Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Soley's Bill - Report Stage and Third Reading

Lord Soley's Bill has had its Report Stage in the House of Lords yesterday (17th July 2018).  Looks as if they were trying to slip it by us - not only was there no notification of it on the government's site (which now lists the Third Reading of the Bill as being due on the 24th July 2018, an announcement made during the HE picnics), but there were also no speakers and no divisions.

Clearly the DfE don't want us to kick off about the Bill, but at the same time, the fact that the ptb have this legislation lined up at the same time as they are proposing significant alterations to EHE guidance - well, really this looks like too much of a coincidence.  It seems as if the Bill is meant to intimidate home educators into complying with the alterations to guidance but the fact is, a lot of HEors won't be doing with either, not least because a close reading of the draft guidance reveals that there isn't much to chose between the Bill and the draft guidance.  Given the latitude that is handed to LAs in the guidance, coupled with the Localism Act, which means that LAs are allowed to do anything they like as long as it isn't actively proscribed by the law, LAs would have a licence to behave just as the Bill prescribes.  The only sensible thing to do would be to object to both!

Lest we forget (and we really haven't), here's the current draft of the Bill with amendments from the Committee Stage:


Make provision for local authorities to assess the educational development of children receiving elective home education; and for connected purposes.

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

 1   Duty of local authorities to assess children receiving elective home education
(1)The Education Act 1996 is amended as follows.

(2)After section 436A (duty to make arrangements to identify children not receiving education), insert —

“436B Duty of local authorities to assess children receiving elective home education
(1) Local authorities have a duty to assess the educational development of children receiving elective home education in their area.

(2) Local authorities have a duty to provide advice and information to a parent of a child receiving elective home education if that parent requests such advice or information in relation to their obligations under this section.

(3) A parent of a child receiving elective home education must register the child as such with their local authority.

(4) Local authorities must assess annually each child receiving elective home education in their area (hereafter referred to as “the assessment”).

(5) The assessment set out in subsection (4) must assess the educational development of each child.

(6) The assessment may include —

     (a) a visit to the child’s home;

     (b) an interview with the child;

     (c) seeing the child’s work; and

     (d) an interview with the child’s parent.

(7) A parent of a child receiving elective home education must provide information relevant to the assessment to their local authority when requested.

(8) The Secretary of State must by regulations made by statutory instrument specify —

        (a)the arrangements for parents to register a child with their local authority under subsection              (3); and

        (b)the methodology of the assessment.

(9) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(10) In this section “elective home education” refers to education given to a child at home following a decision by their parent to educate them outside the school system.”

2      Guidance relating to elective home education
(1) The Secretary of State must update the guidance for elective home education for local authorities and parents to account for section 436B of the Education Act 1996 by the end of the period of one year, beginning with the day on which this Act comes into force.

(2)In updating the guidance in subsection (1), the Secretary of State must have regard to —

       (a)the expectation that elective home education must include provision of supervised                  instruction in reading, writing and numeracy, which takes into account the child’s age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs and disabilities, and

       (b)the views of children and parents who elect home education.

(3)   The Secretary of State may carry out a public consultation to inform the guidance set out in subsection (1).

3   Interpretation

In this Act —

“elective home education” refers to education given to a child at home following a decision by their parent to educate them outside the school system; and

“local authority” means —

         (a)in relation to England, the council of a district, county or London borough, the Common      Council of the City of London 40and the Council of the Isles of Scilly;

         (b)in relation to Wales, the council of a county or county borough.

4 Extent, commencement and short title
(1)  This Act extends to England and Wales only.

(2)  This Act comes into force at the end of the period of two months, beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.

(3)  This Act may be cited as the Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Act 2018.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Arguments for MPs

These are my top arguments - the issues I feel most strongly about:

If an MP were to ask me, "Why are you so concerned about the Draft Guidance or Soley's Bill? "(the latter due its Report Stage on the 17th July, by the way), I would answer with the following:

1.   We KNOW that schools fail some children and that genes play a large part in this. Schooling is not keeping up with neuroscience and learning theory and children with different learning needs are being off-rolled from schools all the time. We desperately NEED diversity of provision and we are extremely concerned that since the draft guidance/the Bill would give LAs so much power in the matter of determining the nature of a suitable education, we risk losing the form of education that has suited our children so well.  Indeed we have seen this happen in France where the authorities, given the latitude, have become more and more prescriptive in terms of what they expect to see by way of an education. We should not let this happen here.

2.  Home education is often entirely different from schooling and young people who are failed by schooling more often than not, thrive when home educated.  Indeed these very same young people often later go on to college and thrive there because they are then ready for it. 

3. By way of an example of the flexibility and therefore suitability of provision that home education can offer: home educated children who struggle to learn to read are not overwhelmed or disheartened since the family can easily adapt and employ other learning methods, such as conversation and other audio-visual sources.  Eventually, in this relaxed but enriched environment and when they are ready, children learn to read and, by doing so, do not suffer the appalling consequences of repeated humiliation and failure that they would have otherwise have experienced had they been in school.

