Archive for January, 2010

Secretary of State continues to live up to his name

Observations from the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families , received 26 January :

DCSF commissioned the Badman review of home education in January 2009 and the report was published on 11 June 2009. As part of the review, Graham Badman took written and oral evidence from a range of individuals and organisations who responded to his public call for evidence, including home educators and local authorities. Alongside this he also considered published literature, the current legal position and guidance and the approaches taken in other countries. He was also assisted by an expert reference group. I am confident that his report draws from a wide and heterogeneous evidence base.

I am confident that Badman dismissed any published literature that didn’t fit your predetermined outcomes, misrepresented the current legal position and ignored the opinions of home educators and those experts[sic] who did not agree with him. Unlike you Mr Balls, my confidence is genuine and based on observable facts.

The recent Children, Schools and Families Select Committee report also considered the Badman report and was supportive of most of the recommendations. It agreed that a short statement of educational approach would be helpful in establishing dialogue between home educating families and local authorities; that an annual meeting between local authorities and home educators was needed; and that better support for home educators and better training for local authorities would together lead to an improvement on the current arrangements.

That a Labour dominated committee didn’t give Badman’s report the total trashing that it deserved is no great surprise but even they can hardly be said to have given it a glowing recommendation. Not that any of this has much to do with the measures suggested in the CSF Bill.

Home Education registration and monitoring proposals are included in the Children, Schools and Families Bill which has now had second reading in the House of Commons. They will put in place light touch regulation and monitoring arrangements and our guidance will make it clear that this will be proportionate and focused on support and encouragement for home educating families. We have also committed around £21 million in the first year to additional support for home educating families, which has a focus on children with SEN and home educated children who would like to attend FE College courses.

I don’t care how many times you and your minions say that the proposed licensing scheme in the CSF Bill are ‘light touch’ it is and will remain A LIE. It is NOT proportionate. It provides NO support. Your financial commitments in the bill are NOT for support they are for licensing and monitoring ONLY, as Lord Lucas put it, £1,000 per child to audit them.

Home education is an established part of the British education system and the vast majority of home educators who do a good job will find monitoring supportive and-for the first time-backed by real resources. Our reforms will not require home educators to adopt a particular approach, to teach a specific curriculum, or for their children to take SATs tests or specific public examinations. After these reforms are implemented, England will remain one of the most liberal countries in the developed world for home educators to live in.

Home Education is NOT part of your system and that is one of its greatest attractions. *I* do a damned good job of educating my child and would NOT find your licensing and monitoring scheme in the least bit supportive. Again you LIE when you claim that there will be ‘real resources’ made available, there will not. The CSF Bill does NOT provide ANY funding for resources. What your reforms[sic] will require of home educators is at this time totally unknown as the CSF Bill contains no details, simply granting you the power to demand anything you choose, without any Parliamentary oversight at all. *IF* these measures are implemented England will move from being a liberal place for home educators to live into one of the most draconian.

Your ‘observations’ are lies and spin.

What the Bill committee still has to cover

The CSF Bill Committee has got as far as Clause 6 which leaves the following with amendments to be debated on Tuesday and Thursday next week:

Children with special educational needs etc
7 School inspections: pupils with disabilities or special educational needs
88 + 170 + 171 + 169 + 172 + 89 + 147

8 Right of appeal against determination by local authority not to amend statement
75 + 157 + 233+165

Exceptional provision for ill or excluded children etc
9 Exceptional provision of education in short stay schools or elsewhere
166 + 168
192+167 + 187 + 191+158

The curriculum
10 Areas of learning
54 + 52 + 238 + 50 + 182 + 53 + 183
148 + 159 + 48 + 150 + 160 +193+ 51 + 161
186

