Monday, 2 July 2018

Gruff's Response to the Draft EHE Guidelines Consultation


8  How effective are the current voluntary registration schemes run by some local authorities? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of mandatory registration of children educated at home, with duties on both local authorities and parents in this regard?
How many local authorities are going to maintain a register and have it remain just a register. Even if the guidelines settled on just a register, and not monitoring, it would not stay like that as local authorities already claim to have powers that they don't. This happens across the country on a regular basis. The disadvantage of any kind of register is just this. It will not remain just a register.
Another disadvantage of a register is that it would not achieve anything. There are already powers in place to make enquiries if concerns are raised, and this is just how it should be. What is a register going to add to that?

9  What information is needed for registration purposes, and what information is actually gathered by local authorities? Would it help the efficacy of these schemes, and the sharing of information between authorities, if there were a nationally agreed dataset or if data could be shared by national agencies, such as DWP or the NHS?
I do not think there should be a register at all, for the resaons stated above. In addition, it's completely unacceptable to suggest sharing my children's private data in this way, when there is absolutely no indication that they are at any risk of harm.

10  Does experience of flexi-schooling and similar arrangements suggest that it would be better if the scope of registration schemes included any children who do not attend a state-funded or registered independent school full-time? If so, do you think that local authorities should be able to confirm with both state-funded and independent schools whether a named child is attending that school full-time?

Flexischooled children are registered at a school already, so should no be involved in this guidance.

11  Would the sanction of issuing a school attendance order for parental non-compliance with registration be effective, or is there another sanction which would be more useful?
There should be no registration scheme. Furthermore, such a sanction for breach of a proposed registration scheme is shocking. The very suggestion that a child's education, which should be focused on their age, aptitude and ability, would instead be doled out as some sort of punishment to the parents, is unspeakably awful, and not what I would expect of this country.

12  What steps might help reduce the incidence of schools reportedly pressuring parents to remove children to educate them at home?
Schools should focus on the needs of the school-registered child, so they get the education they deserve, rather than palming them off to a practice they don't even believe in. Every aspect of that is unbelievably poor, and it's not home educators that are doing it. Support the schools to identify the underlying issues, which will include the lack of SEN funding, and then spend the money supporting them instead of hounding home educators.

14  How effective is local authority monitoring of provision made for children educated at home? Which current approaches by local authorities represent best practice?
There is no requirement for routine monitoring, so best practice is those local authorities who respect the members of the home education community in their area and don't intrude on their lives, and simply follow up concerns when they are raised.

15  If monitoring of suitability is not always effective, what changes should be made in the powers and duties of local authorities in this regard, and how could they best ensure that monitoring of suitability is proportionate?
The powers they have should not be changed, much less increased, as local authorities cannot even use the powers they have properly. The limits of their powers to intrude into the private lives of British citizens should be made clear to local authorities. They can ensure it is proporionate by having some respect for people and the law, and simply following up concerns when raised. Just think of all the money that would save, assuming people are fulfilling their lawful duties unless evidence says otherwise.

16  Should there be specific duties on parents to comply with local authorities carrying out monitoring if such LA powers and duties were created, and what sanctions should attach to non-compliance?
No. Non-compliance should be encouraged where measures, such as intruding into children's homes and lives without warrant, are disproportionate and unprecedented under British law.

17  Is it necessary to see the child and/or the education setting (whether that is the home or some other place), in order to assess fully the suitability of education, and if so, what level of interaction or observation is required to make this useful in assessing suitability?

There should be no requirement for local authorities to fully assess the suitability of provision unless concerns are raised. My children's education takes place in parks, museums, the supermarket, theatres, festivals, online, at the beach, and on farms, what would the benefit of coming into my home be?

18  What can be done to better ensure that the child’s own views on being educated at home, and on the suitability of the education provided, are known to the local authority?
Why should the local authority want to know this? Why would it be acceptable for them to try and know this? I am my child's advocate and protector. I support the most suitable education for them. I already know their views, and they want to be home educated, currently, and they also want to not have random strangers coming into our home to interfere with that.
You would think that if the government are concerned about getting the views of home educated children, they would be included on the drop down box at the start of this consultation.

19  What are the advantages and disadvantages of using settings which are not registered independent or state schools, to supplement home education? How can authorities reliably obtain information on the education provided to individual children whose education ‘otherwise than at school’ includes attendance at such settings as well as, or instead of, education at home?
How we educate our children is the concern of us and our children. The advantages and disadvantages of using settings that are not schools to achieve this will vary with each individual child, sometimes from day to day. Authorities should not be obtaining information on this about individual children as it is a massive intrusion into their privacy.

20  What are the advantages and disadvantages of using private tutors to supplement home education? How can authorities best obtain information on the education provided to individual children whose education at home includes private tuition, or whom attend tuition away from home?
Again, the advantages and disavantages of this will vary between children, with their interests, their aptitudes, their learning styles. The great things is, with home education, if it suits one of them this week, we can use a tutor. If it stops suiting them next week, we can stop.
Again, authorities should not be attempting to breach my children's privacy and obtain this kind of information.

22  What might be done to improve access to public examinations for children educated at home?
It would be good if local authorities made it easier for home educated children to access exam centres. However, if this came with any kind of strings attached we'll continue to organise and pay for it ourselves.

23  What good practice is there currently in local authority arrangements for supporting home-educating families? Should there be a duty on local authorities to provide advice and support, and if so how should such a duty be framed?
There should be no such duty, as their 'advice' may well come from their own lack of experience of home education and being required to then give this advice could have a bad effect on home educators and their children. A helpful and cheap option would be to signpost new home educating familes to local home education groups, who actually know things about home education.


