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HomeEducation-YourViewsReview2009AHEdResponse

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Home Education - Your Views, Review 2009

 

 

AHEd Response

 

AHEd have responded to public consultation which is part of the government review of home education.

 

Despite this consultation being on the DCSF official e-consultation web site, the DCSf are denying that it is a consultation and claiming that it is therefore not subject to the usual regulations and guidance on best practice governing public consultations set by the Better Regulation Executive. Sadly this means that the consultation will not have reached enough home educators and there has been limited time in which to respond.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Consultation Questions

 

1 Do you think the current system for safeguarding children who are educated at home is adequate? Please let us know why you think that.

 

  •  

Comments:

 

The question is ambiguous and any analysis will have to consider that "system" does not equate to "legislation". We have answered "yes" to the implication that the question is about legislation not systems but it is highly probable that most LAs answering this question will assume that their "system" is the same as the "legislation". Therefore we call into question any conclusions drawn from the statistics and have answered for the sake of clarifying the facts rather than justifying this process.

 

The question could also be challenged in a court on grounds of libel or if home educators were afforded the protection from prejudice that other minority groups enjoy. It is only because they are not that you get away with such vile behaviour.

 

Current systems vary between England's local authorities and the use of those systems varies between individual personnel within LAs despite clear guidance issued by DCSF. However, relevant legislation does not vary and IS adequate and proportionate. 

 

We hear from local authorities that they know of cases where abuse takes place in home educating families, but the argument here contains the seeds of its own answer. Clearly, the authorities have become aware of these families within the framework of the current systems and legislation. LAs don't need more invasive powers to find children because HE children are already referred to social services.   HE families are referred by neighbours, relatives, people on the street, other home educators, group leaders, etc.  Almost every HE family is known to many within the community. Indeed, far more home-educating families are already referred to social services than is necessary by any stretch of the imagination, and they have to waste a considerable amount of stressful time trying to clear their names. It is highly unlikely that there are home-educated children who are completely hidden from view, and the law should not be changed to deal with such a hypothetical and exceptional situation, for it would be unlikely to find such a child and would incur enormous costs of various sorts, including financial and manpower ones for local authorities and the costs to family privacy, autonomy and well-being. It would mean that services that are already hugely overstretched would become more thinly spread.  We hear that LAs need to be laying off workers at present, so the situation looks as if it can only get worse. And of course LAs would spend countless hours looking for a needle in a haystack whilst children in real need got less and less access to services. Many of our members report that their home educated children are actually more visible in society than schooled children. Members of the public do not hold back when it comes to asking pertinent questions about why a child is not in school and every home educator will have experienced cross-questioning from strangers; it really is a fallacy to think home educated children are cached away from society.

 

We want to be very clear here that we consider that in those extreme instances where home-educated children have been found to have been abused, the legislation was more than adequate to deal with the situation had it been applied appropriately, yet in each case, the LA systems failed those children - staff failed, not the law: services were either already fully involved and missed the problem or failed to predict how things would turn out, or they had been alerted and failed to pursue the matter as they should have done.

 

It is in any case preposterous to propose that introduction of systems such as compulsory home visits of any regularity, legally imposed curriculum, CAFs or any other invasions into the privacy and primacy of home-educating persons' lives, will eliminate or even reduce risks to home-educated children's safety. If that were so, we would not see such a prevalence of abuse of school-children. It is also a tragic irony and an insult to parents that children in the care of the state, and therefore subject to the most oversight, are at the greatest risk of suffering abuse and failing educationally.

 

LAs must get on with understanding the law and using it appropriately instead of constantly haranguing, rumour-mongering and shroud-waving in pathetic attempts to obtain further unnecessary powers and detract from the fact that their "systems" have failed many children, an extremely small number of whom were home educated.

