Monday, May 21, 2018

EHE Guidelines for LAs 2007 and 2016, and CME Guidance

EHELGA 2007 can be found here.

EHELGA 2013 can be found here.

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Children Missing Education Guidance  2007 and also here.

Children Missing Education Guidance 2015

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2005 Letter to Directors of Children's Services re CME

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Does s436A Test for Suitability or Not?

This, on top of the Pam Problem, is the question that is taxing Home Educators right now.

It is transparently obvious that if home educators are asked, under 436A, to prove that their educational provision is suitable, there would be a gross inequity under that section, since schooling parents would only have to prove that they are sending their child to school in order to satisfy s436A and the question of whether that schooling provision is actually suited to the ability and aptitude of the child can go hang. Forget the fact that the school might be in special measures and that the pupil spends his time either staring out the window or sitting outside the head's office. That education, because it happens in school, is apparently under 436A "suited to his age, ability and aptitude"!

 Given the way 436A is actually worded:

436A  Duty to make arrangements to identify children not receiving education

(1)A local education authority must make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age but—

(a)are not registered pupils at a school, and

(b)are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school


this on the face of it seems a literal, if completely unjust, interpretation of the section.  Naturally Home Educators are pretty darn cross about this inequity and are kicking off about it big time.

But that isn't the only problem with testing for suitability at 436A, because the fact of the matter is that there is a test for suitability of educational provision for home educators at s437 as well.

The question must be: how can you have two different places in the same Act  (The Education Act 1996) which create two different routes by which a power of determination of suitability can be made, ie: one completely undefined process at 436A and then another totally different, well defined system in section s437 which involves checks and balances in the form of the courts? 

The draft LA Guidance where LAs are encourged to use 436A to test for suitability, page 14:

6.4 The department’s advice is that in all cases where it is not clear as to whether home education is suitable (including situations where there is no information available at all), the authority should attempt to resolve those doubts through informal contact and enquiries. An authority’s s.436A duty (and that under s.437, see below) forms sufficient basis for informal enquiries. Furthermore, s.436A creates a duty to adopt a system for making such enquiries.

would make no sense were it not for the fact that 436A is being touted by the DfE as a way of avoiding t
he right of appeal by parents to the courts through the normal judicial process since s436A gives no protection to parents against a decision by an unaccountable local authority, where s437 actually does give such protection through the courts. 

For this, see paragraph 6.19 (p17) of the Draft Guidance for LAs: 

"6.19.   The department is aware that some local authorities have been reluctant to prosecute for non-compliance with a school attendance order, for reasons connected with costs, and the behaviour of some parents who deliberately withhold information about home education provision but are then able to easily satisfy the court that the home education is suitable."

This is particularly important in this kind of case where a determination of unsuitability of educational provision by the parents could lead to a criminal prosecution.  It fails the most basic test of natural justice where an LA is given powers of determination over suitability of educational provision with absolutely no immediate check or balance upon their powers. 


That's of course putting aside all other worries parents have of the LA having far more resources than they do when it comes to going to the courts. 




The "Pam Problem"

...or the problem of a strong interpretation of 436A.

In my head, this problem is fast becoming known as the "Pam Problem" as the story of Pam is being used as a demonstration of the issues that arise from a new strong interpretation of 436A in the current draft Elective Home Education Guidance, upon which we are consulting at the moment.

Here's Pam's story:

Even though Pam and her family are known to their LA, (having, for example, having deregistered her child from school, or represented other HEors at LA meetings, or through personal acquaintance with an LA worker, or because they rang up and asked for help from the LA), since Pam appears capable of providing a suitable education, she has never once been checked by the LA for the suitability of her educational provision. 

Now under the Guidance's strong interpretation at para 6.4 page 14 of 436A, the LA would have a duty to check her educational provision for suitability.

For a fuller explanation of the implications of a strong interpretation of 436A v. the use of s437 (ie: the status quo), please see this table:




The fact is that guidance on how to interpret s436A is KEY because 436A is appallingly drafted. It is written ambiguously with the possibility of stressing different bits within it in a way which results either an equitable or inequitable interpretation of the section. Please see this post for a discussion of the ambiguity and inequity that the wording of 436A creates.

What to do now: 
We have to make it clear in our Call for Evidence responses that it is OK for us to say simply that we home educate, when asked any questions under 436A.  This would put us on an equal footing under the law with people who send their children to school and flexischoolers. 

IF then, there is an appearance of lack of suitability, then the LA can progress to check our suitability of provision under s437 with the check and balance that this assessment by the LA will ultimately be considered by the courts. 




Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Problem with 436A

The problem with the law is that it can be read in a number of different ways,  only some of which make sense.  Let's look at it again:

s436A  in the Education and Inspections Act 2006 (inserted in to the Education Act 1996):

Duty to make arrangements to identify children not receiving education

(1)  A local education authority must make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age but —

(a)   are not registered pupils at a school,

and (b) are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school.



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Right, so the first key question is:

Question 1:  To whom does s436A actually apply?

Let's try ALL children as a first fit.

Scenario 1.

In this scenario, in the act of checking the educational status of a child,  s436A has already been used. All children must be considered under s436A in order to establish whether they are either on a school register, suitably educated outside the school system or not providing a suitable education.  This interpretation of the s436A screen therefore includes schooled children, flexischoolers,  suitably educating home educators and those who are not in receipt of a suitable education.

Of course, whilst it is easy enough to determine that a schooled child is indeed schooled, since local authorities have lists of schooled children from all kinds of schools via schools' pupil register submissions, it not as easy to establish whether a child outside the school system is indeed in receipt of a suitable education.  This is largely because under s436A, those outside the school system must provide a "suitable education," whilst those within the schooling system must merely provide an education whether or not it is actually suitable, (suitability being defined in law at section 7 of the Education Act 1996).  

S436A interpreted this way, therefore introduces inequity in the face of the law, for whilst schooling parents are only required to send their children to school for the education for it to past muster by s436A, even though this schooling provision could be manifestly unsuitable, home educating parents have to provide a suitable education to pass s436A.

This inequity also therefore means that in Scenario 1, those families outside school will almost certainly require a higher standard of investigation than schooling families.  Once a child who is not registered at school is discovered, it looks as if the LA a required to make an evaluation of suitability of their educational provision which will involve contact with the family in one form or another so that the LA may form a judgement upon the nature of the suitability of education outside of school. This is far more extensive a check and far more intrusive upon families than merely checking a register in a council office.

Being held to different standards under the same law, ie: s7, creates all manner of annoyance to home educators who will kick off big time all over again should Scenario 1 come in to full effect.

