Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Response to Elective Home Education Guidance - April 2019

Today, the government has released it's new Elective Home Education Guidance, and it is shocking.
(For comparison, here are the old guidelines that were perfectly adequate and suitable for what they were intended.)


These are my raw thoughts, as I read through the document for the first time, but given the consultation that took place last year, I am not expecting it to be good.

I've only just started reading the introduction and have already come across this sentence:
Educating children at home works well when it is a positive, informed and dedicated choice. However, the past few years have seen a very significant increase in the number of children being educated at home, and there is considerable evidence that many of these children are not receiving a suitable education.
Where is the evidence for this?  Where is the proof?  It's a disappointing, though not surprising, start to a document that shows it will be full of prejudice.

Still in the introduction:
Where necessary - because it is evident that a child is simply not receiving suitable education at home and the use of school attendance powers is not achieving a change in that situation - the local authority should be ready to use its safeguarding powers as explained in this guidance
So basically, if a child is not receiving a suitable education, then the LA should make up some safeguarding concern in order to get the change it wants?

Section 2.4 has take the place of the old 3.13 - a list of 'nots': things that are not required for home education.  Unfortunately, this list has not only decreased, but significantly changed in some areas.
Approaches such as autonomous and self-directed learning, undertaken with a very flexible stance as to when education is taking place, should be judged by outcomes, not on the basis that a different way of educating children must be wrong.
For approaches such as Unschooling, unless the LA is content to wait until the child is of school leaving age, how can the LA judge 'outcomes'? Or is the LA now saying that the child must keep up with school-aged peers?  How does that fit in with SEN?

Section 4.2 is all about the need for creating a register of home educators, even though that word isn't used:
Identification of children who have never attended school and may be home educated forms a significant element of fulfilling an authority’s statutory duty under s.436A of the Education Act 1996 - to make arrangements to enable the authority to establish, so far as it is possible to do so, the identities of children in its area who are not receiving a suitable education. The duty applies in relation to children of compulsory school age who are not on a school roll, and who are not receiving a suitable education otherwise than at school (for example, at home, or in alternative provision). Until a local authority is satisfied that a home-educated child is receiving a suitable full-time education, then a child being educated at home is potentially in scope of this duty. The department’s children missing education statutory guidance for local authorities applies. However, this should not be taken as implying that it is the responsibility of parents under s.436A to ‘prove’ that education at home is suitable. A proportionate approach needs to be taken. 
There are many, MANY, reasons why creating a register is not a good thing (too much of a rant for me to go into detail now) but it looks like that's the way the government wants us headed.   A register, then a prescriptive curriculum, then only school-at-home will be allowed.  DD1 and DD2 have never been to school, so are not 'known' to the LA.  They are, however, known to various specialist teachers (eg dance, gym etc), known to doctors, dentists, opticians, and many more people besides.  We don't want and don't need anything the LA can provide, and do not want to be on such a register.  Until schools can ensure that zero pupils are ever abused or leave school without basic qualification, then they have no right to interfere with my private life.  (Sorry for that mini rant, but you get the gist.)

Section 4.4:

Some local authorities already actively encourage referrals from doctors and hospitals of children whom there is reason to think may be home educated.

I don't know how this fits with a data protection or doctor:patient confidentiality?  My GP and nurses know that my girls are HE as they are often with me for appointments.  Do, I now need to hide them away so I don't get asked the inevitable "no school today?"?


NEVER mention "deschooling" to the LA.  Section 6.2:

"Some parents may go further and describe this period as being necessary for ‘deschooling’. There is no legal basis for such a position. Any statement along these linescould be an indication that the child is not being properly educated."
Deschooling is a really important part of home education.  It is important for the child that needs to work through school trauma, but it is also important for the parent as they learn that education is more than school, and a life set up for learning and natural curiosity means that education never stops.


Section 6.5 says:
"Parents are under no duty to respond to such enquiries, butif a parent does not respond, or responds without providing any information about thechild’s education, then it will normally be justifiable for the authority to conclude that thechild does not appear to be receiving suitable education and it should not hesitate to do 18so and take the necessary consequent steps"

And section 6.6 says:

" although arefusal to allow a visit can in some circumstances justify service of a notice unders.437(1).8"
So, home educators can no longer say no to a visit?  It doesn't specifically say, but I hope that a 'visit' at a neutral location (such as a library or cafe) is allowed, rather than having to be at home.  My involvement with Educational Freedom means I am aware of EHEOs using visits as subterfuge for judging parents and home conditions, resulting in SS involvement.


Section 6.12:
"On the other hand the information provided by parents shoulddemonstrate that the education actually being provided is suitable and address issuessuch as progression expected and (unless the home education has only just started)achieved. It should not be simply a statement of intent about what will be provided, or adescription of the pedagogical approach taken – this would not enable the authority toreach a legitimate conclusion that a suitable education is actually being provided. "

7.3:

" There is no proven correlation between home education and safeguarding risk. Insome serious cases of neglect or abuse in recent years, the child concerned has beenhome educated but that has not usually been a causative factor and the child hasnormally been known anyway to the relevant local authority. "

Actually, HE has NEVER been known to be a causative factor, but hey, why let facts get in the way...
7.6:

"Although some cases will berelatively clear-cut (for example if a child was being provided with no education at all formonths)..."