 

If the government were to increase the monitoring of home educators in order to try to ensure that all children are safeguarded, it must consider that the state will in effect take away the principle that parents are primarily responsible for ensuring the welfare of their children.  In insisting upon universal monitoring for safeguarding of all children, rather than on respecting the age-old principle of intervening only when a parent fails in their duty to a child, the state will become the parent of first resort. It must realise that it will, therefore, be  even MORE liable when it fails to observe its responsibilities to the child.

 

It must also consider the practical effects.  Should LAs start to intervene more, it is highly likely that we will see a further deterioration in relationships between HEors and LAs.  HEors will strongly resist heavy-handed monitoring and intrusion. For example, some home educators have said that they will go underground and stop using all services. Is this really what the government would want for children?  We already know of many home educators who in fact have absolutely nothing to hide who choose not to confide in services because they are well aware that what should be their private information will be spread about to other services via various databases.  If the government insists on attempting to intrude further, spreading more information about through the care system without any consideration for genuine confidentiality, it must consider that contrary to its stated intentions, it will be making the likelihood of a completely "invisible" child far greater. 

 

The government simply must not take the position that in the cause of Every Child Mattering, Every Parent is Untrustworthy; there should be no special or extraordinary safeguarding system for children who are electively home educated. This would be to discriminate against a section of the population who are properly carrying out their legal options and duties. Home education must not attract suspicion of welfare risk or require extra safeguarding procedures in and of itself, any more than any other minority group such as the Jewish community, disabled parents, Muslims or vegans. Children who are educated at home are NOT at additional risk by virtue of their place of education - school attendance does NOT afford a child automatic protection from or detection of welfare problems, therefore no extra surveillance of home-educated children is legally, morally or evidentially justified.

 

AHEd members are concerned that:

 

a) local authority personnel should be properly trained to understand their role in respect to both home-educated children and all children according to current law.

 

b) local authority personnel should be competent in carrying out their roles, as so many clearly have not been as demonstrated by horrendous failures such as in Baby P's case.

 

The government must acknowledge that there will always be mistakes in child protection for the simple reason that human behaviour is not predictable.  Social workers know that they go home every weekend not knowing which family on their case books will do something dreadful to their child by Monday morning and they cannot just throw all these children into care, at the very least because outcomes for children in care are so woeful. The government would be better to acknowledge that Serious Case Reviews are a tragic fact of life and are only indicative of poor service provision if repeated evidence of severe abuse is missed.  The government should not try to cover its back by seeking to change the law so that innocent families will be forced to surrender all privacy and autonomy and in a way which will not ultimately solve the problem.

 

Innocent families have a right to privacy and autonomy according to Human Rights legislation. See articles 5 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights: http://conventions.coe.int/treaty/en/Treaties/Html/005.htm#FN1. Universal monitoring for welfare concerns would certainly contradict article 8 and would probably contravene article 5. 

 

 


 

 

Do you think that home educated children are able to achieve the following five Every Child Matters outcomes? Please let us know why you think that.

 

2 a) Be healthy

 

 

  •  

Comments: 

 

Yes, of course, as much if not more so than any schooled child.

 

This question could also be challenged in a court on grounds of libel or if home educators were afforded the protection from prejudice that other minority groups enjoy. It is only because they are not that you get away with such vile behaviour.

 

The fact that this question is being asked at all suggests to us that expert legal advice has not been sought and we would recommend that lawyer Ian Dowty be consulted re the legal implications of the review.

 

Also, the reviewers must be aware that the question implies an ultra vires concern.  The government does not have a duty to assess the ECM outcomes with respect to individual children. It should assess the quality and efficacy of its own public functions in order to be answerable to taxpayers and meet its obligations in the Education Act 2002, Section 175 and the Children Act 2004, Section 10. However this remit DOES NOT extend into the private lives of any family. It must not do this at the expense of the rights of children and families to determine their own ambitions and assess their own success. It must not seek to extend this duty beyond assessing its public functions, into areas where it has no current duty. Sadly, as mentioned in response to Q5 below, many LAs erroneously think they have legally sanctioned monitoring duties with regard to home education. This in turn leads them to extrapolate from that, a duty to assess the safeguarding and welfare of home educated children by way of evaluating the five provisions of the Children Act 2004 Section 10 (2), which of course they DO NOT have.  It is a sad reflection on those who seek to assess the educational provision of home educators, that they cannot or will not learn this lesson.

