Which of the following best describes you:
Checked Home educator
1 Do you agree that it is helpful for the DfES to issue guidelines to local authorities?
Only in so far as the guidelines accurately and concisely reflect the law. We have already this week seen the Notts LA abuse the draft guidelines to support ultra vires practices, highlighting the dangers of vague, inaccurate and misleading interpretations of the law when they are handed down form central government.
I have no doubt that certain La’s who are keen to extend their powers, for no doubt the best of intentions, will wilfully ignore the guidelines and continue their bad, and often illegal practice. With good guidelines they could no longer claim either ignorance or obfuscation in their defence, merely incompetence or maleficence.
2 Do you agree that the description of the law (paragraphs 2.1-2.3) relating to elective home education is accurate and clear?
Contains no reference to more recent legislation (Children’s Act, every child matters), which, although they DO NOT extend LA powers or responsibilities with regard to EHE, have led some La’s to believe that they have.
3 Do you agree that the description of local authorities’ responsibilities (paragraphs 2.5-2.11) is accurate and helpful?
There are several worrying points introduced here.
The phrase “reasonable progress” is introduced with no definition. It also implies a duty to ongoing monitoring, which is outside the remit of La’s. The phrase should be removed and replaced with the legal definition of “suited to their age, aptitude and ability.” This in itself implies a suitable standard of progress as naturally occurs where education is suitable.
Section 2.7 states that La’s have no duty to monitor the *quality* of home education *on a regular basis*. This is unnecessarily vague: They have no duty to monitor home education, only to investigate where they have reason to believe there is a lack of educational provision.
Again, Section 2.11 carries no reference to the children’s act of 2004, nor Every Child Matters, both of which have been used, erroneously to argue for more powers and responsibilities of La’s in respect of Home Education. These should be included here to reinforce that no such powers or responsibilities are granted or implied by those acts.
4 Do you agree that the section on contact with the local authority (paragraphs 3.4-3.7) is accurate and helpful?
As it presently reads, it is biased and prejudicial with regards to EHE’ers who, for perfectly legitimate reasons, wish to minimize their contact with the LA.
Furthermore, the material regarding TGR families is prejudicial in the extreme, and derived from disputed research. Since the law is the same regarding EHE regardless of ethnicity, guidelines should be ethnicity neutral. We could even hope for an encouragement of cultural diversity, couldn’t we?
There is talk here of a “risk-based approach”: does this refer to the risk of educational neglect, the risk of legal liability on the part of the LA, or is it nebulous code wording for allowing for racial, ethnic or class prejudice?
5 Do you agree that the section on providing a full-time education (paragraphs 3.11-3.14) – and in particular, the characteristics of provision (paragraph 3.13) – is accurate and helpful?
We’ve already seen this list used as an exhaustive, statutory list of requirements. It is of dubious use for most children, and downright inappropriate for many SEN children. If it is to remain in the guidelines, it MUST be ring-fenced with caveats and warnings not to mistake it for an exhaustive list of requirements, as such a list does not and cannot exist to cover all forms of elective home education.
Why is the SEN section not consulted on? It’s pitifully inaccurate in places, due to being copied from Scottish guidelines which reflect an entirely different legal milieu.
6 Do you agree that the section on developing relationships (section 4) is useful?
It starts by suddenly asserting that the purpose of the guidelines isn’t, as has been supposed, a concise guide to EHE legislation and it’s implementation, but vague wishes to improve relations between EHE families and La’s.
IN my experience, such relationships are at their most strained where the LA has, often wilfully, misinterpreted the law, often with the patronising assumption that they know better than the legislation what is best.
If the guidelines are to promote best practise, it must first promote strictly legal practise, and focus on that. We have for too long been subjected to LA officers with good intentions, bad attitudes and inadequate legal understanding. Many EHE’ers feel that relationships with La’s are irreparably damaged due to abuse of the law, and only strictly lawful and respectful approaches will help repair relationships.
The language in this section is highly prejudicial towards a form of regular monitoring in the home: such a relationship is, in the eyes of many EHE’ers, entirely inappropriate, adversarial and detrimental to the educational and emotional well-being of children, many of whom have been traumatised by the present regime of testing and judgementalism prevalent in the present school system.
In other words, many families educate at home to heal the damage caused by just the sort of official interventionism that this section sanctions, with a little hand waving towards the rights of parents to provide information in any reasonable way.
This section should either be re-written wholesale to reflect not only the legal rights of parents to co-operate in other ways with La’s, but also to remove prejudice against HE families choosing to interact in ways which La’s may not prefer, but which are both as legal, and more conducive to a good educational environment.
La’s should be warned that OFSTED recommendations may come from officers not trained in good HE practice, and to consult with those qualified before responding to recommendations.
This section assumes that the relationship is purely with individual HE families: no provision is made for developing relationships with HE organisations on either a local or national basis. In my experience, where an LA deals with families as disparate individuals only, the relationship is generally worse than where they also engage with organisations of HE families, where people are less intimidated by the authority, and genuine concerns can be raised without the spectre of LA harassment.
7 a) Are the suggested resources in section 5 and appendix 2 useful?
Checked Not Sure
At least one address is out of date.
Some of the named organisations have not updated their information to reflect current law. Some have been known to give inaccurate advise to EHE families and La’s. The government should be very wary of recommending any group they have not gained assurances from regarding their legal practices and advice.
7 b) Should any other contacts be included?
Checked Not Sure
There has been a recent explosion of groups (to mention one, the campaigning group AHEd) who could usefully be contacted by either EHE families or La’s seeking advice.
This section should either be comprehensive (a mammoth task) or left out. A web search would serve most people better, but that alienates non-web capable families.
8 Please use this space for any other comments you wish to make about the guidelines
There are large parts of the guidelines which are not consulted on, and those parts are often the least accurate, or most sensitive.
I have prepared, as a work in progress, an edited version of the guidelines which more accurately represents English Law, good LA practise and family rights. It is available here: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dd2kjtf6_31ghghk2 , a copy of the present version will be mailed to the department.
At present the guidelines represent little more than a wish list for La’s who wish a green light to act beyond the carefully set balance of the rights of the family against the responsibilities of the government.
I sincerely hope that the public be invited to consult on a future draft, drawn with more care than this hastily assembled hodge-podge of Scottish guidelines and LA patronising interventionist clap trap.