Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Panic ye not...

You may have heard on the grapevine that the SGG have firstly 'leaked' & now spewed their pointless drivel into the public arena (though not their names, as yet). Fear not, the contents are likely to make little impact upon the state of play with LA's & this document is designed mainly to boost some uber-egoists flagging consultancy fees & the such like!... although if anybody can be arsed reading the damn thing critically, then please feel free to point out any issues which you may feel will in any way be of detriment to HEers, as these people really do need reining in.

All else that needs saying about it is here!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

"He's not 'The Messiah'... He's a very naughty boy!... " says bitter Labour minister.

Yesterday important philosophical issues & matters of law, directly relating to the freedoms of home educators, were once again discussed in the House of Commons...
Many home educators could be forgiven for not even realising we were a topic of current political interest, as the parts of the Education Bill being discussed were supposed to only relate to school admissions & selection processes & as such home educators were not consulted on the proposed changes, as the government decided, in their infinite wisdom, that a proposal to impose a 20 day 'cooling off period' for de-registration of a pupil would be "uncontroversial".

MP Graham Stuart (who is also the current government's 'Chairman of the Education Select Committee') was alerted to the fact that, should these recent proposals relating to de-registration be put into practice, it would, amongst other things, give divisive Local Authorities, who already feel they have the right to work above & beyond their lawful remit, a further excuse to perpetrate institutional biases & related bad practices against home educators. He, like many, did not at first feel that the ensuing outrage expressed was proportionate to the matter at hand but once again those with a sound knowledge base, relevant past experience & brilliant analytical skills were on hand to open debate on the issue & succinctly express the problems in a way that enabled Mr.Stuart to analyse the evidence & make a more informed decision than he had thus-far been able...

So here's the 'Good News'... In yesterdays parliamentary debate Graham Stuart was, once again, 'Our Saviour' ....& Amen to that.
He fought our corner fairly & with enthusiasm. Kept to the FACTS. Reinforced the primacy of the parent, told the 'State' to get it's own house in order. Put some jumped up little madam in her place when she tried to conflate welfare with education & further the myth that home educated children are in need of being 'seen' to be safe & put to shame one particular 'gentleman' who dared to say that it was us lower-class riff-raff that needed to be kept an eye on...
...& he took a fair bit of flack from the last governments Ex-Chairman of the 'Children's, Schools & Families Select Committee' in the process...(<-Whose expressions of a desire to implement 'monitoring' of home educators educational provision were predictably depressing)... All of which Graham Stuart dealt with in good grace & efficient style, bringing the debate back within the parameters of the current law as opposed to the bigoted opinions of the ignorant... including a very low parting shot by Mr.Sheerman implying that he thought Mr.Stuart had been somehow brainwashed by home educators & lost his mind.

Most importantly Graham Stuart highlighted the endemic situation of many Local Authorities overstepping their statutory duties & emphasising how it is this which needs addressing & correcting to bring them into line with the law. He showed that he'd done his homework by researching the websites & publicly available information published by various LA's, citing several examples of particular LA's shamelessly displaying their institutional biases. Nick Gibb spoke of how Graham Stuart had been instrumental in helping him to understand the reasons why the 20 Day Rule idea was a bad one & Mr.Stuart & he agreed to have a meeting to discuss the problems with LA's that overstep their remit. Even Michael Gove got a quick word in to agree with Nick Gibb that Mr.Stuart is in fact the "best-informed Member of the House on home education."... (So I reckon that we better make sure we keep him well informed eh!?! ;))

Further comment on the whole debate debacle can be found here by Gill Kilner, who strikes right at the heart of the matter by stating:

"In my view, they belong to themselves but when they're very young, parents are their guardians precisely because - unlike the state - we have a natural, instinctive, loving bond with our children. We know them from birth, we spend the most time with them and we are therefore best placed to make decisions with them and on their behalf. The cold, impersonal, self-serving machine of state should be a parent of last, not first resort and the law properly reflects this"
This attempt to introduce the 20 Day Rule, though successfully deflected, should serve as a warning to those who would like to think that there is any kind of quick fix to the problem of authoritarian mission creep on either local or national levels. The prejudices of political ministers, being spouted as if they are fact, should also serve to remind us that many of those in positions of power are a dangerous mix of arrogance & ignorance.

