (proposals for change) to a Bill which has been examined in committee.

There is no set time period between the end of Committee stage and the start of the Report stage.

What happens at Report Stage?

All MPs may speak and vote - for lengthy or complex bills, the debates may be spread over several days.

All MPs can suggest amendments to the Bill or new clauses (parts) they think should be added.

What happens after Report stage?

Report stage is usually followed immediately by debate on the Bill's Third Reading.

Germans Should be Embarrassed

German home educators granted asylum in US.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Truth About Schedule 1

...laid out nice and clearly here.

Could send this on to a Lord perhaps?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

And Another...

At the risk of becoming tedious, (see two preceeding posts on the subject of DCSF and government falsehoods,) Kelly documents yet another porkie, this time by Ed Balls.

Lobby a Lord

Lord Lucas has a new post on how to go about this here.

Other useful information: from Lord Lucas and how to address a Lord.

Also Write to Them for the Lords provides a searchable database of Lords by interest (number of times they have spoken on a subject) and by places they are associated with. 12 Lords come up when you enter "home education".

You can then click on each one and find out what they said on each occasion. Clicking on the heading for each of these takes you through to the context of the speech. Not all the references seem to bring up an exact quote but it is certainly useful.

Please make use of this resource to select the Lords you are going to contact. You can also check out which Lords have already been contacted here.

If you can find an email address for them, it might be better to use that rather than the fax facility on the TheyWorkForYouSite. This page lists all the Lords, along with the address of any web sites they have, though it does not say if they have email. However, if you click the 'biog' it gives you an email address if one is listed, or a personal fax number as well as their phone number (which seems to be a direct number rather than the HoL switch-board).

Of course if you prefer ink on paper then all the Lords share the same address:

House of Lords
London
SW1A 0PW

See here and here for further inspiration on what you might say and how you could say it.

Please pass on this information to as many other people/lists as possible.

Refusal to Co-operate and More Lies from the DCSF

Fiona Nicholson of EO had this to say at the Public Bill Committee:

"I really believe that you will not find home-education support organisations that will deliver training on how to implement the Bill, so in respect of all those plans for softening the edges and making it palatable and home-education friendly, I cannot see where you will find such people. There are two home-education support charities: Education Otherwise and the Home Education Advisory Service. They are both registered charities. They are membership subscription organisations. They get their funding entirely from member subscriptions. Our members are not paying ours to help the Government to implement the Bill, so unless you set up your own home-education support organisation, I do not really see how you will find home educators to train local authorities to deliver the Bill, even with substantial amendments. It will be very difficult."

Further on this point, it seems EO are drawing the line in the sand. We heard yesterday that:

"Education Otherwise has just written to the Minister Vernon Coaker declining an offer of a meeting with Diana Johnson."

We also hear that the DCSF have responded to EO's question about the legal status of the DCSF's Position Statement:

"They do not have any legislative status, as the final content of both the Bill and the regulations are subject to the will of Parliament, and there must also be a statutory period of consultation on the content of the regulations."

Well, at least the DCSF recognises that their own Position Statement is legislatively meaningless. Do pass this statement on to your MP, if you haven't already!

It would also be worth pointing out that it seems that the DCSF can't manage a single sentence without coming out with yet another falsehood, for as it stands, the regulations that would result from the Bill would not necessarily be subject to the will of Parliament at all, since there is plenty of scope in Schedule 1 for regulations simply to be subject to the will of the Secretary of State.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More on the DCSF Position Statement

Quite simply, it is a combination of spin and outright lies, designed to deceive MPs, many of whom will have received a far more accurate briefing from their constituent home educators. This document deserves the same sort of fisking that Ciaran gave to the DCSF claim that some home educators were harassing Mr Badman.

I don't actually have the time to fisk the Position Statement thoroughly right now, but below I have picked out some of the obvious corkers and believe me, it is not difficult to do!

If you think there is any chance that your MP might believe what he/she reads here, please write to him/her yet again, and point out that the impact of the Children, Schools and Families Bill will result not from some legislatively irrelevant piece of government agitprop, but from the actual Bill itself.

(UPDATE: Have just realised that Firebird has done an excellent job on fisking the whole thing. Took six posts to do it, mind you, which only goes to show just how much rubbish the Position Statement contains!)

Spin, Lies and Dirty Tricks:

1. "Our reforms will have minimal impact on home educators who are doing a good job"

I am actually still not sure whether this is a lie or a complete failure to understand. Either way it is wrong, for the reforms will impact upon HEors throughout their entire lives. If Schedule 1 were to made law, home educators would, under threat of having their child summarily returned to school, have to provide an education to suit the LA officer rather than one that is suitable for the child.

Given that LA officers do not know the child well and frequently do not have a close understanding of, for example, autonomous education, these can be two entirely different things.

We have no faith that LA officers will understand how autonomous education works. Heck, I tried to explain it to Graham Badman in person, and at the time, I thought I had made a good job of it, since he appeared to understand completely and even made unprompted reference to the philosophical underpinnings of it, ie: Karl Popper.

Yet lo and behold, in the Public Bill Committee meeting, by demanding that home educators produce a statement of their educational intentions and aims for the following year, Badman demonstrated that like many LA officers, he either has ABSOLUTELY NO UNDERSTANDING OF THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF AUTONOMOUS EDUCATION or has NO DESIRE TO ACCOMMODATE HIS UNDERSTANDING OF IT.

Autonomous home educators in all honesty, can only say that they will offer a range of options and what seem like good theories to their children; they will help their children to employ critical analyses of these theories, and will help their children act on their own best theories, and that they will facilitate the child's interests.

There that is it, but this wouldn't be good enough for Mr. Badman. He is determined that we should be able to predict our children's progress for the next year. In the Public Bill Committee meeting, he used the example of a parent predicting that a toddler would develop their vocabularly at such and such a rate over the coming year. Oh honestly, surely Mr Badman knows that toddlers are actually not so predictable in this regard. Apparently not, however, for it appears that he wants us to develop the mystical powers of soothsaying. Of course, this would be a poor way to proceed for all home educators, but it will be all the more difficult for autonomous home educators who will not try to force their children to meet these pre-conceived objectives.