 

 Home-educated children are able to choose what outcomes they intend to achieve. The DCSF's Supporting Delivery, Child Well-being and Workforce Strategy Department states that,

 

"The five ECM outcomes are universal ambitions for every child.  The Government's aim is for every child, whatever their background or their circumstances, to have the support they need to achieve these outcomes."

 

AHEd members believe that the ECM outcomes are illegitimately imposed by central government without reference to the children and young people concerned and are the "universal ambition" of government FOR every child, not OF every child. It is not the place of government to impose their desired outcomes on all children or to issue directives that particular outcomes must be attained wherever they are educated, including those who are educated outside the state system. Many children have desired outcomes of their own.  A great many home educators in England and the rest of the UK choose, quite legally, to raise their children as autonomous, self-directing, thoughtful young people who make their own decisions about the outcomes that they seek, and as parents aim to support them to achieve this. The five outcomes of Every Child Matters are not applicable to home-educated children - they are not applicable to any children - they are indicators for public servants to use to monitor themselves and their own work.

 

If the government believes it has a duty to assess for progress towards its ambitions, it appropriates to itself yet another parental responsibility. It should be noted that many home-educating families strongly object to the idea that anyone other than themselves or their children should determine their personal ambitions. State-determined outcomes really do represent an Orwellian level of control, however benign those outcomes may appear.

 

The government must also consider that, should it appropriate the parental responsibility to determine outcomes for children and to assess for them, it can expect to find itself liable when it fails in its duty.

 

Plenty of people think that government appropriation of parental responsibilities as implied in the above question is a step too far.  Please see petition signatures at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Homeedreview/, where people have asked the Prime Minister to alert the DCSF to the fact that relations between home educators and LAs are likely to deteriorate should the state elect to intrude further upon family life.

 


 

2 b) Stay safe

  •  

 

 Yes, of course.  See answer 2a.

 


 

2 c) Enjoy and achieve

  •  

Comments:

 

Yes, of course.  See answer 2a.

 

As a related aside here, it is worth mentioning that home educators repeatedly see and have to deal with the fact that home education is misrepresented in the public mind and we believe that the review with apparent concerns for the outcomes for HE children results at least in part from this misperception.  For example, people who are unaware of the realities of home education often imagine HE children closeted away, slaving amongst piles of books, friendless and miserable.  This is so far from the truth of the matter it is laughable.  HE children are out there in the community, have huge numbers of friends, learn in a multitude of different ways and from different sources.  We do hope the review panel do not have the same misconceptions and are aware of these facts.  We would be happier if the panel clearly included experts on home education, such as Dr Alan Thomas,http://www.infed.org/biblio/home-education.htm, who are fully cognisant of the real situation.

 

It is also of enormous concern that LAs and schools constantly deny, for example, that bullying occurs in their schools and claim that the children are happy and achieving well. In light of the massive statistical evidence against their claims it would be unthinkable, intolerable and insulting to have those same people evaluating whether home educated children were "enjoying and achieving" - most especially where a child had been withdrawn from school because of unresolved bullying. It is in fact intolerable that DCSF are even asking this question.

 

 

2 d)

 

Make a positive contribution.

 

  •  

Comments:

 

Yes, of course. See answer 2a.

 

 


 

2 e) Achieve economic well-being

 

  •  

Comments:

 

Yes, of course. See answer 2a.

 

 


 

3. Do you think that Government and local authorities have an obligation to ensure that all children in this country are able to achieve the five outcomes? If you answered yes, how do you think Government should ensure this? If you answered no, why do you think that?

