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EHEguidanceletter

Page history last edited by starkfamily1@... 16 years, 6 months ago

Following information provided to an AHEd member concerning responses to the consultation implicating elective home education as a risk to child safety and welfare from NASWE and LSSLN, AHEd members have written to ministers in the week that guidelines are due to be published, requesting urgent reassurance that hearsay will not be taken into account in the drafting of guidelines on EHE.

 

see AHEd press release.

 

Mon Nov 26 13:16  

 

Dear Mr Balls

 

 

Re: DCSF Guidance notes to local authorities on Elective Home Education

 

 

It is the understanding of AHEd members that you are currently reviewing the responses to and results of the public consultation on the preparation of Guidelines for Local Authorities in England regarding Elective Home Education.

 

 

We appreciate that we had an opportunity to submit our response to this process alongside other genuine stakeholders as part of the due process. However, it has recently become apparent that due process may have been corrupted; some of the responses to the consultation are very likely to have been unduly influenced by hearsay about alleged risks inherent in the elective home education (EHE) community. Two particular issues are of extremely serious concern given their defamatory nature.

 

 

First, the National Association of Social Workers in Education (NASWE) actively canvassed their members, for the purpose of influencing their consultation response, to supply them with “summary information on [EHE] cases that have exposed the dangerous lack of effective regulation and have led to children suffering real harm”. They produced five “cases”, none of which in reality produce any evidence that EHE per se is a risk to children and none of which were not well served by current legislation when properly utilized. One other case they cited had already resulted in a Serious Case Review where it was found that there were shortcomings in the services the children had received. The Commission of Social Care Inspection felt that this was the most significant factor in this case, rather than the fact that the children were home educated for a time. Neverthless, NASWE, an organisation dedicated to promoting school attendance, concluded that these cases highlight a need for tighter regulation and monitoring of EHE. We suggest this is mischievous in the extreme. For our members’ detailed critique of part of NASWE’s submission to the consultation process, please visit

 

 

http://ahed.pbwiki.com/NASWE%20Supplementary%20info%20to%20EHE%20guidelines%20consult%20response

 

 

http://tinyurl.com/3eyzfm

 

Second, the labyrinth that is the network between The London Regional Partnership, The London Schools Safeguarding Leads Network, The London Safeguarding Children Board, The London Child Protection Committee, London Allegations Management Advisors, London Councils, The Association of London Directors of Children’s Services, Care Services Improvement Partnership and others, is a frightening illustration of how hearsay can be dangerously ignited to become a bushfire.

 

Mary Kuhn, Regional Facilitator of the London Regional Partnership, drafted the London Schools Safeguarding Leads Network’s response to the EHE guidelines consultation. During that process the document, which she forwarded to nine regional partnerships and the London Safeguarding Children Boards, included the detail: “The London Schools Safeguarding Leads network is aware of a number of serious child protection cases where the child was electively home educated. This is a major concern…”.  Further, it was minuted at a later meeting that, Mrs Kuhn's draft had been helpful in assisting individual local authorities in writing their own submissions. The document had formed the basis of a London Regional Partnership response and other Regional Partnerships had used it as a basis for their responses so the work had, according to them, caused a “good cascade effect”.

For our members’ detailed critique of the London Schools Safeguarding Leads Network’s response to the EHE guidelines consultation, please visit

 

 

http://ahed.pbwiki.com/London%20Safeguarding%20Network

 

When questioned about the veracity of her claim of “a number of serious child protection cases where the child was electively home educated”, Ms Kuhn was apparently evasive and unable to produce any evidence.

 

Other prominent members of these groups including Ms Christie and Ms Atkins,  have been approached for detail of the alleged EHE risk cases, but unsurprisingly have not, to date, responded.

AHEd members are naturally concerned about any serious child protection issues whether they involve children who are home educated or not. What we will not tolerate however, is any dubious claim that any home educated child has been let down by current statute. There is no evidence to support such a claim and every indication that children who have been let down, have suffered because of inadequacies in LA procedures, not because of inadequate or insufficient legal redress at their disposal.

 

AHEd members question whether there is unspoken pressure on those working with children, to assume that every child is at risk and thus feel a need to actively intervene in every child’s life. It appears that agendas such as “Every Child Matters” perhaps create a culture of mistrust and an illusion that most parents don’t themselves believe that every child, especially their child, matters. They also obfuscate the fact that oversight by state bodies is not a panacea for risk exclusion and can itself put children at risk. Fear of missing the next Victoria Climbie, rather than proper risk assessment, is perhaps driving decision making. It should not have become possible for a caring profession to view elective home education as a risk to children when any proper, rational assessment would conclude that it is not. Yet here we have professional groups using hearsay case material out of context to that end.

These responses highlight an underlying generalised mistrust of parents that appears to be a cultural shift put in place by faulty, knee-jerk reactions to the plight of children such as Victoria Climbie and the Eunice Spry adoptees. It implies that all children not in a school are being denied the benefits of education and safeguarding, whereas the vast majority of them are benefiting from a proven efficient education approach, safeguarded by their parents and the wider community - and those who may be at risk are very well protected by current education and welfare legislation when it is properly utilised.

 

They also appear to imply that home educated children are at the same risks as other children who are not attending a school, which is unjustified, unproven, prejudiced and wrong.

 

Their focus appears to be unduly influenced by the worrying current social culture of separating children from their parents as far as is possible and placing the state in the position of "parent of first resort" and the parent in a position of suspicion and mistrust. AHEd members have reported that this appears to particularly affect families where a child has special educational needs, whereas there is no reason to assume that a parent cannot provide a suitable education for such children otherwise than at a school.

Elective home education is equally valid, in law and in practice, with schooling and is not a risk to children. It is important for local authorities to properly understand this and to utilise current legislation rather than seeking to smear law abiding families in order to promote the creation of stricter regulation and further powers to compensate for the existing and historical failures of public services for children. AHEd members are seriously concerned that the process of public consultation on guidelines to local authorities has been abused for this purpose. 

It seems likely that the NASWE “cases” and the LSSLN “cases” come from the same source, gathered with the intention of fabricating a case for stricter regulation, in particular, a need to separate children from their parents for the purpose of interview by strangers on a routine basis, forcibly if necessary. The two submissions to the guidelines consultation suffer the same flaws, are not relevant to EHE guidelines, and are equally mischievous or misguided in their intent.

We would like your urgent reassurance that Ministers will not give regard to any such hearsay when evaluating results and adapting the guidance document.

 

We would also like your reassurance that if DCSF staff or Ministers have been furnished with further details of the alleged risk cases, that AHEd members and the wider home education community may benefit from sight of them in order to make a more informed response.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

 
 
Barbara Stark
(Chair, AHEd.) For the committee and membership of AHEd
http://ahed.pbwiki.com/ The Action for Home Education Group.
 
 Cc:   AHEd Press Dept – for immediate release

        Mr Jim Knight

        Ms Beverley Hughes

        Mr Kevin Brennan

        Lord Adonis

 

 

 

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