Friday, June 07, 2019

Consultation - Children not in school - 2019

OK, this whole thing  feels like a complete charade.  Apparently the DfE have decided, contra numerous responses to the previous consultation,  that registration of home educated children is needed and for reasons of window dressing, have prefaced the introduction of the legislation that will be required to support registration with a supposed "consultation".

The whole way this pantomine is written gives the lie to this fakery - what with most of the questions apparently presupposing that a register of home educated children is a foregone conclusion and also including a lot of in-house terminology that would only make sense to the likes of social workers, which thereby easily prevents those who will actually be most affected by the implications of a register, ie: home educating families from responding to the consultation.

But still, you HAVE to say something.  Not responding isn't a protest vote.  The DfE won't give a jot if you don't say anything and indeed will probably be rubbing their hands in glee, thinking home educators have finally been worn out by this protracted war of attrition.  But we aren't worn out because we can't afford to be, and because, if anything, the situation in LAs has got worse. Fighting for the rights for families to remain as autonomous as possible has got all the more urgent.

So I would urge as many people as possible to respond, if not to the entire thing, at least to some of the most obvious questions.

Here are some of my answers:

Question 20:

20. Why do you not support the concept of a duty on each LA to maintain a register?

Firstly, it will not serve the objective of finding and supporting families who are struggling, as only well functioning HE families will register. Truly needy families are often too chaotic and/or often rightly too afraid of the consequences to register, and deeply abusive families will never register despite any proposed penalties as they risk far greater legal penalities.

Secondly, local authorities are so pushed for money, staff and other resources that asking them to register and then maintain a register of all the home educating and other families in their area will mean that there will be even less money and fewer staff and other resources to support families who are struggling and who do request help.

Thirdly, despite assurances from the DfE, registration by the LA will mean that LAs will become the arbiter of which families may and which may not home educate. Indeed cases of this have already started to occur since the issuance of this consultation and the DfE have failed to police this.

The fact that LAs will without doubt use registration as a gatekeeper to home education will mean that families will no longer be able to determine the place of education and will therefore not be able to ensure that an appropriate education is being delivered.

This appropriation of parental duties entirely obviates the point of s7 Education Act 1996 where it states that it is down to the parent to ensure that a suitable education is provided which they obviously cannot do if they cannot even determine the place of education. The law at s7 will have to be rewritten to reflect this new reality, ie: that the state is now responsible for ensuring a suitable education is delivered. At this point, we can be sure that the state services will collapse under their abject failure of provision and as families seek due redress.

Further, local authorities continuously offer the idea that they are a safety net for families who are struggling. In this age of decreased funding for LA services and increased demand upon these same services, this is almost universally utterly illusory and if the family sets out to seek help from the LA, sets up the poor family for years of struggle which almost never results in any satisfactory outcomes for anyone and often results in legal expenses which are crippling for all concerned. Registration and the further erosion of parental autonomy will only increase the illusion that the state can actually help and will therefore only result in more of the same chaos and failure to provide the things that young people actually need.

The relationship between LAs and parents is bad enough as it is. Parents who are only seeking help for their loved ones are frequently labelled "professional" or "warrior" parents or "awkward trouble makers" by social service departments. These labels go down in their records for all to see, given information sharing duties within LAs and health services.

These parents have fallen for an illusion that services will help, but it is an illusion that the state created in the first place by the gradual erosion of parental autonomy which will inevitably get worse when local authorities abuse the power to register for home education.

On top of this, families feel utterly powerless in the face of a powerful bureaucracy which despite seemingly not being able to pay for care, are nonetheless able to fund legal representation whenever matters need to be taken to court. Most parents are not eligible for legal aid, which only maginifies their sense of powerlessness. No wonder we resist further state intrusion. We don't see the point of it, and it ends up damaging our families as inadequate, failing services hurt vulnerable young people. Far better not to make these false promises to families in the first place.

It would be a far better use of resources if services which are already completely not fit for purpose and which only look set to become even worse, dealt only with severe cases and money not be wasted on a useless and indeed damaging registration scheme.

Question 21:   Should a register specify whether children are attending an educational setting (other than their own home) duruing shool hours?  Add comments if you wish. 
No (ticked).

On top of other reasons why a register of home educators would not be useful you can add the following:

It would be a logistical nightmare to include every educational setting that a home educated child attends during school hours. When my children were young, (I've just totted it up), we could be attending as many as 15 different educational settings per week, and often these were one off visits. Would these all need to be registered every day, every week? 