 

 

  •  

Comments.

 

Please add to your statistics a "No" for every home-educated child in the country (probably upwards of 50,000).

 

See answer to question 2a. 

 

Such an ambition would be totalitarian and an appropriation of parental responsibilities. The government's own guidelines say that they should SUPPORT the achievement of these outcomes in the course of performing their function, not ENSURE them even where they have no duty or function. Before your rush to help the elderly person across the road, check whether that is actually where they wish to go. Ie, if home educating families are asking for support in achieving their own ambitions, offer your help, but DO NOT assume to "ensure" that home educators who are not asking for your support and who do not share your ambitions, are able to reach your centrally determined goal.

 

If the government is sincere about enabling children to achieve their aims, they should recognise that, for home-educated children, it is self-determined home education itself that provides the optimum conditions for their success.

 

The inclusion of the "5 outcomes" jargon in this consultation (that you deny is a consultation in order to avoid legal requirements) is a complete misappropriation of public funds and procedures. The 5 outcomes have absolutely nothing at all to do with home education and are clearly being used as a distraction technique to get people heated up about some non-existent child at risk of only achieving 4 out of 5 because they don't get to tell an LA officer something on a random visit that might save their life.

 

The question also lends itself to manipulative conclusions portraying home educators as wicked people because their consultation replies say "NO" to ensuring the ECM 5 outcomes. AHEd members are fully aware that the question could be hijacked to claim that home education is therefore a risk area. Many home educators are avoiding replying to the consultation because of risks such as this and the overall ambiguity and/or leading nature of the questions.  However, AHEd assert that it is precisely because home educating parents are extremely concerned and well informed about their own children's ambitions and "outcomes", that they choose home education and reject centrally determined plans and ambitions.

 


 

4. Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for supporting home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?

 

  • NO.

     

     

 

There is no system for local authorities or government to provide support to home educators. AHEd members take issue with the misuse of the word "support", used as code for "control". We are already aware that parents who do not require or desire specific public services are tagged negatively as "service refusers" and we are offended by the implication in this question that there is any system at all to support home education further than the grudging admission that it is legal and the placation that no known change is imminent. We are also painfully aware that government desire to alter that fact - under the guise that LAs need closer control to prevent any further tragedies such as Victoria Climbie, the Spry children, Khyra Ishaq or Baby P - whilst actually pursuing stronger control of children's minds and greater separation from parents. Members are outraged at the vile use by the Department of these tragic children's memories, to whip up public anxiety about home education.

 

Home educators receive hardly any genuinely useful support from local authorities.  They often find that local authorities try to mislead them about the current law or that exams and exam centre provision comes with strings attached.  The only "support" they receive from the LA amounts to a pat on the back for "passing" an ultra vires home inspection which they've felt obliged to have, much as a bullied child feels obliged not to tell their parent in case of recriminations. More often the "support" is little more than intrusion into family life, causing anxiety and upset for all.

 

Some LAs have carried out surveys to see how happy home educators are with their "services" but there is evidence that these surveys are sometimes managed in such a way as to draw the conclusion the LA desires; for example by not including in the cohort any families they know to be unhappy with their "services" and by not using independent researchers and therefore leaving participants under pressure to give the "desired" answer to the LA staff who have also put themselves in position of judge and jury of that family's provision. Therefore AHEd challenge any claim by LAs that services are truly required or demanded by home educators.

 

On the other hand, home educators are almost universally an enterprising lot who do manage to access very satisfactory support and resources from private sources, such as home-educating friends, local home-education groups, home education support charities, email lists, the internet, home education books and the community as a whole. 

