Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Problems with Calls for Tougher Home Education Guidelines

Take Cheshire County Council by way of an example. Cheshire CC has issued a press release which comes with the tagline:

"Cheshire Calls For Tougher Guidelines Concerning Home Education"

Stop. Go no further than that just now, for there's already a problem. The thing is, guidelines do have to respect the law and if you go any tougher than the current draft guidelines, the law will have to be changed to reflect this.

OK, that's the first howler, (more on which below). The second one is that members of Cheshire County Council clearly haven't asked themselves whether they really do want such changes in law, for if they had, they wouldn't be asking for tougher guidelines. Doh dum.

They blunder on:

"...chairman and Executive Support Member for Children's Services Shirley Harris said: "Some of the guidelines are ambiguous and some simply do not go far enough. For example all children educated at home should be registered as home educated wit (sic) the authority. "

It rather looks as if the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing in this authority, for with the establishment of the children's database, aka ContactPoint, there will be de facto registration of home educators anyhow. Sadly, we have already conceded this point.

Back to Cheshire's pronouncements:

"Elective home education is the only area of education and child care that is not subject to more rigorous statutory regulation concerned with quality assurance and accountability. "

The "only" area? Cripes, it's worse than I'd hoped. Yup, if this is indeed the case, Cheshire parents had better be making sure those five portions of fruit and veg are consumed or their council will be coming to get them.

Parenting by parents? Forget it in Cheshire. The state will dictate precisely what you do in every area of your lives, or else you will fail in their quality assurance tests. Can parents honestly therefore still be held responsible for child care and education? I don't think so. This simply doesn't work and we will have to change the law in this regard. The tagline should be "Cheshire CC Calls for Powers to Take Over Parenting".

Further, what is it with this idea of accountability? To whom are we meant to be accountable in every area of our lives? Surely it isn't actually ultimately the state for in other areas, the state collects data at least nominally to be answerable to tax payers, parents and children. In a right-minded world, home educating parents need only be answerable to their children and almost all of us can manage that without a stranger equipped with powers, ignorance of the situation, a clip board and probably a dose of prejudice and bias to boot, to tell us what our children are telling us every single day. The chances of that working out are really quite minimal if you factor the bias and prejudice and just how much most HE children don't want to bother with that stranger who could change their lives dramatically for the worse.

"Children should also be involved and consulted if their parents want to elect home education (sic) so that their needs and aspirations are taken into account. "

Yep, they should and are. Home educated parents can manage this, thanks.

Then again, if the state really is going to require HE kids to be consulted and taken seriously by council employers about their needs and aspirations, then surely it is only fair to do it for schooled kids? Yep, if the state does go down this route, then we will demand parity. CC's everywhere will need to introduce a council policy which requires that they take all children's needs and aspirations seriously, (not just HE children.) Councils will, for example, need to ask children who are about to go primary school, age 4, what their needs and aspirations are. Given that a significant number of this population will tell you that they would prefer to stay home and carry on learning and playing there, CCs will at least make huge savings on their education bill. In this situation, councils will also find out that there are almost no children who are HE'd against their will whilst thousands and thousands of schooled children are not happy bunnies and are not having their needs and aspirations met, are threatening suicide because of bullying or are bored rigid by impersonalised learning schemes.

"There is also a need for a standardised system of monitoring visits and reporting to parents which should be applied to all local authorities."

Why? Who does this benefit? Given that almost all HE families, even when they have relatively good relationships with LAs, will tell you that the LA visit is extremely disruptive, anxiety-provoking and provides nothing of value to them at all, what purpose exactly would these visits serve for these families? How would these children benefit?

Plus, where will all this money come from?

Plus, if the state does do this, they must concede that they have taken over responsibility for education, for in the instituation of regular compulsory monitoring, a family is implicitly required to meet standards that are set by the state which are not freely chosen by them. Ho hum. Yes, we would need new legislation to reflect this point. Whilst a parent may remain responsible for provision of education, the state is ultimately responsible for it's form and content and for the monitoring it. There will be plenty of opportunity in such a system to demonstrate that the state fails.


Anonymous said...

Ah, your sanity is back. Good to see. :P

"Children should also be involved and consulted if their parents want to elect home education (sic) so that their needs and aspirations are taken into account."

But nobody consults children if they want to go to school even when they are forced against their will!

Campbell said...

We've just started home ed with our 4 year old in Cheshire and was so concerned to read this press release. It's great to read your response to it - it has put some of my concerns to rest! thanks.

something else I have found which is 'illuminating' is a job advertisment for an EHE Co-ordinator in Blackpool - quite a job's on targetjobs dot co dot uk and definately worth a look!

Fiona said...

is the blackpool job link.

Working within the Learning and Achievement Division of the Children and Young Peopleâ??s Department, you will use various methods, including home visiting, to monitor the suitability of the education received by the children and young people on our Elective Home Education Register. Using an agreed framework, you will produce detailed reports, make recommendations and advise the Department on matters regarding the young personâ??s educational progress as well as their safety and well-being. You will contribute to the upkeep of various electronic databases, inputting data yourself as required. You will need to work with other officers, providing them with data, information and attending meetings, some of which may be statutory in nature. You will have excellent communication skills, both oral and written, and will be able to relate equally well to young people as to adults. Your ICT skills also need to be very good. This is a challenging and important role. Ideally, you will have recent experience of high quality teaching and learning in a range of settings and a sound knowledge of child development and what constitutes good progress towards meeting expected milestones at every age and stage. Working knowledge of the Ofsted Inspection framework would be an advantage. You will need to be able to self-manage a varied and often complex caseload. As the nature of the work can be contentious, it is essential to be resilient and to have an assertive yet sensitive approach. For an informal discussion, please contact Lorraine Stephen, Senior Adviser/Inspector Teaching and Learning on 01253 476780 Blackpool Council is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. This post is subject to satisfactory References, CRB and Medical Clearances and Proof of legal working in accordance with the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996. Please complete our application form online. You will find the form attached, as a link, to this job advertisement. If you take the option to register with us you can save your details and do not have to complete the form in one sitting. If you are unable to complete the online process please call 01253 477209, stating the reference number provided and we will send you an application pack. Blackpool welcomes applications from all of the community"