"Ability to set up and maintain Virtual Learning Environments." ?
So, what exactly is Wakefield's incoming full-time EHE officer going to be doing with the other 75% of his or her working week? That's a lot of thumb-twiddling.
Until you start reading the attached 'job specification' in which the required competence:
- sticks out like a sore thumb.
It immediately reminded me of some meetings we had in our town at the end of last year with LA staff, about home education liaison. One of the ideas repeatedly raised there by the resident 'EHE officer' or equivalent (certainly not full-time!) was the setting up by them of a virtual school for electively home educated children.
Now, I know that there are regular regional conferences run by Capita, with the ostensible aim of "providing practical advice and guidance on how to reduce the number of children missing education", all of which are attended by our local LA relevant staff - and, I assume, those in Wakefield. They seem to be very well attended affairs. I notice in the one I just linked, booked for next month in Manchester, that one of the 'benefits of attending' is to:
- Understand how to execute the recommendations of the Badman Review on elective home education
But wait a minute: the Badman recommendations are just that! They're not supposed to be executed at this point, are they? This is when the inner conspiracy theorist in me wonders again about the hidden agenda: the precise nature of the links between Badman, the DCSF and organisations like Capita. Who is driving the process? What is their brief? From where does this originate?
Going back to the issue of virtual schools, perhaps the best-known of these is Notschool.net, about which my younger son Al wrote a critique some time ago. He wasn't particularly impressed, considering the project to be superfluous, costly and inefficient, but then Alix is a particularly self-driven and highly motivated young man, and I think we both concluded that some students might find that kind of structure to be useful.
Our local EHE officer put it to me that the setting up of virtual school was one way for local authorities to access funding for home educators. Again, I can understand why some families might be interested in this (although why we can't just apply for and be given a share of the AWPU is beyond me) and wouldn't wish to prevent anyone from accessing such a resource, if that was their wish. My worry is, again, that of hidden agenda. Is the concept of virtual schools one that's being quietly discussed across the board at the Capita conferences and/or elsewhere? If so, where did it come from and where is it intended to go? At this stage, it wouldn't be overly paranoid of me to imagine a point in time when registration with a virtual school might be deemed the only officially acceptable kind of home education, any dissenting families to be written off as having the dreaded CME: Children Missing Education. The framework for such a future scenario could be said to be appearing to slide smoothly into place.
So, what do virtual schools do? They provide structure, direction, guidance, funding and tuition to their pupils. All useful services without which some home educating families no doubt feel to be floundering, or at least missing out on something. But it's crucially important for the sake of educational diversity that the alternative options are maintained. There's something really precious and valuable about a completely autodidactic education, such as the one enjoyed by my sons, aged 21 and 19 and both now well able to support themselves financially without need of official qualifications. It flies in the face of what is nowadays the 'normal' way of doing things, but unlike Ali's opinion of Notschool, it is cheap, efficient and extremely effective.
Self-directed learners become self-directed workers and from what I can gather, these are very useful kinds of people in any situation.