Do you agree that these proposals strike the right balance between the rights of parents to home educate and the rights of children to receive a suitable education?
Comments: Absolutely not. The proposals are a vastly disproportionate response to a "problem" that has not actually been shown to exist. The fact that there is an Select Committee inquiry into how the Badman Review was conducted - not to mention the numerous, well-argued and evidence-based cases put by home educators' groups - suggests that there are grave flaws in the Review. It should not be used as the basis for far-reaching reforms that fundamentally alter the relationship between family and state as to the parent of first resort.
(On a point of order, surely no legislation should be proposed untilf after the Select Committee has reported. Otherwise, what is the point of the exercise?)
The vast majority of home educated children do receive an education that is both suitable and efficient in the definitions established by case law. If attention is to be paid to childrens' rights - as, of course, it should - then how can proposals to interview a child alone take account of that child's wishes? Mr Badman himself has admitted that he cannot answer this conundrum, falling back on the notion that a refusal to see any official may have been planted by the parent. Fundamentally, no other group is treated with the presumption of guilt in way that these proposals suggest. Far from striking the right balance, they are grossly disproportionate, and should be rejected in their entirety. DCSF documents talk of creating a harmonious relationship between LAs and home educators. These proposals will eliminate any possibilty of harmony.
Do you agree that a register should be kept?
Comments: Strongly disagree. The term register conceals the fact that what is in fact suggested is a license to home educate: under these proposals, the local authority will have the power to withold its permission. The criteria according to which this decision will be made are so vague as to be meaningless, allowing no more concrete basis than simple personal whim. Given that so many LA HE officials are from a school background, and often appear to have no understanding of or confidence in an unschooling/autonomous education approach (witness Mr Badman's failure to read any of the ample peer-reviewed research or, indeed, to quote in full a court judgement on the efficacy of autonomous education), it is no wonder that EHE families have no desire to risk their carefully thought-out educational decisions to individual prejudice.
It is the parents' responsibility under section 7 of the Education Act 1996 to ensure a suitable education is provided for their child. Since when did we need permission to perform our legal responsibilities?
Do you agree with the information to be provided for registration?
Comments: Strongly disagree - no register should be established at all, for the reasons expressed above.
Do you agree that home educating parents should be required to keep the register up to date?
Do you agree that it should be a criminal offence to fail to register or to provide inadequate or false information?
Comments: Strongly disagree - no register should be established, for the reasons expressed above. Is there genuinely the expectation that a harmonious relationship between LA and EHE family will be established when threats of criminalisation are involved? I am incredulous.
Do you agree that home educated children should stay on the roll of their former school for 20 days after parents notify that they intend to home educate?
Comments: Strongly disagree - the decision to take a child out of school will not be taken lightly. Why will the school suddenly decide to address the issues that have led to this decision in this 20 day period? Should they not have been addressed much earlier? If the HE child remains on the roll but does not attend school, does that open the parents to the risk of prosecution for abetting truancy? Again, the threats of prosecution and criminalisation actively undermine any hopes of harmonious interaction.
Do you agree that the school should provide the local authority with achievement and future attainment data?
Comments: There is no connection between what happens in a school compelled to follow the national curriculum and administer regular tests and the qualifications that an EHE child may choose to attempt. The question again betrays a basic ignorance of what EHE entails.
Do you agree that DCSF should take powers to issue statutory guidance in relation to the registration and monitoring of home education?
Comments: Strongly disagree. Existing powers are adequate, The case for change has not been made, as discussed in the answer to question one, and an enquiry is still live into the conduct of the review. No changes should even be considered until the Select Committee has reported. If changes are then still thought necessary, they should be proposed as part of primary legislation that can be fully scrutinised in parliament.
Do you agree that children about whom there are substantial safeguarding concerns should not be home educated?
Comments: Strongly disagree. There is no robust definition of "substantial." The concept of permission to home educate runs counter to the Education Act of 1996, as discussed above. If there are safeguarding concerns about a particular family, then simply forcing the child into school between 9am and 3pm will not improve matters - will he or she be any less at risk at home outside of school hours? Nonsense.
Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises where home education is taking place provided 2 weeks notice is given?
Comments: Strongly disagree. Will the LA take on the expense of accompanying us to the ice rink, the gym, the zoo, various stately homes and castles, foreign countries..? Note also that the term "premises" in fact describes the family home, despite the clear lack of understanding of how EHE works - see preceding paragraph.
As I understand it, childrens' rights also involve the right to privacy. Or are childrens' rights only to be invoked selectively? Even the police still need a warrant to enter private property. Again, the presumption of innocence should not be so lightly discarded.
Do you agree that the local authority should have the power to interview the child, alone if this is judged appropriate, or if not in the presence of a trusted person who is not the parent/carer?
Comments: Strongly disagree. What an odious suggestion. Not only does this risk over-riding the child's own rights, it will fail in its express purpose. An abused child needs to develop a sense of trust before he or she will reveal personal details. An annual visit will achieve precisely nothing. This alarming proposal flies in the face of protocols that have been painstakingly developed by police, social workers and others who deal with vulnerable children. Even if there were valid concerns, it would be a gravely flawed approach. As it stands, it is grossly disproportionate.
Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises and interview the child within four weeks of home education starting, after 6 months has elapsed, at the anniversary of home education starting, and thereafter at least on an annual basis? This would not preclude more frequent monitoring if the local authority thought that was necessary.
Comments: Strongly disagree. The previous answers touched on some reasons why access to the home should not be sought automatically. This proposal also fails to recognise that many children brought out of school need a period of "deschooling" to recover from the psychological harm experienced in school.
In general, the proposal reflects the theme running through the list of recommendations that EHE families simply cannot be trusted. The levels of coercion proposed are, frankly, unworthy of a country that claims to be a democracy. The recurring phrases in the document about envisaging a harmonious relationship are, in this light, laughable.
The answer is simple - ensure that LAs know the existing law, that their officers understand the variety of approaches that education otherwise than in school can take, and that they apply this knowledge in dealing with EHE familes. No need for vast expense, no need for legislation, and no need to irrevocably destroy any relationship between EHE families and the state and LAs.
Labels: DCSF consultation, Graham Badman
posted by Ian Appleby at 12:06 pm
Am cross with self now for not putting STRONGLY disagree in my response! But then, might not have stopped... I STRONGLY, STRONGLY, STRONGLY, with every ounce of strength, disagree with all of the above mentioned proposals.Great response. Short, sharp, incisive and clear.Given that Balls didn't listen to the Select Committee and still ratified the new Children's Commissioner against their advice, what hope have we got, I wonder?
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