4.  It is a repeated problem that legislators and civil servants who seek to determine the nature of a suitable education are usually the ones who themselves thrived in the schooling model, whereas those who struggled in school never get to have their say about what would have actually worked for them.  We need to hear their voices.  Young people with SEN deserve better, and we now have the means to offer them a whole array of new ideas.  We should allow educational provision to evolve and home educators can help lead the way with this, but this will not happen if we are constrained by the LA officials who fail to understand alternative provision.  Worse still, if we give LAs more power to determine the nature of a suitable education, the chances are that they will abuse this power.  Home educators do not want to cede this ground.

5. Children have rights too. They are humans and they should have human rights, such as the right to privacy, for example.  Home education is integral to family life.  When an LA officer insists on inspecting a child's work, it involves intruding upon family life in a way that represents a gross violation of this privacy.   What's more, it all gets reported back and held on file in council offices, and given the data protection violations that are condoned in the draft guidance for LAs, these families can kiss goodbye to any pretence to privacy.  This LA intrusion can also disrupt family life by causing so much anxiety, since families realise how much is at stake, how much their lives could be changed on the subjective word of an LA officer who might just be making pretty unsubstantiated judgements just because he hasn't eaten enough biscuits.   They rightfully do not trust LA officers to report things accurately, (this happens a great deal...could quote examples) and these things could end up being used as evidence in court.  Families feel very vulnerable in this regard. 

6. All this damage to families for no observable gain.  True abusers won't register.  Children will still be off-rolled from schools because of the pressure from Ofsted which is just creating this mess in the first place.  Illegal schools can be found through other means other than pestering home educators at great expense. It is the CPS that needs to get on this case and provide the help Ofsted needs and we need better EOTAS provision, eg: the Red Balloon of the Air

7.  Just leave well-functioning home educators alone to get on with it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Why Should I go to the Picnic?

We've done a LOT already:

* We've filled in and sent off the Call for Evidence on the Draft Guidance (closed as of 2nd July).

* We've signed the on-line petition...still open till Friday 13th, please note.

* We've handed in our constituency petitions to parliament in six different sessions which can be viewed here , herehere from 18.47  , here from 23.20, and here . In Hansard, with a more extensive list:  here , here here, herehere, herehere , herehere, here and here. (Latter four, have not found TV links yet!)

* We understand that petitions from other constituencies have been presented in other ways, ie: directly into the bag, or have been forwarded to the Department for Education for their consideration, following which we gather the DfE should table them in their name.

* We've already had a response to the substance of the petition from the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds as follows:

Mary Robinson Conservative, Cheadle: 

"Approximately 48,000 children are being home educated in England.  In light of the Government's consultation on home education which ends next Monday, can the Minister clarify what steps his Department are taking to reassure home educators that their views will be fed into the Government's consultation response?

Damian Hinds  The Secretary of State for Education

I can give my hon. Friend that reassurance. We are having this consultation, and there has been a rise in children being home educated which of course includes some children whith particular special eduational needs how have had a particularly bad time in the school system and whose parents devote their lives to their education - I pay tribute to those parents.  The rise includes other categories, but it is important that we listen carefully, and we will, to those parents in the consultation. "

*  It's possible that we can expect more by way of a formal response to the petition since we gather that

"substantive petitions should normally receive a response from the relevant government department and this should normally be within two months of the petition being presented."

Quite a few home educators have met with their MPs to explain, amongst other things:

   - that home education is a necessary precondition of a healthy democracy since it provides an essential check and balance upon state powers, and yet civil servants are reinterpreting the law so as to completely change its implementation.  The latitude in determining the nature of a suitable education that is being handed to LAs in guidance could even make home educating effectively impossible if LAs so choose, and all this is happening right under our noses, with next to no real scrutiny by MPs or the public.  

What MORE do we need to do to stop this? 

* Well, first off, as many of us as possible should be trying to speak to our MPs directly.  The Summer Recess which starts on the 24th July 2018 is not a problem in this regard - during a recess, MPs work in their local constituencies, holding surgeries, replying to correspondence and attending local events.  It could be the perfect moment to get hold of your MP.

Research your MP.  What is their position on education and on other related matters.  Consider which arguments they are likely to understand best. Are they a small state Tory, or a paternalistic one who may be concerned to keep costs down?  Is it a Labour MP who wants to do the best by children with different needs?

What should be your elevator pitch?

-  Should it be about better SEND provision via better EOTAS provision?

 - Or about how registration and monitoring won't actually solve the problems of off-rolling that it sets out to solve and won't find real abusers since real abusers won't register?

- Is it how registration and monitoring and being forced to abide by the LAs conception of a suitable education will damage your family?

- Is it the argument in red above or any other of the many arguments there are against the Draft Guidance and Soley's Bill?

* Next - help arrange, advertise and attend your own local HE picnic to fit in with:


The theme of the day is visibility and the major focus will be on a series of picnics to be held around the country. We invite home educators everywhere to use this day to spread understanding of home ed and to highlight our concerns about the draft guidance.

Let’s see if we can get #homeedinsight trending on Twitter!
There will be the  - local picnics 
                            - the presentation of a letter to a senior politician
                            - the presentation of the on line petition direct to Stephen Bishop.

For more information (and as long as you are a home educator who meets the Conditions of Membership, ie: that you oppose the implementation of Draft Guidance and Soley's Bill), please join this Facebook Group.