Wednesday, April 20, 2011

More on the 20 day delay in de-registration

You gotta give 'em credit!  It seems civil servants at the Dpt.of Ed. have gone into full job protection mode, having sought out that tinsy little bit of the Badman Report that might be hard to argue against, and are trying right now, under our noses, to sneak it through, in order to keep themselves and others like them busy, and just when we might have taken our eyes of Balls.

Yep, home educators are compelled once again to get a collective grip, and are setting about explaining why even this seemingly innocuous proposal is (yet another) VERY BAD IDEA.

The 20 day delay in de-registration looks innocuous.  After all, a parent can remove the traumatised child, settle him/her safely outside the school grounds, start the de-schooling process, breath a sigh of relief - what does it really matter that the child is still on the books?

Well according to the Dpt., those 20 days are meant to be some sort of cooling of/resolution-finding period, a moment for all to reflect and find ways to solve the problems that led to the de-registration.

Let's take this idea seriously for a second. Can it work?  Well possibly, in which case I guess the option to return to school would be helpful.  However, it seems more likely that families will either have already become so whacked by the failure to resolve problems with the school, that 20 days won't make a jot of difference, or that de-registration really is whimsical, but actually that's just fine because home education is, for many, a perfectly viable option that can be taken apparently on the spur of the moment.

By way of an example of this last point, I de-registered DD after a successful term at school, a day before the next term recommenced.  I had no idea she didn't want to go back to school until that very day, though it later transpired that she had been weighing the alternatives almost all summer hols.  One of the great things about de-regging her on demand was that she knew that once that letter was sent, it was done and dusted.  Only much later, from the safety of certain de-registration, did this child who had apparently coped so well with her schooling experience, deconstruct it sufficiently to see how crap it really was: the children were competitive bullies, she was seen as strange for bothering to pay attention, and yes, I remember this bit:  I was told off (gently, I admit) by her class teacher for pushing her too hard! That was one of those admittedly annoyingly frequent moments when I didn't have a come-back as the accusation was so ridiculous. I should have said "Err what? She has freely chosen to spend time here.  I've had nothing to do with it and certainly don't make her do ANYTHING."

Anyhow, HEing has continued apace very equitably ever since, despite the 3 second thought process that the choice apparently involved.

And herein lies one of the problems with the 20 day delay.  It suggests that HE is NOT equivalent to the schooling process.  It allows for the subtle undermining of the notion that huge numbers of parents, armed with google, are perfectly up to the job nowadays and perpetuates the myth that teachers and all the attendant flummery and civil servants are essentials in all our lives.

But of course the bods at the D. of E. don't care about this.  This is not an argument we can use as this is at least part of their unspoken intention. In the past, with whole swathes of the Badman recommendations, we got the bods at what was then the Department for Children, Schools and Families to listen to us by explaining how buggering up s7 would NOT BE A GOOD IDEA for anyone, particularly for the bods at the Department for Children, Schools and Families who would have to put up with loads of irate Local Authorities complaining to them about rendering the state responsible for ensuring that children receive an education that is suited to their age, ability and aptitude.  But the 20 day delay doesn't quite do this.  I mean, the parent can after all, still take the child out of the school, and can dictate the place of education, and can be entirely responsible for ensuring that they receive a suitable one, so S7 on the fact of it, looks untouched by this change in practice.

But there is a deeper problem with the 20 day delay. Whilst S7 is superficially uncompromised, the deeper principle of parental responsibility IS deeply compromised.  And we aren't just talking here about how the 20 day delay will be abused - as it almost certainly will be, since local authorities will (if only they had the money and the manpower) use the 20 day delay to come sniffing round the doors of all newly dereg families, nominally to ensure that they aren't off on some nice little jaunt to Ibiza with the full intention of returning to school in 20 days time, (the so-called Ibiza loophole), but also to make sure that whatever happens to be the LA officer's vision of a suitable education is taking place, all of which WILL compromise parental responsibility.  But no, we aren't just talking about that.  We are just talking about the 20 day removal of parental power.

As a wise old HE head said it, the 20 day delay:

"grants authorisation for absence, it does not cede control over the education to the parent, it merely makes a temporary concession....It removes that control from the parent, setting its own agenda, time scale and "permissions", which primary legislation makes no allowance for.

Further, he adds the caveat:

"If it can do that, and through a Statutory Instrument, which these days seem to be changed on a whim, then once the principle of suspending parental control and hanging onto registration is established, what is to stop the period of time being extended, potentially indefinitely, or the reasons for withholding deregistration extended or altered in potentially any way?