Another problem with Scenario 1 of course, is that it means that in effect, the LA would become the arbiter of the nature of a suitable education.  This is a big problem as has been argued elsewhere in this blog. (It overturns the thrust of s7, it will make LAs liable to prosecution for failure to provide a suitable education, and it undermines democracy, given that a state dictated education is always open to abuse by those in power).

Also, in using s436A in this way, LAs must be very careful not to interfere with the process laid out in s437 Education Act 1996 for fear of screwing up the process therein and making it impossible to carry a prosecution forward.



================

Scenario 2.

s436A only applies to those children who are not in receipt of a suitable education.

This would apparently make sense of the way that s436A is written:  if you exclude those implicitly mentioned in part (a), ie: those registered at school, you would by rights, given that it is given equal weight as part of a list, exclude those implicitly mentioned in part (b), ie: those who are in receipt of a suitable education but outside the school system.

This means that home educators who provide a suitable education are also, along with schooled children, not subject to s436A.

This appears to make logical sense, but of course it appears to render the entire section completely useless for the purposes of actually working out who isn't in receipt of a suitable education, since if you exclude home educators from an investigation of suitability, given that you have no reliable idea what their provision actually is (unlike the school scenario), then there is no way to tell whether or not a home educator is a home educator or if their child is neglected and under the stairs.

It is unlikely that the state is going to want to take this scenario terribly seriously.


=================

Scenario 3:

s436A is only triggered AFTER part (a), ie: after you have excluded those registered at school from your search for children missing a suitable education.

This only makes sense if you read part (a) and part (b) not as a list of equal parts, but rather as a list of cascading actions of the if/then scenario.  If a child is on a school register, then he isn't part of s436A investigation, but given that you are inserting "if/thens" in one part (part a) when they are not actually there, surely logically the same action of inserting "if/thens" should apply to the other parts (ie: part b), which would result in "if a child outside school is in receipt of an education, then he also isn't part of a s436A investigation".  On the face of it, there does not seem to be a logical way of asserting that this way adding "if/thens" naturally stops between part (a) and part (b), in which case, we are back to the second scenario, whereby the only children who are actually subject to s436A investigation are those who are not in receipt of a suitable education, ie: Scenario 2.

And this is all premised on the idea that "and" COULD mean "if/then" when it patently actually does not, which again means that Scenario 3 does not exist.

==============

Scenario 4.

However, if one assumes that "and" can mean "if/then" the qualifier "suitable" in part (b) MAY prevent the list of if/thens from continuing to cascade.  Let us see how this pans out for the question of who is actually subject to s436A.

In the list of cascading if/thens, it is easy enough to rule out those in part (a).  An LA just looks at the list of pupils on the pupil registers that they hold and because they are the first on the list, for some reason that is not obvious within the actual writing of the section, but perhaps because it is easy enough for an LA to do, this ease of information access rules schooled children out of s436A. 

However, because suitability of education outside school is not so easily established (as seemingly required at part (b)), s436A then DOES kick in in order that the LA do the bulk of the work in sorting out genuine home educators from neglectful parents.

Whilst this interpretation would seemingly make sense in terms of the possible intention of s436A, it is by no means actually written down there in s436A and we are left, yet again with the injustice of home educators being held to a far higher standard of educational provision than schooling parents in that their provision must be deemed suitable. .

Scenarios 1 and 2 are actually the only two scenarios that do make sense in terms of how the law is actually expressed.

=============

Grand conclusion to Question 1: s436A doesn't actually say what it probably does mean to say.

So what to make of this confusion?  It matters because home educators want to know if they are or are not subject to having to be scrutinized for suitability of their provision under s436A.  In Scenario 2, they wouldn't have to be.  In Scenarios 1 and 4, they would have to be.  (Scenario 3 is the same as Scenario 2).

Given that the law at s436A is not written clearly, and indeed as written appears to result in two scenarios which do not appear to represent the spirit of the law, is the state nonetheless able to ignore the actual wording in pursuit of the spirit of the law?   If so, surely home educators would be right to feel aggrieved, given that they are being treated unfairly under the law at s7 of the Education Act 1996, where ALL parents are required to provide a suitable education, but only home educators are being held to account?  And would it not also be fair to say that the state is now the de facto arbiter of the nature of a suitable education?





Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Big Problem in the Draft EHE Guidance: Registration and Monitoring by the Back Door.

Right now, unbeknownst to most of us, the future of education in England is in jeopardy. By rights, we should all be worried, yet only a few people are aware of this threat, which isn't altogether surprising given that this menace only becomes manifest after one's wrapped one's brain round a complex interplay of various tiny bits of education law as interpreted in an obscure bit of draft guidance that only appears to affect a tiny minority of educators.

But it does matter.  It matters because if we don't get this right, the local education officer rather than the family will, on account of a potentially strong interpretation of Education Act 1996 s436A ie; the duty to find children missing a suitable education, be given the remit, via data trawls, to find and to assess the suitability of educational provision of every child in the land and will therefore be the one who decides the limits of a suitable education.

I argued before that this needn't be a problem.   What does it matter if a local authority officer rules out a particular form of education when there are so many other variants from which to choose?  Well, after thinking about it in the cold light of directly being threatened with such a situation,  I've changed my mind.  It actually does matter.  It matters A LOT. It matters precisely because the LA officer may rule out the only form of education that actually does fulfil the parent's duty to cause a child to receive a suitable education, as required of parents in Section 7 of the Education Act 1996.

Section 7 requires a parent to make sure that their educational provision is suited to the ability and aptitude of the child.  The provision of a suitable education that is genuinely suited to a child's ability and aptitude requires really knowing and understanding the abilities and aptitudes of that particular child.  And here's the thing - drum roll, big news: it is parents who actually really know their children. The local authority officer, on the other hand, only sees a child at the very most three times a year and he never gets to see those moments when mum and dad had to drag a screaming, school phobic child out from under the bed, and force them out the house, bloodied hands grasping at the door frame. He doesn't get to see what happens when a parent tried to force an emotionally shattered child to do their maths homework. He also doesn't get to see how well the child learns when pottering in the garden, when speaking with their friends or when searching for YouTube videos that answer the particular question the child has of a moment, yet the parent can see all of this.

Understanding what sort of educational provision would genuinely suit a child may therefore be far harder for an LA officer to understand than for family.  They simply don't have the background information on which to base this assessment.

It may be made even harder for LA officers because they come armed with a bundle of preconceptions about what they should be looking for in terms of educational provision.  The words at the top of  the relevant bit of guidance  which stipulate that the government want:

"to ensure all young people receive world-class education which allows them to realise their full potential, regardless of background, in a safe environment"

will be ringing in their ears.  From the same Guidance at section 9, they will also be remembering:

"... home education provision need not follow specific examples such as the National Curriculum, or the requirement in academy funding agreements for a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum, nor the independent school standards prescribed by the Secretary of State. Conversely, however, if the home education does successfully deliver one or more of those examples then that would constitute strong evidence that it was ‘suitable’ in terms of s.7".

