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.



Monday, April 09, 2018

Reply to the Comment in Labour Consultation on Education Policy

There was a reply to my contribution to the Labour Consultation on Education Policy, which can be found through here if you sign in:

Here is my answer to that comment:

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

Thank you for your comment.  For a summary of what I would like to say in response, it is possibly easiest just to watch this video on the 6 problems with our School System.

For more in response:

Whilst you accept that many children are failed by the current schooling system, you do not think that an impersonal learning system is the main source of the problem. However
, your suggestions for solving the problem of pupil failure, ie: to get rid of standardised testing, league tables and a rigid micro-managed curriculum would be effective precisely because it would free up schools to offer more personalised learning!  You also suggest that we need more teachers and teaching assistants which again would mean that schools could offer students more personalised learning. This suggests that despite what you think you believe, on some level you do recognise that the current problem for many learners is that schooling is far too depersonalised and I therefore agree with all of your suggestions above.

Your explicit argument against personalisation of learning is that:
"Learning is essentially a social process that occurs in collaboration with others"

However I think you may be mistaking the objective existence of shared knowledge for the process of  creating knowledge.   Yes there is such a thing as "shared knowledge" in the sense that a number of individual brains can appear to contain the same set of information (although of course, they almost certainly don't when it comes down to the detail).  However this appearance of shared knowledge has nothing to do with the process of actually growing knowledge, which is what we should be concerned with if the question we wish to address is "how can we make education more suitable and efficient".  The process of acquiring knowledge is only ever done by the individual learner when his brain fires up and addresses the electrical input from the senses with theories that he has already developed in order to create new information which only ever actually exists in his brain.

This distinction is important for educational theory because we must accept that knowledge is not imparted through a process of "sharing" it or by a process of seepage from one brain to another.  Or to use another analogy, it is not possible to pour information in to the head of another as one would pour water in to a bucket.   A failure to appreciate this fact is the key error in current schooling theory, and is the reason that so many children are failed. Under the model of "shared knowledge" there is an assumption that if a teacher teaches, a pupil will learn, thereby failing to consider the fact that the pupil must be the actor here. 

The reality is that for any knowledge to grow, the learner must cause activity to occur in his brain, and this is most likely to happen when the dopamine reward structure is active. This is what causes properly effective learning since the reward system causes the attention to focus on the subject under study. Learners learn best addressing subjects that interest and inspire them and provide them with that dopamine reward and this is why we need education to be personalised as we cannot reliably say that all children will be interested by the same things.

Regarding your concerns about "collaboration, co-operation, compromise and negotiation", home educators can testify to the fact that a personalised education doesn't mean that young people will not learn about these things. Learning happens in individual brains yes, but it happens in the context of a social world and learners will want to understand how best to work with this social world. So for example, learners working on the subjects that interest them will most likely find others with similar interests, or may get new angles on their own subject by interacting with others who specialise in different subjects.  Many home education groups develop great skills in collaboration, co-operation, compromise and negotiation and do this all the more effectively for having a flat hierarchy and a mutually co-operative approach which means that learners throughout the group learn to take responsibility for group management, co-operation, negotiation, etc.  In the world outside education, many successful companies recognise the value of mixing different specialisms at the water cooler and design their buildings to facilitate such cross fertilization. Schools could afford to prepare their students for this sort of world. 

Personalised education also doesn't necessarily mean "that 
everyone is doing something different."  There may be some superficial differences in the knowledge base, but there will be underlying similarities which are far more significant as these key features underpin all knowledge. Students who are able to pursue the questions they are interested to pursue have a much greater chance of learning how to think well. Since they care about their subject, they will want to the best they can in all areas.  They will not only be learning how to read, write, listen well, construct an argument and tolerate difference, but they will also be learning about how to seek the truth of the matter, how to evaluate different truth claims to see which is the best argument, (an argument that is hard to vary because every detail plays a functional role) and how to change their thinking for the better argument. They will learn about how they learn (all the more so if they can get quick feedback that websites can provide). They will learn to recognise when they are tired, hungry, dehydrated and/or their attention is waning and they need a break. They will learn to recognise the times when their attention and performance is optimal and how to achieve this. 

You go on to say "Technology must be an addition to human contact, not a substitute for human contact; learning is primarily an interactive social process; current research in developmental psychology is really clear about this."

I am by no means suggesting that there shouldn't be human contact in the schooling environment. I am simply saying that we could make this contact voluntary and therefore just so much more relevant and useful to the learner because the learner could be asking the questions and seeking the help that they need from either tech or the teacher.

One idea: have a big room with work spaces that can easily be made open or separate and with teachers of various different specialisms available to all the students, so that a student could interact with others, or close the space off and focus quietly on their own space, and could call in the teacher as and when they are stuck.  Teachers could also make themselves available to teach lessons that suit a number of pupils as requested. 


