Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Yesterday in parliament, tomorrow in the news

I gather the findings of the home education review are to be published tomorrow. Many home educators will be anxiously waiting to find out which, if any, of our freedoms might be curtailed. But I think perhaps, to soothe our impatience and give us some idea of what might be in store, we could have a close look at the government's response to the excellent points made by Mark Field MP and others in the House of Commons yesterday. I see that Carlotta has already given her view, but I'm writing this before reading hers in detail.

Diana Johnson (Assistant Whip (funded by HM Treasury)

The Government are committed to building a world-class education system for our children. That system must be built on the highest standards of teaching, real choice for parents and pupils, and rigorous accountability. Home education is a vital part of that system.

Home education is part of a system being built by the government? I think not.

This debate draws out two important themes, which must be held in balance. One is the right of parents to decide what is best for their children in their education and development. The other is the right of every child to receive a high standard of education in a safe, secure environment.

At present, in England, we have a system that takes great account of the rights of parents to choose an education for their child that

"is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions".

However, every child has the fundamental right to receive an education, and we need to ensure that that important human right is delivered for every child in the land, even in those rare cases where their parents' convictions conflict with their right to be educated.

Mark Field (Cities of London & Westminster, Conservative)

What convictions would conflict with the right to education? Would it be any convictions, or do the Government see specific convictions as problematic?

Diana Johnson (Assistant Whip (funded by HM Treasury); Kingston upon Hull North, Labour)

It would be rather extreme convictions. It would be a very small number of parents who did not want their children to be educated. It would be a very extreme belief or philosophy that made them follow that path, and the state would, rightly, have to take a view.

This seems to me to be an indication that Arthur Ivatt's report of August 2006 is to be, as we once feared, wheeled out to provide the excuse for changes to be made.

We must also ensure that children have the opportunity freely to express their views about the education that they receive, in line with the United Nations convention on the rights of the child.

Others will be saying the same thing, but who asks the school children whether they want to attend? Put a bunch of home educators in there to ask them, and all the schools would have to close due to lack of interest.

That is a difficult balancing act, and Graham Badman's review is considering it carefully. There can be no question but that we need to ensure that every child receives a good and safe education,

Efficient, full time and suitable for their age, aptitude, ability and any special educational needs they may have, according to Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act.

and the hon. Gentleman highlighted that in much of his speech.

Let me turn now to the benefits of home education. Home education is a well-established part of our education system.

Er, no. Not your education system. It is well-established, though.

Where it works, and where it is the best option for a child, there are great benefits. It is the ultimate form of personalised learning, with provision tailored to a child's specific needs and with a real opportunity for the child's views and voice to be heard.

Yes it is.

It also demonstrates real engagement by parents in their child's learning, which is something that we are trying to encourage more consistently across the national picture, whatever educational setting children are in.

Yes it does. It's good to see official recognition of this.

Furthermore, the sense of community that the hon. Gentleman describes between home educators in his constituency is something that we want to see in other educational provision, with partnerships between providers, the sharing of resources in communities and the maximising of the opportunities available to young people.

Indeed. Is the government envious of this? If it wishes to replicate what we've got, it will find the introduction of genuine freedom in education to be an excellent starting point.

The vast majority of home educators do an excellent job,

Ah, the old refrain. "We're sure you're home educating perfectly well. We're just worried about those other people over there."

and the examples that the hon. Gentleman and Anne Main cite from their constituencies are clearly testament to that. Let me be clear from the outset that the Government recognise the valuable contribution made by home education,

It's not a contribution to you though. We do it for our children.

and we certainly do not seek to abolish it.


The duty to identify children who are missing education, which was introduced by the Education and Inspections Act 2006, was not a duty to identify home educators. Its purpose was far broader: to identify children who are receiving no education at all. Children who are home educated will inevitably be identified where they are not known to local authorities, but provided that they receive a suitable education, there is no reason why the new duty should have any impact on them or their parents.

