Sunday, March 19, 2006

Education and Inspections Bill, Feb 2006

So here it is: the Education and Inspections Bill, first published 28th of Feb, second reading done and dusted on 15th March and now going before committee. There is probably very little that we can do about it now, so what will it mean for Home Educators?

The bit that concerns us arises in Section 4.

(1) Duty to make arrangements to identify children not receiving education.

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.

(3) In this Chapter, “suitable education”, in relation to a child, means efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have.

Ooooh deeear....

First, (1a) here seems to suggest that there is no way out for HEors. De facto registration will now be required by law (so far as it is possible to achieve), as opposed to it being merely a guideline, as has been the situation following the 2004 Children Bill. Some in the HE community think the "so far is it is possible to achieve", is there to prevent the bill from an obvious conflict with Data Protection legislation, but that in practice, dirty tactics like pressuring new home owner/occupiers to provide new addresses of previous inhabitants will be used. Seeing as this has already happened, you can't call these claims outlandish.

Worse, (1b) seems to imply a shift of emphasis. We shall no longer be investigated merely in the situation that it appears that a suitable education is not being provided. Instead, in order to meet the requirements of the new law, we will have to prove, in all cases, that a suitable education is being provided. Given that in effect, we have been required to provide preliminary evidence that we are providing a suitable education, in order that LEAs may determine that we are doing so, this may mean very little. On the other hand, it could mean that we are required to provide much more extensive evidence for LEAs to form their opinions.

At this point, we must refer to the definition of a suitable education: it must meet the needs of the child according to his age, ability and aptitude, and in order to render him capable of living within the community in which he is raised. We could add in a bit from European Human Rights legislation, about suitability being determined by parental wishes, but this is cold comfort in the face of the increasing requirement to provide evidence of suitability, particularly when you throw in the LEAs' previously notoriously unreliable interpretation of suitability of education.

Ho hum. Various sensible redrafts have been suggested, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

The only hope that remains, is that LEAs will realise that there are so many HEors out there with unique and tricky learning styles, that the ptb would be mad to insist on a single criteria of suitability, since this would mean that all these kids could end up back in school, needing loads of expensive specialist help, or else requiring the imprisonment of hundreds of hardworking and successfully educating HE parents.


merry said...

Honestly, i don't see quite how this differs from what we already live under. 1a is dependant by use of the leading "and..." at its end on 1b. ie if they aren't in school and aren't receiving a suitable education. We already have to exist within the 3 A's (and probably quite rightly so since we don't actually want children working as skivvies in family businesses)and we already are expected to show evidence of that, in practise if not in law.

I agree that all these things want vwatching and dissecting, but i'm not totally sure i see anything overtly sinister in this one. If Mr 'eyeball' cvan do as he does within the current law, i don't see this will make it much worse for those people who live with tricky LEAs.

I'll be moving soon, within my city. I won't even bother to try ad shake off the LEA because i can't be bothered to deal with the fallout if they catch me again. If i left the country or county, yes i'd attempt to hide but so far i've managed to have a reasonable and distant relationship with my LEA - and they are far from perfect.

Carlotta said...

Hi Merry,

I think I agree with your thoughts as re the situation regarding assessment of suitability. It may, in effect, mean very little, though I do worry that if more is legislated for, ie: we automatically have to prove suitability, as opposed to only having to do so in the situation of it appearing that it is not happening, the LEAs will take this as a remit to investigate the issue of suitability much more extensively.

Of course, I do hope that you are right.

The most obvious difference is that we now have de facto registration as required by law, as opposed to merely being a guideline. Again, this may make little difference in practice, but I fear that making this a requirement in law may mean that LEAs will get even more heavy handed and we will be even more subject to their unreliable ideas about what constitutes a reasonable education.

Something along these lines, (as suggested elsewhere), could solve some of these problems:

Duty to make arrangements to identify children not receiving education.

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 of compulsory school age in their area not receiving education as registered pupils at a school or otherwise."

But as it stands at the mo, it seems to me to represent yet another drip in the slow drip dripping loss of freedom in education.

Anonymous said...

I think it might be worse for the children if the LEA wants proof of education and demans seeing the child's work or something of the like. School work is school work, but then at home the child has privacy. Home-ed children's educational work is pretty much their life, and it would be an enourmous invasion of privacy to have it evaluated by stangers.

Excuse the negativiness, but that's why I exist, to irritate and depress everyone. LOL!

Anonymous said...

Actually, Leo, that is I think a very good point. You are not negative, just realistic. If home edded children's work is assessed and monitored all the time they might nearly just as well be in boarding school, but worse as far as privacy to develop ideas is concerned - and there for the holidays as well! There is literally NO space left for an individual to be himself! Godwin (The Enquirer) pointed that out in the 18th century when he stated that boys were better off in boarding school than with a preceptor at home supervising, assessing and commenting on their every move.

When I think how obsessed a boarding school child has to become to constantly appear to all and sundry to be doing the right thing regardless of whatever theories are ative in his head, it is easy to see how damaging home ed could be in the 'wrong' hands. ie the hands of parents who are controlling and if the LEA intervenes.