We must make it clear to our MPs. The impact of the reforms is actually in the Bill. The DCSF might like to claim that autonomous education will be respected, but the plain fact of the matter is that most LA officers don't really understand it, and some of them haul HEors over the coals for it.

Our own (new) LA officer says she understands AE but then presents you with a form that requires answers that make it seem that you must provide a school-based curricula. With the threat of a School Attendance Order directly in front of us, our right to home educate hanging in the balance, will we dare to continue to educate autonomously, despite the fact that we know it suits our children perfectly???? Already, I am bullying the children, and already this is destroying what we have.

These reforms WILL NOT BE MINIMAL IN THEIR IMPACT. They will be devastating to the education of children, and may well impact upon relationships between parent and child too.

2. And now for an example of a Dirty Trick. The Position Statement was published without notice by DCSF 19 January 2010 and not circulated in advance to the panel giving evidence at the Public Bill Committee on 19 January, so there was no chance to air criticisms of this document. It would appear that the DCSF are not being confident in the document for otherwise they would have let us have sight of it and it would have stood up to criticism.

3. Further from the Position Statement:

"Our proposals will help overcome those obstacles and assist local authorities in focusing their efforts on children who are missing education as opposed to wasting time and public money pursuing home educators who are providing an adequate standard of education but who are unwilling to provide reliable evidence to their local authorities."

The first thing is, obstacles to a police state are NOT A BAD THING. If you want no obstacles to state intrusion, the government could set up CCTVs in all our rooms, fingerprint and store our genetic information, they could lock us up without charge for as long as they liked...these things WOULD make the job of the police and LAs a lot easier, but it wouldn't make it right.

Plus, the reality is that LAs don't spend much of their time chasing unwilling home educators. LAs almost always get what they want out of us pretty darn quickly, so this is a complete red herring. And there is good reason to believe that home educators will actually make the whole process FAR more uncomfortable for LAs should this system be implemented for HEors will see this as defending some of their most basic liberties, such as the right to a private life. Plans are afoot for this right now.

4. From the Position Statement:

"There will also be funding to help local authorities provide support to home educators such as access to school libraries, music lessons, after school clubs and sports facilities."

This is not mentioned anywhere in the Bill itself and is pure guff as far as we can see. LAs have no money, (and what little they have should be spent on pot-hole and land-slide repairs as this would actually save lifes). Real support from LAs has been extremely hard to access and has only happened extremely rarely, so unless this is legislated for, we won't see it. MPs must be made aware of this.

5. "Local authorities are currently not under a duty to monitor home education on a regular basis but they are under a duty under section 436A EA 1996 to have arrangements in place to identify children not receiving a suitable education. Subsection (b) of section 436A makes clear that this provision does not relate to home educated children that are receiving suitable education. However, in order for a local authority to establish whether the education is suitable, the duty supposes some kind of investigation by a local authority. Arguably it imposes an obligation to act. Currently this can only be done with the co-operation of those home educating parents that the local authority know about. Our proposals for registration and monitoring will ensure that all home educated children are known to their local authority and none are missing out on their education."

To give the DCSF it's due, s436A actually IS the source of the problem. S436A is based upon the presumption that the state knows what suitable educational provision actually is and that it has a right to impose this upon everyone. It behoves the DCSF to take what probably is a big step for them, ie : to try to wrap their brains around the fact that an LA officer cannot possibly know what would be the best education for a child they barely know, and to leave this to the parents, unless there is significant reason to believe that the parents are not fullfilling their duty to provide a suitable education. In other words, re-institute the legal situation prior to the issuance of the January 2009 Guidance on Identifying Children Missing a Suitable Education.

I have run out of time, and am quite sure that home educators will find loads of other stuff in there that is not a good portrayal of the reality of the impact of the reforms. It would be great if you could write to your MPs to explain that the Position Statement is a ridiculous misrepresentation of the Bill.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Relevant Bit of the Transcript

...of yesterday's Public Bill Committee is here.

Submissions to the Committee are here.

UPDATE: Gill comments on the Public Bill Committee here.

Public Bill Committee Meeting

Here. Mention is made of home education at 53 mins and at 1 hour 9 mins where lawyer John Friel appears to agree with Graham Stuart that Schedule 1 is very damaging for home educated children with special educational needs, but the main body of evidence starts at 1 hour 11 mins.

UPDATE: News from EO of a DCSF Position Statement that wasn't circulated prior to the meeting. Oh honestly. It would rather suggest that the DCSF are far from confident in their arguments. It seems to be aimed at selling the Bill to MPs who have been lobbied by their constituents and naturally enough, doesn't represent the bill accurately.

And, yes according to Badman's argument, it would seem that Graham Stuart went to a better school than Graham Badman since Stuart's mathematical and logical skills are superior.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Anniversary of Badman Report

...EO deplores nine months of policy-based evidence making.

This contains a link to the Revised Impact Assessment which the DSCF squeaked in just in time before today's meeting of the Public Bill Committee.

From Channel M - TV for Manchester

The Home Education Review:



Saturday, January 16, 2010

What I think we should be asking for and why

Instead of proceeding with Schedule 1, the Secretary of State should strive to ensure that LAs understand the current legislation which, apart from the most recent, revised guidance on Identifying Children Missing an Education in January 2009, has evolved to allow for the fact that parents, not the state, should raise children.

He should help LAs understand the limits of their responsibilities under s436a of Education and Inspections Act 2006, in which regard we would ask him, instead of proceeding with Schedule 1, to take the pressure off LAs by reinstating the earlier version of Guidance on Identifying Children Missing an Education from February 2007. Section 3.3 of this guidance in effect allowed parents to determine the form of education of their children and enabled LAs to make a proportionate and less wasteful response to HE families.

