Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why so serious?

Here are my instinctive thoughts on the rest of the draft Revised Statutory Guidance for local authorities in England to identify children not receiving a suitable education - amongst other things! This is not my consultation response, or even a draft of it, which I haven't begun to formulate yet. If you want to read a draft response you can find Dani's here and Carlotta's here.

6.11. Notifications could be about children who are actually receiving an education, which is being delivered by a route not known to the local authority at that time: e.g. independent schools, home education, or alternative provision. When the route of education has been determined it should be logged on the local authority database for future reference.

would surely be improved by including direct reference to the 2007 Home Education Guidelines to Local Authorities. If these people are expected to operate purely by following pre-set flow charts, then the 2007 guidance can be incorporated into this one.

6.15. The first step is to identify all likely routes of information, for example:
· school secretaries/administrators/Designated Senior Persons;
· Pupil Referral Units and alternative education providers;
· housing departments;
· homeless hostels;
· Missing People Helpline;
· Accident and Emergency;
· NHS Walk-in services;
· GPs;
· Children’s Social Care;
· Police;
· Youth Offending Teams;
· Fire and Rescue Services;
· Other agencies involved in Crime and Disorder Reduction partnerships;
· Health Visitors;
· UK Border Agency;
· Education Welfare Officers (Education Social Workers);
· SEN caseworkers;
· Connexions;
· General Public;
· Voluntary and community organisations.

Can the authors of such systems and ideas not see what must be glaringly obvious to the rest of us? That lists like this - and the officious tale-telling chain they set up - can only serve to persuade innocent families to live like recluses? Many people I know would now be genuinely worried about the consequences to their subsequent freedom to go about their lives without impediment if their child needed emergency medical services, or even a visit to a GP. Most home educators I know will have nothing to do with Connexions or Health Visitors because of the blatant and careless information-sharing that now goes on. As many of us responded in the 2007 consultation, contact with Local Authorities often negatively and markedly affects our children's interest in learning.

I'm glad they've made this point:

6.17. When raising awareness with partner agencies it is useful to remind them that parents may lawfully educate their children at home. Where a local authority is satisfied that a parent is providing their child with a suitable full time education, the child is not the target of this duty. However, the local authority does have the power to issue a school attendance order if it appears that the parent is not providing a suitable education. Education of children at home by their parents is not in itself a cause for concern about the child’s welfare.

but the mention of SAOs is unnecessarily heavy-handed. Why not simply refer to the 2007 guidance, which at least now sets out the correct procedure?

6.35. In order to discharge their duties in relation to children not receiving an education, local authorities should make inquiries with parents about whether their home educated children are receiving a suitable education. The Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities make clear that parents who home educate may take a number of equally valid approaches to educational provision for their children.

Should this not still be "may make inquiries"? Or does the Education and Inspections Act 2006 change that? I've just read section 436A again and it doesn't seem to.

And I wish

6.37. Local authorities can insist on seeing a home educated child if there is cause for concern about the child’s safety and welfare (section 47 of the Children Act 1989). Where there are concerns about the child’s safety and welfare, Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures must be followed.

specified the 'causes for concern', because judging by the tone of the rest of the document, moving house or visiting a GP could be seen as such. But show me a family who has never done those things? I suppose I should be personally grateful that single parenthood, home birthing and use of alternative medicines aren't on the lists.

The databases, the information-sharing and the terrifyingly intrusive and invasive Common Assessment Framework are not 'tools' I can ever condone. IMO, they should not be necessary or used in a society that claims to be free and democratic, but I don't know whether to include this view in my response. It might be better to stick to specific concerns about the treatment of home educators.

Section 5 in Appendix 1 does away with the potential for many home educating families to remain unknown to the Local Authorities, doesn't it? This will usually be to the detriment of their educational provision, if my experience is anything to go by. It seems that my younger children will remain 'unknown' now only if we manage, by extraordinary luck, to avoid visits to the GP or hospital and the rest of the long list of information-sharing agencies. This is a great shame, in my opinion. I had hoped to protect them from Local Authority involvement for the duration of their period of home education. Zara was explaining yesterday how it felt to be 'inspected' by the LA - as if she was guilty of the 'crime' of not attending school and had to somehow try to prove her innocence. But she said this 'guilty until proven innocent' ethos is now accepted as being the norm for people her age, with the state-sanctioned Mosquito system being a case in point.

But these are battles now lost, a situation which can only be remedied by some extreme event like a complete political revolution - which even then, might go further in the wrong direction. I take some hope from the imminent collapse of the economy, which will render most of these checking, tracking and monitoring systems unaffordable, but I suspect they'd be reinstated as priorities by any new regime which would naturally seek to resurrect the economy by means of increased public spending. But hopefully I'm being unduly pessimistic.

It's interesting that even now, with this scaffolding of 'protective' legislation, my children still appear to be free from official intervention to enjoy their provision of natural learning. Because they have no registered Special Needs, we are not immigrants, have no medical issues and have not moved house, we haven't really always been conscious of this particular public building programme and it's quite a shock to read a document like this and to see just how deep and intricate its progress has been. It seems that our days of freedom from Local Authority involvement are numbered, which isn't as much of a concern to me as it would be if I was slightly less literate, articulate and eloquent. This is not a good thing: I have home educating friends who, whilst their educational provision is more than adequate, might struggle for whatever reason to convince the Local Authority of such and their being forced to do so would cause unnecessary stress to the whole family. I even know people who have put their children in school, just to be able to avoid the process of dealing with their Local Authority in regard to their - perfectly satisfactory - home education provision.

This can't be right. But what can we do?


Blogger cosmic seed said...

"This can't be right. But what can we do?"

Move to Scotland and keep our fingers crossed??

