Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Local authorities' consultation responses: definition of terms

I've seen three local authority responses to the government's home education consultation now, and they all ask for clarity - specifically, clearer definitions. The term 'reasonable progress' generates the most complaints in the local authority responses, which strengthens our arguments to have it removed.

Other terms highlighted by these three local authorities as being in need of clarification and/or definition are:

  • Efficient;

  • Suitable;

  • Effective;

  • Full time;

  • Reasonable concerns; and

  • Risk-based approach.

Stifling a giggle about big words and dictionaries... No, wait, here's a classic, from a response which reads like it was penned by Tony Mooney himself: "Other than making a professional judgment, it is difficult to see how one can assess whether or not a child is making 'reasonable progress'.." - which begs the question: what do you think they employ you for?! But which also reminds me about a key point I'll definitely be making in my final response:

The contracting-out by local authorities of home-educating liaison work presents a serious conflict of interests, leading to individuals acting in their own financial interests by seeking to create liaison work that does not need doing. Furthermore, these individual 'home education inspectors' are very often ex-schoolteachers or headmasters, who only have knowledge of a model of school education against which to judge us and this frequently bears no relation to the method of home education being employed. In this way, the use of such individuals for this work by Local Authorities presents a significant threat to many instances of suitable provision.

I'll probably attach the above paragraph to my comments about the negative effects of visiting and monitoring.

'Reasonable progress' is superfluous and can be removed, but some of the other terms are necessary and are defined with some clarity in the draft guidance:

2.3 The responsibility for a child’s education rests with their parents. An “efficient” and “suitable” education is not defined in the Education Act 1996 but “efficient” has been broadly described as an education that “achieves that which it sets out to achieve”, and a “suitable” education is one that “primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so”

Anyone receiving payment from a local authority for liaising with home educators who has difficulty understanding the definitions of 'efficient' and 'suitable' in 2.3 should examine their conscience, in my opinion.

I'll therefore be including something like the following paragraph in my final response:

Section 2.3 adequately and correctly defines the terms 'efficient' and 'suitable'. Attempts to further define these terms should be unnecessary and may exacerbate problems caused by lack of knowledge about home education methods on the part of some of the individuals employed to assess us.

Effective appears 7 times in the draft guidance, although it's not used in either Section 7 or case law referring to EHE. Bizarrely, the one single complaint about its lack of definition in the responses relates to sections 2.1 to 2.3 - in which the word 'effective' doesn't appear!

The question of full-time provision arises in section 3.11:

Providing a full-time education

3.11 Parents are required to provide an efficient education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child. There is currently no legal definition of “full-time”. Children normally attend school for between 22 and 25 hours a week for 39 weeks of the year, but this measurement of ‘contact time’ is not relevant to home education where there is often almost continuous one-to-one contact and education may take place outside normal ‘school hours’. The type of educational activity can be varied and flexible. Home-educating parents are not required to:

· teach the National Curriculum
· have a timetable
· have premises equipped to any particular standard
· set hours during which education will take place
· have any specific qualifications
· make detailed plans in advance
· observe school hours, days or terms
· give formal lessons
· reproduce school type peer group socialisation
· match school, age-specific standards.

However, local authorities should offer advice and support to parents on these matters if requested.

And I think that

this measurement of ‘contact time’ is not relevant to home education where there is often almost continuous one-to-one contact and education may take place outside normal ‘school hours’

explains the term in so far as it relates to EHE very well.

I'll therefore be including something like the following paragraph in my final response:

Section 3.11 adequately and correctly explains the term 'full-time', in so far as it relates to elective home education. Attempts to further explain this term, in so far as it relates to elective home education, should be unnecessary and may exacerbate problems caused by lack of knowledge about home education methods on the part of some of the individuals employed to assess us.

Reasonable concerns is found here:

3.6 If there are any reasonable concerns, a local authority may wish to contact parents to discuss their ongoing home education provision. Contact should normally be made by writing to the parents to request an updated report or seek a meeting.

and on reflection I would agree that this section needs rewording, to avoid misunderstandings.

I'll therefore be including something like the following paragraph in my final response:

As the term 'reasonable concerns' lacks clarity, the first sentence in section 3.6 needs to be altered to:

If there are any specific concerns arising from the information received, a local authority may wish to contact parents to seek further information on the specific points.

'Risk-based approach' is definitely problematic as it occurs in the controversial

3.4 Many home educating parents welcome regular contact with the local authority as an opportunity to reaffirm their provision. However, where parents do not want any involvement with the local authority, the LA should not automatically assume that there is a problem which needs investigating. Instead, the LA should take a risk-based approach, taking into consideration the individual and community’s circumstances. As one example, recent research shows that “few Gypsy/Roma and Traveller parents have the knowledge, skills and resources to provide or deliver a full-time education that is efficient and suitable”. We do know that there will be Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children who do receive a good education at home. Those monitoring elective home education should seek advice from Traveller Education Support Services before engaging with parents from these communities.

I increasingly think that whole section (3.4) is beyond salvaging and should be completely removed. It serves no good purpose from any point of view, as far as I can see.

5 Comments:

Blogger Pete said...

Yoinked: will update the work in progress when I get a chance...

3:09 pm, July 19, 2007  
Blogger Pete said...

One other thing: you know the authorities just want these defined for arse-covering purposes, right? They want them defined and quantified so that when it all goes tits-up (as in Eunice Spry) they can hide behind the guidelines saying "We took a risk-based approach! It was a suitable full-time education! Don't hate me, hate the guidelines!"

3:11 pm, July 19, 2007  
Blogger Elaine said...

Just to say I find your blogging all this invaluable, thankyou

4:16 pm, July 19, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

LOL Pete! You're probably right ;-)

Elaine, thank you for thanking me, but I couldn't sleep at night if I thought I might miss something vital out of my response. Obsessive? Moi? *rolls eyes @ self*

10:32 pm, July 19, 2007  
Blogger Dani said...

Hi,

Thanks for doing this. I may well adapt some of these answers for HEdline's response.

We met our LA bod yesterday and she was saying the same thing - she wants more clarity, and thinks the draft guidelines are vague and woolly.

I think in general, they are saying that because they don't like the definitions that do exist, and want different ones!

(Not sure that's our bod's reasoning, as she is very good in her practice, but I'm sure it is for some of the others)

12:13 pm, July 20, 2007  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home