24  Should there be a financial consequence for schools if a parent withdraws a child from the school roll to educate at home?
No
What would this achieve? Parents have the right and duty to be able to deregister, so putting any consequence in place for the school will just incentivise people in a position of power to pressure these parents to make decisions about their child's education based on things that are not whether the education is suitable for the child. Where is the focus on the child's needs in these guidelines?

25  Should there be any changes to the provision in Regulation 8(2) of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 requiring local authority consent to the removal of a child’s name from the roll of a maintained special school if placed there under arrangements made by the local authority?
No parents should have to get permission to deregister. It puts a barrier in the way of them fulfilling their duty to provide a suitable education for their individual child.

27  What data are currently available on the numbers of children being educated at home in your local authority area?
I don't know. What data is there about the number of children who are vegetarian in my area? Why is it the local authority's business? What is the precedent for this level of intrusion into our privacy?

29  Comments on Section 1: What is elective home education?
What is elective home education?
:
Flexischooled children are on a school roll, so should not be in this guidance.

30  Comments on Section 2: Reasons for elective home education - why do parents choose to provide it?
The reasons for parents to home educate their children are as varied as the children. Why is this relevant? Putting any kind of list of this sort into guidance gives it legitimacy, and could influence people's thoughts of what are good and bad reasons, whereas the local authority wouldn't even know the child in order to know what might be a good reason for them personally.

31  Comments on Section 3: The starting point for local authorities
Suggesting that people wouldn't argue that parents should be able to exercise their right to home educate children with absolutely no independent oversight, is purely someone's opinion. I would argue exactly that. What is the point of Ofsted reports, the independent oversight for schools? They are to report the findings back to the parents of the children, as the parents are the service users. I don't need someone to report back to me about what I am doing, as I already know. People absolutely should be able to exercise their parental rights in their day to day lives without any independent oversight at all, whether that is feeding, clothing, entertaining or educating their child.

32  Comments on Section 4: How do local authorities know that a child is being educated at home?
Sharing my children's data is not lawful. I do not give consent. They do not give consent. Stick to the law which is to identify children who are not receiving an education. Mine are.

33  Comments on Section 5: Local authorities’ responsibilities for children who are, or appear to be, educated at home
We do not want annual contact with the local authority. We do not need annual contact with the local authority. It would cost a lot of money, achieve nothing, and be a huge and unprecedented invasion of our privacy.

34  Comments on Section 6: What should local authorities do when it is not clear that home education is suitable?
LA action when not clear if home education is suitable: Section 2.8 of the current guidelines makes it clear. This should be kept.

35  Comments on Section 7: Safeguarding: the interface with home education
It has been shown that home educated children are not at higher risk of abuse than schoolchildren. It would not be acceptable to target them in the way the Section 7 does. The repeated suggestion of such a risk drives a wedge between local authorities and home educating parents.

36  Comments on Section 8: Home-educated children with special educational needs (SEN)
SEN:

The same regulations should apply to all children who are home educated.

37  Comments on Section 9: What do the s.7 requirements mean?
Section 3.13 of the current guidelines should be kept in any new guidance, as it helps local authorities understand how different home education can look for individual children.

38  Comments on Section 10: Further information
Local authorities should not be being encouraged to have more oversight of home education than needed, as it shifts some liability onto them.

39  Comments on Section 1: What is elective home education (EHE)?

The requirement of an education being suitable to a child's age, aptitude, ability and special needs is the only thing that should be focused on. The law already
requires this, and so the focus is on the child's needs. Any stated aim to make a child's education 'world class' is taking the focus off the child and putting it onto some vague concept.

40  Comments on Section 2: What is the legal position of parents who wish to home educate children?
As already detailed, the focus of the suitability should remain on the child. Any attempt to impose a local authority's, school's or government's definition of this will take the focus off the child and make it much harder to continue fulfilling the suitability for their individual needs.

41  Comments on Section 3: So what do I need to think about before deciding to educate my child at home?
Children's needs change day to day, sometimes hour to hour. One of the huge advantages of home education is that we can adapt to this, unlike schools. Any suggestion that we should be planning detailed curricula in advance cuts off our ability to focus on our individual child's needs.


Sunday, 1 July 2018

Sprout's Response to the Draft EHE Guidelines Consultation



Further to my submission earlier, here's Sprout's. As ever, he was thoughful and articulate chatting to me about his view on each aspect of it, and his response is gold :)

8. How effective are the current voluntary registration schemes run by some local authorities? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of mandatory registration of children educated at home, with duties on both local authorities and parents in this regard?

As a home educated child, I do not want to be registered. To me, it feels dystopian, and I would feel as though I was being spied on. I feel that governments should not put people on registers when they haven't done anything wrong.

9. What information is needed for registration purposes, and what information is actually gathered by local authorities? Would it help the efficacy of these schemes, and the sharing of information between authorities, if there were a nationally agreed dataset or if data could be shared by national agencies, such as DWP or the NHS?

As a home educated child, if I have trusted my doctor with my information, and someone, whether or not that is the government, takes that information without my permission, as far as I am concerned that is data theft.

10. Does experience of flexi-schooling and similar arrangements suggest that it would be better if the scope of registration schemes included any children who do not attend a state-funded or registered independent school full-time? If so, do you think that local authorities should be able to confirm with both state-funded and independent schools whether a named child is attending that school full-time?


If they are already registered at the school they are going to, why would they need to be registered again. Also, there should be no register for home educated children anyway.

11. Would the sanction of issuing a school attendance order for parental non-compliance with registration be effective, or is there another sanction which would be more useful?

I don't think punishment should be given to people who are just refusing to be put on a register when they are carrying out a lawful activity. It's completely unfair that I would be sent to school, and completely unfair that my parents would be given a choice between me going onto a register when we haven't done anything wrong, or going to school which wouldn't be a suitable choice for me. You're giving the choice of going on a register, or going on a different register.