I referenced Duolingo and Brainscape because they are useful systems for information retention, but you cite them dismiss the idea that websites can be used to help develop deep level thinking which is not something that I explicitly claimed that these ones could do (though I think it a matter of debate as both COULD be used that way if used creatively and are anyway very much based upon strong learning theory evidence).  However it is patently untrue that other websites cannot develop deep level thinking. Plenty of other websites such as two others I also mentioned, eg: Khan Academy and Brilliant.org, are very useful for this and other websites offer a discursive, social model of learning as well. Look at what we are doing here, after all! Why are we bothering to have an on-line consultation on education if not to develop deep level ideas about the subject?  I can also honestly tell you that I have in the past learnt more from one single website than I ever learnt at school and university!  This website provided evidence, arguments and ideas that challenged my entire way of thinking, and also, through a discussion forum, offered feedback and critique to the point where I was able to change my entire view on many fundamental ideas.  It was deep level thinking and a profound experience which no amount of "academic research" can possibly dismiss! Much of this sort of research must be taken with a pinch of salt,  by the way, and reminds many home educators of the 15th century technopanic about the printing press.

For further evidence of the efficacy of tech, my home educated son learned most of his writing skills by being mentored by on-line writers in a gaming site that had strict moderation rules about how to present an argument eg: no errors of thinking, no logical fallacies of any sort, and certainly no spelling or grammatical errors. When he eventually went to sixth form college, his English AS teacher told me at the parent's evening that after just listening to his conversations with another home educated friend of his, she knew she had nothing to teach him and this was because of the rigor of his on-line education as well as the interactions he had had with fellow home educators.

And this isn't something that is peculiar to my family. We know a lot of home educated children who have learnt a lot on line, one way or another.

But I am not saying that tech is the only way to go. Where tech doesn't work for a child and he prefers and benefits from human interaction, there would still be teachers available offering either personalised or class based lessons.  However, for more children than you possibly realise, human interaction with a teacher is often a matter of total torture.  There's the anxiety and shame of knowing that a real human who is in charge of your destiny has just marked your paper with a load of red ink, or the embarrassment of getting something wrong in front of the teacher and the whole class, or the worry about appearing like a know-it-all when answering a teacher's question...all these sorts of experiences are frequently far more painful than is regularly acknowledged by the teaching profession and yet this anxiety prevents effective learning by hijacking the brain and removing the higher levels of cerebral function in order that the body be prepared for flight or fight.   For many children it is far less stressful to be working with an impersonal website than to be confronted by the all powerful teacher who is able to condemn, control, and bore a child for years on end. 

The other advantage of tech is that the feedback from a website is just so much quicker and more efficient than it is possible to get from a teacher who has to take the books away and mark a whole class and give it back days later when the actual lesson is no longer of any interest.

You may think this is all way to out there and too risky to be tried. But the precautionary principle is not an option here because the status quo is not working for so many children!  Even those children who are getting by in the current system could well do even better if we were to go down this route. We will most likely not get everything right immediately, and refinements will have to be made, but we don't have anything to lose.

Children have been imprisoned in a rigid school that is not of their choice for way too long.  We don't do this to adults!  Adults have choices about how they live their lives.  We are not preparing our children for adult life by removing their autonomy and not helping them learn how to use it well.  Labour has a real chance here to do something about it and it could look to home educators, amongst others, to help them develop systems that actually really work for young people!

Saturday, April 07, 2018

A Response to the Labour's Consultation on Education Policy.

The Labour Party is asking for our views on their education policy. Given that it looks as if Labour will almost certainly form the next government, this seems an extremely important thing to do, particularly for home educators who don't appear to get any sort of a look in in the current draft policy and yet who could contribute so much!

Partaking in the consultation also seems like a good idea because it will help inform the Labour Party about why home educators think Lord Soley's Bill a bad idea.

It is possible to participate in the consultation without being a Labour Party member - you just need to register as a guest from the front page, find and read the education policy and then press through to making a submission on the policy.

Below an example of a response, with the consultation questions in blue and key points in the answers in red:

 Have your say – give us your thoughts on the questions below:

* What should a National Education Service be for and what values should it and the draft charter embody?

 The National Education Service absolutely must not become even more centralised and controlled by the state than it is already. The danger of calling it a "National" service is that it encourages the idea that education policy is controlled from the top by the state and that this state-mandated provision must be rolled out to every learner in the land. Whilst this may seem laudable, such an approach risks making the education service even more macro-managed and therefore highly unresponsive to the needs of individual learners with all their multitudinous differences.

The education system in this country is already failing all those learners who do not fit perfectly into the current schooling system, what with it's top/down directives, national curriculum, rigid targets, implacable Ofsted inspections, hierarchical school structures and national exam system, but the fact is that it isn't just unconventional learners who are currently being failed. Even those pupils who apparently fit the nationally determined schooling system could perform far more effectively in a more personalised education service which actually answered the questions they are interested in exploring.