- except that suddenly they'll all be required to demonstrate the suitability of their provision on a regular basis. This post explains what impact that has on us and on our educational provision.

I think that the hon. Gentleman accepts that we need to do everything we can to ensure that children do not go missing from the education system. I hope that he will support our efforts to ensure that all children attend school regularly or receive a good-quality home education.

Efficient and suitable, according to the education act. Not good-quality. Most school education is not good-quality. Are we to have quality assurance checks foisted on us now?

Graham Badman's review of home education was set up for a number of reasons. It is looking at the barriers to local authorities and other public agencies safeguarding home-educated children, as well as at ensuring that their safety, well-being and broader development are nurtured along with their academic achievement.

How is the academic achievement to be measured? Hopefully not by qualifications, which were still optional the last time I checked.

It is also looking at the extent to which home education might be being used as a cover for child abuse,

Is there going to be a review into the extent to which school education and other state provision might be used as a cover for child abuse?

at whether local authorities are providing the right support to home-educating families

I think we said we didn't want any, thanks.

and at whether any changes are needed to the processes for monitoring the standard of home education.

In November 2007, we issued guidance on home education to local authorities, but clarity about roles and responsibilities has still not been achieved. The responses from home educators and local authorities to the consultation on the guidance only underlined the polarised views on this matter. It is clear that further clarity is needed.

If 'further clarity' of the Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities [opens pdf] is all we're due to receive tomorrow, then we have no worries. However, I suspect there will be a little more to it than that.

The underpinning principles behind the criteria for the review are therefore not sinister. They are sensible and simple. They are intended to ensure that everybody involved in home education — local government, central Government and parents — is clear about their responsibilities and that there are clear lines of accountability.

Good, no worries about that then given that the present procedure allows for full accountability, but seems to be difficult for some Local Authorities to accept.

They are also intended to achieve greater national consistency in providing suitable full-time education for all children and to ensure that, where there are problems, safeguards are in place to detect them and to allow us to intervene quickly.

Some kind of a monitoring system then, by the sound of this.

Graham Badman wanted to ensure that he took account of all the evidence that could be gathered, and that is why he made a public call for evidence. Reference was made to the 12-week consultation period being shortened to four weeks, but we are talking about a review, not a formal Government consultation. That is why there is a little uncertainty about the 12-week period. Home education is a vital part of the education system.

- at which point, one assumes, the tape would have gone back to the beginning and started again if the available time for the debate hadn't run out.

So, my predictions for tomorrow's recommendations, based on the above, one or two other remarks that have been made since all of this began back in January, and a hefty chunk of guesswork:

  • That home educators should be required to register as such with their local authority, and that information should be provided to the LA by the parents, on at least an annual basis, about the educational provision.
  • I suspect the review will go further and request certain 'minimum requirements', samples of work, and children to be interviewed about their preferences without their parents being present.
  • I don't think it will call for mandatory home visits, but for access to be made available to LA premises in which such meetings can take place. I think this might well be dressed up as some kind of a 'learning resource centre', which might also provide some sort of a centre for pupils to take GCSEs etc and perhaps include access to some learning resources, as a sop to try to mitigate our protests.
  • Due to the Becta/Heppell factor, I expect the provision of ICT to play some part in the recommendations. I will be surprised if that isn't there.
  • The above will be justified by Arthur Ivatts' report [opens pdf], the ECM framework [opens pdf] and perhaps even Section 10 of the Children Act.

I do hope I'm wrong.


Anonymous Jax said...

Quite frankly, tomorrow is soon enough to worry about it.

8:02 pm, June 10, 2009  
Blogger Gina xx said...

Review fatigue, and fight has only just started... :-(

8:36 pm, June 10, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Our Ali thinks it won't be as bad as that. I think I might open a book. Any bets for compulsory registration? 2:1 odds on that, I reckon, at least. We're having 'fun' speculating in our house this evening.