In a previous post I took issue with how a 'secret' few had taken it upon themselves to take active measures, without general consultation, to write 'guidelines' for LA's & legislators regarding 'how best to deal with HE families', any fallout from which will impact upon all home educators... disconcertingly, it appeared that the SGG seemed to have gained the ear of particular members of parliament who'd previously supported home educator's after the Bad Man fiasco & were attempting to push forward their own agenda in an underhand way whilst claiming that what they were doing was 'uncontroversial' (hmmm, ring any bells?). To make matters worse the ensuing in-fighting threatened to drive away that hard won political support & depleted the levels of trust between all concerned.

I hope those who would seek to serve their own biases, egos & self interests above those of others, both in the political & home education spheres can see the strength with which home educators have again responded, at short notice, to another potential threat to our families autonomy. We are, as ever, vigilant of the seemingly innocuous meddling which can easily snowball into flagrant agenda-ism & we will not give up our freedoms or self-determinism to those who purport to know what is best for us 'little men' without a fight...

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Freedom in Education Under Threat

Please send this postcard to your MP "to highlight the urgent need for the Government to stop the continuation of ultra vires treatment of Home Educators in the name of CME Legislation."

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Heurists & Hijackers Go Head To Head Over Home Ed...

Across the internet forums & email lists a battle has been waging between those who support differing solutions to the current legislative problems facing families who wish to live & learn free from state interference.

In my previous post 'Guidance Queens & Pushy Authoritarian Types' I linked to a facebook thread on the wall of Graham Stuart MP,  who was supportive of home education when the Badman fiasco was in full swing and instrumental in helping to prevent the home education parts of the CSF Bill from becoming law. It has been revealed that he is involved with a select & secretive group of self appointed home education 'experts' & that this group is in the process of helping to draw up 'draft guidelines' for local authorities on how to deal with home educating families.

Many have been vocal in their concern & outrage over what they see as an underhand attempt by a few to direct future government policy regarding home education & are curious as to what the deeper motives might be of a group of people who are unwilling to present themselves & their 'ideas' to the advance scrutiny of all of those who will be affected.

Yesterday Lord Lucas started a home-education.biz forum thread which stated:

Over the next six months or so we will have at least two Bills which potentially affect HE:

Social Security: new terms for current benefits, and the foundations of the new system

Education: perhaps something on the new SEN system, and the possibility of amending 436A and consequent guidance.

As and when I hear news I will post it on this thread.

I would be glad of your views as to how HE should be treated and consulted about either subject.

Ralph Lucas
House of Lords 

When challenged over lack of transparency & asked to disclose the ultimate goals of the secret guidelines group (SGG), Lord Lucas merely used 'soothing' tones to deflect the frustrations of the enquirers but failed to reveal anything more about specifics (don't you just love how politicians do that), only commiting himself to...
"...I want to listen to you..."

...but then excusing the exclusivity & cloak & dagger tactics of the group with...
"...it's just not practical to draft proposals in a large group many of whom are opposed to the whole idea."
There have been expressed some very succinct & well reasoned arguments against the writing of new guidelines & of alternative means of illiciting change in education legislation put forth by some very knowledgeable & experienced individuals but it would seem that the SGG are hell bent on running with their 'baby' in spite of any objections from 'stakeholders'. Those who have pleaded with the SGG to stop with their arrogant, overbearing & potentially harmful onslaught have been accused of the very bullying the SGG are themselves enacting upon all home educators by their hijacking of an important civil liberties issue.

However I hope that those who refuse to be blackmailed or bullied into silencing their concerns for the SGG's chosen modus operandi do take up His Lordships kind invitation to...
"tell me why I am wrong."...

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Guidance Queens & Pushy Authoritarian Types


Please note

All statutory guidance and legislation 

linked to from this site continues to reflect

the current legal position

unless indicated otherwise, 

but may not reflect Government policy.

Balls' reign over matters of education having ended and somewhat comforted by the pre-election promises of the 'Con' part of the new government, many home educating families had relaxed their guard in favour of spending time on their most important task, living & learning freely...

...and fortunately neither are the vigilant eyes of home educators, who have learned that they must read between the lines of every legislative act, guidance document, legal judgement, policy guideline, position statement or political muttering they are exposed to, in order to continue educating their children free from State interference & self serving agendas.

Ballsian Delusion still runs rife amongst those in positions of 'authority'. LAs continue to impose their bullying ultra vires practices upon familes who have chosen not to use State education provision. The ConDem government is certainly not looking like they will be any less authoritarian than the last!

Home educators WERE warned by all three main political parties that home education would be on the political agenda again at some time. Many believed that as long as it wasn't Liebour who were in power they would have their opinions sought & taken into account before & throughout future processes pertaining to home education. Even the most politically cynical of us hoped that the ConDem coalition would have bigger fish to fry than home educating families for a while but it seems that we are still very much in the political spotlight.