11 PSHE in maintained schools
55 + 58 + 106 + 56 + 59 + 77+NC6
76
78 + 57 + 79 + 60

13 Sex and relationships education: manner of provision
197+62+173

14 Exemption from sex and relationships education
63 + 162 + 163 + 164 + 65+ 64 + 112+195

Powers of governing bodies
15 Power to provide community facilities etc
234

18 Power to propose new schools
67 + 66

School improvement etc
19 School improvement partners
68 + 198+194+87+199

20 Provision of information about schools, etc
200+69+201+202+235

22 Schools causing concern: powers of Secretary of State, etc
203

School teachers’ qualifications
23 Licence to practise
204

24 Requirement to be licensed
196

Home education
26 Home education: England
210+152+211+213+151+212+215+216+ 214+217+70+107+108+153+218+114
71+110+219+220+109+221+222+111+223 +224
229+230
225+NC5
226 +73 + 115 + 116 + 227+72+231+228
113 + 117

Local Safeguarding Children Boards
28 Supply of information requested by LSCBs in England
239+240+241+242+81+205+243 to 248
206

30 Review by Chief Inspector of performance of LSCBs in England
82+83+207+84

New clauses
NC1 NC2 NC3 NC4

I must admit to being rather surprised that there aren’t any under Family Proceedings, clauses 32 to 41, but even without that, it’s a LOT to get through isn’t it?

If it’s “all about education” …

as Diana Johnson and others keep insisting, why do they continually use the phrase “safe and learning”? Why keep pushing the almost subliminal message that it’s also about protecting children from abuse when we know there’s no case to answer, no evidence of greater risk?

I think the answer is fairly simple. Public opinion. Joe Public is perfectly aware that not half of state school pupils manage the magical 5 ‘good’ GCSEs so he’s not going to be keen on millions of his tax money being spent making sure a handful of home educated kids get them. The DCSF simply isn’t going to be able to SELL their plan on the basis of improved educational outcomes when their own schools are failing so spectacularly to meet the same target.

Child abuse on the other hand is a PR winner. Say the magic phrase “if it saves just one child” and all debate, all critical thought, is meant to come to an end. People aren’t expected to ask if it’s true, if there’s any proof that whatever-it-is really is a genuine welfare issue and the suggested response proportionate.

If “saving just one child” really was worth any price wouldn’t cars be banned? They won’t be of course because people accept, even if they won’t talk about it, the trade off between lives lost against the convenience and economic benefits of widespread car ownership. However when it isn’t YOU being asked to give something up it’s much easier to get up on your moral high horse and tell other people that what is being taken from THEM is a small price to pay, and it will save a child’s life because the government wouldn’t lie about a thing like that … would they?

Iron hat

After reading Clare Sambrook’s Ed Balls and his iron hat on Open Democracy, I felt moved to create this.

Fisking the CSF Bill HE Policy Statement Part 7 THE END

Onto the home stretch at last! So many lies, so much spin! Such a bunch of evil manipulative bastards!

Review of Suitable and Efficient Education

62. Parents are already required to ensure that the education they provide for their child at home is suitable to their age, ability and aptitude, and any special educational needs they may have.

Yes we are, and we know that and are comfortable with the responsibility.

63. The Bill does not change that

LIE. Big, fat, honking LIE.

but in the Government’s response to Badman Report we have said that we will review the definition of what constitutes a ‘suitable’ and ‘efficient’ education in the light of recent developments such as the Rose Review, the Every Child Matters outcomes and the current arrangements for assessing and delivering the curriculum throughout the statutory school years.

None of which are even remotely relevant.

In commissioning the review we will give home educators an assurance that they will not be required to follow the National Curriculum, or the Early Years Foundation Stage, nor for their children to take any statutory tests or national qualifications. We already accommodate a wide range of educational approaches and philosophies in independent schools, which respond to the wishes of parents, and we anticipate that we will see even greater variation in the approaches taken by home educators.

Like these assurances mean anything. Of course our children won’t have to follow the same National Curriculum as used in state schools, it wouldn’t be practical, but that’s not the same as saying there won’t be a new HE National Curriculum. The Early Years Foundation stage doesn’t even apply to children of Statutory School Age, why mention it? Were they thinking about enforcing it on under-5s who stay at home? You can see in this paragraph how they intend to pull us into their ’system’ and control us.

64. The review will build on existing case law which refers to preparing children for life primarily within their own community, while not preventing them pursuing a different form of life if that is what they choose as adults. This means that home educated children and their families continue to have a wide discretion to determine the education of their child. The review will be conducted in the context of examining how local authorities can determine that home educators are receiving a suitable education bearing in mind the diversity of approaches that they take. It will involve a wide spectrum of people reflecting the diversity of home educators so as to take account of the full range of approaches to learning at home. It will also be particularly important that those with expertise in the education of children with special educational needs are involved.

