It won't stop there though, will it? CME -> ECM, *invalid* guidance and mission creep
"Perhaps we can send in a report every five years or so..."
"Maybe not even that. They could just phone us or something..."
- are some of the things I've been reading in discussions about these new, non statutory draft guidelines.
It's just that there are two very real phenomena we shouldn't be forgetting about. The first one is mission creep, which is what happens when, for example, the government comes up with a scheme to track down all of the Children Missing Education (CME) and makes this a legal requirement for local authorities. "But isn't this going to affect us?" asked home educators anxiously. "No no," we were told. "This isn't about you."
They even wrote it into our non-statutory (advisory) 2007 guidelines for local authorities:
The guidance issued makes it clear that the duty does not apply to children who are being educated at home.
Look fondly on those words, because once we have new non-statutory (advisory, as opposed to the compulsory CME) guidelines, they'll be gone forever, and the mission creep gap between "It's not about you," and "Oops! It's all about you. Did we not say?" will be neatly sealed over, lost without trace. They can't be used in the new version, because they're no longer correct: the statutory (compulsory) CME guidance was amended in 2009 - in the same month the Badman review was launched - to say nothing of the sort.
So now we have a problem that needs a solution: the EHE guidelines disagree with the current CME guidance. The first says our provision doesn't have to be checked for suitability, because back in 2007 a parent's word was trusted unless there was good reason to doubt it. The second says it does, because by 2009 it was not. That's one version of events anyway. The best solution for us to that problem would be amended CME guidance, not a replacement of the EHE guidelines which are advisory only. Given that these two disagree with each other, which do you think local authority officers follow? The compulsory ones, or the advisory ones? The compulsory ones, of course.
Changing statutory guidance is apparently quite a straightforward procedure, which has been managed twice for home educators in Scotland. I've been reading about it, and first point I discovered was this:
1.2.5 Provisions in subordinate legislation must be intra vires, that is they must be within the scope of the enabling power. If they are ultra vires they are invalid.
In my previous post, I set out the bits of the enabling power (section 436A of the education act) and the subordinate legislation (Sections 87 and 92 of the 2009 CME guidance)which concern us the most. Are those sections of the CME guidance within the scope of section 436A? I don't think they are. What do you think? Because if they're not, they're
The other thing we should always remember is the elephant in the room called ECM (Every Child Matters), which provides local authorities with five outcomes that every child in its authority is supposed to meet. The five outcomes are: Be healthy; Stay safe; Enjoy and achieve; Make a positive contribution; and Achieve economic wellbeing. They all sound quite nice on the face of it, but are actually linked to a complicated system of tick-boxed measures and checks, intended for each and every child in every local authority. Home educating parents in Oldham have been falling foul of the first one already: we hear that some of their children are being weighed every six months and that three school attendance orders have already been issued there. I can't imagine what kind of breakdown in communications between home educators and local authorities has brought this state of affairs about, but the problem is that the CME guidance "gets their foot in the door", as it were, and once there, officers are obliged to check that all five outcomes are being met, not just the educational ones.
So it's really important that home educators are not the target of the CME guidance and that this is set out clearly in that guidance. Once parents say they are home educating, then unless there is good reason not to, officers should take their word for it.
New Labour did not trust parents to tell the truth about their own children, or even to make decisions about them. Does the present government? It remains to be seen.
No new guidance for HE, until you've fixed the CME.