There are plenty of reasons why he should do this in preference to continuing with Schedule 1. This course of action would allow for the right balance to be struck, allowing for a proportionate response on the part of LAs. On the other hand, Schedule 1 would be:

*useless in detecting hidden abuse, (what have abusive parents to lose by not registering),

*is extremely damaging (as parents now have to tailor an education to fit the LA inspector and not the child,)

*is extremely wasteful of public money (inspecting thousands of well-functioning families when social work departments can't cope with known cases of abuse),

*would be useless in protecting the government from red top abuse when a case is found. (The headline will be: Ed Balls enforces inspection of thousands of well-functioning families while social work departments are too overworked to deal with real problem cases).

*is an appropriation of parental responsibilities, (as the state would now raise the child by determining the form of education),

*is an invasion of privacy and an total devastation of children's rights. (A large majority of HE children do not want to see LA personnel).

*Since NuLab's Stop and Search powers have recently been deemed excessive by the European Courts, and given that Schedule 1 is similarly excessive in its impact upon law-abiding citizens, anyone wanting to use these powers should be very cautious indeed.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Graham Stuart on the CSF Bill - "A Snooper's Charter"

...in the Guardian.

Update on CSF Bill and Public Bill Committee

It is possible to subscribe for updates about the CSF Bill here.

The notices of amendments to the Children, Schools and Families Bill can be found here and continued here. There are several proposed amendments to Schedule 1 in the second link, which could do with scrutiny. At first glance, MPs Mr Loughton, Mr Gibb and Mr Wiggin appear to want to take out scrutiny for a suitable education. This is a very, very good place to start. We heard yesterday of a family providing an apparently very suitable autonomous education, but their provision was deemed unsuitable by the LA. We are set for trouble on this point folks, and these amendments would help a great deal to prevent it.

The news is that the Public Bill Committee will be sitting on 19th and 21st January. Submissions to the Committee can be made by sending an email to scrutiny@parliament.uk, making it clear to which Bill it relates. Further details about submissions to Public Bill Committees here:

UPDATE:

First meeting of the Public Bill Committee:

Meeting date: Tuesday 19th January 2010
Time: 17.15 - 19.00 hours.
Location: Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, House of Commons, London.

The witnesses giving oral evidence on the panel at this session are:

Graham Badman - author of report 'Review of Elective Home Education in England'.
Fiona Nicholson, Education Otherwise
Chloe Watson, Home Education Youth Council
Sir Paul Ennals, NCB
Beth Reid, National Autistic Society

And with thanks to Jilly UK, we now know who is on the Public Bill Committee:

CHAIRMEN: Mr David Amess, Janet Anderson
CLERKS: Mrs S. Davies, Miss Howe

16 MEMBERS

Conservative:
Nick Gibb, (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton)
Tim Loughton, (East Worthing and Shoreham)
Graham Stuart, (Beverley and Holderness)
Edward Timpson, (Crewe and Nantwich)
Bill Wiggin, (Leominster)

Liberal Democrat:
Annette Brooke, (Mid Dorset and North Poole)
David Laws, (Yeovil)

Labour:
Vernon Coaker, (Gedling)
Ann Cryer (Keighley)
Andrew Gwynne, (Denton and Reddish)
Diana Johnson, (Kingston upon Hull North)
Martin Linton, (Battersea)
Kerry McCarthy, (Bristol East)
Bridget Prentice, (Lewisham East)
Ken Purchase, (Wolverhampton North East)
Lynda Waltho, (Stourbridge)

Liberal Democrat:
Annette Brooke, (Mid Dorset and North Poole)
David Laws, (Yeovil)

Proposed Amendments to CSF Bill, Gibb, Loughton and Wiggin

Proposed Amendments to Schedule 1, available here are as follows: (deletions/ alterations in red. NB: Line nos. have been changed).

------------------------------------

70. Schedule 1, page 40, leave out lines 17 to 19.

Mr Nick Gibb
Tim Loughton
Bill Wiggin

ie:

"9C Entry of child’s details on home education register: supplementary provision

(1) Regulations may make provision about steps to be taken by an authority in connection with an application for a child’s details to be entered on their home education register.

(2) The regulations may, in particular, make provision about matters that are or are not to be taken into account by an authority in deciding—

(a) whether to register a child’s details under section 19B(3);

(b) whether a child is within section 19B(7);

(c) whether section 19B(8) applies to a child’s application.

(3) Regulations under section 19B(1)(a) may, in particular, make provision within subsection (4) or (5).

(4) Provision within this subsection is provision—

(a) about how an application for registration of a child’s details is to be made;

(b) requiring an application for registration of a child’s details to include a statement giving prescribed information about the child’s prospective education; [red text would be deleted]

(c) requiring an application to include other prescribed information;

(d) about the form in which a statement mentioned in paragraph (b), or any other information required to be included in an application, is to be provided;

(e) for an application for registration to include an undertaking to provide a statement mentioned in paragraph (b), or other prescribed information, to the authority within a period
determined by or in accordance with the regulations.


---------------------------------


71. Schedule 1, page 41, leave out lines 28 to 29.

Mr Nick Gibb
Tim Loughton
Bill Wiggin

ie:

19E Monitoring provision of home education to registered children

(1) A local authority in England shall make arrangements with a view to ascertaining, so far as is reasonably practicable—

(a) whether the education provided to a child whose details are entered on their home education register is suitable; [red text would be deleted]

(b) whether it accords with information provided to them for the purposes of the application for registration;

(c) what the child’s wishes and feelings about it are;

(d) whether it would be harmful for the child’s welfare for the child to continue to be a home-educated child.

-------------------------------------


72. Schedule 1, page 42, leave out line 38.

Mr Nick Gibb
Tim Loughton
Bill Wiggin

ie:

19F Revocation of registration

(1) A local authority in England may revoke the registration of a child’s details on their home education register if it appears to them that—

(a) the child’s parent has failed to fulfil an undertaking given by virtue of section 19C(4)(e),

(b) information that has been provided in connection with the application for the child’s details to be entered on the register is incorrect or inadequate in a material respect (whether or not it was so when it was provided),

(c) the child is not a home-educated child,

(d) it would be harmful to the child’s welfare for the child to continue to be a home-educated child,

(e) by reason of a failure to co-operate with the authority in arrangements made by them under section 19E, or an objection to a meeting as mentioned in section 19E(4), the authority have not had an adequate opportunity to ascertain the matters referred to in section 19E(1),

(f) the child is not receiving suitable education, or [red text would be deleted]

(g) the child is no longer in their area.