 

We hear the complaint from LAs that some home educators withdraw their children from schools in a hurry, in desperation at not being able to resolve a problem within the school and without an obvious plan or much knowledge about how to home educate.  The very fact that these parents have been so enterprising as to consider such an action should provide some consolation to LAs.  These parents are MOTIVATED to solve the problems their child has.  They will be MOTIVATED to develop a plan of action.  We have seen many children being withdrawn from schools in haste, sometimes after terrible incidents, such as repeated bullying, being locked in wheelie bins, broken bones, etc.  They ring other home educators in the area, they go to groups, they read up on home education in books and on the internet, they talk to the charity helplines, they find out about home education very, very quickly.  Give these poor parents a chance to parent and to do the right thing, for goodness sake.

 

It is worth considering that what many LAs refer to as support is exactly the thing could cause some home educated children to be less seen in society. Unwanted interference from ill-informed, prejudiced LA personnel causes some home educating families to live their lives trying to stay "below the radar" of the LA. Therefore, rather than trying to increase powers and thereby increase the threat of unwanted interference, the ideal way to ensure that home educated children are supported, achieve their ambitions and are safe, is to reduce LA interference to the absolute minimum the law requires (ie to act ONLY where there is reasonable cause to suspect legal failure) - which is what home educators have been advocating for decades and is what every consultation on the subject so far has concluded. Sometimes the simplest remedies really are the best!

 


 

5. Do you think there should be any changes made to the current system for monitoring home educating families? If you answered yes, what should they be? If you answered no, why do you think that?

 

  •  

Comments: 

 

 

The question is ambiguous and any analysis will have to consider that "system" does not equate to "legislation". We have answered "no" to the implication that the question is about legislation not systems. We call into question any conclusions drawn from the statistics and have answered for the sake of clarifying the facts rather than justifying this process.

 

There are random ultra vires systems for "monitoring" home education BUT there is NO legal system or requirement for doing so. Current legislation is sufficient for enquiry and for action should there be educational or welfare concerns, without recourse to "monitoring". DCSF in its various guises over the years has been made aware of this and has failed to support proper legal practice or to remind errant authorities of the relevant statute. Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities (DCSF, November 2007) clearly states that there is no obligation to monitor so it is an irony to find "monitoring" subject to a question in this consultation.

 

The main thing that needs to change is that the government and LAs need to familiarise themselves with current legislation and respect the facts - as the legislation does -  that education otherwise than at school enjoys legal parity with school education; parents are primarily responsible for the determination of the nature of education and for its provision; the state only has a role when the parent fails in their responsibilities; and a person's home is a private place.

 

Schools Minister Mr Jim Knight recently commented;

 

"The guidelines on home education that we issued in November 2007 have not resolved the concerns of some local authorities about their ability to fulfil their responsibilities in relation to home educated children."

 

This highlights the need for better education of LA staff to enable them to understand their responsibilities, rather than another attempt to change the law to fit the LAs' prejudiced model. It cannot be right to propose asking parliament to alter current legislation simply because LA staff have not received a suitable education and have narrow, simplistic views of education and human rights and an over-inflated idea of their own role.

 

Mr Knight also said:

 

"The recent consultation on guidance for local authorities on children not receiving a suitable education suggested that many people, home educating parents and local authorities included, feel that the guidelines and legislation are confusing and sometimes perhaps at odds with each other. We know there is an issue now and it is right that we identify any barriers - perceived or real - to childrens (sic) entitlement to acheive (sic) the five outcomes."

 

It appears to AHEd to be a complete waste of time, effort and money to go through the motions of two full public consultations re Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities and re Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities in England to Identify Children not Receiving a Suitable Education, to produce new publications (in November 2007 and January 2009 respectively) as a result of those consultations, and then to say a review is still required.

 

This is clearly a constant shifting of the goal posts when the government don't get the score they want after each consultation. When might we look forward to the one after this? Does any other minority group suffer the same level of consultation/review harassment?

 

Home educators do not find the legislation in the least confusing. The guidelines are confusing only when they depart from the law. Local authorities are genuinely confused about the law, but the remedy is accurate guidelines and thorough training, not changes in legislation.

