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ConsultResponseRegMonProposals

Page history last edited by starkfamily1@... 12 years, 5 months ago

Home Education - registration and monitoring proposals

Launch Date: Thursday 11 June 2009

Closing Date: Monday 19 October 2009

Consultation Results  published: 10.01.10

 

Here is the response of AHEd members

This response was posted to DCSF 2.35am 18.10.09

Response identifier: Your response identifier is 3218.

 

Personal Details

  • Please tick if you are responding on behalf of an organisation.
  • Please tick if we can contact you in the future.
  • Please tick if you would like us to acknowledge your response.
  • Please tick if you would like us to inform you when the consultation results are published.

 

Respondent Information Questions

 

Please tick the box that best describes you as a respondent.

  • Other (please specify in box below)

 

Please Specify: AHEd is a group of home educators and supporters working for the rights and freedoms of home educating families. This is a joint response representing the voices of our membership.

 

Consultation Questions

1

Do you agree that these proposals strike the right balance between the rights of parents to home educate

and the rights of children to receive a suitable education?

 

  • Disagree 

 

Comments:

 

NO!

 

These proposals attempt to create a problem that does not exist in order to justify unnecessary interventions.

 

The two "rights" are not in conflict and do not need routine state management. The Education Act 1996, Section 7 already adequately defends both the duties of the parent and the rights of the child.

 

Parents are the natural and legal guardians of their children's rights.

 

The idea that a balance needs to be struck with employees of the state intervening as guardians of children's rights within the family is an assertion that parents are by default assumed to be failing to do so, and not absolved of this presumption of guilt until and unless they are approved of by the state. 

 

This is contrary to one of the most fundamental aspects of the British legal system, our cultural heritage and our morality - that of a presumption of innocence.

 

It would be persecution of a minority group to distinguish elective home educators from the rest of society and automatically remove from them that presumption of innocence based merely on their education choice.

 

There are also already procedures in place if there is an appearance of failure of parental duty to ensure their child's suitable education.  These do not involve the routine intervention by the state, without reasonable cause, to investigate possible guilt.  The proposed routine interventions contravene the rights of children and their parents to a private and family life. (Human Rights Act Article 8.) Parents must be allowed to undertake their legal duties to their children and their moral duty to protect them from harm without hindrance from the state, and many families would refuse to comply with these new proposals for this very reason.  Children must be allowed their right to a secure family home without frightening and damaging intrusion by strangers. 

 

Home education is a necessary freedom and not a conferred right in the gift of government to permit or deny. To deny this option would be an abuse of fundamental human rights and an offence against civil liberties. Home education is part of an historic freedom to be responsible for one's own duties and to carry them out in accordance with one's philosophy and in a way that benefits one's families without fear or having to protect children from unwanted state interference.

 

These proposals completely undermine children's rights, including the right to a suitable education.  Currently a child's parents are responsible for ensuring that they receive a suitable education.  These proposals would transfer that responsibility to the state; the state would become the arbiter of who may or may not home educate.  Thus children and their parents lose the protection of an alternative means of attaining their rights and fulfilling their duty if the state fails to provide a suitable and efficient school education. Parents would have had the fundamental freedom to home educate withdrawn and replaced with a system of permissions, dependent on meeting criteria which can be varied virtually at will by the government of the day - or indeed of the local officer implementing the proposals.

 

AHEd strongly opposes the government's proposal to introduce new legislation to restrict home education.  To base such a proposal on a report so badly flawed as the Badman review is unacceptable.  The Badman review fails to identify specific reasons for needing new legislation, instead relying on personal opinion and the fact that some local authorities are asking for new powers.

 

It does not show how new legislation will improve anything. It does not address how existing legislation could be used more effectively.  The main driver appears to be "safeguarding" (though educational standards are conflated with this issue, making it much more dificult to identify the objectives of the recommendations).  The review found no evidence that home education is used as a cover for abuse.  It instead relies on a suggestion that home educating families are more likely to be known to social services than the population at large.  Even a cursory inspection of the data gathered by Mr Badman both for the review and afterwards for the select committee investigation shows that this is not the case, and based on Mr Badman's most conservative estimates of the home educating population the number of families with a Child Protection Plan in place is at the same level for the home educating population as for the population at large.   As such there is no rationale at all to suggest home educating families should be subject to new legislation.

 

Overall there appears to be no basis for increasing legislation which will affect the lives of tens of thousands of children. New legislation should be proportionate and based on a clearly identified need for change, using rigorous research methods. The Terms of Reference of the review are already in doubt and the subject of challenge.