--------------------------------------------------------


73. Schedule 1, page 42, line 28, leave out from ‘respect’ to end of line 29.

Mr Nick Gibb
Tim Loughton
Bill Wiggin


ie:

19F Revocation of registration

(1) A local authority in England may revoke the registration of a child’s details on their home education register if it appears to them that—

(a) the child’s parent has failed to fulfil an undertaking given by virtue of section 19C(4)(e),

(b) information that has been provided in connection with the application for the child’s details to be entered on the register is incorrect or inadequate in a material respect (whether or not it was so when it was provided), [red text would be deleted].

-------------------------------------------------

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Tory Position

...from Conservative Home.

Why Schedule 1 Won't Work

In our time as home educators, I have come across a very small number of HE families who weren’t coping. This is about as much as you can say about them. They weren't evil and indeed all of them had nothing other than the best of intentions for their children, but for one reason or another, usually an accumulation of adverse circumstances, things had gone wrong. Usually the living standards were unhygienic to a degree that meant that health was compromised, and sometimes children weren't being given the appropriate moral guidance or basis for understanding how to live in this world.

At the time I met these families, some of them were not known to the authorities. At that point I would go away and agonise. Several times, I thought it would be possible for the HE community to help in a significant enough way that these families would be able to get back on their feet. However, on each occasion the situation was taken out of my hands, as someone else then rapidly referred them to social services.

Home educators, the poorly functioning and the successful families alike, get referred to social service departments left, right and centre. Indeed there is one HE group we attend in which we are the only family who has not been utterly spuriously referred to and then discharged by a social services department.

Unless a family hides their child under the stairs, home educators are highly visible. Neighbours, relatives, friends, friends of friends, village gossip, the net spreads fast and wide and if there is a hint of concern and very often even when there isn't, people take it upon themselves to let the authorities know.

Problem is, since Baby P, social workers have gone into "covering their backs" mode. Indeed, we strongly suspect this is the reason why one UK HE child we know was taken away from his/her family, only to be returned a year later after huge efforts by the family, their lawyer, their MP, and even the police. This is scary stuff for all HE families who will be wondering "might we be next?"

But this parlous situation will not be resolved by implementing the registration process as proposed in Schedule 1.

As I said, I think the number of children who are abused under the guise of being HE who are not known to the authorities is vanishingly small. However, if there are any such families it would not be rational for them to come forward to register, since what have they got to lose? The worst that can happen to them under the new proposals if they don’t register is that their children will be sent back to school and seeing as far worse could happen if they were known, a rational decision would be for them to keep schtum.

Schedule 1 won't work to patch up any holes in ContactPoint and given that Ed Balls' main motivation in all this seems to be to avoid any negative red top coverage, he might as well know this.

Instead the Schedule 1 proposals will damage well-functioning families with the loss of privacy and autonomy and will be a massive wast of public money which could be far better spent on overloaded social services depts.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

And yet more on the Rubbish that Ed Balls Spouts

Now there couldn't be any teensy, weensy possible chance that the DCSF intentionally released the Registration and Monitoring Consultation results on the same day that Home Educators were likely not only to be digging themselves out of snow drifts, but were also distracted by the second reading of the Children, Schools and Families Bill, now could there? I mean is there any possible chance that a man with the integrity of Ed Balls would have wanted to bury the news that 4497 out of 4833 of respondents thought that the proposals don't strike the right balance between the rights of parents and children? Nah, surely not.

Perhaps, (well, let's be as kind as we possibly can be) he hadn't actually read the consultation results himself. Yes, yes, that must be it, for otherwise the man must either be classed as a liar or seriously delusional for yesterday he said (see second para under column 436):

"In the vast majority of cases, home-educating parents will want to co-operate fully - this will be very light touch indeed"

The thing is, Ed, the truth does have a habit of outing itself. 4217 respondents who we can safely assume were mostly home educators thought that local authorities shouldn't have the right to visit the family home to interview the child within four weeks of HE starting, after six months have elapsed, at the anniversary of HE starting and thereafter on an annual basis. Only 311 respondents out of 4717 actually did think it a good idea, and you can bet your life, most of these weren't home educators. I think I know one home educator out of literally hundreds who thinks your plans have some (and even this person equivocates on many points), merit. The hundreds of other home educators I know are firmly of the considered opinion that you proposals are appalling in any number of different ways. So either you are neglectful in not understanding this is so, Ed, or you are lying, or you are delusional.

Whatever the explanation, this man shouldn't be in office.

UPDATE: The Guardian has further evidence that Ed has lost the plot.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Voting Now on Lib Dem Amendment

...to the CSF Bill: that the CSF bill will undermine the freedoms of home educators. Result due at 22.15.

Well, we lost: the amendment didn't pass: 211 Yays, 288 Nos, which is not surprising considering that the Labour party whip would have been employed. However the many impassioned and well-argued speeches and the strong opposition to the bill in the house will send a strong message to the Public Bill Committee - (the next part of the progress of the bill.)

We know there is to be a Committee hearing on 19th January, 17.15 to 19.00 hours.

Ed Balls Not Telling the Truth

For example, he persists in maintaining a few minutes ago, that there will be no penalties for HE families, when the penalty of having your child forced back into school without any consideration to the success of their education is clearly laid out in the Children, Schools and Families Bill.

What a shame that the Libertarian Party hasn't got a greater say!

Meanwhile, the Guardian has more on the HE open letter in an article entitled "Ed Balls accused of wasting 1bn on red tape".


Registration and Monitoring Consultation Responses

Available as a download here.

Department for Children, Schools and Families Public Consultation Response

Home Education – registration and monitoring proposals.