From this and from the fact that they may well be schoolteachers themselves and therefore thoroughly entrenched in the schooling paradigm, they may conclude that we should forget pottering about in the garden, every child needs to be pushed, pushed, pushed to the absolute maximum of their potential. Forget about aptitude - prioritise ability.  If the child seems bright, ignore the fact that they have zero interest in the subject, (a constituent of aptitude), and sit them down with their Kumon maths until they've mastered the outer reaches of algebraic topology.  So what if this means discounting the legislative requirement to also attend to the aptitude of the child, since after all, if you do that, you would ignore the capacity that clearly exists in their native smarts.

And yet home educators of long experience know that a lot of pottering really CAN be one of the most successful forms of education around, and this because it facilitates the key relationship between ability and aptitude, ie: that ability is circumscribed by aptitude.

Aptitude is the gatekeeper to ability and the child is the master of aptitude.  Key components of aptitude are interest and motivation and a child knows what he is genuinely interested in learning.  When he is interested in something and has a capacity to satisfy that interest, he will be learning and learning well.  Motivation is key to effective learning and thereby to mastery and purpose as Daniel Pink has long been arguing.

At 6 mins 35 into that animation, Pink says:

 "You probably want to do something interesting. Let me get outta your way."

and this is precisely what a lot of experienced home educators have done and they have seen it work!  These young people, now grown up and thriving, weren't forced to perform to their obvious abilities in the standard schooling sense. They often spent a lot of time trampolining, seeing their friends, talking with family, playing computer games, dancing, rock climbing, caring for animals, playing guitars, drums, flutes, cellos, and reading and drawing a lot,  yet they all ended up doing whatever they wanted to do in life, often displaying a lot of creativity in achieving these ends.  A lot of the time, their parents took a step back and let the natural curiosity of the young person direct the educational provision that was offered.

Given that it tallies aptitude with ability, facilitating the pursuit of interests and thereby learning now to learn really does look like the most suitable education around and yet it looks so vastly different to the normal schooling paradigm that it could easily lead to an accusation of educational neglect, but it really isn't and young people have a lot to teach us in this department.

Yet all this could so easily be whisked away on the whim of an LA officer with preconceptions of what an education should look like, thereby removing a family's agency when it comes to determining the nature of a suitable education.

Even if parents provide an education that is nominally within state determined parameters, the responsibility of parents to decide upon the form and content of education would have been removed from them and this applies to every parent in the land.  Every parent in the land now no longer has the duty to determine the nature of suitable education. They are merely minions of the state in that they must provide a state approved form of education.

This is hugely significant not only in that it may deprive home educators of a form of education that is actually genuinely suited to their child, but for loads of other reasons too.

There are constitutional reasons why this is a terrible move.  OK, the government seems relatively benign now, but families not having a clear right to determine the nature of a suitable education deeply inscribed in the bedrock of our democracy as should be the case according to the spirit of Article 2 Protocol 1 of the ECHR:

“No person shall be denied the right to education. 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 religious and philosophical convictions” 

leaves us open to state indoctrination in a way that should not be countenanced in a mature democracy.

Then there is the problem of who is held to account for a failure to provide a suitable education.  Should the parent provide a state-mandated education, and yet this fails the child, the child should rightfully no longer feel aggrieved at his parent, since the ultimate responsibility for this determination no longer rests with the parent. Indeed, it may have been that the genuinely suitable education was not available to the parent to provide, given that the state would have prevented him from providing it. The state must therefore rightfully take the blame, and should expect to be held liable for educational failure of all sorts.

The other situation of still holding the parent accountable seems unconscionably unjust. Most bits of satisfactory law hold people to account only when they reliably have agency in the matter, yet in this situation, parents would have no reliable agency at all. Not only are they unable to able to freely determine the nature of a suitable education on account of having this determination removed from them by the state, but they are also incapable of reliably making a child learn, since they, along with everyone else on the planet, cannot open up the head of a child and pour knowledge into it as one would water in to a bucket.  The child has the agency here - they must initiate the learning process and no-one else can do this for them. The parent therefore would be in a position of double jeopardy, and in lieu of the child being held responsible for a failure of education, the argument that the state be held responsible since at least they could influence one side of this situation becomes even more transparent.

There are other problems with enacting Children Missing Education more aggressively.  Some of these are explained here and can be broadly summarised as causing a problem with how LAs would enact another bit of legislation, ie: s437 .  If they have already aggressively checked a family for a suitable education as allowed for in Draft Guidance, how can an LA then go about using the measured processes suggested in s437?  These measured processes are vital in that they have preserved educational freedoms in this country for so long. They assume that the state has no business making a judgement on the suitability of education until way down the line when it is clear that the parent is not observing their duty in this regard.

But that isn't the end of it - there are yet more problems with an aggressive broad spectrum state check of educational suitability.

There's the problem that if you do data trawls as is suggested in the Draft Guidance, (page 9), genuinely abusive, neglectful or otherwise troubled families, knowing about data sharing, will not use services at all, thereby rendering those children even more vulnerable.  Better to have one statutory service provider knowing and helping and respecting client confidentiality than a whole team of people out there who know nothing of the family at all.

And yet further: in assuming that an aggressive check for suitability under CME applies to all children, LAs will therefore have immediate right to check the safeguarding situation with regard to the families of everyone in the country, since s175 of the Education Act 2002 says this:

"A local education authority shall make arrangements for ensuring that the functions conferred on them in their capacity as a local education authority are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children."
Further, since the Guidance makes it clear that educational neglect could constitute "significant harm" (page 18), of the threshold that could initiate action under s47 of the Children Act 1989,

7.6 A failure to provide suitable education is capable of satisfying the threshold requirement contained in s.31 of the Children Act 1989 that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm.

it seems that the duty to find children missing a suitable education must therefore become a safeguarding duty which involves a massive surveillance of the home educating population.

Whilst everyone must surely wish for every child in the country to be safe, this initiative is entirely disproportionate as well as wasteful in terms of trying to solve the problem of abuse and must surely represent evidence of mission creep and encroachment upon privacy of families who have done absolutely wrong.  Their right to a private life under Article 8 of the HCR  can go hang.

We have to get balance in this.  We cannot give the state carte blanche to walk in to our houses and inspect our intimate lives (for home education is completely enmeshed in private family life) on the off chance that we might be abusing our children one way or the other. There has to be a balance here for want of losing all rights and effectively living in a police state.

