Monday, July 16, 2007

Those consult questions, re-worded

Everyone I know who's looked at this consultation, including all of us here, have commented on how difficult it is to answer the questions, because it involves a lot of switching between the questions and the draft guidelines, finding the corresponding parts etc. Someone here asked me to re-word the questions for them, so that they knew at a glance what was really being asked. I thought I'd blog what I came up with, not least because I think I'll be using the list below to work out my final response.

So this is my interpretation of what the questions are really asking, IMO:

1. What sort of difference do you think government guidance to local authorities will make if we issue any, given that they're advice only and are not, in themselves, legally binding?

2. Do you agree that the legal responsibility for a child's education rests with his or her parents?

3. Do you agree, given your answer above, that local authorities should regularly check that home educated children are making what the local authority considers to be 'reasonable progress'? Please give reasons for your answer.

4. Do you agree with the following statement: 'Many home educating parents would welcome regular contact with the local authority as an opportunity to reaffirm their provision'?
Do you think local authorities should pick and choose which home educating families they investigate, using a 'risk-based approach'?
Do you think that many home educating parents would 'welcome the opportunity to discuss the provision they are making for their child during a home visit' (as opposed to supplying information in other ways)?
Does your local authority request information from home educating families about whom it has concerns, in the form of a visit only, or is it more open about the different ways for families to provide it with information?
What would your preference be?
Do you trust all local authority inspectors to be capable and willing to evaluate information about home education provision as reasonable people (i.e. not educationalists) and to formulate their opinion about it on the balance of probability, as case law states they should??
Please give reasons for your answers.

5. Do you think it should be the job of local authority inspectors to decide for sure whether a child's home education provision is suitable, based on information received? Or do you consider that this decision should just be for parents (and possibly courts) to make?
Please give reasons for your answer.

6. Do you think the main purpose of government guidelines to local authorities about home education should be to 'help LAs and HErs to build effective relationships', even though there's no legal obligation to have such relationships?
Do you think such relationships actually would effectively 'safeguard the educational interests of children and young people?
Do you think that it's possible for all home educators and local authority inspectors to share mutual understanding, trust and respect?
Please give reasons for your answers.

I've left out the sections on SEN, which aren't asked about, but on which we definitely will be commenting along the lines of Dani's response.

It goes without saying that simple yes/no answers to the above questions on the consultation response form will make no sense(!) because those aren't actually the questions being asked. But I think most of the salient points might be covered above. Probably. Please let me know if you think I've missed or misinterpreted any.

***EDIT***

From comments:

Dani said: "I think there's also the secret question behind the whole consultation (and specifically question 1): "Should we leave the law on home education basically as it is, and continue to allow the LAs to interpret it as they wish, OR should we give the LAs sweeping new powers to monitor home educators according to univeral standards governing the content of the education provided and the pedagogical skill of the parents?"

and Adele said: "OR...

...Should we leave the law as it is, and clarify it, so that LAs understand that they do *not* have such powers?"

17 Comments:

Blogger Gill said...

LOL, I've already changed "I think most of the salient points are covered above" to "I think most of the salient points might be covered above."

9:38 pm, July 16, 2007  
Blogger 33, 452 said...

ROFL!

Why didn't *I* take this much time and care over it? [rolls eyes at self]

I'll read your post properly tomorrow. I'm too tired now to read it with the concentration and attention it undoubtedly deserves. :)

I intend to read everyone's responses thoroughly, as, although I've already submitted mine, David hasn't responded yet, and I'm hoping he will be able to get in any points I may have missed. :)

Adele

11:30 pm, July 16, 2007  
Blogger 33, 452 said...

Okay, I've read it properly now! :)

Sorry, I have a stinking cold and cough at the moment and I couldn't pay attention properly last night (I was okay to *write*, just not to *read*! LOL!)

This is brilliant, Gill! Absolutely brilliant! :)

Honestly, I'm staggered by it, actually! It's *such* a good way of helping people to respond to the most important parts of the guidance without spoon-feeding suggested answers to them. Rewording the questions so people can clearly see what the real issues are and address them in their own way, is a stroke of pure genius! :)

This is... erm... well... *brilliant*! (Did I say that already? LOL! I need a thesaurus I think!)

