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BMWhatDoWeWantLAs

Page history last edited by Clare 12 years, 8 months ago

 


 

 

06.05.09

This introduction was sent to Mr Badman (06.05.09) as part of the AHEd Dossier.

 

What Do We Want: Intro 

 

Home educators have been asked by members of the review team what home educators want from local authorities.

 

AHEd's review of local authority involvement with home educating families has identified widespread and endemic problems which have negative impacts on home educated children and their families.  

 

The problems identified fall into several categories such as:

 

    * Disrespectful treatment including harassment

 

    * Ill-informed staff who misunderstand the law relating to home education.  

 

    * Lack of  information about home education which is either accurate or which does not present home education as a choice equal in law with school education.   

 

    * Discrimination against home educated children and their families in accessing public services

 

AHEd are currently preparing a dossier of information on these points and would be happy to share the details with the review panel if required.

 

30.05.09

The review has still not reported. A copy of the full document, below, has been sent to Mr Graham Badman as a matter of courtesy following its completion and agreement by AHEd members.

 

11.06.09 The review has reported and is far from satisfactory:

see

The Badman Report

AHEd's submission to the Better Regulation Executive

AHEd's Briefing Paper

 

What Do We Want From Local Authorities? (full document) 

 

Home educators have been asked by members of the review team what home educators want from local authorities.

 

AHEd's review of local authority involvement with home educating families has identified widespread and endemic problems which have negative impacts on home educated children and their families.   

 

The problems identified fall into the following categories:

 

  • Disrespectful treatment including harassment and inciting other agencies to harass home educators, such as inciting the Police during truancy patrols and reporting families to social services, or threatening such action, despite there being no evidence of any risk to a child.

 

  • Ill-informed staff who misunderstand the law relating to home education.  This leads both to individuals and teams acting beyond their legal remit and to the common misunderstanding that they have insufficient powers to deal with problems when they arise.

 

  • Lack of  information about home education which is either accurate or which presents home education as a choice equal in law with school education.  Where information exists, it is more often than not inaccurate and misrepresents the law, giving parents the impression that the local authority has powers which it does not.

 

  • Discrimination against home educated children and their families in accessing services.

 

AHEd expects, as a minimum, the following for all home educators from all local authorities:

 

  • Adherence to the law

 

  • Decent, respectful treatment

 

  • Properly trained staff who understand the limitations of their role in respect of education legislation

 

  • Freely and widely available accurate information about home education

 

  • Fair, unconditional access to appropriate local services

 

  • An end to institutionalised discrimination created by local government structures

 

  • An end to truancy patrol harassment

 

Adherence to the law

 

More than 3000 people signed AHEd's recent petition to the prime minister:

 

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to remind his government that parents must remain responsible in law for ensuring the welfare and education of their children and that the state should not seek to appropriate these responsibilities.

 

We ask him to remind ministers that recent DCSF consultations have concluded that current law, when applied correctly, is sufficient to the task of protecting home educated children should parents fail in their duties, and that the law represents a satisfactory balance between protecting children and the need for privacy and autonomy in family life."

 

This request for the Prime Minister to uphold and properly enforce current legislation reflects the common experience of home educators that local authorities do not do so. Therefore:

 

Adherence to the law: changes required

 

  • LAs to restrict themselves to requesting information if there appears to be a failure by parent(s) to meet their duty under Section 7 of the Education Act 1996.
  • LAs to make proper use of Section 437 of the Education Act 1996 where appropriate and to honestly recognise that if s437 does not apply there is no case to be made.
  • Sensible and appropriate use of Social Services to investigate reasonable suspicions, raised about a home educated child, that are not education-specific. (This would not include, for example, routine "safe and well" checks of all home educated children.")

 

Decent, respectful treatment

 

Home educators expect to be treated with courtesy and respect when using public services.  AHEd asks you to reflect on the fact that we make this statement at all; what does it reveal when members of local communities are very often NOT treated in this manner? Prejudice? Discrimination? Ignorance?

 

Local authority officers who work with families may come into contact with home educators - whether they are aware of it or not - and it behoves those service providers to know their customers and to treat them with common decency.  In practice, home educators notice a marked difference between the attitudes of those local authority  personnel providing services to the whole community - for example librarians, people working in parks services etc - who are almost always positive, helpful and respectful and those working in specialist children and family services such as education and social care, where, somewhat ironically, we are far more likely to come across attitudes ranging from the hostile and suspicious to the downright punitive.

 

In a recent interview Nick Hardwick, the chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, warned that the Police should remember that they were the servants not the masters of the people. Local authorities also need to be reminded of this.  