12. What steps might help reduce the incidence of schools reportedly pressuring parents to remove children to educate them at home?

I don't know. It's not home educators' problem if there are problems in schools. Depending on the situation, it's either the parent's or the school's issue to deal with, but it is unfair if they make parents home educate children so they don't have to deal with the issues any more. I think that if a school pressures parents to remove children when they can't or don't want to due to whatever reason, then the school should do more than apologise, they should financially compensate the family to ensure that the school never does this again.

14. How effective is local authority monitoring of provision made for children educated at home? Which current approaches by local authorities represent best practice?

I don't know enough about this to formulate a helpful answer.

15. If monitoring of suitability is not always effective, what changes should be made in the powers and duties of local authorities in this regard, and how could they best ensure that monitoring of suitability is proportionate?

I think it's pretty good that if a concern is raised by someone then the local authority can make enquiries and see if everything is fine, and take action if it isn't.

As a home educated child, I don't think that trying to monitor people in their regular lives to try and find out what they learned is a good thing. Learning is like a leaf, not a ladder. Each person's leaf starts at one bit and goes up, but then separates into different branches of veins. With a ladder, there would be a rung, or level, for each subject level, and this is easier to monitor, for example in schools. I'm not saying that the leaf is how learning should be, but just how it is. Each time you learn something it starts off small and then has tons of bits branching out. You might learn how to multiply before dividing, whereas in school you might be taught to divide before multiplying. In school, you will be taught certain things in certain order, like the ladder. With the leaf, it grows at its own pace. For example, a new leaf might grow first before a leaf that started to grow the day before. The newest leaf might finish growing first. I learn at my own pace, just like the leaf. I learnt maths and reading from my own life, from the things I enjoy. They started off slowly, then blossomed. Nobody's learning leaf is the same. You cannot compare them. You can only measure a ladder.

16. Should there be specific duties on parents to comply with local authorities carrying out monitoring if such LA powers and duties were created, and what sanctions should attach to non-compliance?

If local authorities are abusing the limited powers that they already have, and telling home educators that the local authority has powers it doesn't have, it should be made clear to everyone that the local authority doesn't actually have these powers. As I have already said, monitoring should not be allowed as the local authority doesn't understand individual learning. As such, parents shouldn't have to comply and there should be no sanctions.

17. Is it necessary to see the child and/or the education setting (whether that is the home or some other place), in order to assess fully the suitability of education, and if so, what level of interaction or observation is required to make this useful in assessing suitability?

As a home educated child, having to meet with someone from the local authority feels like the kind of thing I would do in a paid office job, not as part of my childhood. The prospect of them coming into my home feels like the kind of thing that would be done to a criminal or suspected criminal, not a child.

18. What can be done to better ensure that the child’s own views on being educated at home, and on the suitability of the education provided, are known to the local authority?

First of all, this is pure irony. Nobody asks school children whether they are happy going to school and if they want to be home educated instead. I, as a home educated child, have a real and genuine choice of whether I am home educated or go to school. Are you only interested in me having this choice if I am home educated? Or is it important for schoolchildren, too?

The local authority has nothing to do with this. I tried to think of reasons why they would need to know my views, when my parents are literally the ones that want the best for me, but I couldn't think of any.

19. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using settings which are not registered independent or state schools, to supplement home education? How can authorities reliably obtain information on the education provided to individual children whose education ‘otherwise than at school’ includes attendance at such settings as well as, or instead of, education at home?

Philosophically, I am not opposed to unregistered schools. If there are welfare concerns, these could be dealt with separately. However, unregistered schools are completely different from home educating. It's even in the name. If the government is worried about them, they should address that and not home education.

20. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using private tutors to supplement home education? How can authorities best obtain information on the education provided to individual children whose education at home includes private tuition, or whom attend tuition away from home?

Anyone can go to a class with a tutor. It is not a home education issue.

If you have concerns about the child, they can be raised under the usual process. Information about who uses a tutor shouldn't be routinely shared.

22. What might be done to improve access to public examinations for children educated at home?

I understand why home educated children would want or need to take these exams, for example for a dream job that they wanted to do. I think it would help if exams were cheaper for us than they are.

23. What good practice is there currently in local authority arrangements for supporting home-educating families? Should there be a duty on local authorities to provide advice and support, and if so how should such a duty be framed?

If someone asks for advice, this should be free. Talking is free. If someone deregisters, they should be given links, for example on social media, to local home education groups as they can be given support and advice by people who know about home education. This would be very low cost. A page on the local authority website with links such as this would be very useful.

24. Should there be a financial consequence for schools if a parent withdraws a child from the school roll to educate at home?

No. Although I can see the thinking here, in that if a school is failing the child then this would be consequences for the school when they leave as a result, the concept is flawed because there would be a lot of room for the school abusing their power in terms of making it difficult for parents to deregister their children.

25. Should there be any changes to the provision in Regulation 8(2) of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 requiring local authority consent to the removal of a child’s name from the roll of a maintained special school if placed there under arrangements made by the local authority?

Parents should not have to ask for consent to deregister from these schools. It should be assumed that the parents are doing this in the child's best interests and for their happiness. 

26. Are there any other comments you wish to make relating to the effectiveness of current arrangements for elective home education and potential changes?

Trying to monitor people in this way is very bad. It's like a moss, it grows a little bit and then a little bit, until you suddenly see how much it has grown. 'Just checking' becomes monitoring and monitoring becomes control of my education. It's *my* education, facilitated by *my* parents. It is not the local authority's place to be invading my privacy.

27. What data are currently available on the numbers of children being educated at home in your local authority area?

I do not have this information. I do feel that it is not the business of the local authority.