 

It is also essential that anyone wishing to discuss, review or otherwise involve themselves in home education, should familiarise themselves with the outstanding successes of alternative forms of education.   For example, there is now a substantial body of evidence that would demonstrate to anyone who looks without prejudice, that autonomously educated children thrive and do well in life.  They have learned the skills of self-regulation, insight, motivation, how to relate to others without conflict and how to make rational decisions for themselves.  Huge numbers of them go into further education where these skills are extremely useful and routinely flourish there. However many of these same children weren't reading at age 7 or even up to 11. If an ignorant LA officer "monitors" such a child, one who is not being pushed to read or perhaps even perform any academic skills, s/he is likely to eventually serve a SAO and the child will be thrust into a situation where they are almost certain to fail, as schools are still not geared to allowing children to learn at their own pace. This is an example of why there is such tension between home educators and public servants - home education simply cannot be measured with a school yard-stick, which is the only one most LA staff have ever seen.

 

Having said that, even in a utopia where all LA staff were widely informed about alternatives to school, it is imperative for them to remember that they are public servants not public masters and they must only intervene where invited or where a parent is reasonably suspected of failing in their legal duty.

 

The DCSF must consider another extremely important constitutional point; should the state decide to monitor for suitability of education when this responsibility has not been freely delegated by the parents, it would represent a monumental change in the relationship between the individual and the state -  the state becoming the ultimate arbiter of the form and content of a suitable education. Parents would no longer have the ultimate responsibility to determine the nature of education for children.

 

Until now, this right and duty on the part of parents has been protected and enshrined in Protocol 1, Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26, which states "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children".  Should the state decide to monitor every family for suitability of education according to government criteria, the state will in effect appropriate this right and duty.  This will apply to all parents everywhere, not just to home-educating parents.  The state would be ultimately responsible for determining the nature of education, and as such would be held liable when it failed to provide a suitable one.

 

The government would also be wise to be extremely cautious about monitoring for the reason that it is likely to result in state-determined definitions on the nature of suitability of education,  which will implicitly narrow the range of options for all children.  Home educators know that this will be counter-productive.  Children who were desperately failed by the school model and who would doubtless have suffered for the rest of their lives had they been forced to persist with it, thrive with a different approach, for example, when they are allowed to develop at their own pace. The government would be wise to continue to respect this opportunity for genuine educational diversity.  After all, it narrows the educational divide which has been a stated aim of government over the years, and yet which it has not achieved with the introduction of the one-size-fits-all curriculum.

 

The reviewers and the DCSF should be aware that many home-educating parents have been radicalised by the constant stream of abuse they are experiencing in the form of relentless challenges by the Department in the form of consultations, legislations change proposals and rumour spreading. They will not give up the right to educate as they see fit. Some autonomously educating parents have said that they would risk imprisonment rather than allow their children to be educated coercively.  The government could destroy perfectly well functioning families, as well as incur huge costs to the state and children who are truly at risk, if it forges bluntly ahead justifying legal changes with manipulated research and minimal involvement or consideration given to the only true stakeholders. 

 

 

 _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

6. Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this does not happen?

 

 

 

Answer:

 

Besides being totally repugnant, this is another ambiguous question.

Are you asking - a) what should you do to ensure that abuse does not happen? -or - b) what should you do to ensure that "some people" don't express these libelous/slanderous concerns for which they have so far produced absolutely no evidence at all?

 

We will answer both points.