1. Introduction

Why the consultation took place

On 11 June, the Secretary of State placed Graham Badman’s report entitled, Review of Elective Home Education in England, in the House of Commons Library. The report set out an analysis of evidence about the standard of education received by home educated children, and the extent to which local authorities were able to satisfy themselves that a suitable, full time education was being provided in a safe environment. It contained 28 interrelated recommendations which, together, mapped out how improved relationships between local authorities and home educators could lead to better support for home education, particularly where home educated children have special educational needs (SEN), want to take formal qualifications, or access education in further education colleges.

The Secretary of State’s initial response warmly welcomed the report and recognised that the review made a compelling case for immediate and urgent reforms to ensure that all home educated children are known to, and monitored by, local authorities. The government announced it was launching a public consultation on the proposals for registration and monitoring. The consultation was launched on 11 June 2009 and closed on 19 October 2009. Replies were invited by letter, e-mail or interactive web-site.

2. Overview and next steps for the policy

The responses to this consultation reflect the views encountered by Graham Badman in the course of conducting his review. Most of the respondents were home educating parents or children, their friends or relatives, or organisations supporting home education. These respondents did not accept the human rights arguments set out in the Badman report. They did not think that there should be a role for the state in ensuring that the quality of home education was adequate, nor that children had a right to education that had to be considered independently of their parents’ preferences.

Many respondents expressed concern that local authority officers do not have a thorough knowledge of home educating methodologies and approaches, and that they expect home educated children to be following broadly the same curriculum as children educated in schools. They doubted that sufficient funding would be made available for high quality training that would help local authority officers gain a deep understanding of educational approaches the home educating community use, including autonomous learning.

The full response to the Badman report published on 9 October set out in detail the funding that the government is committed to investing to meet additional home education costs in full from April 2011. As the full response was published close to the end of the consultation period, it is likely that most respondents did not read it before submitting their response to the consultation. However, we are taking this opportunity to restate the government’s pledge to cover the incremental costs of the review in full when it is implemented.

Most respondents were concerned about the proposal that failing to register or cooperate could lead to prosecution. We have considered alternatives carefully, and we are no longer proposing to make it a criminal offence to fail to register. We are instead proposing that, where parents refuse to cooperate with registration and monitoring, an amended school attendance orders system should be invoked.

The consultation responses suggested some confusion about the proposals to hold school places open for 20 days after parents had taken the decision to home educate. Many respondents thought that home educated children would have to continue to attend school during this 20 day period whereas in fact they would from the point of withdrawal be home educated. The 20 day period represents the length of time before the school place would be offered to another child in case the home educating parents changed their minds during that period. There is no detriment or burden placed on home educators through this proposal so we have concluded that the opposition to this element is due largely to a misunderstanding of what we are proposing.

The most controversial areas were proposals to see children in the home or other location where education is carried out, and proposals for local authority officers to see the child alone. Many home educators felt that a home visit was an intrusion into their privacy and family life that could not be justified. They also felt that the 2 week notice period may not be long enough in the event of a family holiday, for example.

We have considered these objections carefully but have decided that local authorities should visit the place where education is taking place, which will usually be the family home, as part of their monitoring work. This would allow local authorities to ensure that the home is in a suitable condition and is free from any factors that might interfere with the provision of education, such as a lack of power and/or heating, or severe overcrowding, for example. We will consider carefully what can be done to make the notice period of a visit as flexible as possible, to suit the circumstances of individual families. If families choose not to cooperate, and as a result are not on the register, local authorities will be able to use a school attendance order to require the home educated child or children to attend school.

Many respondents were concerned about the proposal to see the child alone. They were concerned that local authority officers acting alone could be at risk of safeguarding allegations, and that some children could find the experience traumatic, particularly if they were young, had mental health problems, or special educational needs. These are important points and we are responding to them by accepting that a blanket requirement for children to be seen alone is neither necessary nor appropriate. We recognise that local authorities will need the power to see children alone or with another trusted adult but this power should only be exercised where there is no other way to ascertain that home educators are providing a satisfactory education. Where a child or parent refuses to cooperate with an interview, and it is not possible to secure satisfactory information about the adequacy of home education, local authorities will have the power to revoke registration and ultimately to issue a school attendance order as a last resort.

Local authorities welcomed the proposals on the basis that they thought the current system did not allow them to carry out their legal responsibilities in ensuring that home educated children were receiving a suitable education and were safe and well. They said that a coherent system of registration would allow them to identify all home educated children in their area, helping to ensure that they could offer better and more tailored support to home educating families, particularly to those with special educational needs. They were also clear that local authority staff who work with home educating families would need high quality, dedicated training in advance of the introduction of the new arrangements to enable them to implement them well.

While we know that most home educating parents are providing a good education for their children, local authorities have provided examples of children for whom this is not the case. They estimate that around 20% of home educating children known to local authorities may be receiving an inadequate education and an additional 1.8% of home educated children (known to local authorities) may be receiving no education at all. We are therefore convinced that “light touch” monitoring is not only appropriate but is also essential if local authorities are to identify those children who are not receiving a sound education.

We have considered carefully the large number of responses and noted the strength of feeling within the home educating community. The arguments put by respondents mirror those put to Graham Badman in the course of his review and we remain clear that we need to make changes to existing arrangements to ensure that home educated children receive an education that prepares them for adult life.

Since this consultation closed, many of our proposals for a registration and monitoring scheme have been endorsed by the Select Committee in their 16 December report and we are grateful for their support bearing in mind the extent of the evidence they collected from many witnesses and written submissions.

We are now considering the detailed recommendations made in the report and will respond to the Select Committee in February.

After considering the consultation responses carefully we decided to implement our proposals for a registration and monitoring scheme for home educated children as part of the Children, Schools and Families Bill. In drafting the primary legislation, we have taken into account many of the concerns expressed by consultees. We have also decided that the appropriate sanction for parents who do not cooperate with the registration and monitoring scheme is use of school attendance orders; we have chosen not to give powers that would allow local authorities to insist that they see children alone in the family home; and we have provided details on 9 October of a substantial support package for home educated parents and their children.

The following section sets out in more detail our response to the key concerns arising from the consultation. A summary of the consultation responses received for each question is given in section 3 below.