28. Do you have any comments on any of the contents of the call for evidence document in relation to equality issues?

Intrusive monitoring would potentially affect children with special educational needs or mental health issues much more than other children. I, personally, would be very weirded out by a stranger coming into my home, but one of my siblings would react in a much more extreme and anxious way. It's not as though someone is just coming to fix a sink and can completely be bypassed by the child. It would be much more direct. It's not acceptable for this to be an issue that we, as children, have to face, and we should not have to have this monitoring with the intrusion into our lives.

Draft EHE Guidance Consultation Response



This time round, I’ve not blogged. I said I’d always fight, but I’ve felt weary. I’m extremely grateful that many home educators have continued fighting this fight, breaking down the legalities, analysing wording, seeking advice, working together. I should have, but here we are. Having said that, I’ve submitted my consultation response, which I’ve also pasted below. It’s somewhat rushed, due to, y’know, being busy educating my kids and stuff. Maybe that’s why they didn’t solicit home educators’ responses, and didn’t include us on the dropdown to identify our interest. Consideration for our precious time. *eyeroll*

Anyway, my views are as previously. My belief in the presumption of innocence. My belief that government should focus on the services that they actually are responsible for. My belief in the primacy of parents in upholding their children’s rights. My assertion that this won’t just affect home educators.

If you’ve not completed it yet, go go! You have one day left, you can absolutely still do it. Join the Facebook group here if you need help. It doesn’t need to be perfect. We just need to be heard.

My response (Sprout is completing his this afternoon.)...

8. How effective are the current voluntary registration schemes run by some local authorities? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of mandatory registration of children educated at home, with duties on both local authorities and parents in this regard?

Generally, it has been seen that local authorities do not treat their 'voluntary' schemes as voluntary. This then creates a poor relationship between local authorities and the home educators in their area, with home educators reluctant to approach them even if they wanted to.

Mandatory registration of home educated children is wholly undesirable. Parents of all children in this country, both schooled and home educated, have responsibility, in law, for their education. Many choose to register them at a state school to achieve this, some choose to register at a private school, whereas parents who opt to do neither are retaining that responsibility fully and should have no need to register anywhere. To do so is to indicate that some of this responsibility lies not with the parents but with the local authority, and to shift some of this responsibility for education is a dangerous precedent. No other group of law abiding people is required to be on such a register; it is discriminatory and disproportionate. 

9. What information is needed for registration purposes, and what information is actually gathered by local authorities? Would it help the efficacy of these schemes, and the sharing of information between authorities, if there were a nationally agreed dataset or if data could be shared by national agencies, such as DWP or the NHS?

It would be absolutely unacceptable for children's data to be shared in this manner. Data sharing of this kind needs to meet the requirements of Article 8 of the European Convention of  Human Rights, not to mention the General Data Protection Regulation, and doing so simply on the basis that a child was home educated would not fulfil these requirements.

Not only is it unlawful, but it is completely undesirable for government to be suggesting that it would even want to share the data of its citizens in this manner.

10. Does experience of flexi-schooling and similar arrangements suggest that it would be better if the scope of registration schemes included any children who do not attend a state-funded or registered independent school full-time? If so, do you think that local authorities should be able to confirm with both state-funded and independent schools whether a named child is attending that school full-time?


Flexischooled children are registered with a school, and therefore should not be included within the scope of this guidance. 

11. Would the sanction of issuing a school attendance order for parental non-compliance with registration be effective, or is there another sanction which would be more useful?

It bears repeating again that I do not agree with a registration scheme. Should one be introduced, an SAO would not be a helpful or acceptable sanction, as it would not be focused on the suitability of the education for that individual child's age, aptitude or ability, as the law requires, and so has the very real potential to stop the child's education being suitable as a sanction against the parent. This is inappropriate, poorly thought out, and is using the child as a pawn of the state.

12. What steps might help reduce the incidence of schools reportedly pressuring parents to remove children to educate them at home?

This problem cannot be addressed with regulation of home educating families. It is schools that are taking inappropriate action in these cases, and it is they who should be regulated on this point. Fines for schools where this is reported would be one possibility.

14. How effective is local authority monitoring of provision made for children educated at home? Which current approaches by local authorities represent best practice?

Routine monitoring should not be undertaken, just as it is not undertaken to ensure that parents feed their children properly. The assumption of innocence should be maintained, and enquiries only made if there is the appearance of a problem. The current guidance already allows for this.

Many local authorities have very poor practice, where their documentation does not accurately reflect the law, so giving examples of those that have best practice is quite difficult. My former LA, Stoke-on-Trent, has no understanding of the ranges of effective approaches in home education and subsequently has extremely poor practice whereby they advise parents that there is a minimum number of hours which need to be dedicated to formal reading and writing. They wrongly quote case law that they say supports this. This has no basis in law, is not suitable for every child's learning style, does not focus on each individual child's age, aptitude, ability or special needs, and it created a hostile relationship, alienating the home educators in their area.

Currently, both Lancashire and Hampshire use good practice, recognising that, as is the law, most citizens are law abiding, and only making informal enquiries if concerns are raised, and then seeking to obtain evidence where concerns are apparent. This is not only desirable based on the important presumption of innocence in this country, but also because it allows the local authority's resources to be used in a much more targeted and cost-effective manner, rather than wasting them on monitoring an entire section of the population who are mostly going about their law-abiding business.

15. If monitoring of suitability is not always effective, what changes should be made in the powers and duties of local authorities in this regard, and how could they best ensure that monitoring of suitability is proportionate?

Routine monitoring should not be undertaken.