All this is of course based on the VERY large assumption that the next government will commission this review. There’s an old saying about unhatched poultry they might like to consider.

65. Guidance made under section 19I will set out any revised interpretation on the issue of suitability of education following on from the review.

So the DCSF is giving itself the power to define a suitable education in whatever way it sees fit after another sham consultation and with no parliamentary oversight.

Appeals

66. Section 19G gives parents the right to appeal against a decision by a local authority to refuse or revoke registration. Regulations will determine the powers of the appeal panel.

Of course they will. Can’t risk having the details work out in advance and in the bill, people might not like them, MPs or Lords might want to debate them, present Amendments to change them. Better to just keep the whole thing under-wrpas until you’ve got the power eh?

Subsections (1) and (2) provide regulation making powers.

There we are.

The framework for the appeal will be set out in regulations and accompanied by guidance to ensure that appeals are informal and impartial along similar lines to school admission appeal panels. The panel will be independent from the authority and will comprise three people, all of whom have been trained in appeal arrangements. Panels should include at least one person who has a professional educational background, at least one person who has experience of home educating and a lay member. Local authorities will be responsible for establishing the panel and for providing administrative support.

Yeah, right. One person who has a feckin clue vs a hostile professional and someone who is most likely to listen to the hostile professional. Can’t imagine how that’ll work out!

67. The panel will consider written and oral evidence provided by the parents and the LA and will be able to seek clarification and information. The child will also be asked to give their views. The powers of the panel will be set out in regulation. It will be completely independent from the original decision maker; it will be able to reconsider the facts and merits in every case; it will be able to establish facts by reference to written and/or oral evidence form all relevant persons. The panel will be able to decide that a decision to revoke or refuse registration should be upheld or not upheld. We envisage that a panel may also be able to, for example, recommend registration but attach conditions – such as the provision by a home educating parent of an address or the arrangement of a meeting between the parent and child and the local authority. Where the decision of the local authority is not upheld, the LA must enter or reinstate the child’s name on the register for the remainder of the registration period. Where the decision is upheld the parents cannot continue to home educate their child or reapply for registration for the period specified by the local authority in accordance with the regulations concerning repeat applications. The appeal panel regulations will set out the timescale within which an appeal should be heard and set out the administrative process for lodging an appeal.

Oh what’s the point, it’s all going to be ’set out in regulation’, it is all a stitch up, another one.

68. We anticipate that local authorities exercising good practice will want to have a review process in place which parents can use initially before having to appeal and we will set out this expectation in guidance. Parents will also have the right to seek judicial review of any panel decision and, if they considered that there was maladministration, could complain to the local government ombudsman.

Is the judicial review in the bill? No it is NOT.

Supply of Information

69. Section 19H enables regulations to be made requiring local authorities, maintained schools and the proprietors of independent schools to supply a local education authority exercising its home education functions with information. It is intended that this will provide for the situation where a local authority receives an application from the parent of a child who has previously been registered elsewhere or who has been withdrawn from school to home educate. The information requested will include any reason for refusing or revoking registration; whether there is a school attendance order in place relating to the child; information about the current educational attainment of the child; and any particular needs he or she might have that should be taken into account as parents and the local authority make plans for supporting home education.

If you look through it the bill is little more than a list of things that the DCSF will be issuing regulations about. There’s virtually no real detail, it’s just power that parliament is being asked to hand over and TRUST that it will be used in a responsible, fair and proportionate manner. This Policy Document is a work of fantasy with all it’s talk of support, for which there is no funding, and ‘envisioned’ outcomes based on regulations that remain secret, it they have been written at all.

I hope they’ve printed it on soft paper!

Fisking the CSF Bill HE Policy Statement Part 6

Assessing the Education of the Child
52. The role of the local authority in monitoring is primarily to assess whether the child is receiving a suitable education.