How much do they truly understand and accept unschooling?
7.9:

"Such enquiries may yield enough information. If they do not, and in particularbecause the parents refuse access to the child then the authority has a number ofoptions available. It can apply to a court for a child assessment order"

This is in the section of safe-guarding, but we don't know how the LA will apply it.
7.12:

"However, an ESO imposes a duty on parents to allow the supervisor(the authority) reasonable contact with the child,..."

Section 7.13:

" The use ofsuch an order is of course a last resort, and should only be necessary in a very smallminority of cases. But the key point for local authorities to bear in mind – and make clearto parents – is that this could be the end result of continued failure to provide suitableeducation and a continued obstruction of an authority’s efforts to ensure that the childreceives suitable education."


8.1:
"It can, ofcourse, be the case that a local authority has no knowledge of a child’s specialeducational needs if the family has not sought assessment or support. However, localauthorities have a duty under s.22 of the Children and Families Act 2014 to try to identifyall children in their areas who have SEN. This includes home-educated children. "


8.3:
" Some parents educate, or attempt to educate, children at home because ofdissatisfaction with local SEN provision. However, educating at home a child who hasspecial needs is often more difficult than for other children"

**Attempt** to educate? Prejudice much!


 Look - Something positive!!!! See, I'm not biased and only reporting the bad things, lol. 8.10:
"When a home-educated child’s EHC plan names a school, some local authoritiesinstruct the school to add the child’s name to its admission register without the parent’sagreement, with the result that the parent is committing an offence if the child does notattend the school. It is not lawful for a school to do this, and local authorities shouldensure that both schools and their own staff know that. "


9.4e tries to soften the bit about outcomes...
"e. although it may well be a good starting point in assessing suitability to assesswhether the curriculum and teaching have produced attainment in line with thenational norms for children’ of the same age, it must be borne in mind that the s.7requirement is that the education is suitable to the child’s ability and aptitude. If achild’s ability is significantly above or below what might be regarded as ‘average’then allowances must be made for that; and similarly the home education maylegitimately cater specifically for particular aptitudes which a child has, even if thatmeans reducing other content; "


9.4f:
"f. factors such as very marked isolation from a child’s peers can indicate possibleunsuitability. Suitable education is not simply a matter of academic learning butshould also involve socialisation;"

Because all He kids are kept locked under the stairs... :


Beware if you don't live in a spacious house... :(    9.4g:
"g. any assessment of suitability should take into account the environment in whichhome education is being provided. Most obviously, home accommodation which isnoisy and/or cramped is likely to make it very difficult for a child to learn and makesatisfactory progress"
Unlike overcrowded classrooms, which are known to be quiet and spacious...

 9.7:
"9.7 An efficient education, within the meaning of s.7, is one which achieves what it setsout to achieve. It is important this concept is not confused with suitability. A whollyunsuitable education can be efficiently delivered – but would still be unsuitable."

Sections 9.8 and 9.9 discuss what it means to be full time.

9.9:


"Despite this greater flexibility inherent in home education, local authorities should beenabled by parents to assess the overall time devoted to home education of a child onthe basis of the number of hours per week, and weeks per year so that this informationcan be set alongside that relating to suitability to ensure that the home education meetsthe requirements of section 7. "

Beware if you admit to learning alongside your kids...  10.1:

If information and views provided by the child castdoubt on whether the education provided is actually suitable in terms of the s.7 criteria(for example, the child indicates that the parent is not providing education suitable to hisor her age because the parent does not sufficiently understand the subjects in question)

 Also 10.1 - I wonder if they ask schooled kids the same thing, or suggest alternatives to their parents..?
" Nonetheless, if it is clearto the local authority that a child does not wish to be educated at home although theeducation provided meets the s.7 requirement and there are no safeguarding concerns, itshould seek to discuss the reasons for this with the parents and encourage them toconsider whether home education is ultimately likely to be successful if their child isunhappy to be educated in this way. "

On a personal point, section 10.12 is about tutors and DBS. The guidelines do not make clear that self-employed tutors can only get a Basic DBS, rather than an enhanced one.

Section 10:15 seems to contradict some of the other points they've made:
"10.15 Children learn in different ways and at different times and speeds. It should beappreciated that parents and their children may require a period of adjustment beforefinding their preferred mode of learning and that families may change their approach overtime. Parents are not required to have any qualifications or training to provide theirchildren with a suitable education. It should be noted that parents from all educational,social, linguistic, religious and ethnic backgrounds successfully educate children outsidethe school setting and these factors should not in themselves raise a concern about thesuitability of the education being provided." 

Overall, these guidelines are disappointing.  As a home educating family, we can expect more disruption and interference to our daily lives.  The LA does not have enough budget as it is, yet is expected to do a whole lot more work, not least contacting families such as mine that do not want any of their "help".

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