Do we *want* *relationships* with Local Authorities?
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:
- + 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.
- + 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?
- - 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.
- - The draft guidance admits there's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.
- - 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?