9:41 am, September 30, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

I bet people are seriously considering that, for precisely these sorts of reasons, aren't they?

10:10 am, September 30, 2008  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

We certainly are.

10:58 am, September 30, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

It should go into the responses then, that people would rather put their children in schools or leave the country, than be forced to try to prove this crazy negative to officials who can't ever understand that home education is - and should be - different from school.

Question is: would it make a difference? Answer probably is: no.

11:15 am, September 30, 2008  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

I think it would only serve to *prove them right* - ie if people would rather do that, then they must have *something to hide* so the agenda is proved successful. After all we know *they* don't really want us to have the option of HE, but *they* can't be heard to be saying that in so many words. IMO anything that prevents a rise in numbers (because of course that will be the other effect - people will be too scared to pull their children out of school)and gets bums back on school seats will be seen as a success as far as *they* are concerned, and *they* will be able to smugly sit back and give the impression that HE is deviant behaviour as a result.

11:39 am, September 30, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Hmm. So you think this guidance is deliberately worded to have that effect? In that case, the only hope of changing it is to respond and ask for it to be changed - but fundamentally, the guidance itself will still presumably be in place.

If it's good for governments to get bums back on school seats though, why isn't Edinburgh following suit?

11:48 am, September 30, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Seen this? More food for thought.

11:50 am, September 30, 2008  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

I don't know, maybe I'm just too old, cynical and paranoid... but it surely can't be coincidence that they keep trying to shaft us left right and centre?

As for why Edinburgh isn't going the same way; I don't know, but the Scots do generally seem to be far more sensible and level headed on many issues (NOTB at least, the ones we've got running the country are obviously genetic blips ;-) ), and my gut feeling is that a large part is down to the wonderful Ali P and schoolhouse - but that could be hero worship lol!

11:57 am, September 30, 2008  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

Now that's interesting. It certainly ties in well with what *our woman in scotland* says.

12:00 pm, September 30, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

"surely can't be coincidence that they keep trying to shaft us left right and centre?"

I'm not sure either. I agree, it does look suspicious, but I think I'm more inclined to the view that it's all part of the programme of exponentially increasing public spending (necessary to keep the treasury/general economy plates spinning) and a wholesale shift towards totalitarianism, along with which HErs tend to get swept.

There seems to be a lack of understanding about what we do and how well it 'works' (possibly contrived, in some circles) - and the negative effects of poking and prodding at it, which might explain the number of times *they* just get their dealings with us so completely wrong.

Also, try telling the average man/woman in the street now that you don't need to sit a child in a classroom with a qualified teacher in a system of coercion for it to learn anything, and he or she probably thinks you must be insane, nowadays.

Makes me want to finish writing that book actually. It's the likes of Joy Baker shining a little light in those dark decades that we've got to thank for our current freedoms, isn't it? Mine couldn't compare with hers, but at least it might be something to add to the pile.

12:17 pm, September 30, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Thinking of Joy Baker reminds me actually that she was facing an arguably more HE-hostile environment, but that she just kept repeatedly appealing to the humanity in the officials and politicians. Which has to still be there, somewhere..?

12:32 pm, September 30, 2008  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

"and a wholesale shift towards totalitarianism, along with which HErs tend to get swept. "

Oh yes, I certainly agree about that, I don't think it's purely about HE, but I think clamping down on HE is the added bonus for them - well, more a slamming shut of *loopholes* as TPTDOTB would see us.

I swing between being terribly pessimistic and incredibly optimistic - on the optimistic hand I think that there will just not be the manpower or money to support these crazy systems, but then I suppose they are more about the use of fear to control people's actions - a much cheaper and easier means to an end - resulting in a lesser number of *deviants*, making the remaining ones easier to pick off and hold up as examples. Ach, I dunno it's all too much like hard work, when all we want is a quiet life *sigh*.

12:42 pm, September 30, 2008  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

Well I'd agree with that to an extent - it certainly has worked with our LA, but for how long remains to be seen. Thing is though that Joy was living in an age which didn't have the litigation culture we now have, so officials could, presumably, make judgements from a place of humanity without fear of losing their job or being sued if their judgement was found to be inconsistent with official policy?

12:46 pm, September 30, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes please, to the quiet life. Not much hope though at this rate. You turn your back for five minutes and they bring something in like this section 436A, which I'd completely missed and which presumably we're now forever stuck with.

Good point about Joy - sad to say.

1:10 pm, September 30, 2008  
Blogger Elaine said...

I think you are right the reasonable but firm approach that is so professional that schoolhouse have when consulted on home ed by officials ensures that they are listened to and their input is valued.
Scotland still functions as a country where communities self regulate and there is very little national input into local affairs. England has central government in the truest sense local councils merely implement national policies.
There is a saying ''you can take the boy out of Glasgow but you cannot take Glasgow out of the boy'' and however you want to interpret that to me it symbolises the individuality of communities up here.

8:24 pm, September 30, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

.. And can you ask them how they'll feel about a million English HErs moving into their back yard please, Elaine? ;-)

7:05 am, October 01, 2008  
Blogger Elaine said...

I turned up , knew no-one, english, single parent in a area dominated by 2 parent middle class families, only home edder they had ever encountered, daughter who would blank people.
They made me welcome, they never questioned my single status, they only asked the basic 'why aint you at school' a few times before word filtered through altogether a great experience :)

2:08 pm, October 01, 2008  
Blogger Gill said...

Excellent! Now we just need a few acres of Scottish land on which to build our collective eco home ed paradise then.

LOL, this might turn into one of those mad conversations that actually changes the world without meaning to.. Don't blame me. Sun on screen, can't even see what I'm typing ;-)

5:02 pm, October 01, 2008  
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