The work Carlotta's been putting in has really won my admiration, and now the sheer ingenuity of this post has too. We have some damned fine minds here - the LAs won't know what's hit them!

12:56 pm, July 17, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks Adele. I'm by no means confident that I've covered every key issue here, but it seems to be helping us to get our heads around it, generally speaking :-)

2:20 pm, July 17, 2007  
Blogger Dani said...

I think there's also the secret question behind the whole consultation (and specifically question 1): "Should we leave the law on home education basically as it is, and continue to allow the LAs to interpret it as they wish, OR should we give the LAs sweeping new powers to monitor home educators according to univeral standards governing the content of the education provided and the pedagogical skill of the parents?"

Hobson's choice, you may say, but I still opt for our current running battles with underfunded and ignorant LA personnel over a situation where they have new legal powers to back up their ignorance.

5:10 pm, July 17, 2007  
Blogger 33, 452 said...

OR...

...Should we leave the law as it is, and clarify it, so that LAs understand that they do *not* have such powers?

That's what *I* want here. I want a clear, unambiguous, statement of how limited LAs powers actually are. I want everyone involved in home education to understand exactly what (extensive)rights we have and what (very limited) rights LAs have.

It's not an impossible battle to get this. To think of ourselves as powerless little guys, is not going to help. The law is on *our* side, it is not an enemy. Let's keep it that way, and not be afraid of it just because some people (LAs for instance) would like it to be different.

Guidelines cannot contradict the law. They cannot do that. They have to reflect the law as it is, not the law as they would like it to be.

We know this, and they know this, so the power is ours. It is when we let them believe (and even convince *us*) otherwise that we run the risk of the law changing.

(Most of this post was not directly addressed to you, Dani; your questions just sparked a chain of thought!:))

5:41 pm, July 17, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks you two. I've edited the post accordingly :-)

5:54 pm, July 17, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

But Adele guidelines can and do contradict the law :-( The dereg guidelines being a case in point.

I'll shut up now! ;-)

7:27 pm, July 17, 2007  
Blogger 33, 452 said...

Tech,

"But Adele guidelines can and do contradict the law :-( "

If they contradict the law then they cannot be used. It really is that simple.

"The dereg guidelines being a case in point."

What? I don't know what you mean. If you mean the bits about de-reg in these English guidelines, then can you explain to me how and where they contradict the law, because I can't see it. [Is confused]

If you mean in Scotland, the guidelines fully reflect the law with regards to de-reg. It's just a different law up here. The law that parents must seek consent to de-reg is nothing to do with the guidelines, it is part of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980.

8:15 pm, July 17, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

They changed the english dereg law last year with an SI. There are guidelines that accompany the SI. The guidelines contradict what the SI says. Which is what people at the time said would happen. Nobody reads the law, they read guidelines, sometimes. The government knew that by saying what they wanted the law to say, but couldn't, in the guidelines, they would get what they wanted by the back door. They are not prosecuting those who are breaking the law, they will not amend the guidelines.

I'm afraid that having the law on our side is just not as simple as it sounds. It SHOULD be, but it ain't :(

8:19 pm, July 17, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

I am trying to find the relevant stuff but having difficulty digging it out. If you are on HE consult then you can search the archives for *pupil registration regulations* for a clearer idea.

8:22 pm, July 17, 2007  
Blogger 33, 452 said...

"They changed the english dereg law last year with an SI."

This? (Sorry, I can never get the htmal to work!)

***Education (Pupil Registration) Regulation 8, 2006.

Under regulation 8(1)(d), a 'school-age' pupil's name is to be deleted from the admissions register if:

"he has ceased to attend the school and the proprietor
has received written notification from the parent that
the pupil is receiving education otherwise than at school."***

If there are guidelines regarding de-reg that do not reflect this law, then those guidelines have no legal validity, simple as that.

(Do you have a link to them at all, btw? I'd be interested to see them.)

