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Cheshire County Council One

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 7 months ago




AHEd members' letter to Cheshire County Council

Wednesday October 17th 2007


TO: Shirley.Harris@cheshire.gov.uk; linda.walker@cheshire.gov.uk; joan.feenan@cheshire.gov.uk;info@cheshire.gov.uk



SUBJECT: Cheshire County Council's Calls for Tougher Home Education Regulations


To Cheshire County Council,


Dear Councillor Harris and Cheshire Childrens' Services Executive,


Action for Home Education (AHEd) members are concerned about your press release of September 4th 2007:


http://www.cheshire.gov.uk/PR/2007/september07/326-07.htm entitled "Cheshire Calls for Tougher Guidelines Concerning Home Education".


AHEd members have expressed their dismay at the implication, in the header of the press release, that people other than the Children's Services Executive in Cheshire are calling for legislative change. AHEd members in Cheshire and other home educators are certainly not calling for these changes and resent your sweeping statement.


The Executive appear to have a fundamental misunderstanding about the purpose of government guidelines, which are designed to clarify the law not to modify it to suit individual preferences or prejudices. To "toughen up" the guidelines in the manner you are calling for, would be to overstep and/or contravene current legislation. For example, Shirley Harris stated that:


“Elective home education is the only area of education and child care that is not subject to more rigorous statutory regulation concerned with quality assurance and accountability" and" there is also a need for a standardised system of monitoring visits and reporting to parents which should be applied to all local authorities.”


What Ms Harris has failed to understand is that it is not stipulated anywhere in current legislation that parents are accountable to the state with regard to the way they educate their children so long as they fulfil the requirements of Section 7 of the Education Act 1996. Quality assurance and accountability procedures are safeguards put into place for those who utilise public services and are neither necessary nor desirable in personal provision situations. They would in those instances be ultra vires in addition to being a contravention of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.


Were Ms Harris's statement to be taken seriously, legislation would have to change so that it became clear that statutory regulation of every aspect of parenting became more rigorous and standardised in all families, not just those opting for home education. Is this really what Ms Harris requires?


Parents are ultimately legally responsible for the care and education of their children. Ms Harris appears to be calling for the state to become responsible. This would require a change in legislation. What she may not have considered, apart from the moral aspect of removing the right to parent one's own child, is that such a change would leave Local Authorities (LAs) wide open to mass litigation from disgruntled parents unhappy, for example, with the provision in some of the country's failing schools including those in Cheshire.


Ms Harris also states:


"Children should also be involved and consulted if their parents want to elect home education (sic) so that their needs and aspirations are taken into account."


It is far from clear why Ms Harris thinks that parents are failing to do this. Most home educating parents are following this route precisely because they have consulted their children and respected their wishes and aspirations and continue to review the position in regular conversation with their children. To expect the state to intervene usefully on this point is extremely misguided, for not only would family privacy be surrendered, but most families would find such intrusion extremely anxiety-provoking, utterly unnecessary and all at great expense to the tax payer. It is also disingenuous to discriminate against home educated children in this manner, given that the majority of schooled children are not even informed about the legal right to be home educated, never mind consulted about their preferred place of education or their needs and aspirations. Home educators listen to their children on these very issues, provide personalised learning and adapt their provision regularly to the unique needs of their children.


Further, in calling for a separate compulsory registration system for home educators, Ms Harris, appears to be demonstrating a lack of faith in the efficacy of Contact Point, the children's database, which nominally should provide a system of de facto registration for all children including those being educated otherwise than at school. If she does not believe that the database will be efficient, perhaps the electorate in Cheshire would be interested to hear that their councillors consider the hugely expensive project unlikely to work?


AHEd would like clarification from Cheshire Childrens' Services Executive whether they have misunderstood the current legal position or are in fact calling for a change in legislation and if so on what evidence they base this requirement.


Yours sincerely,


(Chair, AHEd.) For the committee and membership of AHEd

http://ahed.pbwiki.com/ The Action for Home Education Group.


AHEd Press Release

See the AHEd Press release.




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