Key concerns expressed by respondents

i. Register of home educated children (Q1-7)

· Home educators have been let down by state schools and local authorities in the past and are now being asked to register their children;

· A register would be of little use in identifying the minority of parents who were abusive or neglectful as they will avoid registration;

· Proposal to introduce a criminal offence for failing to register a home educated child is a step too far;

· Statement of approach to education – local authorities don’t understand the methodologies and approaches within home education so how can they assess whether the education is suitable;

· 20 day rule – if issues have not been resolved in the months leading to withdrawal how can a further 20 days on roll achieve anything? Will children have to attend school during this period/will their absence be classed as truancy?

Response – The purpose of a registration and monitoring system is to enable local authorities to keep track of home educated children of compulsory school age, and to ensure that they receive the education and support they are entitled to in a safe environment. It will also enable local authorities to plan and deliver the support package outlined in the full response to Graham Badman’s review.

We want the new arrangements to promote more supportive and constructive relationships between all home educating families and local authorities, with them working together to ensure children receive the best possible education in a safe environment. Statutory guidance will ensure that the registration system is flexible and user friendly.

We envisage close co-operation between home educators, local authorities and children's previous schools, where appropriate, in developing the statement of approach to education. We have earmarked money for local authority officers and others engaged in the monitoring and support of elective home education to be suitably trained. We want this training to give these staff a full understanding of the essential differences, variation and diversity in home education practice, as compared to schools.

It is unsatisfactory that there is no shared, up to date, concept of what constitutes a “suitable” education. We know that autonomous home educators are particularly concerned about any new requirements to plan provision systematically as they perceive this conflicts with their approach to education. We have undertaken to commission further work on what constitutes a “suitable” education and we will take into account the views of home educators and others in developing the specification for this work and in drafting guidance which flows from the findings of this work.

Our aim in proposing that schools should retain their pupils on roll for 20 days is to ensure that any school related problems which led parents to opt for home education could be resolved. Children withdrawn from school can be home educated from the point of withdrawal, but the 20 days allows parents further time to consider carefully the benefits and drawbacks of home education. Our intention is to bring in changes to this aspect of the current legislation from 1 Sept 2011, but we will consult further on the practicalities of taking this action before making these changes.

The new registration arrangements will be enforced through an amended school attendance orders system.

ii. Safeguarding (Q8)

· Safeguarding is a welfare issue and not an educational issue. Why are you dealing with these together under the new legislation;

· What do you mean by “substantial” safeguarding concerns.

Response

Local authorities have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. If any child protection concerns come to light in the course of engagement with a home educating family these concerns will be dealt with using established protocols for child protection. The proposed legislation is focused on the quality of education rather than on safeguarding arrangements. However, we anticipate that local authority officers meeting home educating families will receive safeguarding training so that they are equipped to recognise safeguarding issues and make referrals where appropriate.

Home educators are understandably anxious about any threshold that might be applied in deciding whether to prohibit a family from home educating. The general approach will be for each case to be considered on an individual basis, underpinned by an assessment of whether it would be harmful to the child’s welfare to become or to continue to be a home-educated child. We anticipate that this assessment will be based on substantial issues only and we propose saying more about this in any statutory guidance.

iii. Monitoring (Q9- 11)

· Visits to family home will be intrusive and two weeks notice may not be enough;

· Children should never be interviewed alone;

· Monitoring levels excessive.

Response

Monitoring must be proportionate and light touch where home educators are doing a good job. We envisage that statutory guidance will set out the detail of any monitoring arrangements. While we think that a two week notice period is generally reasonable, we recognise that local authorities have to be flexible where this does not fit with family routines and commitments. We envisage that during the registration period the local authority will visit the place where the child’s education will usually takes place at least once, and meet the child, its parents and anyone else delivering the child’s education. A local authority officer will not be able to interview a child without their parents being present if either the parents or the child object.

iv. General

· Will funding be available to local authorities to support the additional work?

Response

We have already agreed to provide sufficient funding to underpin any new arrangements.

3. Summary of the responses to each question

We received 5,211 responses to the consultation document of which: 2,222 were from home educating parents; 436 from home educated children/young people; 83 from local authorities; 40 from organisations representing home educating families; 40 from other organisations with responsibility for children. A further 2,390 replies fell into the “other” category including anonymous responses, those who did not specify a respondent type; and “campaign” type responses which were received after groups including the Christian Institute, Education Otherwise and the British National Party lobbied their members to reply to the consultation via their own websites.

The responses are summarised below.

Consultation question

Agree

Disagree

Not sure

Total responses

Q1. Do you agree that these proposals strike the right balance between the rights of parents to home educate and the rights of children to receive a suitable education?

230

4497

106

4833

Q2. Do you agree that a register should be kept?

621

3012

316

3949

Q3. Do you agree with the information to be provided for registration?

357

3022

190

3569

Q4. Do you agree that home educating parents should be required to keep the register up to date?

455

2972

176

3603

Q5. Do you agree that it should be a criminal offence to fail to register or to provide inadequate or false information?

245

3409

131

3785

Q6a. Do you agree that home educated children should stay on the roll of their former school for 20 days after parents notify that they intend to home educate?

476

2621

416

3513

Q6b. Do you agree that the school should provide the local authority with achievement and future attainment data?

341

2959

248

3548

Q7. Do you agree that DCSF should take powers to issue statutory guidance in relation to the registration and monitoring of home education?

300

3281

195

3776

Q8. Do you agree that children about whom there are substantial safeguarding concerns should not be home educated?

577

2371

1189

4137

Q9. Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises where home education is taking place, provided two weeks notice is given?

472

3106

226

3804

Q10. Do you agree that the local authority should have the power to interview the child alone if this is judged appropriate, or if not, in the presence of a trusted person who is not a parent/carer?

215

4360

81

4656

Q.11 Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises and interview the child within four weeks of home education starting, after 6 months has elapsed, at the anniversary of home education starting, and thereafter at least on an annual basis? This would not preclude more frequent monitoring if the local authority thought that was necessary.

311

4217

189

4717




A question by question summarised narrative of views is provided below.