"The government knew that by saying what they wanted the law to say, but couldn't, in the guidelines, they would get what they wanted by the back door."

But they don't have it legally. That's the important thing.

"They are not prosecuting those who are breaking the law, they will not amend the guidelines."

Then when this consultation is over I suggest we work to get the law properly enforced.

"I'm afraid that having the law on our side is just not as simple as it sounds. It SHOULD be, but it ain't :( "

It *is*. But we have to *believe* that it is and we have to fight to *demonstrate* that it is.

The important thing is to ensure that legislation is reflected in pratice; if the legislation's there, the tools to enforce the pratice are there also. It may not be easy, but, with the law on our side, we *can* win.

8:36 pm, July 17, 2007  
Blogger 33, 452 said...

Hi again,

We cross-posted! :)

I am on that list, but I am *hopeless* with the technological side of things! I could manually search archives in a library, but online...? I just don't have that sort of brain, I fear! LOL!

I'll give it a try though! :)

8:39 pm, July 17, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

The thing is though Adele, that whilst morally that is the case, we are not dealing with people who have those particular morals. Parents are being put off HEing before they have even started because there are unscrupulous people using this delay to make life very difficult. They won't prosecute, so what can you do? You can shout the law all you like, but when you are faced with bloody minded bureaucrats you are a lone voice and you are not going to win, unless you are an exceptional person. The law truly is an ass.

This is my worry with these current guidelines. Isn't one of the first things it says is that they will not be enforceable, so really what is the point?

Good luck with the archives, I'm not having much luck googling and tbh I really don't feel like looking further tonight.

8:51 pm, July 17, 2007  
Blogger Tech said...

search for message 2111 for the argument.

8:57 pm, July 17, 2007  
Blogger 33, 452 said...

Hi Tech (I've been putting off saying that because it sounds like an expression! LOL)

I don't mean morally (I don't equate morality with legality)I mean legally.

The fact is, if you are prosecuted for acting outside of the law, when you *haven't* done so, you have a defense.

I don't know about these guidelines for de-reg you speak of, as I haven't seen them, but I'm guessing you mean some LAs are not de-registering on demand? The thing is, if they have to do so, then they couldn't successfully prosecute for truancy if the parent had de-registered the child, even if the school or LA were not accepting the de-reg.

If they can't successfully prosecute, then all their threats are empty ones. They can make life difficult for people, but they can't do much else.

If an LA acted unlawfully towards me, or harrassed me, (refused to accept an ed-phil, demanded visits etc) I would issue them a written warning that they were acting unlawfully and I would consider any further contact (outside of an annual progress report from myself) to be harrassment. If they did not back off, then I would go to my solicitor and pursue a civil case for compensation. It is the law being on my side that would enable me to do this.

Should they threaten an SAO, I would express in writing that they have proof that I am providing an education, and that I would, thus, consider any such action to be malicious and I would, again, pursue a civil action against them if they pursued this course. I would not be in the slightest bit afraid of them taking me to court because I have 100% confidence that I would win.

They have no right to act like bullies and people shouldn't *let* them.

Really, all we need is the law.

"This is my worry with these current guidelines. Isn't one of the first things it says is that they will not be enforceable, so really what is the point?"

I see them as kind of like the instructions on the back of oven chips - spelling out the bleedin' obvious for those who don't get it! LOL!

The guidelines won't be legally enforceable, but the law, of course, is. If there is any confusion on the part of the LA about what the law says, the guidelines may help clarify it for them.

"Good luck with the archives, I'm not having much luck googling and tbh I really don't feel like looking further tonight."

I don't blame you, thinking and talking about interfering governments and bullying LAs is exhausting and a tad depressing, isn't it? :(

9:10 pm, July 17, 2007  
Blogger 33, 452 said...

"search for message 2111 for the argument."

Thanks.

You know, I was thinking it was an aol group! LOL! It's the only yahoo group I still get mails from, which is probably why! [rolls eyes at self]

I've had a quick look, and I'll look properly later. At the moment, I think I need a break from all this! :)

9:19 pm, July 17, 2007  

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