9:04 pm, June 10, 2009  
Blogger Rachel Harriet and Joe said...

Just a thought but schools are not allowed to interview a child without a parent or suitable independent adult present or have I lost the plot somwhere, need to talk to our friendly family barrister about this....

9:09 pm, June 10, 2009  
Blogger Merry said...

If they want to interview children without parents, i will be very surprised and very concerned indeed. School kids don't get the same in reverse.

My LEA man seemed to slightly hint at minimum standards yesterday on the phone; no idea if that was a guess or inside knowledge though.

9:18 pm, June 10, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will take a deep breath, and be ready. We will need to fight all this I am sure.
I really don't believe (though I wish I could) that the LAs are too busy or wont bother with it all.
I think too many of these bizarre people WANTED this and they are waiting for it.

9:19 pm, June 10, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

It's definitely the time to gird our loins, isn't it? At least we won't be in a state of shock, anyway. (Unless the recommendation is for no change!)

9:23 pm, June 10, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Emma has critiqued Ms Johnson's reply as well, here. She makes some important points.

9:30 pm, June 10, 2009  
Blogger Mieke said...

There really isn't any decency left in this government, is there? If you can still call it a government, that is. They just trample on civil liberties and civil rights. They have no use for civil manners, the way they tell everybody but the people concerned about the outcome of this review before it's officially presented. And they have no shame, not even trying to hide their lies about not wanting to change the rights of parents to home educate, they don't even pretend that it was never 'just' about welfare...
Still, I haven't seen one suggested outcome yet that isn't going to backlash on them in the end. Or maybe they don't worry about that, because they know they'll not be in power when the consequences of this whole ridiculous scam are becoming apparent.

9:32 pm, June 10, 2009  
Blogger Raquel said...

Thanks Gill for this post. I skipped over the response by the new minister and hadn't noticed all the things that you have pointed out. She really is deluded in thinking that our system is part of hers. She forgets that unless we choose her system and sign up to it , her system has nothing to do with us. They are service providers and nothing more.

9:34 pm, June 10, 2009  
Blogger Rachel Harriet and Joe said...

Been reasearching, now the NSPCC blees them have in there stop check policy for small groups wanting to write their own child protection statement the following

ensure that whenever possible there is more than one
adult present during activities with children and young
people, or at least that you are within sight or hearing
of others
 respect a young person’s right to personal privacy

So if this must be able to interview goes ahead it is a blatent breach of both child proection ideals safe guarding policy and common sense.

Ho hum

9:38 pm, June 10, 2009  
Blogger mamacrow said...

no one is interviewing my children behind closed doors. 'They' may wish to point out that abusers could exsist within the home ed community, what's to stop them exisiting within the LA community?

Nothing in fact. Talking of facts, we have plenty of hard ones proving that teachers in schools - you know, the safe social environment for children that picks up abuse - are themselves abusers.

They can interview all they like, but they must have myself and or the other parent, my husband, present until such time as they have evidence bases suspiscions of abuse/neglet on my part - current legislation I think they'll find, no new legistlation needed, thanks.

9:54 pm, June 10, 2009  
Anonymous Firebird said...

Not just schools, today there are reports of a NURSERY worker being charged with sexual assault and distribution of indecent images of children!

The government may have timed the publication of this review to coincide with the Khyra Ishaq court case but they can't do anything to stop the stream of cases like this one getting into the press.

10:33 pm, June 10, 2009  
Blogger Barry said...

Still trying to get my head round everything in the report and the possible ramifications for us all. Two things jumped out at me though, one was the referring to all children as 'pupils', when they're primarily talking about home educated kids. The other was that they should either have regular attendance at school, or 'good-quality home education'. Of course, we all strive to do well by our kids, but are they saying HE has to meet certain targets but bog-standard schools are fine? And surely you can't place minimum standards on individual children, when schooled kids cover a huge range of attainment?

1:30 pm, June 11, 2009  

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