 

a) From response to question 1 - we reiterate -

 

"We hear from local authorities that they know of cases where abuse takes place in home educating families, but the argument here contains the seeds of its own answer. Clearly, the authorities have become aware of these families within the framework of the current systems and legislation. LAs don't need more invasive powers to find children because HE children are already referred to social services.   HE families are referred by neighbours, relatives, people on the street, other home educators, group leaders, etc.  Almost every HE family is known to many within the community. Indeed, far more home-educating families are already referred to social services than is necessary by any stretch of the imagination, and they have to waste a considerable amount of stressful time trying to clear their names. It is highly unlikely that there are home-educated children who are completely hidden from view, and the law should not be changed to deal with such a hypothetical and exceptional situation, for it would be unlikely to find such a child and would incur enormous costs of various sorts, including financial and manpower ones for local authorities and the costs to family privacy, autonomy and well-being. It would mean that services that are already hugely overstretched would become more thinly spread.  We hear that LAs need to be laying off workers at present, so the situation looks as if it can only get worse. And of course LAs would spend countless hours looking for a needle in a haystack whilst children in real need got less and less access to services.

 

"We want to be very clear here that we consider that in those extreme instances where home-educated children have been found to have been abused, the legislation was more than adequate to deal with the situation had it been applied appropriately, yet in each case, the LA systems failed those children - staff failed, not the law: services were either already fully involved and missed the problem or failed to predict how things would turn out, or they had been alerted and failed to pursue the matter as they should have done.

 

"It is in any case preposterous to propose that introduction of systems such as compulsory home visits of any regularity, legally imposed curriculum, CAFs or any other invasions into the privacy and primacy of home-educating persons' lives, will eliminate or even reduce risks to home-educated children's safety. If that were so, we would not see such a prevalence of abuse of school-children. It is also a tragic irony and an insult to parents that children in the care of the state, and therefore subject to the most oversight, are at the greatest risk of suffering abuse and failing educationally."

 

ContactPoint is also intended to be functional in the near future.  It will record every child but should only pursue a situation where there is reasonable cause for suspicion.  There are not enough social workers or resources to do otherwise and the government must not destroy the privacy and autonomy of innocent families as this will impact extremely negatively upon families as they struggle to meet two very different aims: the genuine needs of their children and the often false or arbitrary standards of LA inspection.

 

a and b) AHEd members are aware of the allegations made by the London Children's Safeguarding Board (LCSB) about cases of child abuse under cover of home education and their dissemination to at least nine regions of England during the public consultation on home education guidelines. The claims, repeated by many local authorities, were never substantiated despite investigation. On the basis of this malicious culture of false rumour, baseless accusation and suspicion, a whispering campaign against home educators was carried out during that consultation. The LCSB reported a good "cascade effect" among authorities who would use the information in their responses. This we observed. These continued accusations are the result of prejudice and discrimination. In every situation that has come into the public domain where children have been harmed and abused, it has been the case that they were well known by the authorities who failed in their duty of care and did not use their powers under current adequate legislation, resulting in the suffering or death of a child. What is needed is not more power to interfere in family life, but a proper understanding of existing powers to help children.

 

b) Despite the inference of the question, the abuse in this instance is not perpetrated by home educators but by the DCSF, LAs, the NSPCC and others against home educators. There has been zero evidence put forward to substantiate any claim that any of the afore-mentioned types of "abuse" are performed under the protection of being hidden by inadequate education or welfare legislation. No apologies are put forward by the unfortunately named "Safeguarding Boards" who spread rumours about child abuse in home education, no apologies are put forward by LAs whose fanciful statistics on teenagers missing from school, put to the Home Affairs Select Committee, were conflated with racist assumptions about forced-marriage of compulsory school age girls.

 

Serious consideration must be given to the flawed idea that even if there may be a small number of home educated children who are suffering undetected abuse, that the way to prevent this in future is to increase intervention in all home educators private family life which in itself would be abusive.

 

AHEd members are saddened that the government feels justified in funding this seemingly endless series of "witch-hunts" against home educators - using such emotive but ungrounded language as that in this question whilst it continues to defend the abuse of thousands of school children and whilst the money, time and effort would be better spent researching the causes of abuse and developing preventative strategies. That of course would have to begin with looking what the abusers are learning as children, which is probably too close to home for government to investigate.

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