Thursday, July 21, 2011

Government monitoring of home education provision: some points.

The government's own, existing EHE Guidelines for Local Authorities clearly state:

2.7 Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis.

None. No annual visits. No annual reports. No biannual visits or reports or meetings elsewhere or otherwise jumping through hoops to get permission from anyone else to home educate our own children.

If you can get your head around the unarguable reality of that legal position, you can perhaps start to understand something about how important it is, and why it's vital for home educators to work hard to maintain it. Or at least, do nothing to erode it.

It's the position that stops the inevitable bureaucratic turn of the screw. If you don't know what I mean by that, then Adam Curtis's The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom, aired on the BBC in 2007, the same year as those guidelines were published (DVD here) is the best explanation I can think of citing.

Some home educators think we should all be monitored by the state. Read that again if you like. Believe it, because it's true. Some of the reasons I've heard for this are as follows:

  • "If it saves one child.."

    But monitoring of elective home education won't save any children at all. Eunice Spry was monitored, every single year. Home visits and everything. But because routine monitoring is not, by definition, a response to specific concerns, it becomes just that. Routine. Blasé. Easy to fool.

    There is already a good enough Child Protection system in this country, which applies to all children: home educated and schooled. Yes, I think it's a mistake to focus this on schooled children, but would I sacrifice the freedom of home education to fix that? Of course not! I'd switch the focus of it back to the community instead, duh.

  • "The reputation and therefore the value of good home education is sullied by those people who aren't doing it properly. We need to sort the wheat from the chaff so that our children stand a chance of getting into some of the better universities.."

    Here is my answer to that. It's a very dangerous position to take, because once you've opened yourself up to monitoring, it won't stop. That screw just keeps on tightening until your own provision is monitored out of existence along with all the others. Your child has a proven academic record of excellence? Some officials would think this meant she was being hothoused and socially deprived. You live in a good neighbourhood? Some officials would think this meant your children were 'denied the opportunity of getting to know and understand other children from different backgrounds.' There's always someone who will disagree with what you're doing and seek to stop it, whoever you are. Whatever you're doing. So don't give them the power. Don't fall into that trap.

  • It doesn't do any harm and it's good to get some feedback to know whether I'm on the right track..

    I answered this a couple of years ago: suffice to say, speaking as someone who's done about 17 years of different kinds of home educating now (yes, I was a hot-houser once upon a time!) I now know that it does do harm and - to be blunt - if you feel the need for official sanction of your home education provision... well. You perhaps need to rethink a few things! Anyway, officials are always available to be consulted on an as-and-when basis for people who want to do that. It's not a right I'd take away from them.

So I'd really appreciate it if they didn't try to take my rights away from me.

Once again:

2.7 Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis.

A 'family' of home educators in Wigan has tendered for and secured the job of monitoring home education provision in Wigan, which is the reason for this post, and my current feeling of despair.


Blogger Allie said...

I'm a bit gobsmacked about this business, TBH. The world seems to be extremely odd at the moment. Why anyone would want to do such a thing really does defeat me.

8:34 am, July 21, 2011  
Blogger Gill said...

My sentiments exactly, Allie!

8:36 am, July 21, 2011  
Blogger lucy.web said...

There's always someone who will disagree with what you're doing and seek to stop it, whoever you are. Whatever you're doing. So don't give them the power. Don't fall into that trap.

I think this is spot on. We have friends in France who have tweaked and tweaked their home ed to satisfy the rigorous tests ... only to be told now that they need to do more 'informal' work. :roll:

I don't know anything at all about the Wigan stuff apart from what you've just told me here but, some years ago, I did start to think that having actual home edders in the 'monitoring' chair (as opposed to ex teachers) would be a good thing. So much so that I seriously thought about applying for that job when it came up.

But nowadays, and in the current anti-individual, anti-family climate, I think that any stance other than "leave us alone, we'll ask for support if we need it" is incredibly dangerous. And yes, IMO anyone who says anything otherwise is playing dice with the hard-won rights of everyone else. :(

9:36 am, July 21, 2011  
Blogger smunkybee said...

I'd noticed a lot of need for reassurance among the comments on the home ed group on FB where a large number of people have been happy to have "passed their inspections"...shudder! Some have said that they feel so criticised by family and friends that getting "official" recognition helped.....but you are so right about the damage it does. I allowed a visit when I first started, but if I'd known then what I know now..........

