Thursday, 22 November 2012

Another excellent response to the consultation on Registering and monitoring home-based education in Wales

A wonderful response from David Silvester 

Educating children at home

The Welsh Government wants children who are home educated to be on a register.

We want to ask parents and children about their home education every year.

Please answer the following eight questions and tell us what you think. If you have any further comments please use the comment boxes and add separate sheets if you wish. 

Question 1: Home education register
Do you agree with our proposal that requires children educated at home to be included on a register?

Agree       Disagree X Not sure   

Comment: The state is not in a position to know better than a parent or their child what constitutes a suitable and appropriate education. The state is a large apparatus which moves and adapts a lot slower than individual families and fields of knowledge. When education experts like Sir Ken Robinson have been saying for years that the one-size-fits-all school system doesn't work, those of us who choose to move with the times and do something about taking responsibility for our children's learning should not have to answer for that choice to a system that cannot possibly keep up with the speed at which the cutting edge evolves. The function of the state is to serve it's citizens – not the other way around.  

Question 2: Failure to register
If the parent fails to register their child, does not give all the information we ask for or gives false information, should their child have to go to school?

Agree       Disagree X   Not sure   

Comment: Since I do not believe that anyone should have to register in the first place, then it follows that I do not support any punitive measures for those who do not register. The case for compulsory registration has categorically failed to be made.

Question 3: Working together
Do you agree that parents should work with their local authority to make sure home education is meeting their child’s needs?

Agree       Disagree X   Not sure

Comment: I believe that the local authority should work with home educating families if the parent or child requests it. What families choose to do is of no concern to the local authority. I believe that local authorities should support and even offer funding for home education. I do not believe that a local authority can have any claim to an objective, impartial measure of whether “home education is meeting [a] child's needs”. This is a purely subjective question, and cannot be quantified in any meaningful way. It is inevitable that should any such measure be brought in, certain individuals will fall foul of it's assessment methods through no fault of their own, and their education and / or family life will suffer as a result. I believe that the state should stay out of family life, and should recognise that stress (particularly external legislative stress that is based on ideology and control, not individual reality and freedom) is one of the number one problems which leads to the breakdown of families and ultimately, society as a whole.

Question 4: First meeting
Do you agree that the first meeting to join the register should take place where the child is going to be home educated? 

Agree           Disagree X  Not sure    

Comment: I do not agree that there should be any meetings whatsoever, unless they are specifically requested by the parents or child concerned. Note that social services already have a raft of powers to intervene in any case where there is a genuine reason for concern, and also that the vast majority of home educating families do so without giving any cause for genuine concern under the existing legislation which already confers such powers.
Therefore, I maintain that the case for these meetings and assessments is spurious at best. There would appear to be precious little evidence to suggest that it is actually needed, and very little understanding of the many nuances of home education. Again, the state is too large an apparatus to be able to grasp such subtleties with anywhere near the level of detail that would allow for sound legislative decision making about them.

Question 5: Annual review – place of meeting
Parents, the child and local authority staff will meet once a year, to talk about the child’s development. 

How often should this annual meeting happen at the place where the child is being home educated?


Sometimes Please suggest below how often (for example every two years, three years, four years and so on)      

Never` X

Not sure

Comment: The wording of this question appears to assume that such meetings should happen at all. I disagree wholly with that assumption – these meetings should not take place whatsoever.
I maintain that the case for any intervention in the lives of home educating families has not been made, and that the state is not in a position to make such a case, because it simply does not possess the resources to develop an intimate understanding of the many subtleties of the many home educating families that exist.
Without this intimate understanding of each family – whose needs may be changing on a constant basis – there can be no case for creating broad legislation which dictates the choices available to families for how they educate their children. By definition, any such legislation will trample all over the needs of a large number of the families affected by it, and therefore, it should not exist in the first place.

Question 6: Refusing registration
Should parents be refused registration or have their registration overturned, if:

  • the education offered does not meet the child’s needs, or puts the welfare or the safety of the child at risk? 
  • parents will not let the local authority check that the child’s education is suitable?

Agree       Disagree X Not sure     

Comment: Parents should not need to seek “permission” from the local authority to make decisions about what works for their own families, period. The local authority is not in a position to be able to judge or offer any such “permission”. The matter is outside of the scope of their understanding, outside of their remit and jurisdiction, and does not concern them in any way. Social services already have the power to intervene in cases where there is genuine concern for the welfare of children. There is no cause for concern with the vast majority of home educating families – therefore, the case for any extra legislation needs to be made based on actual evidence to suggest there is a need for it. No such evidence has been produced, and nor will it be – unless you are seriously suggesting that there is any cause for welfare concerns with the vast majority of home educating families? (Again, if so, either produce your evidence or drop these proposals altogether.)

Question 7: Notice of registration
Parents should be told within 12 weeks whether they can educate their child at home.

Agree         Disagree X Not sure      

Comment: The wording of this question again assumes that the local authority is in any position to judge or offer such “permission”. What is the basis for this assumption? Where is the evidence of it's suitability?
Once the local authority has demonstrated their suitability to get involved in the intimate details of individual families lives, then they might be considered to be in a position to offer to ratify that which parents and children have already been deciding for themselves without any problems since the dawn of humankind.
Until such time, local authorities have no place inside the decision making process of the family unit, so the question is moot.

Question 8: Are there any other comments you would like to make?

Comments: This is some of the most badly thought out legislation I have ever encountered. The underlying assumption – of these questions too – is that the case for interventions has even been made, and that such involvement of the local authorities is necessary. This is an erroneous assumption with literally no evidence to support it, and therefore the basis for this entire consultation is null and void.
The survey demonstrates such a total lack of understanding of the complexities of home education – the many needs of the people doing it, their reasons for choosing not to be involved in the state education system, the problems inherent in monitoring, the problems inherent in fixed curricula, the vast majority of success stories, the incredibly small number of genuine problem cases – that it gives me serious cause for concern that those who are proposing and drawing it up simply do not understand the first thing about what they are dealing with.
Those of us who choose to home educate our children (in whatever style that fits the individuals concerned, as determined, adapted and carried out by loving parents who are giving their all for their children) should not be the victims of intrusive, baseless and wholly unnecessary legislation from bureaucrats who are attempting to massively overstep the bounds of their office, to usurp power from families and bring legislation into the personal decisions of parents and their children.

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Thank you for giving your views.

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