"For home education I think we need new guidance issued by the government to local authorities (LAs) which lays to rest, once and for all (hopefully), the agitation by LAs for more powers and encourages a new culture of support and humility from LAs rather than suspicion and distrust. I have spoken to a number of different people about this (including the Minister) and hope to come forward with a proposal for everyone to look at, dispute, improve etc to deliver the above aims. I have initially asked a few people to help come up with a first draft before opening out to the full drama of HE community input. Fundamental to anything I come up with will be the primacy of parents in determining their child's education and a complete rejection of compulsory registration and all the other "licensing" facets of the last government's approach. I think we have a real opportunity to settle this issue in a way that LAs can live with and which makes the chance of future action by government unlikely so that the Badman proposals are never resurrected." (Graham Stuart)
It has been pointed out that what would make the 'issue' clearer for both LAs and home educators is not MORE guidelines for LAs but a change to the CME guidance which creates the confusion as to whether Local Authorities "Should" statutorily make inquiries regarding educational provision or whether they only may ask for such information informally.

Cornwall Councils position, as set out by their Principal Education Welfare Officer, is that:
"The legal duty of the Local Authority is concerned only with children who appear not to be receiving a suitable education. However Case Law (Philips v Brown (1980) unreported) established that a LA may make informal enquiries of parents who are educating their children at home to establish that a suitable education is being provided. Lord Donaldson laid down clear limits to LA powers giving a list of three things a parent can do- either provide evidence so that the parent could not appear to be in breach of his or her duty, or that it was expedient for the child to attend school, or they could bring evidence to show that the child is being properly educated.

Lord Donaldson said that even if there is no evidence, a local authority is entitled to write to a parent informally asking for information. If they do not receive any, they may (but need not) regard that as evidence that the education is insufficient." (John Heath)
 In Cornwall this means the LA will ask annually for 'evidence' that parents are discharging their statutory duty to provide a suitable & efficient education, even after they have the year previously ascertained and reported that one IS taking place & use ANY refusal to be sucked into an unremitting cycle of contracting with them as not having received the requested 'evidence' & thus as an excuse to 'doorstep' the family or threaten SAO.

Since individual Local Authorities interpret the guidelines differently they apply those interpretations to home educators with differing tactics & rigour, however across the country home educators are  increasingly being confronted with LAs behaving as though the Badman recommendations were in fact accepted.
"Set out below are the arrangements the LA will make to ensure it carries out it's statutory duty for children being educated by parents: (...)
-Maintain a register of pupils being educated at home. As this is not a statutory duty it is acknowledged that this list is imcomplete, this will enable officers and co-ordinators to make contact with parents to offer support and work in partnership" (...)
"Cornwall LA prefers home visits." (...)
"No visit will take place unless parents agree for one and an appointment has been made or confirmed in writing. It is usual practice in the event of the Local Authority not receiving a reply to correspondence that a visit will be made after notice has been given in writing." (John Heath, Principal Education Welfare Officer)
Thus, the thoughts of your average pushy authoritarian type:
"Registers to maintain... Lists  of 'Missing' Children to complete... Conferences to attend... Homes to visit... Parental contracts to secure... Guidelines to help draft... 'Experts' to consult... Vociferous minorities to quash... Political maneuvering to engage in... Jobsworths to employ...

Good job those pesky home educating types didn't manage to sway the government into dropping the HE parts of the Education Bill...

oh, no wait..."

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Cornwall LA- Experts at 'Cut & Paste' & 'Lie & Deny'

Now it's personal!!! (not that it wasn't before)

You may have read Maire Staffords blog post regarding tackling ultra vires practices within individual local authorities, which specifically picks up on an advertisment placed by Cornwall Council for an EHE Coordinator.
As this is my local authority I decided that I should add my voice to hers in admonishing them for their attempts to overstep their duties.

I had until now, despite being 'known' to the LA, hoped to fly under the radar as much as an autonomously educating family, who refuse to meet with the LA officer, can. So it was not without some trepidation that I sent this letter winging it's way via Email AND by Recorded Delivery ;)
FAO: Mr. John Heath,
(Principal Education Welfare Officer),
Cornwall Council,
County Hall,
Treyew Road,
TR1 3AY. 24th September,2009.

Dear Mr. Heath,

As a home educating parent in North Cornwall area, I wish to complain specifically about the behaviour of your EHE Co-ordinator for North Cornwall and more generally regarding Cornwall Councils approach toward home educating families.

The Cornwall Council Information for Elective Home Educators website states that;

No visit will take place unless you have agreed to one and an appointment has been made”.