 

AHEd members are convinced that current legislation is sufficiently robust and far reaching to deal with education and safeguarding issues relating to home educating children, and government should concentrate its resources on effective use of current legislation to deal with any small minority not providing a suitable education or not providing adequate care for their children.

 

AHEd is aware that there are attempts to discredit the voices of elective home educators by those such as Mr Badman who claim opposers of his views are a "vociferous minority". This is an unsubstantiated claim that will hopefully be disproven when a massive proportion of the home edcuation community speak out individually against these Draconian proposals.

 

AHEd asserts that if the majority of responses to this question are "disagree" then the only acceptable response would be for the whole review and recommendations to be discarded. This is just the latest of a string of attempts to introduce registration and monitoring and the response has been a consistent majority opposition to it at every stage.

 

2

Do you agree that a register should be kept? 

 

  • Disagree

     

Comments:

 

NO!

 

The proposal is not wanted and would meet with resistance. 

On no account must any attempt be made to impose a compulsory register upon law-abiding citizens carrying out their lawful duty and exercising their legally valid options.

 

A register implies that all elective home educators are doing something suspicious that needs the close scrutiny of the state.  This denigrates the whole community leaving home educating children's and parents' reputations tarnished by the state. AHEd members' children are extremely insulted that the government wishes to keep a list of them, marking them out from the rest of the society, like wearing a Yellow Badge. LAs don't keep lists of children not taking up other services and they should not keep a list of those not using schools.

 

What is proposed is not a mere register but an annual licensing and monitoring scheme to limit and sometimes deny the lawful options of citizens, so that some are denied their civil liberties arbitrarily. It constitutes a request for permission to carry out one's lawful options. 

 

It is also dangerous to imagine that such a register would prevent abuse of any sort, even if all registered children were also monitored. Any parent with intention to abuse or neglect their child could simply avoid registration even if it were a criminal offence; by definition they already have no regard for the laws that would seek to protect their children. 

 

Such a register would also not assist in finding children missing education because it is unlikely that it would ever be up to date and inter-linked with the school registers and then compared to a list of all children in the country, due to the transient nature of each of those populations.

 

LAs argue that they need to know the numbers of home educated children in order to properly provide services. However, as by any reasonable definition "services" are offers to be taken advantage of and uptake is not compulsory, the number of home educated children will never be the same as the numbers requiring services. LAs must use retrospective customer take-up figures to plan future services much as they will do for other services they provide.

 

AHEd asserts that if the majority of responses to this question are "disagree" that the only acceptable response would be for the idea of registration to be discarded.

 

3

Do you agree with the information to be provided for registration?

 

  • Disagree 

 

 

Comments:

 

NO!

There should be no register. The proposal is not wanted and would meet with resistance.

 

Assuming the question refers to Recommendation 1, page 9 of the Badman report (and if it doesn't this consultation needs repeating due to ambiguity) :

 

The Badman Report suggests that at the time of registration a statement of educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes should be provided.

 

Elective Home Education is the private provision of a child's education by the family; it is none of the state's business what approach, intent or plans the family have. The state's only lawful or moral position is to act where they have reasonable cause to suspect that a family's approach, intent or plans have failed to ensure that a child receives a suitable education.

 

It is wildly disproportionate to subject all home educators to intrusion because of the statistically insignificant number of failures.  It may make a handy emotional argument that plays well in the tabloids to say that "one child failed is one child too many" - and it is - BUT we should not be in the game of weighing one child's trauma against another. It is not a case of one abuse or the other; it is morally repugnant to decide that all home educating children will have to suffer abusive intrusions and their parents be assumed guilty until proven innocent because that is somehow less harmful than one child being seriously failed. This is not akin to Isaiah Berlin's sacrifice of values as quoted in the Badman report, but a sacrifice of home educating families' safety, security, dignity and liberty.

 

It is very worrying that the report does not say why this information is wanted and how it will be used. Such a demand is impossible for those following an autonomous aproach to education to fulfill. It is also very dangerous to have families set out an agenda and then risk being judged by their adherence to that agenda. This is a useful approach for institutions which have to deal en masse with educational plans and outcomes, and to be able to audit their activities to answer to the taxpayer. However, individual families and children can be much more immediately responsive and flexible.

 

4

Do you agree that home educating parents should be required to keep the register up to date?

 

  • Disagree

Comments:

 

NO! As stated above, there should be no register. The proposal is not wanted and would meet with resistance.

 

Apart from the fact that any such register is illegal, immoral and likely to provoke judicial review,  it is frankly unbelievable that the government would impose responsibility for its accuracy and upkeep, upon the subjects rather than the administrators; incredible audacity.

 

5

Do you agree that it should be a criminal offence to fail to register or to provide inadequate or false information?