Such a process will also deter parents both attending such events and from offering their skills to other HEing families, which they do usually on an entirely voluntary basis, as the bureaucracy and effort would make the whole thing totally unmanageable.

It is simply mad, impractical and Orwellian in the levels of state control it implies. 

Question 22.  Should the register be widened still further to also include children who are being educated under s.19 arrangements?  Add comments if you wish.
No (ticked)

Surely LAs know about these children already? If not, the levels of incompetence are pretty mind boggling. 

The fact that the question is written in such a way as to not make it clear to many parents which Act s19 comes from also strongly suggests that you only want LAs who would understand this language to respond
 to this consultation. It implies that the DfE are not interested in the views of families and that the register will be used for these children whatever we say. This consultation is pure window dressing.   I am myself assuming that s19 children are the ones referred to in the Education Act 1996.

Question 42. Do you have any other comments about the concept of a legal duty on parents to supply information for the purposes of the proposed register?

Parents are and should remain responsible for the education of their children.  When the state begins to make judgements about this, it defines the nature of a suitable education, and pluralism and freedom of thought are thereby undermined.   

The state will also, with the inevitable abuse of the register by LAs who will use it as a gatekeeping opportunity, (see answers above), become responsible for the provision of suitable education and the law at s7 Education Act 1996 should be rewritten to reflect this. There will of course be dire consequences as a result of this appropriation of parental duties as the state will not be able to live up to its newfound responsibilities. 

Question 49: Which settings do you think should be included within the scope of the duty? 

If you include home education groups, you will destroy the whole fabric of home education as much of it relies on the voluntary work of parents who offer their skills freely.  If you require them to register, you will  find that many will simply throw their hands in the air and give up as they already have a lot on their plate. This will mean that yet more children will be failed as many will not be well suited to the schooling system. 

Question 53: Do you have any other comments about the concept or duties of the proprietors of settings to provide information about children who attend their setting and fall within scope of the education requirement? 

A register is not required in order to close down places of education that are abusive to children. This should be perfectly possible using other legislation that would not destroy home education in the process. The collateral damage here could be enormous as parents will give up the unequal struggle to home educate which involves families sourcing and creating huge numbers of community resources, all of which will have to be registered. Parents will burn out and children who are educated at home will then have to be returned to schools where they are frequently failed appallingly. Schools will become even more over-crowded and filled with children who are not suited to the school system.

As with much of this consultation, the phraseology of this question yet again suggests that registration is a foregone conclusion and this makes it extremely difficult to answer with the necessary arguments. On top of that, questions that need answering are not asked at all. All of this confirms that this whole exercise is a cynical charade.

Question 56 if such a duty 
(re support for home educators) was to be created, which of the following should it encompass (list of options including advice, support for exams etc.) 

Other. Support from LAs to HEors is currently frequently negligable and as demands on LAs grow and more authorities approach bankrupsty, support will become even more so vanishingly unlikely. Home educators would be the bottom of the queue whatever the DfE say. There is no point at all offering us this carrot. 

Instead there should be an online portal that could offer a reliable distance learning tool that could be accessible by all families, home educated or otherwise, which would be related to the national curriculum and facilitate the taking of public exams.  It should be data driven and sensitive to individual abilities, much as Kahn Academy and Duolingo are currently.   Companies are marketing these to schools but this sort of resource should be immediately rolled out by the government to be available to everyone.  It would not be at all expensive to offer this.  It would have nothing to do with home education and everything to do with offering useful resources for every child in the UK. 

Question 57: What are the potential difficulties, apart from availability of resources, in ensuring that such a duty is properly discharged by a local authority?

The problem of lack of availability of resources is so overwhelming, it is virtually not worth answering the rest of the question, but the other issues would be that should the LA somehow manage to offer any resources to home educators in particular, they would almost inevitably become even more prescriptive in terms of the education that they would demand that parents provide.   This would be another reason why s7 Education Act 1996 would have to be rewritten to reflect the fact that LAs would have appropriated parental duties.

It is also worth noting that families have virtually no effective way of preventing state intrusion or challenging ultra vires behaviour by LAs. 

In summary, given the prejudicial skewing of the questions, you may have to wangle your answers to fit the question, but if you do this,  you can get most of your points across fairly quickly. Go give it a go.  It is too important to ignore.


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