However, this has not been my experience, in fact quite the opposite, I have frequently been exposed to the local EHE Officer engaging in ultra vires practices.

According to letters I have received from Mr. Hockley he has attended our home, without prior agreement from myself on several occasions and, further to this, arranged & attended a meeting, accompanied by two colleagues, at {a local council office} to which I had also not agreed and yet his report seems to indicate that I was expected to attend & that I was deemed as 'absent' from this meeting.

In my response to the initial 'informal enquiry', my report regarding the home education of my children, dated 1st September, 2008, Mr.Hockley had previously been informed that I would not be willing to engage in any further correspondence or contract with the Local Authority regarding the education of my children, I wish therefore to complain about the many letters from Mr. Hockley I have received since he received my report. I suggest that they are vexatious and that he is harassing me.

Please can you confirm at the earliest opportunity and in writing that you do not support such ultra vires practices?

I had no reason, until now, to suspect that my experience of a Local Authority employee toward a home educating family was anything more than an unfortunate personal experience of bad practice on the part of this particular Elective Home Education Coordinator. It has however been brought to my attention that this offensive and intrusive attitude and behaviour toward home educating families may in fact be one which is being promoted & encouraged by Cornwall Council.
This document:

describes the role of Education Welfare Officer for West Area as;
(to) “ ensure that children and young people who are electively home educated are receiving a suitable and efficient education and that they are safe and their welfare promoted”.

These practices go far above and beyond the Local Authority's duty in law.

It is not for the Local Authority to decide what qualifies as 'suitable' and 'efficient' but only to ascertain, through informal enquiry, that an education is taking place.

This document also asserts that the role of this Local Authority officer is to;

Monitor the quality of education for children who are educated at home.”

Once again, THIS IS NOT A LAWFUL DUTY OF THE LOCAL AUTHORITY, as is confirmed by Graham Stuart's Education Select Committee’s Chairman’s statement on Home Education Report which states;

As the 2007 Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities make clear, however, ‘local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis’ and are only required to intervene if it appears that parents are not providing a suitable education.” (Education Select Committee’s Chairman’s statement on Home Education Report )

Further to this Mr. Stuart recommends that;
As local authorities do not have the power to demand access to home educated children and cannot insist on parents registering with them, the obvious and correct answer is for local authorities to improve their support for families so that more families make contact with them voluntarily. If they did this and made sure that they employed sympathetic staff who built good reputations, then the number of “unknown” children would be reduced. Such a positive approach would respect the primacy of parents in determining the education of their children and put the onus on local authorities to serve and support, rather than catalogue and monitor, families who home educate.” (Education Select Committee’s Chairman’s statement on Home Education Report )

Do you not think that it may be more appropriate for Cornwall Council to engage the home education community in a positive manner as suggested in Graham’s statement above?

The decision, when creating a job profile for role of Home Education Advisor, to make the opportunity available to individuals who are qualified merely as “mainstream school” teachers, only guarantees that you will employ the most unsuitable individuals for the post.

Experience in mainstream/special school. Proven record of excellent class teaching and behaviour management. Proven ability to teach a range of subjects at different key stages and to keep up to date with current initiatives in education. Proven ability to use ICT both personally and in the classroom. Experience of working with young people in an education setting. Good report writing skills” ( https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B23GNcZa7kQPNmRiNWZjYWItMmJkMy00MDIxLThkYmItNjQ0NDNjZjk1ZmQ0&hl=en_GB&authkey=CLCuvfsP&pli=1)

This list of preferred previous experience could probably not be further detached from most home education practice, particularly autonomous or child-centred styles, if you tried, so it would fail in attracting any individual who possessed skills which could be considered appropriate to elective home education and I therefore fail to understand how Cornwall Council could consider such an individual to be a suitable candidate to liaise with home educating families within your 'Elective Home Education' team'. It is, after all, unlikely that such an individual would be sympathetic to, or have a good working knowledge of, alternative educational ethos' and practice and is therefore unlikely to be familiar with, or understanding of, the many & varied learning styles engaged in by home educated students.
This Local Authority seems to behave as if it has a duty to harass home educators.
Please send me the regulations and laws that suggest that its representatives can insist on entry to the home and make annual demands for further information, even after an initial enquiry has been satisfied and the Local Authority has been clearly informed that further contact is not desired.

Please could you also inform me, at the earliest possible opportunity, of the measures Cornwall Council are taking to correct its literature & policies to abide by the law, as until this has been done, any efforts to create and maintain good relations with local home educating families will remain merely a Ballsian Delusion.