The current powers that local authorities already have are not even used effectively. There is widespread practice of local authorities not using their powers effectively with regards to welfare, and then conflating the resultant issues with home education. On the flip side, their powers to make enquiries, should concerns be raised regarding home education, are widely overstated by them to their local communities, and operated as routine monitoring schemes.

As previously stated, most home educators fulfil their duty in law with respect to educating their children, as they do for their other parental duties. Local authorities need to recognise this, and use their existing powers properly, lawfully, and in a cost-effective manner, using them to look into cases where concerns are raised that the education may not be suitable. They should not be given additional powers when they cannot properly use the ones they have.

It would be prudent to create a simple facility by which home educators can make a complaint when local authority staff abuse their powers. The current options are not easily accessible for most families, and leave the gate open for local authorities to continue abusing their powers on a regular basis, which is both financially wasteful and undesirable in terms of building good relationships with local home educators.

16. Should there be specific duties on parents to comply with local authorities carrying out monitoring if such LA powers and duties were created, and what sanctions should attach to non-compliance?

There should absolutely be no duty on parents to comply with enforced monitoring. The parent should always be the arbiter in the first instance of what a suitable education is for their own child in accordance with their age, aptitude, ability and any special needs they may have. Any suggestion otherwise is completely undermining the role of the parent in this country, and monitoring parental roles sets a dangerous precedent. Not only that, but for children, particularly those with special needs, the very act of monitoring is intrusive and could easily derail the process of their own, personally suitable education.

The local authority should only begin to play a part when concerns are raised that the duty may not be being fulfilled. The Court's role is then to sanction parents who fail in their duty, at the end of the full legal process leading to the enforcement of an SAO. This is not, and should not, be the role of the local authority.

There should be no sanctions for non-compliance. Giving local authorities such a power would be inappropriate and heavy-handed, particularly in view of the facts that LAs tend to abuse the powers they already have, and that many home educated children are recovering from the LA's failure to fulfil their service of providing a safe and suitable education themselves in school. 

17. Is it necessary to see the child and/or the education setting (whether that is the home or some other place), in order to assess fully the suitability of education, and if so, what level of interaction or observation is required to make this useful in assessing suitability?

This should absolutely not be necessary. This would be massively intrusive and my children would be very upset at this encroachment into their home. The child's needs should be at the centre of any guidance regarding their education, yet the effect on them of these kinds of unprecedented measures does not seem to be being considered. This is our home, we are law-abiding citizens, and it is not acceptable for the government to force such a huge intrusion. Who else has the power to come into people's homes, warrant-free, on a routine and regular basis? It's shocking that this is a possibility.

Should concerns be raised regarding the suitability of the education being provided, an education officer with the proper skill set should surely be able to assess, from a written report, whether the provision is suitable and whether it addresses the concerns. 

18. What can be done to better ensure that the child’s own views on being educated at home, and on the suitability of the education provided, are known to the local authority?

"What can be done to better ensure that the child’s own views on being educated at school, and on the suitability of the education provided, are known to the local authority?"

While all the many home educated children that I know would absolutely choose to continue home education, and have/take the option to go to school should they want to, there is no process in place for the local authority to solicit every school child's view on going to school and how suitable their education is, or ensure their parents provide an alternative should they not want to. The local authority does not, and should not, have a role in questioning the child in this way.

Article 5 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, addressing parental responsibilities and state assistance, states that 'Governments should respect the rights and responsibilities of families to direct and guide their children so that, as they grow, they learn to use their rights properly. Helping children to understand their rights does not mean pushing them to make choices with consequences that they are too young to handle. Article 5 encourages parents to deal with rights issues "in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child". The Convention does not take responsibility for children away from their parents and give more authority to governments. It does place on governments the responsibility to protect and assist families in fulfilling their essential role as nurturers of children.' This makes it absolutely clear that parents are there to represent the views of the child.

Article 18 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, addressing parental responsibilities and state assistance, states that 'Governments must respect the responsibility of parents for providing appropriate guidance to their children – the Convention does not take responsibility for children away from their parents and give more authority to governments. It places a responsibility on governments to provide support services to parents, especially if both parents work outside the home.' This makes it clear that it is parents, not the state, which have this responsibility. We, as parents, will have the child's best interests as our main concern. Our rights and duties are not at odds.

19. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using settings which are not registered independent or state schools, to supplement home education? How can authorities reliably obtain information on the education provided to individual children whose education ‘otherwise than at school’ includes attendance at such settings as well as, or instead of, education at home?

This question is addressing unregistered schools, not home educators. Unregistered schools are not a home education issue. Rather, they are an issue for the local authority in terms of enforcing registration compliance for these schools where appropriate.

It's extremely important that home education groups, run by home educating families, are not conflated with unregistered schools. We are not schools. Conflating the two in this way muddies the waters and pulls a whole group of law-abiding families into an issue of the government's school monitoring process with which they are completely unrelated. It cannot be helpful, for the resolution of the issue of unregistered schools, to so grossly confuse matters in this way. 

20. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using private tutors to supplement home education? How can authorities best obtain information on the education provided to individual children whose education at home includes private tuition, or whom attend tuition away from home?


Tutors are not a home education issue. Tutors are used by all sectors of society, from school parents topping up inadequate provision or focusing on a specialist subject such as a foreign language, to adults revisiting the basics or starting off down a new path, to home educators as one aspect of providing an individualised education suitable for the child's age, aptitude, ability and special needs. Local authorities should not be obtaining any information about people who use tutors; this would be wholly inappropriate and intrusive. Should the government feel that tutors need some form of registration, then this is something that should be discussed with tutors.

22. What might be done to improve access to public examinations for children educated at home?

Local authorities could be provided with exam funding for home educated children. Exam centres could be made easily accessible for home educated children. Local colleges could be more widely encouraged to accept aged 14 to 16 year old home educated children. These are all positive steps that would make it easier for home educated children to access exams should they want to, but would also improve one aspect of how local authorities are viewed by home educating families.