What's more, the country doesn't have the money to waste like this.  Social work departments are creaking under the strain, schools are cracking up, the NHS is chronically underfunded.  Statutory services can't cope with the at risk children they do know about. We don't have the money to be chasing law abiding citizens around.  Spend it where it is really needed.

The way to solve this problem is obvious: use CME as it has been used until recently and as it was originally intended. Assume that when someone says that they are home educating, they are doing so unless there is good reason to believe that this is not so.  This should be clearly stated in guidance and not left up to the LAs to invent stuff as they go along, see page 12 of the Draft Guidance as this could lead to all manner of abuses of power, what with LAs having access to legal resources and parents often having next to none.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

First Impressions of the Committee Stage of Lord Soley's Bill. 27th April 2018


Lord Soley's Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill went through Committee Stage in the House of Lords yesterday.  The proceedings as they are recorded in Hansard are here. They may also be viewed on Parliamentary TV here:

It's a complicated business working out who said what in relation to which bit. It seems you to have to read the Bill as it was originally introduced alongside the list of amendments and then need to remember which amendments were passed, but in the end, it is likely to be academic as Lord Agnew, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the DfE had this to say (key messages in bold):

"We are interested in it [the Bill] and welcome the debate it has engendered in this House and elsewhere, but the position remains that the Government are not formally supporting it. I made a commitment to consult on drafts of revised departmental guidance, ​and that consultation started on 10 April. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Watson, the guidance looks at specific issues such as the role of safeguarding by local authorities and whether that extends to this area.

The consultation is open until 2 July and we hope for responses from a wide spectrum of families, local authorities and others. This will give us a much firmer basis for considering whether any changes are needed. In the meantime, I shall listen to today’s proceedings with interest and note the point
. It is of course open to the noble Lord, Lord Soley, not to progress his Bill further until the Government’s consultation has concluded."


The following are some of the key messages that we imagine that Lord Agnew will have heard:

On exclusions and off-rolling:

From Lord Lucas:

There seems to be evidence that some schools are making it a practice to tip children into home education.​ That is not, in itself, a wrong thing. In the circumstances of an individual child, family and school, home education may be the best alternative. Some children who have been suffering in school will flourish in home education. You just do not know, without going into the details, whether this is malpractice or good practice. In too many places in this country, the alternative to home education is exclusion, and the pathway from exclusion is into desolation. We ought to provide, but do not, a strong system of alternative education for children who are persistently excluded.

Lord Adonis replied:

Does the noble Lord think that, rather than parents being obliged to home educate their children because of the danger of exclusion, a better solution would be to be much more restrictive about exclusions in the first place and not to allow them except in extremis? In that way, we would not have this huge extension of home education that is taking place at the moment, which is a covert form of excluding pupils from school.


Lord Adonis clearly sees the need to take action on the above and proposed meetings with Lords and Academies in order to try to sort the issue of exclusion by making it less easy to do.

*************


On Suitability of Educational Provision:

Lord Adonis recognised the difficulty of being prescriptive about the suitability of educational provison:

He said:

"it is quite difficult for the state to start making judgments about the philosophical preferences of parents when it comes to home education. The point I seek to make to the Committee is that while there are some forms of home education of which I personally strongly disapprove, I do not believe that is the big social issue facing the country. The major issue is home education that means no education, not home education that means better education. It is about getting at the fundamental problem of home education that means no education and throwing children on to the scrapheap that we have to deal with."

Lord Lucas explains why assessment is such a problem:

"There is not any sensible way to assess this in a light-touch way by some sort of standard assessment. Assessments are designed to evaluate what is happening in school, where there are a lot of children and statistics are in your favour; the oddities even out and you get some sort of pattern emerging that tells you how the school is doing as a whole. Even then, there are problems, as we have with Progress 8 at the moment, where the system means that the outliers have far too much influence on the average. If you draw Progress 8 out as a bell graph, however, you can see where the weight of a school is and can make a reasonable judgment on the quality of education being provided there. You cannot do that when looking at an individual child, not simply and not just by putting them through a SATs test. You need far more information. If a parent gets to a point where they are arguing with a local authority about a school attendance order and getting the independent advice needed to establish where their child is and what they have achieved, that could cost a couple of thousand quid. This is an immense resource to apply just to check where a child is. It is entirely pointless and destructive to emphasise assessment carried out by those sorts of means. "

Lord Addington also stressed the problems of anyone assessing for ability and aptitude, particularly in relation to special needs.

Lord Lucas said that the "supervised instruction" should not be included in the Bill because it is not how many HE children learn.


****************

On how funding could be managed:

Lord Lucas:

"I urge the Government to consider the idea that a budget should be given to local authorities to provide educational assistance to home-educated children. The Government are saving so much by these children coming out of school: £5,000 per year per child. The Government should not pocket the whole of that. There is no reason to. The Government should recognise that they have a continuing duty actively to support these children.

Having that fund and local authorities having that duty would produce a supportive attitude and a real reason for parents to engage with the local authority. It means that, rather than being hidden from sight, the vast majority of these children will be seen because they will be engaging in an activity sponsored by the local authority. They will be seen by independent professionals in doing that. There will be very good visibility and the whole problem of how we know that these children are being properly educated becomes easy to solve. It is solved as a side effect of educating them. That surely must be the best way to approach this. Supportive means actively supporting their education, not just directing what it should be.

There is a wide range of good practice out there that we could borrow from and, with good funding, produce something that results in a very large proportion of home-educating parents actively wishing to register. Most of them are not state phobic. Most of them just think the state has done a very bad job for them, and they do not trust some of the individuals involved. If we get to a position where the state is providing a range of helpful services, and there is a decent budget behind that, we would solve most of the problems covered in the Bill."

Baroness Morgan did her best to put the kibosh on that idea however.

***************

On an HE Register: 

Most Lords think the idea of a register a good one though Lucas recognises that:

"We should not just pick on home education—or, rather, those parents who choose to declare themselves at home educators—because the people who will register are probably not the ones who are causing us trouble. The ones who might cause us trouble are the ones who are not registered, or the ones that schools have chosen to abandon and their parents are really not capable of picking up. I do not think registration just for home education answers the case. I hope the Minister, in all that he is thinking through, when he comes to registration will look at the wider question of how local authorities are supposed to have proper information on which children they are supposed to be paying attention to."


UPDATE:  On the matter of registration, just before 11.45 in the Committee Stage of his Bill, Lord Soley said:

"I am of the view that it would be better if we had a system where, when a child becomes of school age, they have to be registered at a school of some type.... It is a matter for thought and discussion in government as to whether we consider that further down the line. It is part of the discussion with government."

Given that Lord Soley claims this is part of a discussion with government, it seems worth the effort to try to work out what he actually means here. What would registering every school age child at school actually involve?