 

  • Disagree

     

Comments:

 

NO. AHEd does not agree that there should be a register. Therefore of course we cannot agree to this extension of the proposal. The proposal is not wanted and would meet with resistance. 

 

Criminalising possibly many thousands of otherwise law-abiding parents cannot possibly benefit their children or their education.

 

6 a)

Do you agree that home educated children should stay on the roll of their former school for 20 days after parents notify that they intend to home educate?

 

  • Disagree 

Comments:

 

NO! This idea was discussed at length in 2006 when the new Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations were proposed and produced. It was concluded that such a delay was inappropriate and would undo the decision made in 1995 to abolish the legal conundrum of being a registered pupil but not attending and not being able to demonstrate suitable education otherwise. Such a stance would create a conflict with truancy legislation. There would be 20 days when a parent would be in breach of the Education Act 1996. It is not lawful to create new legislation that by default forces a parent into an illegal situation.

 

A freedom delayed is a freedom denied. Children are not necessarily safe in school or the school may be failing them in some other way and in those cases it is essential that parents are able to take immediate action. The welfare of a child may be dependent on deregistration from school;, they should not be compelled to remain on the register.

 

It is quite simple for LAs to insist that a school place is not re-filled for 20 days after vacation by a child deregistering to home educate. This would allow the child equal access to that place with others applying for it - or it could be legislated that the outgoing pupil has "first refusal" on such a place. This would be a proper emphasis on the need for access to a place at the school, rather than giving the impression that the entire intention is to manipulate the child back into the school, with 20 days in which to manage it.

 

It is simple prejudice and discrimination against parents choosing home education to create a policy that displays preference for a school place and not home education when they are equally valid in law. Parents are responsible for deciding on the place of education for their child. If their place of education is the home, that is where they need to be.

 

6 b)

Do you agree that the school should provide the local authority with achievement and future attainment data? 

 

  • Disagree

     

Comments:

 

As stated above, elective home education is a personal, private provision. What happened in school is apart from what may happen in home education and an LA officer has no need to have these records. If they are the property of the state they should be filed in archives and parents should be able to receive copies either automatically or upon request.

 

School assessed achievement and future attainment is irrelevant to home education. As there is no duty to follow the National Curriculum, any school-projected targets will be impossible to measure. There is also a problem if schools over state or understate a child's abilities, in particular where the child has special educational needs. Many parents in AHEd have found, shortly after commencing home education, that what a school has said their child can do, the child cannot in fact do at all.

 

It would also create a two-tier discriminatory system whereby children who had been in school were measured against a school's predictions and those who had never been in school did not have to refer to such ambiguous targets.

 

Do you agree that DCSF should take powers to issue statutory guidance in relation to the registration

and monitoring of home education?

 

  • Disagree

 

Comments:

 

NO. Firstly we do not accept there is any need for new legislation, and hence there would be no authority for the DCSF to issue such guidance.  Should new legislation be introduced in spite of the clear case to not legislate, to allow DCSF to issue statutory guidance in this area would undermine parliamentary process. The details of any such scheme should be set out in any primary legislation introduced, which parliament can scrutinise.  If this does not happen then DCSF can change the regulatory framework without consultation, once again taking more control away from individuals and handing it to government departments.

 

Statutory guidance should remain the domain of details which are neither contentious, nor set out what amounts to entirely new legislation on home education.  Nevertheless government is attempting to alter the entire framework within which home education functions in this country, such as proposing to re-define what constitutes a suitable and efficient education for assessment, sanctioning and monitoring by the state, outside of the framework of properly scrutinised primary legislation.  Any such new definitions will almost certainly be based around current government priorities, which change with alarming regularity in this area.

 

Government espouses "parental choice" - AHEd asserts that part of that choice must be to reject the education policies of the day and educate according to a different set of principles.  To define such a broad concept as education, based on changing ideas, more narrowly is dangerous and undermines children's rights. A range of educational styles and philosophies are well served by current definitions of education which have been shaped by long established statute and further defined by case law.  Allowing those definitions to be undermined by statutory guidance would be an abuse of power.

 

8

Do you agree that children about whom there are substantial safeguarding concerns should not be home educated?

 

  • Disagree

     

Comments:

 

NO.

 

If there are reasonable safeguarding concerns they should be dealt with by the relevant agency. Educational concerns should not be conflated with welfare/safeguarding "concerns".

 

If a child is safe to live in their home for those majority of days and hours when they are not in school, they are safe to be educated there. The only reason a child should be prevented from being electively home educated is where the LA has sound evidence,  enough to persuade a court, that the child is not in receipt of a suitable education otherwise than at school.