It can be hard, especially if your child has been in the school system to re-learn to trust that children will learn if they are given the opportunity to do so and really all you need to do is offer opportunities, so I have a lot of sympathy with that need for approval but it still fills me with despair watching people welcoming them and getting in a tiz about their "inspections".

10:54 am, July 21, 2011  
Blogger Carlotta said...

I spoke with an HEing mother and son yesterday who had endured a superficially very friendly LA visit the day before that. By the time I spoke to them, both were still so shaken by the experience. They had held it together brilliantly during the interview, but son (who had been school phobic and is recovering at some pace since he started to HE) was a bag of nerves afterwards. So much hung upon the visit, that even an apparently friendly one set them back a whole mile. On top of which, they got sod all out of it. What a waste of time, how stupid and how damaging.

11:51 am, July 21, 2011  
Blogger Big mamma frog said...

I can understand why new home edders want some sort of 'approval', but really what they need most (whether they know it or not) is the support of other people who are home educating; people who understand and wont judge (or try to assess...or monitor)

As for the Wigan family, I feel for them. I'm sure they've done this with the best of intentions, and had no idea of the can of worms they were opening.

BUT it is such a tricky position for someone who is currently home educating to put themselves in. Of course it is up to the HE families of Wigan to work this one out themselves, but I think it will make it v. difficult for the family and awkward for other home edders in the area. (What about all those unknown to the LA, but known to this family?)

We have for many years said that the LA should be employing people knowledgable about HE. Yet now we are outraged that 'one of us' is going to be working for the 'other side'. It seems what we have asked for has now happened. Should we be surprised?

BUT, for many of us the paradox between the desire to uphold the guidelines that LA's have no 'duty to monitor' and having an active member of the HE community employed to do the monitoring is just too much.

Perhaps an ex-home educator would have provoked less of a backlash.

12:28 pm, July 21, 2011  
Blogger Gill said...

Lucy, what's happening in France in respect of HEing freedoms sounds horrible, and definitely something to be avoided! Thanks for the warning.

Smunkybee, we've had visits too, years ago. My older children say now that they really wish we hadn't and that they don't want the same for their younger siblings. It can be hard for people to trust. It can be even harder for them to escape from their inherent fear of 'authority' - especially with - as blogged today by Lisa, documents like this monstrosity in existence! I think I might have more to say about that in a future post here.

Carlotta, such a shame they felt they had to go through that. Their reaction resonates with me though. Horrible. :(

7:34 pm, July 21, 2011  
Blogger Gill said...

Big mamma frog, people keep saying this family has acted with the best of intentions, but as there can be no confusion about the law and guidance, I really don't see how they can have taken a monitoring role with the best of intentions to do anything other than... well, monitor!

7:36 pm, July 21, 2011  
Blogger Leo said...

The biggest danger doesn't come from people who hold these views explicitly, but those who play at respecting everyone's opinion, but take visits and persuade others to do the same.

Their arguments:

"My inspector was really helpful! He helped when nobody else did! He was even a home educator once! I had nothing to worry about! I'm an unschooler and the inspector was fine with it! They are only here to help! Those people against visits are paranoid and anti-authority! If you don't take visits, it will raise suspicion! We should cooperate with the government, not hide."

This goes on and on Facebook groups.

8:04 am, August 21, 2011  
Blogger Gill said...

I've been catching up this morning on Facebook group posts, and can see what you mean Leo - and some of your valiant attempts to counter it! You're not on your own there though, I see.

IME accepting visits and being happy about them is a stage people often seem to need to go through in their own 'deschooling' process, for want of a better term. When they see the cummulative effects of these things on their children and gain confidence in their own decisions, they will probably change their minds about them and join the side of people who campaign against them.

We had a few years of visits here, of which I was glad when my ex-dh took us to court, as well as being in a position to go through my decisions on deschooling/ autonomy with the authority, which seems to have done a lot of good in the intervening years WRT their attitude towards others.

But the three who were visited (now grown up) still speak angrily about the effects on them of that process, so I'll know to protect the younger ones from it. Apart from anything else, control of intellectual property is psychologically crucial to children - something I know now, but didn't understand then.

6:55 am, August 27, 2011  
Blogger Unknown said...

Difficult for the family and awkward for other home edders in the area. What about all those unknown to the LA, but known to this family.
Family Law Solicitors London

5:54 am, July 01, 2013  

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