In other words, get rid of the word "National" and instead call it a "Personalised Education Service". A Personalised Education Service could be made possible because of the advancements in technology and learning theory.

In almost every other sphere of human activity, the advancement of technology is resulting in huge and positive innovations and yet education is so mired in centralised slowness and antiquated and entrenched ideas about how education should be managed, that it is demonstrably failing to keep up with the pace of change. This is infuriating as so many pupils are being unnecesssarily failed when we have the technology at our fingertips! Labour policy should be at the cutting edge of innovation so that this country becomes a trailblazer in the use of technology to offer a properly personalised, properly engaging education to all learners.

Khan Academy, Brilliant.org and Duolingo could provide some sort of model to work with here. These websites crunch the data as a learner uses the site, thereby working out precisely where the learner is at, which bit of vocabulary he has forgotten, which tiny section of trigonometry is currently stumping him and without any further ado, will focus in on the weakness so that learning can be strengthened in exactly the area that he needs. A learner doesn't have to wait for the rest of the class to catch up before the teacher can progress to the next level, nor does he have to slow down the whole class while he clarifies a point with the teacher. He also doesn't have to wait weeks to get on to the bit of the subject that genuinely interests him as he can just switch to the next chapter with a tap on the enter key.

We could combine the power of tech with the latest information from Learning Theory, as detailed in books such as How We Learn, to maximise learning and information retention.   We should take lessons from thinkers such as these. Sites such as Brainscape.com make use of new discoveries about the workings of the brain in learning theory to help learners retain information far more effectively than can be managed through classroom teaching.

The learning that can be managed through technology is just so infinitely more efficient, it would be deeply irrational not to use it. We need to be finding ways to make this happen in schools with teachers being able to access the power of these sorts of systems to make learning so much more efficient. Who cares that the child is learning about perfect numbers and mersenne primes from a Numberphile Youtube video rather than his own teacher. If that is what is grabbing his interest, he will be learning! We will have to do this as it is the only way that humanity will have any chance of keeping up with machine learning and we will need to combine this approach with other initiatives such as the "Hive Mind" approach to solving problems, which also should be an approach that is built in to school learning.

* What amendments, if any, should be made to the principles outlined in the draft charter for the National Education Service?

It would be great if "properly appropriate, personalised learning" could be added to "high-quality" in point 5 of the principles, ie:

 "Every learner matters, so the Personalised Education Service will be committed to tackling all barriers to learning and providing a high-quality, personalised education for all".
* What additional principles should be considered for the charter of the NES?

See addition to principle no. 5, as described in the point above. It would also be worth including a principle which would explain why a personalised education service is worth having! Perhaps something like:

 "Every learner is different. We aim to offer a truly suitable education by tailoring the education to fit the learner."

In the introduction, Labour should explain why personalisation is so important:

Personalisation maximises human potential: young people will be able to find out what they are genuinely interested in learning and do not have to waste years struggling to engage with subjects that are of no interest to them and that do not match their skills. Learners can also develop their area of interest so that they become highly skilled since it will be possible to specialise from a far earlier age than is currently the case.

The fact is that the world doesn't need "broad and balanced" any more. Very soon, the growth of knowledge will be doubling every 12 hours and generalists won't be able to keep up. However, home educators, who for many years now have helped their children pursue their specific interests, can be if some help here, in being able to offer a model. In helping home educated children to pursue their interests, home educators have seen how these learners can develop their skills in particular areas to a degree that school children with rigid broad and balanced time tables do not have the time to do. The home education community has produced expert coders, linguists, musicians, mathmeticians, ballet dancers, physicists, writers, engineers, artists, chess players, lawyers, farmers, vets and doctors who were able to refine their skills in their area of specialism from a young age because they were free to focus their attention as they saw fit.

As as adjunct to personalisation of education, it would be worth adding another principle that would underpin this, ie: that

 "Education is about the autonomy of the learner and about choices about the "who, what, when, where and why" of learning."

There cannot be genuine personalisation of education if the state macro-manages policy. Educational choices must be made by learners themselves and these choices include not only what a person learns but where they learn it. Home education must therefore have a protected place in Labour party policy.

* What barriers currently exist to cooperation between education institutions, and what steps can be taken to remove them and ensure that cooperation is a central principle of our education system?

To continue with the theme of meeting the needs of individual learners. Labour policy should allow the educational system to become far more flexible with regard to where the learner is able to meet his learning needs. It would be helpful if the budget could follow the pupil far more flexibly than is currently the case, and if he were able to access a range of different resources, whether this be through schooling, flexi-schooling, virtual school, hospital school, EOTAS provision, MOOCs, home education, or any combination of these.