Register of Home Educated Children

Q1. Do you agree that these proposals strike the right balance between the rights of parents to home educate and the rights of children to receive a suitable education?

This question received the highest number of replies – 4,833. The majority of home educating parents, home educated children, organisations representing home educating families and “others” disagreed with this statement. They stated that it is parents’ responsibility to raise their children and to ensure that they receive a suitable education and that they did not accept that there could ever be a conflict between the rights and interests of parents and children. 750 respondents said that the proposals were draconian and represented serious infringements with the civil liberties and family privacy.

Several respondents suggested that many children were home educated because schools were failing in their duty to provide a suitable education. They thought that home education and the school system were two different methods of educating a child. Many raised issues about what constituted a “suitable education”, calling for further clarification on this issue.

610 respondents stated that no evidence had been provided by the Badman review to suggest that parents weren’t doing a good job in the home education of their children or to substantiate the safeguarding concerns raised as part of the review.

Most local authority respondents and some home educated children and their parents (115) agreed that the proposals struck the right balance of rights and interests of parents and children. They would strengthen and clarify local authority roles and responsibilities and recognise a parent’s right to choose to educate their children themselves. Some local authorities suggested that staff training was the key to successful implementation of the proposals.

Q2. Do you agree that a register should be kept?

Almost 900 fewer respondents answered this question compared to Q1. Again, the majority of home educated parents and home educated children, organisations representing home educating families and “others” disagreed with the need for a register. They stated that a register would be of little use in identifying the minority of parents who were abusive or neglectful, that it was a waste of resource, and that it would be used to “control home” educators and to forcibly return children to state education. 537 respondents said that many home educating families had been let down by the state school system and the proposals expected parents to apply for registration to the same people who they considered had already failed their children. 393 respondents disagreed with annual registration and said that this amounted to a licensing scheme.

431 respondents offered suggestions relating to the current availability of information about children who are home educated, including the child benefit database, GPs’ registers and the ContactPoint database.

All local authority respondents strongly agreed with the need for a national register and stressed that this would ensure that information about home educated children was collected in a more consistent way. It would also ensure that a child was receiving a suitable education and support good safeguarding practices. Some local authorities raised the cost of maintaining and updating a register on an annual basis.

A further 539 respondents from across the different categories felt that a register was a logical step towards understanding the home education statistics and in helping to identify additional funding and support for home educating families. 262 suggested that registration should be on a voluntary basis, to provide a more equal partnership and allow home educators to access the support and guidance available from local authorities, if they wish to do so.

Q3. Do you agree with the information to be provided for registration?

Over 1200 fewer people answered this question than for Q1. The majority of home educating parents and home educated children, organisations representing home educating families and “others” disagreed with the information to be provided for registration purposes because they did not agree with the need for a register.

424 respondents said that they disagreed with the need to supply a statement of approach to education because they believed that the concept of home education was different to that of state education and a statement might undermine the flexibility of approach that characterises home education.

The majority of local authority respondents agreed with the information to be provided for registration and suggested that clearer guidance was needed to ensure that local authorities could interpret and make sound judgements about the “approach to education”.

148 respondents said that assurances were needed about the arrangements for confidentiality, data security and information sharing of data on the register.

Q4. Do you agree that home educating parents should be required to keep the register up to date?

The majority of respondents across all categories, with the exception of local authorities, disagreed with this requirement on the basis that it pre-supposed agreement with the introduction of a register. 638 said that they had no wish to comply with the request on the basis that there was no evidence to suggest that home educated children were not receiving a suitable education.

172 said that they thought that the registration system would be too bureaucratic and time consuming and that home educating parents would be better off spending their time educating their children rather than filling in forms.

454 respondents agreed with the proposal, stating that if a register was in place it would become pointless if it wasn’t kept up to date and adding that as parents had a legal responsibility to educate their children then it seemed reasonable to expect them to provide updated information for the register.

Q5. Do you agree that it should be a criminal offence to fail to register or to provide inadequate or false information?

Most respondents disagreed that it should be a criminal offence to fail to register or to provide inadequate or false information, stating that this was a step too far by Government in trying to control home educating families. They also thought that this action would be damaging to parent/local authority relationships.

244 respondents, including 117 home educating parents and children and 64 local authorities agreed with the proposal. Some local authorities said that they would have a duty to ensure that their home educating population were fully aware of the requirements of registration and that action to criminalise parents should only be taken in very extreme circumstances and only where parents had already been given additional support and advice to ensure that they fully understood both the requirements of registration and the implications of non compliance.

Q6a. Do you agree that home educated children should stay on the roll of their former school for 20 days after parents notify that they intend to home educate?

2,621 respondents disagreed with this proposal, many saying that it was within a parent’s rights to withdraw a child from school at any time and that any decision to do so would not have been taken lightly. Concerns raised included: whether 20 days was long enough to resolve any issues if they had not been sorted out in the months leading to the withdrawal of a child from school; that the welfare of the child might be dependent on deregistration from school; that it would be discriminatory to treat home educating children any differently to those who had transferred to another school; that it wasn’t clear whether or not a child would be expected to attend school for the 20 days and how this would work if the child was withdrawn from school within 20 days of the end of the school year.

283 considered the proposal as an invitation to hostile school authorities and local authority officials to attempt to bully parents into changing their minds about home education at a time when the family was under very considerable stress.

475 respondents agreed with the proposal saying that this would have been extremely helpful to them and would have provided a period of time to make absolutely sure that they had made the right decision to home educate their children. Most local authority respondents agreed with the proposals and asked for action to be taken to ensure that any child withdrawn from school but remaining on the register was not classed as being absent throughout the 20 day period and for clarification on the timescales for children with special educational needs where statements might need to be amended.

Q6b. Do you agree that the school should provide the local authority with achievement and future attainment data?

Most respondents disagreed with this proposal saying that once the child had left school there should be no further role for the school in providing information about the child. 413 had concerns that schools might deliberately or unintentionally provide incorrect information about a child’s attainment and that this information would then be used as a means of testing the suitability of home education provision. 566 said that a child’s achievements or future attainment as a home educated child could not be measured or predicted in the same way as that of a child in school as they did not follow a prescribed curriculum, have tests or achieve set targets.