Only in the nightmare world of this bill. In a better world they’d be fixing the potholes that the recent cold weather caused and making sure they buy enough grit and salt in for next time! Maybe even making sure that there are enough social workers for the county caseload.

Where the child is receiving a suitable education, the local authority should monitor on a light touch basis.

No, they should spend our tax money doing something USEFUL, or even, shock horror, not take so much of it in the first place!

Where the child is not receiving a suitable education the local authority will need to consider whether further support will enable the parents to provide a suitable home education. The regulations will set out what the local authority can or cannot take into account when making that decision and guidance will make it clear that in exercising these powers local authorities’ aim should be to help the parents to continue to home educate if that is what they want. The educational interests and welfare of the child must be paramount in local authorities’ decision making.

What it will not do of course is provide any FUNDING. So for any cash-strapped local authority, meaning all of them, the logical option will always be to force the child into school. Don’t try to pretend otherwise.

53. The guidance will emphasis that any local authority officer engaged in the monitoring of home education must be appropriately trained so that they understand the diversity of approaches that are taken by home educators and are able to make a professional judgement about the education being provided. They will also be appropriately trained in family engagement techniques including speaking to child and ascertaining the wishes and feelings of the children. Local authorities may wish to commission support from the private and voluntary sector in monitoring home education where children have specific needs, or where parents are adopting philosophies where the private/ voluntary sector has particular expertise.

I don’t care how much training they get, some people just don’t have the personality for ‘family engagement techniques’ to be anything other than creepy manipulation, and as for teaching them how to ascertain the ‘wishes and feelings’ of children? Good grief, as if the job wasn’t a juicy target for pedos anyway you’re proposing to give them TRAINING in how to manipulate children?!

Seeing the Child

54. For the vast majority of families an informal meeting with the parents and the child once a year to discuss the progress the child has made and any additional support that might be needed is all that will be required. The statutory guidance will make it clear that the focus of the meeting will be on support and encouragement.

Will it indeed? The ’statutory guidance’ which we won’t get to see until AFTER the bill is law. Yeah, right!

55. Section 19E(4) includes a separate power for local authorities to see the child alone without the parent present. This means that local authorities may ask to see the child on their own, but the child and/or the parents can refuse to agree to such a meeting. In most cases there will be no need to see the child alone and in some cases it will not be appropriate – for example children with particular types of special educational needs, and young children who may not be accustomed to speaking to people they rarely meet. The local authority should consider whether it is most appropriate for two people to be present when the child is seen alone, and there may be cases where it might be appropriate to have another adult present that the child knows and trusts, if the interview is being conducted without the parents present.

There just isn’t ANY justification for this. If there are welfare concerns you pass the case over to trained social workers.

56. The guidance will set out the sorts of circumstances where this power may be exercised. We envisage this would be where there is no evidence that the child has received the education described by the parents, little or no evidence that the education meets the needs of the child, or where there are doubts that the child is resident at the registration address – and where thesematters can only be resolved by talking to the child without their parents present. These circumstances will be rare, but it is important that the power is available when all other efforts to establish whether education is ‘suitable’ have failed.

Rubbish! In such extreme cases, with all the powers you’ll already have given local authorities, they could just refuse registration. Be honest, although I know it would be a break with tradition, this is only in here as a ‘bargaining chip’ the outrageous bit that you’ll be willing to drop so home educators will think they’ve won a concession.

57. The Bill allows parents to refuse to allow the child to be seen on their own and for the child to refuse. Refusal to co-operate with a request is one of the grounds on which a local authority can revoke registration but only if refusal means that the authority has not had an adequate opportunity to ascertain the matters referred to in 19E (1). Refusal to comply will not automatically result in the revocation of registration if information can be obtained from other sources. The regulations and guidance will set out the things that local authorities can and cannot take into account when exercising their discretion to revoke on the grounds of non co-operation with a request to meet the child. In the case of revocation on these grounds, this will include ensuring that they have genuine concerns or doubts which cannot reasonably be resolved by other means, such as reports from other home educators or others who have seen the child, or other agencies that may have involvement with the child. Local authorities will have to show that proper consideration has been given to the circumstances of the family including the age, maturity and special needs of the child.