 

Attitudes: changes required

 

  • Home educated children and their families to be treated with the courtesy and respect due to every member of society
  • An end to discriminatory treatment of home educators based on their class, family make-up, income etc

 

Properly trained staff

 

Home educators experience many local authority workers who have little or no understanding of the existence of home education as a valid and legal educational choice.  This often leads to distressing encounters for home educated children and their families. For example:

 

  • being stopped and questioned by police officers, and in some cases coerced into giving personal details, prevented from going about their business or even forced into police cars;
  • being "doorstepped" by social workers with limited or no knowledge of home education who proceed to make ill-informed and prejudiced judgements;
  • when LA personnel assume they have a duty to monitor home education and to see the child. It appears that a majority of staff find it difficult to accept or understand that when a parent home educates, they remove the need for the LA to routinely oversee a child's education - that the parent in those instances IS the child's local authority as home education is not a public service.
  • when "specialist" staff charged with working with home educating families lack understanding of home education methods and practice and make inappropriate demands.

 

Properly trained staff: changes required:

 

  • Staff in ALL local authority services informed about the legal and equal choice to home educate
  • All staff working specifically with home educators understand and respect different approaches to home education; for example, autonomous home education methods and philosophies. 
  • All staff to have a clear understanding that the responsibility for ensuring a suitable education lies with the parent which means LAs do not have a routine duty to monitor elective home education.

 

Accurate information, freely available

 

One of the key difficulties for families making the decision to home educate is that clear, unbiased, legally and factually accurate information about home education is hardly ever provided to them by local authorities.  It is very rarely provided at the stages when it is most needed, i.e. in the year before compulsory education age (mostly referred to by the legal misnomer "compulsory school age") and when children are experiencing difficulties with school. 

 

Instead, local authorities typically provide information only reluctantly and on request and generally misrepresent the legal situation; for example by stating that home educators have to be monitored by the local authority.

 

Information: changes required:

 

  • The wording of the Education Act 1996 and other interconnected legislation, guidance, guidelines and information materials  to be amended from "compulsory school age" to "compulsory education age" (in lieu of removing compulsion in education altogether).

 

  • Clear, unbiased, legally accurate information available to all parents with children approaching compulsory education age and at all choice points during a child's compulsory education years.

 

Fair Access to services

 

Public services often discriminate against home educators because the people staffing and managing them do not understand or respect that there is a legal right to home educate making access to services impossible or at least considerably difficult. For example, they may be asked to provide the name of school to access reduced prices for children.  While some frontline staff are happy to write "home educated", others are uninformed and therefore block access to services.

 

This discrimination extends to fundamental human rights such as access to healthcare, such as optical care, which is free to over 16s in full time education, but which is increasingly denied to home educated young people because opticians have to complete a return for local authorities that asks for a school to be identified.  There is no option for home education on this return so opticians are reluctant to complete it, presumably because they fear they will not be reimbursed for their services. 

 

Fair Access:  Changes required:

 

  • Equal access to services available to children and young people without having to provide additional information
  • An end to discrimination based on educational choice.

 

An end to institutionalised discrimination

 

Home educators in every region of the country report an invidious attitude amongst LA personnel, particularly those specifically tasked with working with children and families, such as education and social work departments.  This attitude says, in effect, that there are "types" of people who are deemed suitable to be left alone to educate their children, and other types who are not.  In essence, those that are left alone tend to be middle class, articulate and assertive - and usually deemed to have sufficient education themselves.  Those who are discriminated against - based not on evidence but on prejudices which are both personal to LA officers and institutionalised in the organisation - are more likely to be working class, claiming benefits, living in certain post code areas, may be parenting alone, and often have been failed themselves by the state education system.

 

AHEd would like local authorities to educate themselves and their staff to understand the reality of home education for these lower income, lower social status households - which in a nutshell is that the educational and social outcomes for their children are likely to be considerably better when they are home educated than state school educated (ref: Rothermel).  This is the case even when the parents themselves do not "measure up" to the level of education that LA officers think they should have.  This is because the key factor predicting good outcomes for children is a motivated, involved parent;* by definition this is what home education provides.

 

*eg: Feinstein and Symons (1999) found that parental interest in their child's education was the single most powerful predictor of achievement at age 16. ...

www.literacytrust.org.uk/familyreading/ParentalInvolvement.doc

Discrimination, changes required:

 

  • All local authority, health and related services that may be accessed by children, young people and families to be subject to an Equalities Impact Assessment focusing on home educated young people and their families.

 

An end to truancy patrol harassment

 

Home educators were promised in parliament that the Crime and Disorder Act relating to truancy did not apply to home educators. However, we have seen repeated harassment of home educators going about their lawful business, up to and including the abduction from a public street by Police of a home educated child, despite the child's protestations and their being positively identified by the local Postman as being home educated. Local authorities have used the police's ignorance of the law to harass home educators with threats of arrest and removal of children. All this injustice occurs simply for being about during school hours with children in a public place.  

 

Truancy checks: changes required:

 

AHEd members believe that truancy checks are an enormously, ineffective waste of public funds, are an incitement to harass honest and innocent children and parents, are conducted by people mostly ignorant of the law and briefed without proper recourse to the law from Guidance that misinterprets the law and should be stopped immediately. At the very least, those involved should be instructed that as soon as a declaration of home education is made that they must let the person(s) accosted, freely on their way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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