In conclusion, I wish to state that the home education community in Cornwall should be able to go about their lawful duty to provide an education to their children without harassment from council employees and should not have to waste their precious time tackling ultra vires practices. However, the outrageous attempt by the last government to licence & monitor home educators based upon the contrived & agenda based 'Bad Man Report', galvanised home educating families across the UK into forming many strong support & information sharing networks. Therefore, policy based impositions by Cornwall Council upon the freedom of home educators, individually or en mass, will be met with strong disapproval & resistance from those of us who, both within the county & across the country, are prepared to fight for our Rights in Law.

Ultra vires practices of Local Authority officers, across the UK, are now being databased at http://www.theartofsurvival.co.uk, however, you will be pleased to hear that details are also kept of Local Authorities who are working within the law and which of those make efforts to engender good relations with the home educators in their area. Thus, there is always opportunity for a Local Authority to salvage it's reputation with home educators, by improving its working practices.

With Thanks for Your Kind Attention and in Anticipation of Your Prompt Reply,
Yours Sincerely

Mrs. L. Sherwood.
(Home Educator).
Cc: http://maire-staffordshire.blogspot.com/2010/08/cornwall-county-council-tackling-ultra.html
Today I received this response:

So, to break it down... the first two paragraphs Mr.Heath dedicates to telling me that, despite my assertions (& the supporting evidence I have in writing from the officer involved) that his EHE coordinator HAS attended my property without my agreement, he believes that "our accepted policy & practice for liasing with Home Educators in Cornwall" has been followed.

Then he further supports this pushy, ultra vires orificer by informing me that other HE families gave 'testament' to THEIR relationship with Mr.Hockley "when they were part of a focus group looking at safeguarding in Cornwall last summer".


Much of the rest of the letter is a 'cut & paste' jobby from the LA's policy documents... however I noted with (outraged) interest that...

  • the LA maintain a 'register of pupils being educated at home' 
  • there are two references to Education Otherwise... in it's capitalised, brand name form, rather than in a non-capitalised paraphrasing form from the Education Act.
"-Encourage, consult and develop relationships with local Education Otherwise groups."
"The LA does want to encourage, consult and have dialogue with home educators and do involve Education Otherwise support groups in Cornwall"
I suppose I should be grateful for Mr. Heath having answered questions I never asked, such as "Are you in cahoots with EO?"... "Do you value the opinion of home educating groups or individuals who are no affiliated with EO?"... or "Are home educating familes already subject to compulsory registration with this LA for which there's no choice to opt out?"... unfortunately, for him, he does not provide the information I did specifically ask for... which means I guess that I will have to keep on asking until I do get a response ;)

There has been, over the last few weeks, much talk of new guidelines for LA's regarding home education, which are currently under construction by the powers that be & their minions.
Many home educators wish to know whether there will be mention of a 'voluntary' registration scheme, the concern being that, if so, this will be a gateway to 'compulsory' registration eventually. Further to this is the issue of LA's classing home educated children as CME (Children Missing Education), which it would seem, thanks to contradicting government guidelines, they often do.

In the mean time those who would seek to forward their own agenda for home education have been ingratiating themselves within certain circles and making moves into positions of influence. Unfortunately it seems that some of these people are not in favour of protecting the rights of all home educating families to be free from governmental interference where it's not warranted & wish to push a 'one size fits all' model.

Other recent sentiments I have heard expressed, both online & in real time, have been that since the EHE parts of the Education Bill were successfuly deflected many home educators do not feel that another drawn out fight with government is worth their time or effort, believing that the case has already been made and that the new government, particularly the Conservative faction who supported scrapping the EHE parts of the bill, does have their best interests at heart.....

I have much to say about these attitudes/beliefs that are being touted... but i think that deserves a blog post of its own... (see next post) however, I must state that I believe that both personally & generally, nationally & locally, the fight to protect freedom in home education is far from over. :/

If anyone would like to express their views here regarding the correspondence from Cornwall Council or ideas for a response your comments would be most welcome, as I intend to send yet another lengthy letter to them quite soon. :)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

A Fandango of Quangos

The Ladies & Gents of the Board of Directors wish for Fabian ideals to penetrate all Sectors,
A Ballsian Delusion of social integration is Making Children Matter by removing parents from education,
but directing Your children in New Ways Of play is their Common Purpose at the end of the day.

The Fandango of Quangos, invests YOUR cash in Fake Charities, whilst the UK economy is brought to it's knees. 
Middle women and men help to distract from the deficit & we're all under surveillance just for the heck of it.
Blurring the lines between public and private but yet the mainstream media keep on keeping quiet. :(

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