It would also be useful if schools could be more flexible with their opening times as there is a significant amount of evidence to show that school results for teens improve with a later start time.

One of the most frequent criticisms of the personalised education is that it would be impossible for employers to know if a job applicant is capable of working for them if they do not have a standardised bit of paper saying they have this or that grade in a subject. This problem is honestly so easily solved, that it should not pose any sort of issue. The fact is, as it stands, a lot of employers are saying that many young people, even with all the requisite exam results from the current schooling system, are not actually up to the task. Instead of producing these bits of paper that most likely have little to do with the actual work they are going to do, it would be relatively easy for a young person to build up an online portfolio of the work they have done, with data from websites collated to provide evidence of ability, and with dissertations and other work also included and checked for plagiarism. The problem of lack of motivation and poor self management skills would also be overcome as each learner would be responsible for their own learning.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

A Response to the Consultation: Integrated Communities Green Paper

From the Consultation on Integrated Communities:

Question 7.  The Green Paper proposes measures to ensure that all children and young people are prepared for life in modern Britain and have the opportunity for meaningful social mixing with those from different backgrounds. Do you agree with this approach?


Response:

From reports in the press, we see that parents have got to the point where they feel they have no choice but to withdraw their children from schools on account of the bullying.  Families are bored of the cant about schools managing bullying.  They know it doesn't happen, that their children are suffering and that the only way to protect their children is to speak with their feet.

We need to start being properly creative about educational provision. Look how Finland has done so well in the educational tables recently by thinking outside the box, NOT forcing children to do more and more work until they become completely disaffected and quite possibly take out their frustrations by bullying others.  Instead the Finnish schooling system reduces the number of exams, tests and hours worked, and allows young people to learn in a respectful, genuinely nurturing space.

Despite doing far fewer hours in school, these young Finns speak a number of languages other than their own fluently. It would be worth finding out how that is done as this could doubtless help with integration.

Continuing in the vein of reducing pressures to enable good learning, we should consider raising the age at which schooling is compulsory.  It is clear that a later start actually advantages learners and generations of home educators who have not been forced to read from too young an age can now testify to the fact that learning to read later, anything from age 8 to 13 does NOT limit them in any way,  and in fact, later readers often have extremely high reading levels and achieve this in the space of a couple of months.  ie: they start to learn to read when they are ready and learn extremely quickly as a result.

We should also be considering altering the timing of the school day to suit the users.  Most teens function far more effectively later in the day than most adults, a hangover from our evolutionary past which means that genes alter the teen body clock so that they can stay up all night to protect the tribe.  We really are missing a trick here, as we could massively improve outcomes if we just were a little bit creative about altering start and finish times of the school day:

This may be an American site, but the argument holds eg:

"When Jackson Hole High School in Wyoming shifted its start time to 8:55 a.m., the number of car crashes involving teenage drivers dropped by 70%

Switching middle school start times by 30 minutes or more to after 8 a.m. in Wake County, NC was associated with increased math and reading test scores, with disadvantaged students benefiting most.

A study at the US Air Force Academy showed first-year students starting classes after 8 a.m. performed better not only in their first classes but throughout the day.

A report published by The Brookings Institution associated a significant increase in test scores with later middle and high school start times, with benefits roughly twice as great in disadvantaged students.

The Brookings report also estimated that later high school start times create a lifetime earnings gain of $17,500 per student with a school system cost of $0.00 to $1,950 per student, a benefit-to-cost ratio of 9:1 or better."

When you take the pressure off children in this sort of a way, whilst still maintaining an advisory role, bullying is also dramatically reduced. 

Furthermore, adults, teachers and schools would in this way actually provide a genuine example of a tolerant, nurturing, enabling society instead of one that is based on one-upmanship and ruthless competition which so often results in bullying.

But we needn't limit our vision to what we can do about changing the school environment for the better.  We should also looking to make Education Other than at School (EOTAS) a far bigger and better and brighter thing than it is now. We should be looking to models of how to do it that blend all manner of influences,

Virtual schools,
Red Balloon of the Air
Hospital Schools
Mixing this with wisdoms from Finnish Education.

As regards children going missing once they have either been excluded or have deregistered, schools are already required to notify local authorities of the removal of the child from the school roll, so the whereabouts of the child should not be a mystery.  The notification process just has to happen on a more reliable basis.

If a child is placed in an unregistered school, and Ofsted cannot deal with it, either social work teams - in the case of a child at risk of abuse, or the LA Education Officer - in the case of a child who is not in receipt of a suitable education, already has sufficient legislative powers to deal with this situation.  Give social work teams more money to cope with their workload.  Don't bother chasing law abiding HEors until you have sufficient resources to be dealing with the likes of Rotherham, Rochdale, Telford, Derby and Oxford.