23. What good practice is there currently in local authority arrangements for supporting home-educating families? Should there be a duty on local authorities to provide advice and support, and if so how should such a duty be framed?


My previous local authority, Stoke-on-Trent, considers 'support' to be encouraging/pushing children back into school. Good practice is thin on the ground among local authorities as their focus is very often on imposing a school-like education, which, in many cases, hampers the parents' ability to provide a personalised education suitable to their child's age, aptitude, ability and special needs.

Should a local authority wish to actually offer support, and have the resources to do so, some helpful ones that I have seen include enhanced library cards for home educators and links to local home education groups run by home educators.

24. Should there be a financial consequence for schools if a parent withdraws a child from the school roll to educate at home?

There should be financial consequences for schools if they off-roll pupils.

There should absolutely not be consequences for schools when a parent elects to deregister in order to home educate. The unavoidable consequence of this would be that parents wanting to do so would be pressured not to. This already happens in many cases, which is already unacceptable, so any exacerbation of this would be a very poor outcome.

25. Should there be any changes to the provision in Regulation 8(2) of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 requiring local authority consent to the removal of a child’s name from the roll of a maintained special school if placed there under arrangements made by the local authority?

Yes. Parents should not have to seek consent for this removal. Parents of children using the services of a special school should have the same rights to immediate degregistration that all other parents of schoolchildren have.

26. Are there any other comments you wish to make relating to the effectiveness of current arrangements for elective home education and potential changes?

The primary change that should be made is that all local authorities should be required to recognise the primacy of parents in responsibility for their own children, and recognise the undesirability of intruding on the homes and lives of law-abiding citizens without due cause.

In addition, and local authority staff who will be working in any way with home education should ideally have a background in home education, and should be required to undergo training in home education law, and the various types and practices of home education. This would go some way to removing the hostile and antagonistic 'us and them' environment which is set up by the appointment of people such as former teachers and school inclusion officers, very few of whom have any understanding of learning and education outside the school pedagogy.

27. What data are currently available on the numbers of children being educated at home in your local authority area?

Home educators regularly obtain this data via Freedom of Information requests to local authorities. Numbers vary hugely between authority areas. 

28. Do you have any comments on any of the contents of the call for evidence document in relation to equality issues?

The draft guidance and these questions make it clear that no equality is recognised between those parents who maintain the responsibility of educating their child personally, and those who elect to use the services of a school to do do.

The main stakeholders in this consultation should have been home educators, however, they are not even represented on the drop down options on which to indicate the capacity in which we are completing this form. This gives a clear message about the perception of parents who educate their children without the services of a school.

In addition, children with special education needs run the risk of being disproportionately damaged by the outcome of this guidance, as they may well struggle far more with intrusions such as enforced home visits and questioning by strangers. Many children with special educational needs who were failed by the school system's inadequate ability to provide them with a suitable and safe education  are now home educated, and the suggested that the very system that failed them would now be intruding into their lives in this way is dangerous and not taking the best needs of the child into consideration at all.

29. Comments on Section 1: What is elective home education?

Advice given by David Wolfe QC indicates that flexi-schooled children should not be included in advice relating to children who are not registered at a school, as they are registered at a school. I concur with this.

30. Comments on Section 2: Reasons for elective home education - why do parents choose to provide it?

Section two contains opinions and conjecture, which should have no place in guidance.

It is worth considering why home education would be considered to be a last resort. It is not presented to parents from the beginning as one of their options, their default position in fact. School is presented as a fait accompli. The result of this is that when it comes to the school system failing a child, home education feels like a desperate solution. It is not my experience that, as the draft guidance states, 'When the impetus is a negative one, that may well have implications for the quality of home education which can be provided.' So many parents I know, once realising under these circumstances that the opportunity to home educate their child is there, and taking it, find that they can create this wonderful, personalised, safe education for their child, and say that, had they known about the possibility previously and how positive it could be for their child they would have grabbed it with both hands.

So, although the opinion that a negative impetus may have negative consequences can legally be included in the guidance, the weight that those words carry when coming from the Government should be considered. Such words would very likely be taken as fact by local authorities, rather than pure conjecture.

31. Comments on Section 3: The starting point for local authorities


David Wolfe QC gave advice that ‘a recipient of Government guidance must have regard to it and give effect to it unless there is a basis to depart from it’. It needs to be made very clear to local authorities, in this section, that simply having a local policy isn't a good basis on which to depart from Government guidance. It can be seen across the country that local authorities have policies in place that are not in accordance with current guidance, and significant effort is then required from local home educators to push them to bring it back in line with it. This should not be necessary and should be protected from, from the outset. 

32. Comments on Section 4: How do local authorities know that a child is being educated at home?

The guidance should make it clear that routine data sharing, on the basis simply that a child is home educated, is not acceptable. It does not fulfil the requirements of either the GPDR or Article 8 of the ECHR, as I detailed previously. Some local authorities actually have such illegal data sharing written into their home education policies, or in letters to families, so it needs to be stated from the outset that this kind of data sharing without the express consent of the parents, unless it is necessary to prevent significant harm to the child, is not allowed.

Local authorities have no need to know that a child is being educated at home, any more than they need to know that a child is vegetarian or Buddhist.

33. Comments on Section 5: Local authorities’ responsibilities for children who are, or appear to be, educated at home

I have concerns with this section, in that section 5.1 sets out that there is no duty for routine monitoring, then 5.2 speaks of 'proportionate' and 'light touch', then 5.3 puts that judgement in the hands of the local authority. History shows that local authorities abuse the powers they already have, insisting that, even where home education has already been found to be satisfactory, frequent visits, detailed reports and the showing of a child's private work, for example, are all perfectly reasonable and backed by law. An approach that was proportional and light touch would not require anything of law-abiding citizens unless concerns were raised, in which case enquires could then be made.

