Monday, 17 January 2011

New Year New Decade but Same Old Same Old Response to Home Educators

Wow it is months since I blogged; this is always the most demanding time of year for me and the one where I get the least done.  Let's hope the season is beginning to shift and I will actually get round to some of the blog posts I think I should make.

One issue that has been distressing me has been the constant stories of Local Authorities totally overstepping the mark and demanding to inspect and monitor home educators for educational and even explicitly welfare purposes.  Suffolk LA was a shiningly shocking recent example of this but many others have been playing the same game.  Too many for it to be coincidence to my mind.  Is Graham Stuart being duped by his own party?

He has asked us to send examples and stories of LAs overstepping the mark to Nick Gibb Minister for Schools (not an ideal title from our perspective),  so that he can get a picture of what is going on,  presumably in order to remedy it.

I wonder if he knows that Civil Servants are sending home educators who do this replies that nauseatingly echo the ballsian hypocracy of the previous government.

I have been kindly allowed to copy a recent example regarding Suffolk Council here, name and date removed of course:

Dear Mr and Mrs XXXXXX,

Thank you for your email, dated XXXXXXX, addressed to the Minister of State for Schools Nick Gibb, about Home Education and Suffolk County Council. As you will appreciate, Ministers receive a large amount of correspondence and they are unable to respond personally to all emails and letters. I am responding as I have responsibility for home education.

Thank you for taking the time to forward your concerns which have been noted by my team responsible for home education. The Government respects the right of parents to educate their children at home, and recognise that most home educating parents do a very good job, some of them picking up the pieces where children have had problems at school.

Ministers are still considering in detail the policy for home education and whether any changes need to be made to the existing arrangements.Ministers are aware of the strong views expressed by both home educators and local authorities and will take these into account in considering what, if any, changes need to be made, in due course.'

Local authorities have a general duty to make arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children in their area. They also have a duty to intervene where they have concerns about the education or safety and welfare of a child in their area. Whilst I note your concerns about the way in which Suffolk County Council are fulfilling their duties, this is a matter for the County Council and in the first instance should take any matters up with the County Council through their complaints procedure so that matters can be resolved locally.

I do hope this is helpful.
With best wishes,
Yours sincerely,
Lisa White
Independent Education, ISPS; School Governance
This looks like an abandonment of central government responsibility and permission for Local Authorities to do whatever they want.  Is this what Graham Stuart expected when he made a recommendation for us to contact Nick Gibb?  I hardly think so!

Suffolk have thank goodness retracted their threat of welfare visits to all home educators that they have not visited.  I think the deluge of objections probably surprised and overwhelmed them but I would love to see this level of protest and objection arising from every transgression however trivial.  Where such bullying and ignorance is concerned the saying “give them an inch and they will take a mile” is very pertinent and as they communicate no doubt like we do I think we need to put out every little spark of misinformation at first awareness.  Wouldn’t it be satisfying (and much safer for children and families) if when discussing a possible ultra vires policy with a colleague they received the  response ‘oh don’t do that, it is bound to cause trouble, it just isn’t worth the hassle’!

Stories are being collected by AHED and The Art of Survival and the more people who record and submit their experience the more evidence we will have to support our claims.  This will help us build a case in the present and be a resource if more trouble arises.  

I think that it is a very important exercise for every home educator who has experienced illegal demands, lies and threats to take part in.  I very much hope the Badman years are over but “prepare for the worst while hoping for the best” seems excellent advice for us right now!

FEEDJIT Live Traffic Feed