Thursday, 15 October 2009

My Contribution to the Consultation on New Regulations for Elective Home Education

No 3608

Question 1 Do you agree that these proposals strike the right balance between the rights of parents to home educate and the rights of children to receive a suitable education?

There is no such balance to strike; the rights of the child include the right of those who love them most, and in the VAST majority of cases that is their family, to make choices for them when they are not able to make them for themselves.
 Parents are responsible in law for their children having access to a suitable education[1] and it is therefore up to them to choose what they think best given their far superior knowledge of the child.  These proposals are constructed in favour of the suspicions and self interest of members of the National Association of Social Workers in Education who are worried about their careers and their reputations as evidenced by this quote from Peter Traves of Staffordshire LA in his oral evidence to the DCSF Select Committee on Wednesday 15thOctober 2009[2].

‘May I be clear about what those accountabilities are? If something happens to a child in terms of any of those five outcomes, we are held directly to account. This is not some kind of button counting. We have seen recently what happens to directors of children's services when things go seriously wrong. It is not only a case of sacking; it is public humiliation. It is a very serious matter. If I get it wrong in my job with children across a broad area, I am held to account for children's welfare. I think that not knowing that there are children living and being educated in my area is unreasonable if I am being held to that account.’

This evidence is as yet uncorrected but I watched the whole session and was shocked that he publicly admitted that this was his motivation.

I believe Graham Badman, the author of the report leading to this consultation was (I have been unable to confirm this, I know I should have done that first!  He is in spirit if not in fact, lets hope my words are recieved as unquestioningly as his have been!)  and maybe still is a member of NASWE.  However education welfare officers are public servants and it is not appropriate for families to give up the right to privacy in the family home and the presumption of innocence in order to safeguard local authority staff.

These proposals would contravene my human rights, be immoral and are likely to provoke judicial review.

Question 2 Do you agree that a register should be kept?


So that my child’s details can be left on a train, no thank you.   You cannot change the reality of things by the nature of the words you use and here you are using register as a euphemism for licence.  As it is my duty to ensure my child a suitable education you can assume I am doing so unless you have evidence to the contrary.  I do not need a licence to carry out my legal duty.  I do not need to register to do it either.  Due to this seemingly long term campaign by Educational social workers to protect their salaries and reputations at the expense of the civil liberties of the family, the right of the child to a voice, (my child would sooner eat slugs than talk to people from the organisation that belittled and misunderstood her when they had her in their care) I wish to have no relationship at all with the local authority education department unless they have evidence that gives them a legal right to investigate.

This proposal would contravene my human rights, be immoral and is likely to provoke judicial review.

Question 3 Do you agree with the information to be provided for registration?


Absolutely not.  This government has stolen (MP’s expenses) and wasted (credit crisis) enough of my and everyone else’s’ money.  You really cannot afford to do this without it endangering essential services.  All the credible evidence points to home educated children being safer than their schooled peers and on average better educated; in fact New Zealand have just dropped a system of registering and monitoring as it was found to be unnecessary and expensive.

It is also inappropriate for LAs and the arm of the state to have a say in the style or content of education; already state schooling has been brought to new lows by the imposition of a narrow and confining curriculum, a punishing number of tests and rigid constraints on actually responding to the needs of the individual child.  To allow any taint of this into the sanctuary of home education, a place which at present state dogma cannot touch, would be a blow to free thought and freedom of ideas in England.  It is important not to let the finger of the state into every pie, it is a heavy handed blunt instrument and exactly what many home educating parents are protecting their children from. It is a very undemocratic suggestion, indeed it leans toward the totalitarian.

The only thing I could say about my plans for my child’s education is that I plan to respond to her questions, her requests, her interests and provide her with stimulating resources and opportunities to choose from.  I do not intend to be any more specific as that would limit her and my choices.  It is her education after all.

This proposal would contravene my human rights, be immoral and is likely to provoke judicial review.

4 Do you agree that home educating parents should be required to keep the register up to date?


Do not agree to a register or system of licensing. We are not employed by the state to provide it with data!  What presumptuousness!

This proposal would contravene my human rights, be immoral and is likely to provoke judicial review.

5 Do you agree that it should be a criminal offence to fail to register or to provide inadequate or false information?


These are the sort of people home educators do not want to deal with; people who would like to discriminate against a minority group and create a criminal offence applicable only to home educators.  It is no wonder home educators are hostile to the LA.  It will take years for home educators to forget this concerted and violent attack on them, I expect 10 years of work by home educators and some committed LAs has just been flushed down the drain.  I would like to make it a criminal offence for local authorities to misrepresent the law to the people they serve.

This proposal would contravene my human rights, be immoral and is likely to provoke judicial review

6 a) Do you agree that home educated children should stay on the roll of their former school for 20 days after parents notify that they intend to home educate?


The parents are responsible for their children’s education; it is their decision, not the schools or the local authorities.  The relationship between the local authority and the school and the parent has often broken down because the local authority and the school are BREAKING THEIR OWN RULES and not providing the child with a suitable education or a safe environment.  What sort of civilised society would then punish the victim by making them subject to these failing institutions?

