Sunday, December 10, 2006

Fiona N Says It!

Thank goodness. Fiona N has just completely bailed me out here. We have the tummy bug, so it is a huge relief just be able to link to and reproduce her excellent summary on current legislative concerns for home educators.

From Fiona:

"The 2004 Children Act permitted the Secretary of State to request Local Authorities to set up an Information Sharing Index (aka ISI or "national database") containing details of over 10 million children in the UK. I really recommend that anyone who hasn’t yet done so has a look at the 2004 Children Act.

The purported justification for the "national database" was cases like that of Victoria Climbie where it was argued that if there had been more DATA then the frontline health and education workers would have realised that there was cause for concern because Victoria would have been flagged up as "Vulnerable".

A number of people flatly deny that this is the REAL reason for the Information Sharing Index, but it is undoubtedly the case that many Local Authority employees and possibly the general public believe that the ISI will be there to "help keep children safe" and that to oppose it is to "put children at risk".

Therefore anyone who WOULD oppose the ISI should be aware of this widely held point of view. And it is useful in this context to quote the Information Commissioner’s report :

"When you are looking for a needle in a haystack, is it necessary to keep building bigger haystacks" .

It is impossible to garner the views of all home educators or indeed all members of Education Otherwise on this or any other issue . In which regard I would like to adapt the excellent phrase I first came across in Jan Fortune Wood’s writing organising "the home education community" is like HERDING CATS . This is of course only RIGHT. We cannot be herded or told what to think or what to do. But I believe that there is the pressing need for some form of collective action with regard to the threats to our continuing freedom to home educate our children. Home education will continue to be legal, which is why MPs can always give us that bland reassurance, BUT it may morph into something that a lot of us would not RECOGNISE as "home education" if we are not vigilant.

The things to watch out for ( not an exhaustive list ; indeed I am expecting my inbox to be fire bombed because of glaring omissions ) are :
1/ Section 4 of the Education and Inspection Bill concerning Children Missing Education or CME. Education Otherwise just made a formal response to the DFES consultation about this.

2/ The new Pupil Registration Regulations SI 2006 No. 1751
This permits the possibility of a delay in deregistering a child from school. It also permits the possibility of a child being REGISTERED at a school by someone other than a parent or carer, so that in order not to take up a school place ( eg because you are home educating ) a parent will/may have to DEREGISTER thereby becoming KNOWN immediately to the LA by default.

3/ the Information Sharing Index. Where home education may be a flag for "concern" about "vulnerability" and where on the plane of Human Rights data about our children is available to half a million registered users plus an infinite number of tagalongs and hackers etc. Irrespective of a child’s place of education in school or at home, parents are angry and anxious about this "national database". Actually they AREN’T, BUT THEY SHOULD BE.

4/ Proposed changes to the monitoring of home education. This is what the DFES is calling "light touch changes" and a consultation is imminent. We do not yet have any details of the changes the DFES may have in mind , but we have to watch this one like a HAWK. Local Authorities appear to believe that the Children Act 2004 and the five outcomes of Every Child Matters therein impose additional pro-active duties on the LA to "promote" a more standardised form of wellbeing for all children in the area.. Local Authorities have therefore made representations to the DFES requesting additional FUNDING and POWERS with regard to monitoring ( sometimes called "supporting" ) home educated children.

We can overcome all these little local difficulties if we know what is really going on.

Fiona Nicholson"

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