A registered pupil is under the control of the school, and I can see no reason why, once the principle which is at stake in this SI that that control may be maintained despite the clear request for deregistration for education 'otherwise', that control might not become of real concern, and seriously interfere with the practice of
parental choice.

It makes perfect sense if what you want to do is establish the principle of a parental responsibility override, to bring it in with trivial consequences that, assuming LAs behave properly, hoho, has no practical consequence to the parent who will commence HEing straight away, and this is what they are doing.

This is incremental loss, and we are being encouraged to see it as such a tiny increment as to make anyone seem pedantic and nit picking to query it at all. By implementing this incremental loss that doesn't seem to matter, or may be brushed aside as trivial in the way, this is precisely how we lose liberty in the long
term. It is the fabian way, which is the way of all gvts and it works, but it just has to adjust its speed and size of increments to what we will tolerate, that's all. It will not stop there. We should realise that this is the process we, our parents and their parents have been subjected to all of our and their lives, and be determined to accept no more increments, even if you need a micrometer to measure them with.

Not that this is that small an increment when you consider the sleight of hand attempt to undermine the *principle* of parental responsibility. It's more the opening of a door that currently the law has shut."

So caveat lector (most of them being home educators, let's face it!)  We HAVE to get going again!  Write to MPs, kick up a stink, tell them how annoying it already is when LAs abuse de-reg on demand, which plenty of them already do. Tell them that if they take over in any way, shape or form, we will come and get em, cos that does scare them.


Peter and Carol said...

Dear Damian

Thank you for your email and the letter from the education department.

We have a few points to make and I do hope you will think about what we say to you.

1. Why the rush to bring this change in by September using Statutory Instrument?
2.Where is the evidence that we need this change?
3.Home educators should be consulted over any change to the pupil registration act? We don't think it is good enough for the Department of Education to just ignore home educators? After all home educators are a major stakeholder in this?
4.What is to stop the period of time being extended by Statutory Instrument?
5.what about parents who will use 20 day rule to pretend to home educate then send child back to school and then take anther 20 days off? Word will get around that you can get around the attendance laws for 20 days and still keep the school place open? is quite rare for parents to just start home educating on a whim often the problems with the school/LA have been going on for months if not years so we really can not see how this will help?
We really feel we should have answers to these questions from the department of education?

It does not affect us but we real concern over this for other parents who may want to home educate and belive LA's /school will see this as a parent having to seek permission to home is hard enough to start home education with out the worry of your child still being on the role of the school register where problems may have occurred for your child.

We need to know your position as our M.P? Don't you find it worrying that Statutory Instrument is being used in this way? What next for home educators?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your letter of 30 March addressed to the Secretary of
State, on behalf of a number of your constituents, about the proposed changes to the Pupil Registration Regulations regarding parents choosing to remove their children from school to home educate. I am replying as the Minister of State for Schools.

I would like to reassure you that it is absolutely not our intention that this change should affect the rights of parents to home educate their children with immediate effect if they wish to do so. Similarly,it is not our intention that this change should be used to put pressure on parents to return their child to school. We will make this clear in supporting guidance to schools and local authorities.

Our aim is to give parents and schools a short period of time to resolve any issues that may have led to the parent withdrawing their child from school, in particular where a parent may have been unfairly coerced into home educating against their will. Currently, a parent who has withdrawn their child from school has to re-apply for a school place, and there is no guarantee that one would be available at the school which the child had previously attended. The proposed change will secure the child's place for twenty days before it is made available for another child.

I understand your constituents' concern that the proposed change may be open to abuse from parents who may try to use it as a way of taking their children on holiday during term time. I am confident however that schools and local authorities will be able to recognise whether a parent's wish to withdraw their child from school is genuine or not and deal with the situation accordingly.

We believe that this and the other proposed changes to the Pupil Registration Regulations will benefit parents and schools, which is why we want the changes to come into effect for the start of the new school year in September 2011. It is for this reason that the consultation on the changes was targeted at key representative bodies, and unfortunately it was not possible to include individual schools, local authorities or home educators in the time available.

I hope this reply goes some way to addressing the concerns of your constituents.

With best wishes
Nick Gibb MP

Anonymous said...

So, how EXACTLY will an LA 'deal' with parents who they judge aren't legitimately intending to HE?

Anonymous said...

'Supporting guidance'? As Bender says, you can kiss my shiny metal ass!