Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Think very carefully before you're bullied into home education by a school

Beware. Times they are a-changing.

The laws and guidances pertaining to home education might be changed by the time you read this.

At present, there are no laws, no statutory duty and no powers for government to oversee, monitor, register, control, inspect, or interfere in any way whatsoever with your choice of elective home education. Neither are you required to register or seek approval from any local authority to educate your child at home.

In home education, we have enjoyed a sort of trust tradition. The state has trusted the parent, believing that the parent knows what is best for their child. Here is an implicit understanding: a parent will move heaven and earth to support, encourage and develop their own child’s interests, abilities and aptitudes.

But times, they change. We have entered a world of suspicion, surveillance, monitoring, tracking and targeting. Civil liberties is a contested area.

But the government has powerful clients like Capita and Pearson whispering of solutions to these issues. They run very nice databases and big educational-technology projects. Wouldn't it be 'right' if all citizens could, 'for connected purposes', 'be embraced' by the new opportunities that a technology-driven world can offer?

In this new world, governments and corporates could work hand-in-hand to 'help' us all, and bring about 'social cohesion'. Surely there's nothing wrong with a bit of data sharing of your child's emotional, educational and welfare needs?

Home educators, with an insistence on parental rights and freedom to eschew educational database compilations and choose what ever field they damn well like for their child are, in this happy new world, more than just an awkward squad. We must appear as awkward as dinosaurs with attitude.

For many years, as the pressure is applied to all citizens to conform, the government has ‘had a go’ (to put it mildly), at the image of us off-beat home educators, treading our own paths. Once, we were seen as eccentric hippies. The worst that was probably said of us was, 'Let them get on with it. They are harmless and bonkers.'

Over the last 20 years, as we have been seen as more 'dangerous' to the vision of conformity, then the campaigns to bring us to heel have become more vicious.

Now home educators are routinely cast as child abusers. Terrorists. People with dark secrets to hide. People who need to be watched. People who are up to no good. Feckless. Inadequate. Mentally unstable. Mothers who have Munchhausen's Syndrome by Proxy.*

My personal favourite is that my children are invisible. (I must have imagined them all along.)

But now, we have a very specific problem in the world of home education. Schools. Schools are joyless, soul-sucking places which no longer let kids run about and be kids. Kids are now proto-customers for whom their parents are indoctrinated into believing they must buy verbs and number lines. Otherwise their child will never get a job. (The jobs don't exist, but shhh about that.)

Some parents (quite rightly IMO) tell the schools to fuck off. Parents and child choose instead to run about in the woods and learn about beetles.

Some kids, trapped in this miserable SATs factory, simply go bonkers. (Not surprising.) The schools then tell the parent to fuck off. Or, 'Why don't you 'home-school'?! The parent then has a miserable time; isn't dedicated to home ed, has no philosophy about education, and thinks the answer must be in a text book, somewhere. They sink or swim.

Think very carefully, then, before you home educate. Instead of attending to the basic structural and social problems - the trust in you as a parent, the pressure on government from corporates, the demands placed on schools by government ministers - all the attention will focus on You.

You will spend all your time looking over your shoulder, wondering what is coming at you next.


Make provision for local authorities to assess the educational development of children receiving elective home education; and for connected purposes.

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

1 Duty of local authorities to assess children receiving elective home education

(1)The Education Act 1996 is amended as follows.

(2)After section 436A (duty to make arrangements to identify children not receiving education), insert—
“436B Duty of local authorities to assess children receiving elective home education

(1)Local authorities have a duty to assess the educational development of children receiving elective home education in their area.

(2)Local authorities have a duty to provide advice and information to a parent of a child receiving elective home education if that parent requests such advice or information in relation to their obligations under this section.

(3)A parent of a child receiving elective home education must register the child as such with their local authority.

(4)Local authorities must assess annually each child receiving elective home education in their area (hereafter referred to as “the assessment”).

(5)The assessment set out in subsection (4) must assess the educational development of each child.

(6)The assessment may include—
(a)a visit to the child’s home;
(b)an interview with the child;
(c)seeing the child’s work; and
(d)an interview with the child’s parent.

(7)A parent of a child receiving elective home education must provide information relevant to the assessment to their local authority when requested.

(8)The Secretary of State must by regulations made by statutory instrument specify—
(a)the arrangements for parents to register a child with their local authority under subsection (3); and
(b)the methodology of the assessment.

(9)A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(10)In this section “elective home education” refers to education given to a child at home following a decision by their parent to educate them outside the school system.”

2 Guidance relating to elective home education

(1)The Secretary of State must update the guidance for elective home education 
for local authorities and parents to account for section 436B of the Education 
Act 1996 by the end of the period of one year, beginning with the day on which 
this Act comes into force.

(2)In updating the guidance in subsection (1), the Secretary of State must have regard to—
(a)the expectation that elective home education must include provision of supervised instruction in reading, writing and numeracy, which takes into account the child’s age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs and disabilities, and
(b)the views of children and parents who elect home education.

(3)The Secretary of State may carry out a public consultation to inform the guidance set out in subsection (1).
In this Act— “elective home education” refers to education given to a child at home following a decision by their parent to educate them outside the school system; and “local authority” means—
(a)in relation to England, the council of a district, county or London borough, the Common Council of the City of London and the Council of the Isles of Scilly;
(b)in relation to Wales, the council of a county or county borough.

4Extent, commencement and short title
(1)This Act extends to England and Wales only.
Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill

(2)This Act comes into force at the end of the period of two months, beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.
(3)This Act may be cited as the Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Act 2017.

* 'At our first interview Mr Badman was interested in what I had to say. His opening question was to ask me if home educating mothers suffered from Munchhausen's by Proxy. I thought this to be a curious starting point - that of questioning whether home education is a symptom of mental illness.' Memorandum submitted by Dr Paula Rothermel FRSA, Educational psychologist expert witness.

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