Would every family have to register themselves and if so, how would this be policed to make sure everyone had done it?

Given the difficulty of policing a parental registration scheme, the plan to register all children must presumably therefore involve local authorities finding the location of every child in the land in a massive data sharing exercise, presumably cross referencing health and benefits records, and the LA then placing each child on a register of a school.

However this way of going about things would almost inevitably result in a muddle of epic proportions as all those parents who didn't want their child registered at their local primary for one reason or another would have to deregister in a flurry.

However it was implemented, such a scheme would result in schooling being the norm, and, assuming that home education remained a legal option, would make home education the anomaly.  This, on the face of it, would subvert the essence of parental responsibilities encapsulated in s7 Education Act 1996 and make the state the de facto parent, since the state would be determining where a child will be educated without the input of the family. The spirit of the state taking over parental responsibilities would continue apace.

***********


On Radicalisation and Illegal Schools:

There was a general consensus that the Bill could not cope with dealing with these matters but that they did need to be dealt with by government.

***********

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Tweedie Case, 1963: Regina v. Surrey, ex parte TWEEDIE:

REGINA v. SURREY QUARTER SESSIONS APPEALS COMMITTEE, ex parte TWEEDIE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
61 LGR 464

HEARING-DATES: 2 July 1963

2 July 1963

CATCHWORDS:
Education -- School attendance -- Children educated at home -- Refusal by parents to allow inspection -- School attendance orders made by local education authority -- Whether authority entitled to insist on inspection of children's education at home -- Education Act, 1944 (7 & 8 Geo. VI, c. 31) ss. 36, 37 (1) (2) (5).

HEADNOTE:
The Education Act, 1944, provides by section 36: "It shall be the duty of the parent of every child of compulsory school age to cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise." By section 37: "(1) if it appears to a local education authority that the parent of any child of compulsory school age in their area is failing to perform the duty imposed on him in the last foregoing section, it shall be the duty of the authority to serve upon the parent a notice requiring him,... to satisfy the authority that the child is receiving efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. (2) If, after such such a notice... the parent fails to satisfy the authority... that the child to whom the notice relates is receiving efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude, then if in the opinion of the authority it is expedient that he should attend school, the authority shall serve upon the parent an order (hereinafter referred to as a 'school attendance order') requiring him to cause the child to become a registered pupil at a school named in the order. (5) If any person upon whom a school attendance order is served fails to comply with the requirements of the order, he shall be guilty of an offence..."

In 1952 the mother of ten children became disabled as a result, of contracting poliomyelitis from her eldest child who had come into contact with it at school. Those of her children who were of compulsory school age attended a private school until 1959 when they were transferred to local authority schools. In 1960 all the children contracted influenza, and the mother informed the education officer that the children would be withdrawn from school. On 7th May, 1960, the parents began educating the children at home. Between October, 1960, and April, 1961, attempts to enforce the attendance of the children at school were resisted by the parents and the children. In April, 1961, four of the children were placed under supervision and were sent to local authority schools. Those orders were revoked in May, 1961, on the mother's evidence that the children could be educated at home and that she would permit inspection as far as she could. Although reports of the work being done by the children were submitted, the local authority did not have an opportunity of inspecting the children's education at home. On 6th September, 1961, the authority served a notice under section 37 (1) of the Education Act. 1944, requiring the parents to satisfy them that the children were receiving an efficient full-time education by allowing inspection at home. Not being satisfied, the authority gave the parent as opportunity of choosing schools for the children. On 4th December, 1962, school attendance orders were made under section 37 (2) of the Act of 1944. Both parents were convicted of having failed to comply with those orders. The father's appeal against his conviction was dismissed by the Divisional Court on 11th February, 1963. The mother appealed to quarter sessions against her convictions and her appeal was dismissed.

On an application by the mother for an order of certiorari to quash the attendance orders on the ground, inter alia, that they were invalid since the local authority had refused to consider any method other than inspection in the home of satisfying themselves as to the children's education.

Held, refusing the application, that, although as a general rule an education authority should not, as a matter of policy, insist on inspection in the homes as the only method of satisfying themselves that children were receiving efficient full time education, there were cases in which the authority was entitled to insist on such inspection; that in the circumstances, this was such a case; and that, therefore, neither the conduct of the authority nor the attendance orders were open to attack.

INTRODUCTION:
Application for an order of certiorari.

The applicant, Mrs. Joan Lowndes Tweedie, the mother of ten children, applied for an order of certiorari to quash a decision of Surrey Quarter Sessions Appeals Committee on 27th July, 1962, dismissing her appeal against her convictions before the Surrey justices sitting at Oxted on 25th June, 1962, that, being the parent of Elizabeth, Ruth, Priscilla, David, Paul and Lois Tweedie, all children of compulsory school age, she unlawfully failed to comply with the requirements of school attendance orders made by the Surrey County Council, the local education authority, contrary to section 37 of the Education Act, 1944 (7 & 8 Geo. 6, c. 31).

The facts are stated in the judgment of Lord Parker of Waddington C.J.

COUNSEL:
T. A. C. CONINGSBY for the mother.

R. SIMPSON for the local education authority.

PANEL: Lord Parker of Waddington C.J., Widgery J. and John Stephenson J.

JUDGMENTBY-1: LORD PARKER OF WADDINGTON C.J.

JUDGMENT-1:
LORD PARKER OF WADDINGTON C.J. In these proceedings, Mr. Coningsby moves on behalf of the applicant, Mrs. Joan Lowndes Tweedie, for an order of certiorari to bring up and quash an order of Surrey Quarter Sessions Appeals Committee dated 27th July, 1962, dismissing her appeal against her convictions by Surrey justices sitting at Oxted for failure to comply with certain school attendance orders. I would like to say at the outset that I am indebted to Mr. Coningsby who, in difficult circumstances, has produced a considered and moderate argument in support of this motion.

This matter has had a long and unfortunate history. There is no doubt that the applicant sincerely believes that she has been treated with extreme inhumanity, to use her own words, by the local education authority and, as she states in one of her affidavits, she feels extreme bitterness towards them. It is unnecessary to go through the early history of the matter. The applicant had an unfortunate experience in sending her elder children to school; the first child got polio and she caught it from him and is now confined to a wheeled chair. When the younger children went, as they did, to a local authority school they were, according to her, always ill and a time came when she took them away.

On 7th May, 1960 -- and this is where we can really start -- she and her husband began educating the children at home. Difficulties at once arose, and on two occasions in 1960, the husband was prosecuted for failing to comply with school attendance orders which had been made. Finally, in April, 1961, four of the children were put under supervision and sent to a local authority school. The applicant then applied for those orders to be revoked and on 18th May, 1961, she obtained revocation of those orders. She gave, as I understand it, some evidence that the children could be educated at home and she also said, according to the evidence, that, if the orders were revoked, she would allow inspection of the children's education in the home.