340 respondents, including most local authorities and 167 home educating parents and home educated children agreed that the school should provide the local authority with this information. Several local authorities said that it was essential for them to have the information if they were to be able to carry out their responsibilities to monitor and support home education and also asked that the information be shared with home educating parents to ensure transparency and to promote an open working relationship.

Q7. Do you agree that DCSF should take powers to issue statutory guidance in relation to the registration and monitoring of home education?

The majority of respondents (3,281) did not agree that the DCSF should take powers to issue statutory guidance on the basis that they did not agree with the introduction of a compulsory registration and monitoring system. 196 thought that home education was so diverse that it would be impossible to monitor. Others felt that the current law was entirely sufficient, if it was fully understood and applied correctly by local authorities. They said that the 2007 Home Education Guidance had been well received by home educators and that it was an accurate and helpful explanation of the current legislation. 398 said that parents had responsibility for bringing up and educating children as they saw fit and the state should not interfere. They believed that there was too much statutory guidance already which infringed on their civil liberties.

299 respondents agreed with the proposal, including 151 home educating parents and home educated children and 78 local authorities. They said that a standardised national system would ensure a more consistent approach to working with home educating families.

Safeguarding

Q8. Do you agree that children about whom there are substantial safeguarding concerns should not be home educated?

This question had a high overall response rate but opinions varied widely. 2,371 disagreed and said that the question seemed to be mixing up safeguarding issues and educational standards. 447 thought that while logic said that a child must be safeguarded, the term “substantial safeguarding concerns” was open to a range of interpretations and a clearer definition was needed. 654 said that if concerns were really that substantial then children should not be in the home at all. Many thought that safeguarding was a welfare issue rather than an educational one and therefore should be dealt with under the existing child protection legislation. 487 did not believe that attending school was a guarantee of a child’s safety.

576 respondents agreed with the proposals. 219 said that there would first need to be substantiated evidence validated through a court process. The majority of local authority respondents said if substantial concerns existed about the safety of a child in the home or if children were subject to child protection procedures then they should have the powers necessary to refuse home education. The important word was “substantial” and this needed to be defined. Many said that it would be sensible to make decisions based on individual cases and then only after discussion with children’s services and other agencies.

Monitoring

Q9. Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises where home education is taking place, provided two weeks notice is given?

The majority of respondents said that visits to a family home by local authority officials were an unwarranted intrusion into family life and were completely wrong. Many felt that the visits would contravene Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights and were also discriminatory because officials did not have a legal right to entry to someone’s home without a court order under any other circumstances.

320 said that visits should be on a voluntary basis and only when parents sought out additional support and guidance from local authorities. They also thought that two weeks was not enough notice because of the very nature of home education, which could take place in a number of different venues, sometimes even abroad. 239 said that they would prefer to meet local authority officials in a “neutral” venue, such as a local library, or a home educating centre. They also thought that the current, non-mandatory arrangements worked well and were more conducive to better relationships with the local authorities. Several said that they thought it was vital that local authority staff carrying out visits had a good understanding of home education and were fully trained.

471 respondents agreed with this proposal, including the majority of local authority respondents. Local authorities felt that two weeks notice of a visit was reasonable but that there should be some flexibility built into the system to accommodate, for example, family holidays or circumstances where other concerns suggested the need for an earlier meeting. Some local authorities asked for additional clarity on where meetings should take place and on the implications of non-cooperation by parents. Others raised the issue of funding to meet the cost of additional work.

Q10. Do you agree that the local authority should have the power to interview the child alone if this is judged appropriate, or if not, in the presence of a trusted person who is not a parent/carer?

4,656 replies were received to this question with 4,360 disagreeing with the proposal. Many said that it confused education with safeguarding issues. They thought that a child should never be interviewed alone because this might in itself constitute a safeguarding risk to the child and it also had implications for the protection of the interviewer. 1,119 said that it constituted a gross violation of family, would be distressing to children and could potentially undermine the parent/child relationship. 414 expressed concerns that a child could be asked leading questions or say things they didn’t mean if they were interviewed alone. A further 390 felt that properly trained social workers should be dealing with cases where there were thought to be safeguarding concerns, rather than other local authority officers who might not be properly trained.

214 respondents agreed with the proposal, including 104 home educating parents/ home-educated children and 56 local authorities. Most local authorities said that it was important that a child was able to express their views on home education without their parents being present but had mixed views on whether the child should be interviewed alone because of the safeguarding and protection issues mentioned above. They suggested that any interviews should be held in the presence of a trusted third party. They considered that high quality training was essential for local authority officers.

Q.11 Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises and interview the child within four weeks of home education starting, after 6 months has elapsed, at the anniversary of home education starting, and thereafter at least on an annual basis? This would not preclude more frequent monitoring if the local authority thought that was necessary.

The majority of respondents, 4,217, disagreed with the proposed level of monitoring and thought that it was excessive, stating that Ofsted inspections of schools occurred much less frequently. 1,238 thought that the current law was clear and adequate and that the systems already in place would pick up where home education was failing. Others thought that where a parent had elected to home educate then the state/local authority should have no further responsibility regarding that child’s education.

360 raised concerns over proposals to visit after four weeks, believing that to be too soon for children to have adjusted to leaving their former school and for parents to have “found their feet”. 264 were not convinced that local authority officers would receive sufficient training and understanding of home education to allow them to be able to determine whether a child was receiving a suitable education at home.

A number of respondents said that they would welcome the visits as long as they offered support and resources but not if they were solely to monitor progress against educational plans. They added that they were in favour of easier access to flexi-schooling, school facilities and for help with the payment of examination fees,

310 respondents agreed with the proposed level of visits, including most local authority respondents, 161 home educating parents/home educated children and 2 organisations representing home educating families. Some local authorities raised concerns about the overall resource implications of making these visits and others asked for flexibility to apply discretion after the initial visit, especially where it had been established that good quality educational provision was in place.