5.4 outline, contradictorily, routine monitoring on an annual basis. This isn't a desirable aim, as outlined previously, as it is disproportionate when no concerns have been raised, intrusive on family life, and a waste of resources when they are so very much needed elsewhere.

34. Comments on Section 6: What should local authorities do when it is not clear that home education is suitable?

David Wolfe QC has given advice which states that local authorities should not insist on meeting home educators or getting them to complete their responses in a designated manner. Both of these are unnecessarily prescriptive, and this needs to be made clear in the guidance. In addition, local authorities, including Stoke-on-Trent, regularly turn up at people's houses with no warning, and there are national reports of police doing the same to home educated children. Threats of social services for non-compliance with overly-prescriptive reporting demands are also reported in various local authority areas. It should be made clear in the guidance that these types of actions are unacceptable, and that responses to satisfy concerns, during the proper process, can take any form that communicates the information. These types of poor practice further perpetuate the hostile 'us and them' environment, and make what should be a simple process of addressing concerns into an antagonistic, and not at all transparent, affair.

35. Comments on Section 7: Safeguarding: the interface with home education

Section 7.7 states that 'in other cases a local authority  may need expert advice form teachers or educational psychologists'. It needs to be made abundantly clear that teachers and other professionals whose only frame of reference is the school pedagogy may actually not have the expertise or understanding of the wide range of effective educational approaches used in home education to be able to advise effectively.

It should be made clear, as laid out in Section 3.6 of the current guidance, that a parent declining a home visit does not constitute grounds for concern about the education being provided. It would also be helpful for medical professionals to be made aware of this, due to the frequent occurrence of home educated children being referred to social services by these medical professionals simply because they are home educated.

36. Comments on Section 8: Home-educated children with special educational needs (SEN)

I have the responsibility to provide an education suitable for my individual children's ages, aptitudes, abilities and any special needs they may have. This applies equally to my children who would be considered to have special educational needs and those who would not. There should be no difference.

37. Comments on Section 9: What do the s.7 requirements mean?

It needs to be made very clear here that local authorities should not be measuring the suitability of home education by referencing the school pedagogy, or what is expected of schools. Home educators are much better placed to provide an individualised education suitable for the child's age, aptitude, ability and special needs, and so the individual educations, timescales and visible results at various parts along the way will all look very different.

Sections 3.13 to 3.16 of the current guidance are very important as they were very effective in making clear that home education does not need to look like school. This information should be retained in any new guidance, as the loss of it will give local authorities perceived legitimacy in insisting on more formal, school-like, approaches, regardless of the suitability for each individual child.

The guidance also needs to make it clear that whatever approach is taken by a local authority, it only shapes how they exercise their powers, it does not mean that they can determine what a home educating parent can or cannot do in discharging their Section 7 duty.  Once a local authority has discharged its obligations with regards to notices and SAOs, where applicable, the court would determine whether any section 443(1) offence was committed. This overarching impression given by many local authorities in their dealings with home educators is that they are the arbiters of suitability, and this, again, leads to an antagonistic and hostile relationship.

Section 9.9 has the issue that it will lead local authorities to believe that they can set hours in which and for which children need to do certain types of work. Stoke on Trent local authority already does this, with no basis in law. It needs to be made clear in the guidance that such rigid policies are not acceptable, nor desirable, as they enforce an environment where it is not possible to focus on the individual needs of the child.

38. Comments on Section 10: Further information

I don't think that home education guidance should address flexischooling, as these children are registered at a school. However, I think that further constraining what head teachers can and cannot approve of is unhelpful and ties their hands even further than has already been done with many aspects of the school system.

39. Comments on Section 1: What is elective home education (EHE)?


Why are there separate sections for local authorities and parents? This further perpetuates the 'us and them' mentality, and is unhelpful in the way that it discourages local authorities from being an approachable and supportive resource and into being an educational police for those who don't use the school service. 

40. Comments on Section 2: What is the legal position of parents who wish to home educate children?


It is the parent who has a duty to provide an education suitable for the age, aptitude, ability and special needs of each individual child. They are the arbiter of the first instance as to what is suitable, just as they are with any other aspect of raising their child. Schools are monitored and reported on so that parents can assess the suitability of the education being provided. There is no need to assess and report back to me on the education I am providing for my own child, it is backwards and unnecessary.

It should be made clear that, if any parent does fail in their duty to educate their child, the decider of this is the court, not the local authority. 

41. Comments on Section 3: So what do I need to think about before deciding to educate my child at home?

For any aspect of raising my children, I consider whether each decision is in their best interests. Whether this is the food they eat, the activities they choose, any religion they wish to follow, and how I will educate them. The law takes the same position, not stating that our children must be educated in accordance with the school model or what our current local authority views as suitable, but instead suitable for that individual child's age, their specific aptitudes, their own ability, and any special needs that that individual child has. 

So one question: Is it best for them?

42. Comments on Section 4: If I choose to educate my child at home, what must I do before I start?

1. If they have never been registered at a school, then proceed to educate them to suit their age, aptitude, ability and any special needs they may have.

2. Notify the school in writing, obtaining a proof of receipt in case of issues. Then proceed to educate them to suit their age, aptitude, ability and any special needs they may have.

43. Comments on Section 5: What are the responsibilities of your local authority?

I consider my local authority's responsibility to be making informal enquiries should any specific concern be raised regarding the education of my children. I can then address that specific concern, then they will have no further responsibility. Should someone not be able to address the specific concern raised by the proper process, then it is the local authority's responsibility to follow the correct procedure for addressing these concerns, and leaving the decision with the court should it come to that. 