Not only is there evidence that she gave that assurance in court, but before the proceedings she wrote a letter, dated 25th April, 1961, in which she said: "On their return to us you will be able, as far as I am able to say this [and that was presumably referring to her health] to see them [i.e. the children] in the environment in which {466} they have lived all their lives and been taught for over a year." In a letter to the divisional education officer dated 27th April, 1961, she said: "I pointed out to the court in my letter that I was prepared to give the evidence of the children's education even to inspection to the appropriate authority, but no one had asked me for it."

She maintains that she never did give any categorical assurance to that effect and that all she intended to do was to say that she would give inspection on the spot so far as she was able. From that point, as I read the correspondence, she has consistently refused such inspection. She has prevaricated; she has produced every form of excuse to prevent inspection, although when pressed she keeps on saying that she will allow it when she can. When she can, apparently, depends on, amongst other things, the weather, her own and her husband's health and so on. At any rate, her action was calculated to provoke the local authority, and I should like to say that, despite that provocation, on looking carefully at all the correspondence and the history of the matter, it seems to me that they and the divisional education officer have dealt with the matter with the greatest propriety, and have in no way harried or harrassed the applicant. They took the view that, having been given, as they understood it, assurances of of inspection in the home, they ought to have such inspection and, having failed to get it, they invoked the procedure under the Education Act, 1944 (7 & 8 Geo. 6, c. 31), for the making of attendance orders.

Before going further, I will read the relevant parts of the Education Act, 1944. Section 36 of the Act provides that: "It shall be the duty of the parent of every child of compulsory school age to cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."

Section 37 (1) by which the procedure is in the first instance the service of a notice provides

that: "If it appears to a local education authority that the parent of any child of compulsory school age in their area is failing to perform the duty imposed on him by the last foregoing section, it shall be the duty of the authority to serve upon the parent a notice requiring him, within such time as may be specified in the notice not being less than fourteen days from the service thereof, to satisfy the authority that the child is receiving efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."

Section 37 (2) goes on to provide that: "If, after such a notice has been served upon a parent by a local education authority, the parent fails to satisfy the authority in accordance with the requirements of the notice that the child to whom the notice relates is receiving efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability, and aptitude, then if in the opinion of the authority it is expedient that he should attend school, the authority shall serve upon the parent an order in the prescribed form (hereinafter referred to as a 'school attendance order') requiring him to cause the child to become a registered pupil at a school named in the order." Then there is a proviso to the effect that the parents then school be given an opportunity of selecting the name of the school to be inserted in the school attendance order.

Finally, by section 37 (5) it is provided that: "If any person upon whom a school attendance order is served fails to comply with the requirements of the order, he shall be guilty of an offence against this section unless he proves that he is causing the child to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude otherwise than at school."

The time came when this procedure was invoked and by a notice dated 6th September, 1961, the parents were required to satisfy the authority that the children were receiving efficient, full-time education. On the local authority feeling that they were not satisfied as to that, an opportunity was given to the parents to select a school and {467} thereafter school attendance orders were made in respect of six children. Those orders were not complied with and on 25th June, 1962, both parents were convicted by the Surrey justices sitting at Oxted.

Thereafter, the father appealed to this Court by way of case stated and on 11th February, 1963, his appeal was dismissed. The mother, on the other hand, did not appeal by way of case stated but, as she was fully entitled to do, appealed to Surrey quarter sessions who dismissed her appeal on 27th July, 1962.

A number of points have been taken in support of this motion. The real point, as I understand it, is that the committee of the education authority from the outset said that no method of satisfaction would do other than inspection by their inspectors in the home of the education being given in the home. It is said that the Act of 1944 does not provide for or contemplate an intrusion of a parent's privacy by inspectors coming into the home and that it is quite wrong for a local authority to insist on such inspection. It may be that that would be wrong as a general rule; in other words, it would be wrong for an education authority to say that, as a matter of policy, they would only be satisfied by such an inspection. But at the same time it seems to me -- and this has been conceded by Mr. Coningsby -- that there may be cases in which the other methods invoked to satisfy the authority are so unsatisfactory that the authority has to say to the parent: "You have not satisfied us on the material that you have produced. It may be that we should be satisfied if you allowed inspection in the home. Will you do so?" There can be nothing wrong in that.

What, however, is said here is really twofold, first, that the notice itself was invalid and secondly, and quite apart from that, that the local education authority, after serving the notice, refused to consider any method of satisfying themselves other than inspection. The notice itself after the words: "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Tweedie," and after referring to letters, is in the following terms: "Under section 36 of the Education Act, 1944, the parent of a child of compulsory school age is required to cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. Under section 37 of the same Act, a local education authority may serve upon a parent a notice requiring him, within fourteen days of the service of the notice, to satisfy the authority that a child is receiving efficient full-time education." So far it is unobjectionable and indeed is following the words of the Act of 1944. Then, in the last paragraph, it goes on: "In my letter of 18th August, 1961, I stated that it is my committee's view 'that they can best obtain evidence of the standard of the children's education by visits of inspectors while the education is in progress...' and the final paragraph of my letter asked if you were willing to allow this inspection. As I have not had your reply to this request I must now ask you to let me know, not later than Friday, 22nd September, 1961, if you are willing to allow the inspection of your children's education by the county inspectors in your home. You should regard this letter as the 'notice' referred to in section 37 of the Act." In that notice in plain terms the local education authority are saying that that is the method of satisfaction which they want and the only method which may satisfy them.

Thereafter, the applicant refused to allow such an inspection, but did send full reports covering the curriculum, and the synopsis of the education of the various children. Those reports appear to have reached the school attendance committee of the local authority, although I think it only right to say that probably they were never considered by that committee. Indeed, on 9th November, 1961, the divisional education officer wrote: "The committee have been informed of the reports enclosed with your letter of 22nd September, but they feel they cannot accept them as evidence." {468}

There may be a case -- and whether this is one or not is for consideration -- where the local authority are entitled to say: "Reports of this sort will not satisfy us, they cannot; the only method of satisfaction that will do is an inspection in the home."

