Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Our Very Own Monitoring Policy

I have today introduced a monitoring policy for the staff at Barking and Dagenham Elective Home Education Department:

Many people make a success of holding down a job whilst also complying with the law, and make at least satisfactory provision.  However, because local authority staff are not monitored and supervised by the general public whom they serve, there is the potential for abuse of their power, and neglect to properly follow existing law and procedures, to go unnoticed.  This possibility has been thrown into sharp relief by some recent high-profile cases in which children have died due to failures by local authorities to follow proper and legal procedures.

The law gives no power or duty for members of the public to investigate any instances of people working for the Elective Home Education department which come to their attention, unless there are grounds for suspicion that a law is being broken in which case, as with all breaches of law, this can be reported to the appropriate authorities.  This is clearly an untenable position in that, without gathering information in a reasonably systematic way, the public will have little basis on which to judge. 

  • ·        There is no statutory right to see the local authority staff or to enter the place at which they work, or their home.
  • ·        Monitoring of them by the public is not required in law and it is therefore difficult to engage with elective home education staff who are resistant or resentful of the people they serve wanting to ensure they are not acting outside the law.

The above might lead a member of the public to decide not to engage with monitoring the local authority staff themselves.  However, despite clear difficulties and impediments, I will do all I can to monitor each case which comes to my attention. I view this as important in order to safeguard families to whom these public servants try to gain access. Monitoring also provides the opportunity to offer local authority staff advice on the actual law and to signpost opportunities available for either complying with the law or finding another career. This is not a statutory role for members of the public but is clearly desirable in the interests of supporting children and families in the face of local authority staff who have no clue. The vast majority of parents subscribe strongly to their responsibility to act as Champion for their Child.

Where it is necessary to point out weaknesses, we should always seek to sustain positive relationships with the staff member no matter how much they have acted outside the law to try and gain access to people's homes and families.  It is important to encourage the local authority to cooperate.  If this is not done, monitoring them may become difficult or impossible.

It may also be appropriate to discuss the elective home education team's reasons for taking up their positions.  If they are not working to support home education for philosophical reasons, it may be helpful to suggest ways of accessing a suitable and acceptable alternative career via the job centre or the opportunities section in their local newspaper.

The notion of EHE policy being based on bias towards school, erroneous conflation of education and welfare, and a complete misunderstanding of home education, is unconvincing in relation to the law.  The very existence of relevant laws implies that the local authority should work within them, not simply follow the random choices of their ultra vires policy writers.  It is probably insufficient for the local authority simply to begin with complete ignorance and, well, continue in that vein. 

If access to the EHE team's offices or homes was denied to the member of the public, the commentary should make clear the degree to which the public servant was willing to engage with the process and the nature of the interaction (ie entering their home without the support of law).

A summary judgement should be made about the degree to which the compliance with the law is suitable 

    • Positive judgements would be likely to arise from:
      • EHE staff members complying with the law
      • EHE staff members not working outside the law
      • EHE staff members not lying, either verbally or in written form, about what the law actually says
    • Negative judgements would be likely to arise from:
      • LA policies that make up the law and guidance as they go
      • LA policies that show clear bias towards school
      • LA policies that show a complete ignorance of how different types of home education work.
      • LA policies that clearly conflate education with welfare
      • LA policies that show bias against families who don't allow access to their home to random strangers who have decided they want to see your kids. I mean, really.
      • LA staff that write in green biro. (Hey, it's my policy, ok?)
Appendix 4     Record of unsuccessful attempts made to monitor Elective Home Education staff members

This form should be used to record all unsuccessful attempts to make arrangements to monitor the activities of the Elective Home Education staff in their offices and homes.  The record must be accurate since the evidence could be used in any legal action which may de decided upon. 

To summarise, although this entire policy of monitoring these public servants at their place of work and in their homes has no basis in law, could likely be seen as intrusive, and easily construed as harrassment, I'm going to implement it anyway. No arguments from EHE teams I'm assuming? Barking and Dagenham? No? After all, your sterling work is what inspired me. 


  1. I think you're LA is aptly named "Barking", as in "Barking mad!!!"

  2. Luckily it's not my LA, although mine's no better o_O