 

It is not reasonable or proportionate, to force school attendance as a means of supplementing the oversight of social services. Those services have to work within statute that allows a family to educate their child otherwise than at school with provisos only about the suitability of the education not about welfare or safeguarding which are dealt with separately.

 

"Safeguarding concerns" is also an expression that could cover anything including prejudices and preferences of individual LA officers, many of whom would be meeting with cultural and philosophical life and education styles about which they know very little.

 

Some LAs have expressed concern that individual School Attendance Order and Education Supervision Order processes are too cumbersome, time consuming and expensive and they would therefore prefer the power to prevent home education if their own judgement is that it is not, or would not be, suitable.  This is not an appropriate or proportionate response to the problem. One cannot remove, from all home educators, access to due process simply because that process is difficult; it would be more appropriate to challenge the administration of the process itself.

 

9

Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises where home education is taking place provided 2 weeks notice is given?

 

  • Disagree

     

Comments:

 

NO!

 

The premises are irrelevant as far as Elective "home" education is concerned  because first, homes are not public spaces requiring health and safety checks and second there is no static place of education.

 

AHEd members do not believe that there should be ANY automatic visit to the home, no matter how much advance notice is provided.

 

This proposal would undermine the homes and families of electively home educated children. Compulsory measures carried out against the wishes of the family would destabilise children, deprive them of a sense of security and is simply wrong.  It is disingenuous to use the term "premises" to describe a family home. Obliging families to tolerate forced access to their home would render children confused and vulnerable to illicit approaches by other adults. It is simply wrong and tantamount to state sponsored child grooming. Given the state's record on protecting children in state care, it is not unrealistic to have grave concerns about such proposals.

 

The proposal is disproportionate, expensive, unwanted and would meet with widespread resistance.

 

10 

Do you agree that the local authority should have the power to interview the child, alone if this is judged appropriate, or if not in the presence of a trusted person who is not the parent/carer? 

 

  • Disagree

     

Comments:

 

NO!

 

Why local authority education staff may want greater powers than the police is deeply troubling. Forcing a small, distinct section of the school aged population to allow strangers access to their person, will render those children confused and vulnerable to illicit approaches by unknown adults. It is wrong. It is tantamount to state sponsored child grooming.

 

It is also perverse to declare that children's views must be heard, at the same time as giving no credence whatsoever to any child's view that includes not wishing to meet with LA personnel.

 

The officials who agree to gain access to children by forcible removal from their legal guardians to perform this state-sponsored grooming may do so in a gentle voice and with a big smile on their faces but that will not change the nature of what they are doing. It is child abuse. 

 

The proposal is abusive, disproportionate and expensive; it is not wanted and would meet with resistance.

 

11 

Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises and interview the child within four weeks of home education starting, after 6 months has elapsed, at the anniversary of home education starting, and thereafter at least on an annual basis?  This would not preclude more frequent monitoring if the local authority thought that was necessary. 

 

  • Disagree

     

Comments:

 

No!

 

AHEd members do not agree to forced access to family homes for the purpose of inspection. We do not agree to forced interviews with children, separating them from their natural and legal guardians so that strangers can gain access to them.  

 

The assumption running through this proposed new legislation is that home educating parents cannot be trusted to care for their children unless subjected to continual checks from government. 

 

Even if we did concede any form of visit, four weeks after home education has started many children are still in the very early stages of adapting to a completely new form of education, parents are still finding their feet and intervention from local authority officials, who rarely have an understanding of education outside of the state school system, would cause stress for the family and yield no useful results for either party.

 

The system currently in place is efficient, proportionate, includes due process and access to the justice system. This should not be replaced by the dictat of unaccountable bureaucrats and public employees.

 

The proposal is abusive, disproportionate and expensive; it is not wanted and would meet with resistance.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments (5)

Mieke Tennant said

at 10:01 am on Oct 18, 2009

Fabulous! What an impressive amount of work must have gone into this, to be able to cover all those points so adequately. I feel that my views are very well represented in this response. Thank you!!

OrganisedPauper said

at 10:43 am on Oct 18, 2009

Yes I have to second what Mieke said. It reflects my views completely, only minus the swearing! Well done everyone.

thesurealist said

at 1:33 pm on Oct 18, 2009

And me! So proud to be part of a movement for justice and equality for all. Particularly struck by the excellently worded 'state sponsored child grooming' for that is exactly what is being proposed. Thanks all.
Su

maireandbruce@ntlworld.com said

at 3:08 pm on Oct 18, 2009

Brilliant, very helpful.

Ben Jacobson said

at 7:37 pm on Oct 18, 2009

I have to say that this is very powerful and eloquent. Well done!

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