Saturday, 24 January 2009

Our response to the "Independant" review of home education

Not content with damaging the state education system with the targets tests and league tables that are taking the place of education the British Government now wants to impose monitoring and assessment on Home Education.

Here is my response to the consultation.


1
Do you think the current system for safeguarding children who are educated at home is adequate? Please let us know why you think that.
· Yes
· No
· Not Sure
The current system safeguarding children at home is the same system safeguarding children at school, it is sometimes spectacularly badly implemented but that is another matter.

Do you think that home educated children are able to achieve the following five Every Child Matters outcomes? Please let us know why you think that.
2 a)
Be healthy
· Yes
· No
· Not Sure
· No Response

If you accept these outcomes as legitimate (what of the child with a brain tumour or cancer or such a severe learning disability that economic activity is out of the question – do they not count) then home educated children are in nearly all cases much more likely to achieve these outcomes, this is why parents home educate. Undertrained (in special needs), ignorant (of what it is like to have these special needs), and inexperienced (in most of the world outside the classroom) teachers with far too many boxes to tick and tests to administer have very little chance of helping or even wanting to help ALL the children in their care achieve these things.


2 b)
Stay safe
· Yes
· No
· Not Sure
· No Response

In the UK every week 450,000 children are bullied in schools, every year 16 children commit suicide as a result of school bullying. 360,000 children are injured in school, and an estimated 1 million children play truant.
These statistics speak for themselves, schools are unable to even remotely approach this outcome, many children are home educated because of this and the bullying is not just implemented by pupils but by teachers and head teachers also.


2c)
Enjoy and achieve
· Yes
· No
· Not Sure
· No Response

“… more than 1 in 6 children leave school unable to read, write or add up.. “

Just one reason:

The age at which children are neurologically ready to learn to read can vary from age two to age fifteen and probably beyond, totally regardless of intelligence. In the school system the child is labelled a failure if they are not reading by age seven and they have real difficulty in accessing the education provided which is unlikely to be appropriately modified even though the technology to do so exists. In my experience, 30 years of mothering, most teachers have real difficulty thinking that far outside the box as also it seems does the government. Many children who could learn to read with very little problem when neurologically ready have decided by age11 or 12 that they are stupid and will never learn and there is no point trying, therefore becoming understandably alienated from the system that has so badly failed them. By the time my third dyslexic child was struggling in the system which had learnt nothing in the seven years since my first dyslexic child had had to suffer it I was sure I could do a better job myself. Home education allows learning opportunities to be provided in a way that suits the child and puts no pressure and therefore no risk of failure on any one aspect of learning, in fact the child can direct their own learning making the brain uniquely ready to absorb the information discovered. That is why home education is such a spectacular success; a recent study by academics at the University of London concluded that informal learning at home was an "astonishingly efficient way to learn". S ee “How Children Learn at Home”, by Alan Thomas and Harriet Pattison.

2d)
Make a positive contribution.
·
· Yes
· No
· Not Sure
· No Response

A happy child is much more likely to make a positive contribution. Even children who seem to thrive in school have to suffer the indignity of having to ask permission to do things such as elementary things as empty their bladder and take a drink. Home educated children can make these decisions for themselves and are used to being self motivated and problem solving in more intellectually challenging situations as well. They are generally streets ahead.

2 e)
achieve economic well-being
· Yes
· No
· Not Sure
· No Response

I am aware that this consultation has been prompted by the NSPCC wanting Home Education Inspectors to carry out welfare work and check up on the welfare as well as the education of children educated at home. As the NSPC have no evidence to support their allegation that home education is a cover up for abuse I suspect that the government has implemented this consultation because it is a bit spooked by the numbers or children leaving state schools to be educated at home. For these children economic well being and every other sort of well being is much more likely than if they were still educated in the state system where many of them suffered abuse, bullying, were completely misunderstood, were not provided with a suitable education and not only did not feel safe but were not safe.

3
Do you think that Government and local authorities have an obligation to ensure that all children in this country are able to achieve the five outcomes? If you answered yes, how do you think Government should ensure this?.
· Yes
· No
· Not Sure
· No Response

This is not possible. How can the government ensure that chronically or terminally ill children achieve health? When the government cannot prevent recession how can it ensure that children or adults achieve economic well being? When its own schools and especially its children’s homes fail spectacularly to ensure these outcomes for many of the children entrusted to them, how can it ensure them for all children? As I said before, home educated children are much more likely to achieve these outcomes but government interference in the details of how home education is carried out will put this at risk. Many of these children and their parents have been traumatised by their experience of the state system and the governments so called standards. Any attempt to implement testing and assessment by the same system that failed them would set them back a long way. This would certainly be true for my 11 year old daughter who is only beginning to recover from her four years in school nearly two and a half years later. She is also now beginning to read at exactly the same age as her schooled siblings but with none of the enforced practice, criticism and much less of a sense of failure than they experienced.


4
Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for supporting home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?
· Yes
· No
· Not Sure
· No Response

Provision for children to take exams at no cost in the same way schooled children can would be useful for some home educated children. Home educating parents still pay taxes. No provision would be welcome that came with assessment strings attached. The government’s current assessment and testing and targets regime in schools is for some children the equivalent of pulling up a seedling every week to check that its roots are still growing, totally counterproductive.

5
Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?
· Yes
· No
· Not Sure
· No Response

Even when a child attends school the responsibility for ensuring they get a suitable education rests in law with the parents. Many parents are breaking this law by sending their children to failing schools or failing to ensure that schools take account of any special needs the child has. Local authorities have no right in law to monitor home education; they only have a right to intervene where it comes to their notice that no education is taking place. As many parents home educate because it came to their notice that no education was taking place for their children in school the local authority should put its own house in order before lobbying to take on extra responsibilities.