For my part, I am quite satisfied that if ever there was a case for saying that, this is such a case. Here is a local authority faced with facts such as a mother who is paralysed or, at any rate, is in a wheelchair, a father in ill health, six children of compulsory school age, the history to which I have referred quite shortly and the prevarication that has been shown by the parents. It seems to me that the local authority were fully entitled to take up the attitude in this case: that it did not matter what the reports supplied by the parents were and that they would only be satisfied, if at all, by inspection in the home. It is true that that attitude was taken up before the notice was served. As Mr. Coningsby put it, the matter was prejudged and the divisional education officer in the letter to which I have referred said that the committee would not treat the reports even as evidence. Nevertheless, I can see no reason why, in the circumstances of this case, that was not a perfectly proper attitude to take up. After all, the authority had got the undertaking to allow inspection in the home a long time ago, in 1961, and that was the contemplated method by which they would be satisfied. Quite apart from being the contemplated method, in the circumstances of this case, it was the only method of satisfaction for which a local education authority, doing its duty, could properly ask.

In the circumstances of this case, the matter is perhaps reinforced by the fact that, when under section 37 (5) it was open to the applicant to prove that they were getting sufficient full-time education -- and "prove" in that context is akin to "satisfy" -- both the Surrey justices and the appeals committee wholly failed to be satisfied. It is difficult then to say that the local education authority were taking up a wrong attitude in saying that the mere statements or evidence of the parents would satisfy them. I have come to the conclusion that, in that respect, the conduct of the local authority is not open to attack.

Two other points were taken. The first is that the applicant claims that she did not have a fair hearing before quarter sessions. She contends first, that the deputy chairman ruled against her on the matters of law which she was raising as to the invalidity of the school attendance orders. Secondly, she contends that at the end of the proceedings the deputy chairman, as he was getting up from the bench, said words to the following effect: "You have told us all you have to tell us about the matter," thus appropriately bringing the proceedings to an end. In those circumstances, it is urged that that was a breach of the rules of natural justice which, in certain circumstances, will be a ground for an order of certiorari.

I have given anxious consideration to this matter. It seems to me that the deputy chairman dealt with the whole proceedings with the utmost patience, as indeed one would expect from this particularly careful deputy chairman, and to suggest that he brought the proceedings to an abrupt end by telling her that she had said everything she could, is certainly not shown by the shorthand note which was taken at the time. The shorthand note has written the remark to which the applicant refers in the form of a question: "You have told us all you have to tell us about this matter now?" A question mark follows the words and afterwards the shorthand writer inserts the words, "(No reply)." The onus in all these cases is on the applicant and I am not satisfied that it is shown that the deputy chairman was in any way guilty of a breach of the rules of natural justice.

There remains a final point which is one of some difficulty and to which I have given anxious consideration. That point concerns the youngest child, a girl called Lois, {469} in respect of whom a school attendance order was made. Lois became of school age in June or July, 1962, and, accordingly, at the date of the notice, which was 6th September, 1962, she was one of the children who was of compulsory school age and in respect of whom the local authority were entitled to be satisfied that she was getting efficient full-time education. The notice of 6th September, 1962, does not identify any of the children by name. No complaint is made of that and, on its face, the notice would cover any child, including Lois, who was then of compulsory school age. That no prejudice resulted by not naming Lois is shown by what happened thereafter, because the parents clearly understood the notice to be referring to Lois as well and, when the applicant provided the reports on the curriculum and synopsis of the education of the children, she included among them a report concerning Lois.

It is contended here that the notice has to show that it appears to the local authority that a child or children are not receiving efficient full-time education and that, in this case, it could not have appeared to the authority that that was the case in respect of Lois because they did not apparently know of Lois at that time or, at any rate, did not know that she was of compulsory school age.

That they did not know of Lois appears from the minutes of 16th August, 1961, where five of

the children are specifically mentioned and Lois is not. The fair inference from that is that the authority did not know of her and that it was not until 20th October, 1961, that they heard of Lois. Mr. Coningsby has emphasised, what is no doubt true, that the procedure in a matter of this sort which leads up to penal consequences must be strictly observed. It seems to me, from the point of view of the child concerned, it would be, to say the least, very unfortunate if we had to hold that the school attendance order in regard to her was bad and that all these proceedings and prevarications would have to start all over again.

I have come to the conclusion that that is not necessary in this case. It seems to me that the local authority in August, 1962, although they had only the names of five children before them, were clearly dealing with all the children of these parents who were of compulsory school age and the moment when they realised that Lois was one of them, namely on 20th October, they immediately ratified what the divisional education officer had done in serving a notice which embraced all children of compulsory school age.

For these reasons, which I have endeavoured to state shortly, I have come to the conclusion that these proceedings fail and that the application must be refused.

JUDGMENTBY-2: WIDGERY J.

JUDGMENT-2:
WIDGERY J. I agree that this application must be refused for the same reasons as those given by Lord Parker of Waddington C.J. and there is nothing which I wish to add.

JUDGMENTBY-3: JOHN STEPHENSON J.

JUDGMENT-3:
JOHN STEPHENSON J. I also agree for the same reasons.

DISPOSITION:
Application refused.

SOLICITORS:
Solicitors for the mother -- G. F. Wallace & Co.

Solicitors for the local education authority -- Crofts, Ingram & Wyatt, for W. W. Ruff, Kingston-on-Thames.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

What's wrong with the Draft Home Education Guidance for Local Authorities? Part 1

Hmm.  Where to start!

There's a lot that could be said about the Draft HE Guidance for LAs  upon which the government are currently consulting (finishing on July 2nd 2018).  Home educators are hurrying to get it together to say it all, and it is a big task because the consultation is not only about the Draft Guidance for LAs, but is also about another Guidance, this one for parents, and not only that, but there is also a call for evidence on other questions which would involve the introduction of a whole new swathe of legislation.

And this consultation isn't the end of it! We have at least four, yes get that FOUR other consultations which also relate to many of the issues raised in the Home Education Consultation and which would be usefully completed by home educators as well as disgruntled schooling families.

Home educators could feel justifiably aggrieved about the monumental amount of work they have to do in order to preserve their way of life and that's before they have even sat down to speak to their children of a morning! If one were of a cynical persuasion, one might conclude that this confluence of consultations was deliberately engineered to render considered objection nigh impossible, but home educators are a resilient and ingenious bunch and can turn this sort of experience into a sparklingly stellar home education project.   Plenty of HE young people ended up with a rigorous education in political theory, lobbying, history, law and argument the last time around with the Badman experience and this is almost certainly happening all over again.

As a priority, HEors are starting off by scrutinizing the LA Guidance as this seems most likely to be implemented and could be in place in as little as five months.  Sadly, the new proposed guidance bares little resemblance to the current EHE guidance and there is a lot to worry about.   It will be necessary to break this subject down into a number of different posts, which will be linked to here when written.