44. Comments on Section 6: Further information

I feel very strongly that there should be one set of guidance for both local authorities and parents, rather than separate ones.

45. Do you think that anything in the revised guidance documents could have a disproportionate impact, positive or negative, on those with 'relevant protected characteristics' (including disability, gender, race and religion or belief) - and if so, how?


I believe, as previously stated, that children with special education needs will be disproportionately affected by this guidance.

Families who home educate in a child-focused, rather than curriculum-focused, way, are more likely to be negatively impacted by this guidance due to their philosphical beliefs, due to the fact that the guidance, and demonstrably local authorities, have mainly only school experience and therefore a focus on enforcing an education that resembles school.

I also think that, due to the conflation of unregistered schools and home education, which has been made clear in these questions and the draft guidance, there is a very real possibility of the guidance disproportionately affecting people of certain races and religions who may be profiled as more likely to attend an unregistered school.


Sunday, 5 March 2017

#100daysofvideogames Days 16 to 25

DAYS 16 TO 25
 
Another multiple update (busy week and no chance at all to write this, so I know I've missed lots of things out!)
 
There's been quite a lot of playing apps together, either helping each other learn each other's favourites or competing on scores. Steps, Pen Pineapple Pen, Six!, and Mario Run have featured highly in this! 
(Hand eye coordination, team work, numeracy, problem solving)
 
 



Pok√©mon Go has been played a few times this week by Squidge and Moppet, with a lot of reading names, comparing CPs, and checking how long until eggs hatch. 
(Numeracy, literacy, achieving goals)
 
 

We saw Ben Garrod in So you think you know about dinosaurs..? at the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre, and Sprout knew the answers to a lot of the questions from playing Primal.
(Prehistory, evolutionary biology)


Sprout turned eleven and requested a BoS cake, so I made him one, and I also managed to get Fallout cupcake toppers, so he enjoyed telling us all what each picture was of and the relevant power armour numbers.
(Mummy points, sharing information)
 

 

Moppet has been playing a few dress up apps, and has been asking a lot what different words say.
(Literacy, creativity)
 

We had a trip to the National Videogame Museum in Nottingham, where they played lots of new and retro games, and also took part in a Makey Makey workshop to make their own gaming controller.
(Technology, history, creativity, design, circuits, physics)
 



Sprout was watching some Piemations related to a game he'd been playing, and they made a comment about Stars and Stripes and hammer and sickle, so he looked some things up and then asked me the relevance, and we chatted briefly about the Cold War, communism, Russia and the USA.
(History, politics, making connections, finding information) 
 

Sprout started playing Animal Crossing New Leaf, and began by thinking of a town name; he wanted it to be made of two words, sound happy, have a last work that meant 'town', and there was a restriction that it could be no longer than eight letters. Lots of discussion later, he decided on Newfalls, and started catching lots of fish, making puns to me about their names.
(Literacy, numeracy)

Sprout and Squidge both downloaded Wallpaper Engine, and played with some graphic equaliser-type wallpapers with various tracks, some clock ones, some ones that created various types of patterns, and an animated DNA double helix. 
(Music, art, numeracy, biology)

Squidge recognised the title of a videogame in the background of an unrelated film that I was watching.
(Literacy)

Sprout came and chatted to me about some research some at Dartmouth a few years ago on rhesus macaques, which looked at their reactions to the colours red and blue. He then talked about some statistics shown on the Game Theory channel about the relative wins and losses of red and blue teams in various sports and videogames, telling me that he thought that it might be down to evolutionary psychology, with its roots possibly in the non-verbal origins of humanity, the appearance of red in nature as a warning sign, and maybe the fact that red is the colour of blood. He talked about the differences if a player is allocated or freely chooses red or blue, and reasons why he thought that all sports teams didn't just choose red strips. We talked about what other research could be done to narrow down whether the response to red vs blue is inherent or learned, such as experiments using various ages of children, and various nationalities. 
(Psychology, evolution, history, science)
 

Sprout played some Assassin's Creed, and then chatted to me about the eras in which the games in the series are set. We talked about the Middle Ages, Victorian times, when Big Ben was built/installed, and in what era steampunk was intended to be.
(History, art)
 
 
 
 
 Squidge completed his Minecraft and Overwatch multimedia pieces at art group too. 



 

Friday, 24 February 2017

#100daysofvideogames Day 15

DAY 15

Sprout continued his Skyrim quest first thing, searching for Sheogorath, the prince of madness. He found him, seated at a table set for tea, in the middle of a forest. He noted the similarity to the Mad Hatter :) I commented on the similarity between the name of his Daedric artefact, the Wabbajack, to the Jabberwocky, and he asked me briefly about that. He also found the Northern Lights, experimenting with character points of view to see how they looked the best, and telling me about the real northern lights. 
(Achieving goals, following story, comprehension, physics, literacy, making connections)


Squidge played a bit of Spiral, which was frustratingly difficult, and then some Blockheads, which is always a favourite he comes back to. He and Moppet then played around with effects on Snapchat and MSQRD.
(Hand eye coordination, creativity)
 
 
 


 


Squidge and Moppet showed their grandma and grandpa their Pokedex, explaining which had the best CP, which ones evolved into what, and showing the symbols to tell whether they were male or female
(Numeracy, literacy, science)
 
 
 
Squidge showed them some Velociraptors on his AR app, and was telling me their size in relation to humans. He also showed me a couple of his new apps, including Steps, and Fit in the Hole.
(Prehistory, numberacy, comparisons, hand eye coordination, problem solving)
 

 

We all had a few games of Heads Up, using the animals pack.
(General knowledge, literacy, quick thinking)