Saturday, July 14, 2007

Do we *want* *relationships* with Local Authorities?

Sections 4.1 and 4.2 of the Elective Home Education Guidelines [opens document] says:

Developing relationships

4.1 As noted in the Introduction to these guidelines, the central aim of this document is to assist local authorities and home educators to build effective relationships that function to safeguard the educational interests of children and young people; relationships that are rooted in mutual understanding, trust and respect. The guidelines outline a number of recommendations that are geared towards the promotion of such relationships.

4.2 Whilst there is no current legal obligation on education authorities or home educators to develop such relationships, doing so will often provide parents with access to any support that is available and allow authorities to better understand parents’ educational provision and preferences. A positive relationship will also provide a sound basis if the authority is required to investigate assertions from any source that an efficient and suitable education is not being provided. This will be true whether or not parents are required to demonstrate that suitable home-education provision is being made available.


And this worries me. I'm concerned that by agreeing - even tacitly - to work on developing relationships with Local Authorities, we might be unknowingly stumbling into a bit of a trap.

If we agree that such relationships are a Good Thing - and I'm not sure they necessarily are - and we commit ourselves to 'working towards achieving them', isn't the inevitable next step going to be some kind of attempt to legally formalise the relationship? I don't want to be married to my Local Authority ;-)

Lets look at some of the pros and cons of agreeing to build relationships with Local Authorities:
  1. + We might get to check and influence some of their policies and behaviours

    - but this is likely to lead to yet more postcode lotteries in the way they treat us.

  2. + If we work really hard, they might start to understand and trust us more.

    - But doesn't the law say they should be doing this anyway? They're getting paid loads of money and we aren't. Why should we do their work for them?

  3. - There will always be some home educators who refuse to be part of such a relationship, for valid reasons. They may also prefer to have little or no interaction with other home educators. Relationships of the kind suggested in the guidelines will put these people in an even weaker position than their present one.

  4. - The draft guidance admits there's

    no current legal obligation on education authorities or home educators to develop such relationships

    and doing so will take considerable time and energy on our part, which may not be repaid in kind.

  5. - Some of us are already unnecessarily jumping through hoops for our Local Authorities, with no legal basis for such exertions. Wouldn't an obligation to build relationships exacerbate this problem in difficult Local Authority areas?

There are more negatives than positives in my list above, and possibly even more factors to consider. But as you can see I'm struggling to see why agreeing to such undertakings is of benefit to us on the whole. I have nothing against home educators taking it upon themselves to meet with their Local Authorities with a view to improving or establishing Local Authority good practice, but I do not like the idea that they may be obliged to do so in some way.

I'd love to know what other people think about this.

Do we want the central aim of this document to be to assist local authorities and home educators to build effective relationships?

Do we agree that the building of effective relationships will function to safeguard the educational interests of children and young people?

And do we believe that it's even possible, given the track record of some Local Authorities, to build relationships that are rooted in mutual understanding, trust and respect, across the board?

14 Comments:

Blogger 33, 452 said...

My answer to that bit was very succinct. I just said:

"The fact that there is no legal obligation for home educators and their LAs to develop relationships should stand alone. The rest of the wording in the paragraphs undermines the essential truth of that statement and should, thus, be omitted."

I rushed, didn't I? I'm annoyed at myself for clicking "submit" too soon. :(

7:41 pm, July 14, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I said something similar. These guidelines are not supposed to be about touchy feely aspirations, they are supposed to clarify the law so that HEers and LAs both know what is legally required of them in their interactions (or lack of).

I also said, very loudly, more than once, that LA employees who are responsible for liaison with HE families should be up-to-date with and sympathetic to the various HE philosophies, and that ideally they should be experts - that is, with some personal experience of HE, rather than being professional educators invested in the institutional education system. I don't think too many people can make that point...

8:49 pm, July 14, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

I don't want any kind of relations with them tbh.

I am involved with my LA but I did it on my terms, and I do agree that if it's written in the guidance that we should work towards good relations it will become a stick to beat those who don't want to meet or get involved.

Really what the guidance should say is simple. Why they have to fill it out and make it all flowery I've no idea - all it does is leave more room for abuse, which of course couldn't possibly be the aim could it?

9:17 pm, July 14, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

No Adele, I think that was a good answer.

"LA employees who are responsible for liaison with HE families should be up-to-date with and sympathetic to the various HE philosophies.." Oh yes, I'll include that point too. Thanks!