Let's start with one of the first concerns here: 

There are a number of assertions in the guidance that appear to be just pulled out of the air for the purposes of muddying the waters and making home educators look suspect. For example:

2.2:When the impetus (to home educate) is a negative one, that may well have implications for the quality of home education which can be provided – although it should not be assumed that this is inevitably the case’.
Where, oh where, did that come from, one wonders?  Most HE parents, let's face it, could frame the reason why they want to HE in the negative.  A family might say "We home educate because we believe that a child should be able to pursue their own interests to the full." The same family could also say entirely truthfully: "I home educate because the National Curriculum is way too restrictive and doesn't offer a suitable education to my children."  It's doubtful that there's a single home educating family who couldn't frame their reasons for home educating in a negative way, one way or another, and actually some of the best home educators I have ever met, home educated because schools had failed their children in the most terrible way, so it is hard to know where this statement in the guidance came from.

The fact is that there is no reason for the LA to occupy themselves with the reasons for deregistration except in situations where families have, one way or another, been coerced into deregistering, either by the school's direct persuasion, or by the school failing to resolve a problem for the pupil. 

An early idea that is being explored in HE groups in order to help solve the problem of off-rolling or otherwise coerced deregistration:  it is being proposed that soon after de-registration, the LA could ask in a respectful letter to the family if the deregistration was coerced in any way, shape or form. If the family were indeed coerced into deregistering and wanted the LA's help, the LA should respond with the help the family request, whether that be mediating with the school, locating another school, providing EOTAs or supporting the family with HE, if they so desire it. 

There are plenty of potential problems that must be avoided in this scenario.  Over-zealous LAs would no doubt use every opportunity to step in and start bossing the family around, making them do things they don't want to do.  In order to avoid this, the letter would have to be extremely tightly worded and the compulsory template of it would need to be included in the guidance for use by all LAs.  LAs would also need to be instructed in guidance that they are there to assist the family, and not to force them to do things they do not want to do.

The letter must infallibly enshrine the principle that the state is the servant of the family here.  This is not about the LA determining whether a suitable education is being provided. It is about LA ascertaining if the family want their help.  If the family refuse that help, then the LA would have no cause to act and would make no assumptions about educational provision on that basis.  If the family does want help, the LA should provide only the help they seek.

But back to the Guidance: sadly there are other unsupported assertions in the guidance which also cast a pall over the concept of home education, even before the guidance really gets going.

Take section 3.4: ‘However, few people would argue today that parents should be able to exercise their right to home educate children with absolutely no independent oversight, despite their having the legal responsibility set out above’.
Really?  Hang on, is there any actual supporting evidence for this assertion? Even if there is actual documented evidence that there there are only a few who argue that independent oversight is wrong, it doesn't mean that the few are mistaken simply because there are only a few of them.   What we have here is a painful demonstration of the "consensus fallacy" or the "argumentum ad populum". The writers of this document need to understand that they will need better arguments than this in order to work out right from wrong.

Sadly, however, this sort of thing - unsubstantiated assertions based on what appears to be prejudice, set the tone for the document, more on which to follow!



Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Letter to the Times

Says it all really:

Friday 13th April.

Sir, the government has needlessly placed itself in a quandary by proposing compulsory registration and monitoring of home educated children with the threat of prosecution for non-compliance.

On the one hand, the government states that "responsibility for children's education rests with their parents" and on the other that its aspiration is  "to ensure all young people receive a world-class education".  It fails to recognise that the number of home educated children is increasing because a good education in the state system can no longer be assured, yet it recognises that most parents "are educating their children well."

Children of parents who rightfully decide that the state's offering is unsuitable face a level of scrutiny not afforded to their peers. The problem is that home education is just that - education in a private home.  Control of home education is indivisible from the control of family life.

The problem for the parent and child is intrusion and loss of family privacy.  The problem for the government is that if it wishes to quality-assure education, it must then take on the legal liability for that education and expect to be sued when interventions fail.  Either the parent or the state must be responsible - there is no half-way house with this. 






Saturday, April 14, 2018

Guidance or Guidelines?

Well, that just goes to show you should take screenshots whenever you can!

Not long ago, when the consultation was first announced, there was an interesting conflict between the title on the front page, and the title on the draft documents.  Whilst the title on the front page insisted the consultation was about "Guidance", the draft documents themselves were entitled "Guidelines". There could be a big difference!  One seems statutory, the other seems advisory!

Now however, the draft documents are billed as Guidance, which at least makes the whole thing consistent, but a little frightening that an error of this magnitude needs to be corrected after the consultation has actually started.

Keep a look out for other little tweaks in the documentation folks.  You never know what might turn up when we aren't looking!



The Draft Home Education Guidance: What's being said in FB groups:

From a discussion in a Facebook Group, on the matter of the Draft EHE Guidelines:

The assumption that parents cannot be trusted is based upon statistical outliers and false thinking that arises from the availability heuristic. Since the press reports stories of terrible parents with such glee, we falsely end up thinking that these sorts of parents are two a penny and that all parents should be held in constant state of suspicion. 


We have to take a step back from this and get a grip on reality.

These terrible parents are statistical outliers. Most parents do a good enough job...certainly FAR better than anything the state manages, and yet the story that the state fails a huge percentage of "looked after" children is just a non-story and doesn't therefore get the same attention. 

The fact is, parents are the ones who have a genuine vested interest in caring for their offspring and who rightfully should be the people who ensure the safety and welfare of their children. When the state takes this over, it messes it up - repeatedly. 

If registration and monitoring goes through, it would change the assumption that parents (and therefore the people) are in charge here, and puts the state firmly in the position of the parent. It alters the important assumption expressed in S7, that parents are the ones with the duty to ensure their children are in receipt of a suitable education. With registration and monitoring, it will become the duty of the state as they become the ultimate arbiter of a suitable education. 

Not only that, but because home education is built in to the fabric of family life in a way that is not obvious to much of the rest of the population, it will be that the state will have given itself the right to pry into the most intimate aspects of family life in a way that is honestly the last signing over of any hope of privacy for a family. The state will have taken over completely. 

The state is meant to be the servant of the people, not the other way round. Despite the fact that this guidelines consultation appears to be affecting only a tiny, tiny minority of families, it actually has HUGE constitutional significance because it represents who is actually controlling who in this country and it won't be the people! 

And all for what...

Nothing. Those bad parents we know about were known to the authorities, and those even MORE evil parents who are SO rare that all of us could name them in a heartbeat, who have eventually been found to have kept their children in shored up basements for years and years, will not register anyhow. So the proposed solution is totally useless, whilst at the same time results in the complete destruction of privacy, and the complete take over of the whole of family life by the state
.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Consultation on the Draft Guidance for LAs re Home Education

As of 10th April 2018, the Department for Education has issued the Consultation on the new EHE Guidance for Local Authorities.

It doesn't look good and home educators are on red alert over this to the point where they already appear to have crashed the consultation website. No amount of crashes will save the DfE from knowing how we feel, however.