6
Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this does not happen?

Some people think the earth is flat, that homosexuality is a sin, that women are the inferior sex and that foreigners should not be allowed to live in this country. People can be bigoted ignorant and malicious. This consultation smacks of such things. Why is no evidence presented, why is such an expensive exercise being carried out with my money with no single fact to back it up? I am appalled that hearsay and rumour such as this is promulgated in this way by the people paid to look after my affairs and make my life more civilised and pleasant. Get your own house in order.

And my husbands:
1 safeguarding children

Yes

Child protection is an important local authority function, and councils must carry of this duty effectively and efficiently. Councils have recourse to a range of powers under existing legislation. Existing reporting arrangements via, for example, GPs and the police are available. No adequate case for additional powers for children that are educated at home has been made. To introduce powers specifically aimed at parents who home educate would stigmatise elective education, and be costly to administer. The impact of any change would be minimal as any children at risk are likely to be identified through existing monitoring arrangements.

2a be healthy
Yes

If a survey of children undergoing home education was conducted it is possible that it would reveal a higher proportion of SEN children (including children on the autistic spectrum) than is found in schools. This would not mean that there was an association between home education and unhealthy children. On the contrary, many of these children will have been taken out of school because it provided an ‘unhealthy’ environment – for these children school will have been associated with bullying, and a loss of self-confidence and self-esteem. For many, it is reasonable to hypothesis, home education provides an extremely healthy and safe environment.

There is no reason to assume that the lifestyles of home educated children are any different from those at school. In anything there will be less peer pressure to engage in unhealthy activities such as smoking, and more parental supervision to prevent the adoption of unhealthy activities.

2b stay safe
Yes

There are reasons to believe that home educated children are ‘protected from harm and neglect’:

- There are no trips to and from schools in the dark when children can be vulnerable to traffic accidents
- Parental supervision is on-going
- Lower risk of peer group pressure to engage in unsafe activities
- For the sub-group of children withdrawn from school due to bullying, they are undoubtedly safer being at home.

There is no evidence that parents opt for elective education in order to ‘neglect’ their children.

2c enjoy and achieve
Yes

This question needs to be reframed in terms of ensuring that children are allowed to realise their potential. Currently many schools are unable to realise the potential of many gifted and talented, and SEN children. There is anecdotal evidence that parents remove their children from school in order that they do ‘enjoy and achieve’ – something the school system failed to ensure

In addition, the study by Alan Thomas and Harriet Pattison (How Children Learn at Home, 2008, Continuum International Publishing Group) highlights that home education with its emphasis on informal methods of learning can be pedagogically efficient.

2d positive contribution
Yes

There is no evidence that home educated children are more or less likely to engage anti-social or offending behaviour.

Parents and children involved in home education of necessity have to be actively participating in their local community – they make use of local museums, art galleries, libraries and sports/leisure facilities. Some are members of local groups and indeed can set up local groups.

2e economic well-being
Yes

Selection effects mean that children who are home educated are in many respects different from their contemporaries who attended school and given the absence of any counterfactual this question is impossible to assess empirically. However, there are reasons to believe that home educated school will secure better economic outcomes than if they attended school:

- They will be more self-confident and assured than if they had attended school
- They will have achieved more than if at school
- ??


3 obligation
No

a) The five outcomes lack specificity and it would unreasonable to agree to central and local government being obliged to meet them. There is a risk of misuse of power.

b) This is a ‘motherhood and apple pie’ question designed to elicit a positive response and as such undermines the legitimacy of the consultation exercise. It is unfortunate that such poorly worded questions should characterise this consultation.


4 supporting
Yes

Parents educating at home should be able to claim tax relief on expenditure incurred in educating their children at home. This would be ‘fair’ and could be seem as a refund for what they pay for children educated at school.

Parents engaged in home education have much to offer local authorities. Local education authorities should be obliged to establish a consultative committee comprising a majority of parents who home education. Councils should be obliged to consult this committee on their policy, administrative procedures and information/publicity materials. The resulting improvements in the quality of the councils’ practices would benefit all local home educating parents.

5 Monitoring
No

Existing monitoring arrangements are effective.


6 concern

A curious question which accepts as fact the sentence that precedes it. Clearly, any allegation that the incidence of child abuse for home educated children is higher than for other children is very serious. However, no substantive evidence is provided to support the ‘concern’. The London Safeguarding Children Leads Network claims to be aware of a number of serious child protection cases where the child was electively home educated. Yet its allegation, which seem to have been repeated by others, are vague and unsubstantiated.

Making the allegation, without any supporting evidence and then using a consultation exercise, rather than commissioning research, to gather ‘evidence’ raises series issues about the nature of the policy making process as well as questions about the ethical nature of the exercise. It may also open the Department to a legal challenge if policy is seen to be based on unsubstantiated ‘concerns’ rather than evidence.

The level of risk for children at home is unknown – it would be foolish to claim that no home educated children are unsafe, but it is not clear that that the actual risk is higher than for school educated children.

The needs of children and child protection must be given a high priority. However, the review / consultation provides no evidence that this is a real risk for home educated children. Unless robust evidence is forthcoming the need to act is based on speculation.

4 comments:

Sarah said...

Nice responses. Reminds me that I must do mine too ...

Ruby said...

Thanks for posting; interesting responses ... ;0)

liz said...

I'll certainly be referring to this again when I come to respond. Thanks.

HelenHaricot said...

ooh, good responses. i have only 'done' q1 and 2 sofar

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