This proposal would contravene my human rights, be immoral and is likely to provoke judicial review

6 b) Do you agree that the school should provide the local authority with achievement and future attainment data?


The school should supply the parent with the child’s records. The child’s records should not be passed to a third party without the permission of the parent or guardian.  The child’s future achievement is none of the school’s  business.

This proposal would contravene my human rights, be immoral and is likely to provoke judicial review.

7 Do you agree that DCSF should take powers to issue statutory guidance in relation to the registration and monitoring of home education?


The review has made no case for the necessity of registering and monitoring.  The DCSF could usefully make the 2007 guidelines statuary and police the LAs to make sure they comply with them and actually understand them and the law surrounding education.

Otherwise this proposal would contravene my human rights, be immoral and is likely to provoke judicial review.

8 Do you agree that children about whom there are substantial safeguarding concerns should not be home educated?


This is a very dubious question.  It is either duplicitous or it is entirely misguided about the safeguarding role of school. If a child is not safe at home they are not safe in the evenings or the weekends or half terms or the Christmas, Easter or Summer holidays. What can school do about it then, the trust in teachers to spot abuse is anyway much overrated. They are either safe or they are not it is nothing to do with the place of education.

9 Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises where home education is taking place provided 2 weeks notice is given?


The premises!  What offensive language! Do you think Mr Badman would like his premises visited to check that he is not conspiring with his colleagues from NASWE to undermine the presumption of innocence of and the right to privacy of a small minority group in order to safeguard his former colleagues’ incomes and reputation. My home is not a premises, the police cannot enter without a warrant, social services have to have serious concerns. No.

I will not willingly allow immoral people into my home.  Nearly every local authority web site that I have looked at includes lies about their rights in law[3]. They also seek to undermine a parent’s choice by implying that structure and a timetable are necessary. The letters they send out are rude and arrogant, they act as if we are their servants rather than they ours. They have no training and nothing positive to add to the majority of home educating families.  Indeed as few right minded home educators will let the local authority know of their existence if they have a choice, most home educators known to the local authority will have deregistered a child from school. In many cases this will be due to that local authority being unable to safeguard the child or to provide them with a suitable education in school.  If the state had any right to monitor the parent’s private provision of education, which I do not agree it does, then the local authority are the last people on earth to do it.  Education social workers are primed to get children back into schools where the bullying and miseducation can carry on. Parents who have had to remove their children from local authority schools, far too often when the child is suicidal, are rightly suspicious of and hostile to the local authority which does nothing to make them feel more trusting when it mounts the sort of vicious campaign against them that has led to this consultation. We all know where Graham Badman’s loyalties lie.

This proposal would contravene my human rights, be immoral and is likely to provoke judicial review.

Question 10 Do you agree that the local authority should have the power to interview the child, alone if this is judged appropriate, or if not in the presence of a trusted person who is not the parent/carer?

Where do I begin with this one? Any ‘expert’ who could suggest this must be suspect in so many, many ways!  If anyone thinks that parents devoted enough to their children to choose never to send them to an institution or to rescue them when it becomes obvious that the institution is failing them will let a stranger have access to their child just on the asking cannot be thinking straight.  What sort of topsy turvy regulation would make the 99.6% of parents about whom there is no suspicion of wrong doing, even in Badman’s extremely dodgy figures, submit to this infringement of their and their child’s civil liberties?  Badman’s figures have however been thoroughly debunked[4] as totally lacking in analysis, and by figures collected using the Freedom of Information Act from a far greater number of LAs than responded to Badman’s begging letter for more evidence.  From these figures we see that abuse in home educating families is 0.29% a quarter of that in all families.[5]  If it is appropriate to inspect families on the presumption that they might be guilty of abuse, and I would vigorously reject this assertion, then it is clear that it cannot be argued that it is appropriate only or even initially to begin with home educating families.

This proposal is shocking and its execution would be abusive.  It would contravene my human rights, be immoral and is likely to provoke judicial review.

11 Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises and interview the child within four weeks of home education starting, after 6 months has elapsed, at the anniversary of home education starting, and thereafter at least on an annual basis? This would not preclude more frequent monitoring if the local authority thought that was necessary.


Again that disrespectful use of the term premises, it epitomises an attitude on the part of local authority workers who would like the same power over private families carrying out their legal duties as they have over schools. But schools are a public service and must be accountable, family homes are not.

This proposal would contravene my human rights, be immoral and is likely to provoke judicial review.This sort of misunderstanding of the relationship between the state and the family threatens to bring about civil disobedience and legal challenge.

[1] Section 7, Education Act 1996

[3] How often will Leicestershire Local Authority review my child’s education and what will happen during the meeting?
The initial meeting will usually happen within eight weeks of the family informing Access and Welfare of their intention to home educate. The family will discuss their education plans, what work they intend to do, visits they wish to make, how they intend to record the child’s progress and what ambitions they have for their child. There may be a follow up meeting a month afterwards to confirm that all is going well. After that, meetings between the family and the LA are annual unless either side asks for more frequent meetings. From frequently asked questions on this site.  Note visits are presented as compulsory.

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