Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Guidance Queens & Pushy Authoritarian Types

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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..."
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