Not 100% sure using present or ex-HErs helps though, because they're only likely to be very familiar with more than one model and might not view very different ones impartially enough.

I might struggle to look very favourably on a very schooly model, for e.g., and vice versa.

No, the only way we're going to get fair assessment is to limit as much as possible that which is being assessed - i.e. does the provision look suitable at first glance, well enough to convince a reasonable person on balance of probability?

Which is what we've got now, which is why they need to just focus on stating that IMO. Anything else is giving ground and we shouldn't do that because it might leave us more open to future legislation(?)
( - thinking about their use of the word *current*.)

Tech, yes, good question. Why do they want to make it all flowery? Sugaring the pill, maybe.

10:32 pm, July 14, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

Relationships? No. I don't want one with them. It is a cover up to manipulate us to to do what they want. It is * really* hard to be rude to people who have "befriended" us. The law is so clear to no relationships are needed from our point of view. We still hold all the cards. They know this so are hoping to get us onside by other means.

11:25 pm, July 14, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't want a relationship with our LA at all.
i send in the same 'Ed phil' each year and update the brief written report. they don't see the children and they don't see examples of work, because the children don't wish it.

I do however meet with them-as one of a group of home educators locally, separately to this and I believe in doing so, we have given them a greater understanding of home educators and what we most object to in their written policies and in their practices.
I am still aware who pays them though and therefore where their loyalties lie.

Am awaiting the reviewed paperwork to see if we have actually made a difference to their policies.

My answer to the consultation is much the same as 33,452. I don't believe we should be obliged to have any such relationship and we the fact that we are not obliged to do so, should be enough.

11:49 pm, July 14, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes, we're unanimous on this so far aren't we?

I wonder where the government got the idea from that we might want relationships with our LAs?

10:44 am, July 15, 2007  
Blogger degz said...

I think that this is a very worrying paragraph. I've had an LA advisor move from being very friendly to trying to bludgeon me over the head with guidelines before. I can just imagine how she'd use this.

11:30 am, July 15, 2007  
Blogger Mieke said...

I am not the one with doubts about whether my children are receiving adequate education.
I do not have the need to have a relationship with a government appointed and paid person, so that they can satisfy their need to form an opinion about me and the way education works in our family.
To me, the essence of any relationship is that there is mutual respect and a basis of equality. And I want to have the right to say no to any relationship that does not meet these conditions.
There are individual LA’s with whom I wouldn’t mind exchanging thoughts and even information with from time to time. But as long as there are those other LA’s, who do not meet my conditions, I don’t want the law to change.
I came to this country because of the law on education being as it is.
The only changes I would encourage are ones that ensure a more knowledgable, open and respectful attitude towards HE, from authorities in general and specifically from LA’s.

11:54 am, July 15, 2007  
Blogger HelenHaricot said...

well, as an unknown i am not for doing a lot about a relationship

1:18 pm, July 15, 2007  
Blogger Mike said...

All these guidelines are just the start of the slippery slope to legislating how home education can be conducted in a state sanctioned manner.

Anyone operating outside these guidelines will be criminalised, isolated and coerced to comply with them.

The government will use the example of those operating within the system as justification to act against those outside it.

As has happened in other countries this will lead to the break up of families and the imprisoning of parents.

There is no half way house, you either believe in the freedom to home educate without outside interference or you don't. Rather than sitting down with these people negotiating you should be protesting and showing how belligerent you can be.

The government loves dealing with 'reasonable' people who are willing to negotiate away their rights. Intelligent people who are willing to stand up for their's are another matter entirely.

You have the power all you need is the passion.

Show the government how difficult you can make it for them to make any changes to the legislation and they will scurry back to their offices and find somebody else to pick on.

Negotiation is futile.

I have come to the conclusion that any home educator who allows LAs to overstretch their authority and involve themselves in something they have no right to be involved in is an enemy to the cause of educational freedom and should be treated as such. It is these people who will allow the changes to the legislation to be made. They should not receive the support of others who have fought (At great personal expense)or are fighting hard to stop the state from encroaching on this freedom. They are the enemy within.

Mike steps off soap box and exits stage left....

8:43 pm, July 15, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Hmmmm who is that man....?

I think he's onto something ;-)

12:26 am, July 16, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

Stands up and gives Mike a huge round of applause!

2:38 pm, July 16, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes, standing ovation I reckon.

4:04 pm, July 16, 2007  

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