See above. It’s been an effective ploy too, I know many home educators who have been so enraged by this one proposal that they’ve spoken of little else.

58. The place that a child’s learning is conducted is an important factor in a child’s education and the Bill places local authorities under a duty to make arrangements to visit the place where education mainly takes place. In most cases a meeting in the home should be more convenient for the family and more comfortable for the child who will be in familiar surroundings and it will enable the local authority to gain assurance that the environment is conducive to education. The Bill requires local authorities to give 2 weeks notice of any proposed meeting and our guidance will ask local authorities to be flexible in making arrangements that suit the circumstances of parents.

Oh really, being FORCED to allow people you don’t know, or possibly actively don’t LIKE, into your home for a good nose around, that’s something you would be comfortable with is it? If so you are WEIRD!

59. In most instances the home will be the place where education takes place, but this is not always the case – the child may be educated in a part time establishment of some sort and in that case it would make sense for the meeting to take place there

And if that isn’t a public place will this bill of yours FORCE the owner to allow the inspectors in there too? So much for private property!

60. Meeting the family to discuss progress is a key part in satisfying the local authority that the child is receiving a suitable education, and will also enable the family and local authority to discuss any additional support that might be helpful. Where a family refuses to co-operate with a reasonable request to meet with the local authority, the local authority can consider whether this so inhibits their ability to determine those factors that the local authority are required to ascertain for the purposes of monitoring a child’s home education under 19E (1). This could be taken into account in considering revocation under 19F (1) (e).

Again with the support for which there is NO FUNDING. Do you think waving an imaginary carrot in our faces every couple of paragraphs is going to achieve anything? And all of this is getting so far away from the fact that it is not up to us to ’satisfy’ the local authority of anything! They are not responsible and they are not qualified and they are not setting foot in my home!

Wishes and Feelings of the Child

61. Section 19E (1)(c) requires the local authority, so far as reasonably practicable, to ensure that through their monitoring of the home education being provided, the local authority takes into account the wishes and the feelings of the child. The guidance will set out what local authorities should factor in here but clearly such guidance cannot be exhaustive. Local authority officers will need to be properly trained. A child saying that they do not want to be home educated would not of itself be sufficient reason to revoke registration and the age and maturity of the child would need to be taken into account. If this happened, the local authority would want to discuss with theparents how the family might better meet the wishes of the child. If there were other concerns about the education provided not being suitable then the wishes and feelings of the child would be a consideration in deciding whether revocation was appropriate, again bearing in mind the age and maturity of the child.

So what about school refusers and truants? Will you be sending a ‘properly trained’ EWO round to find out their wishes with regard to being sent to school? You HYPOCRITES! You don’t care what the wishes and feelings of any child are, you just want another way to get as many as possible shipped back off to school. If that means taking them aside and asking leading questions “don’t you miss all you old friends from school?” or just lying about what they’ve said, then so be it.

Fisking the CSF Bill HE Policy Statement Part 5

Monitoring
40. Section 19E sets out the monitoring arrangements. It does not contain any regulation making powers but statutory guidance under section 19I will be issued.

So again MPs are going to be asked to pass a bill which doesn’t contain any of this very important detail and TRUST that the DCSF and Secretary of State will not misuse the massive power they are being handed. If it wasn’t for the danger that they might do just that I would be laughing.

The local authority should make every effort to accommodate parents in carrying out monitoring. The section requires local authorities to make arrangements with a view to ascertaining so far as reasonably practicable :
whether education is suitable

A big can of worms which we will obviously be returning to

whether education accords with their application for registration;

What happened to “We anticipate that all plans will be open to change as new opportunities present themselves, and children develop new interests so we would expect local authorities to consider the plans flexibly in monitoring, recognising that home educators will want to fine tune provision to the opportunities available in their locality and the changing needs of their children.”? Yes, you did say that, in this very document, but apparently that was just more smoke blowing.

what the child’s wishes and feelings about the education are;

In the small number of cases where the child wants to go to school I would have to say, so what? If school children aren’t asked their opinion, and they aren’t, why should home educated children? If the decision of the majority of parents to send their children to school is not open to debate why should our decision not to be?

whether it is harmful for the welfare of the child to continue with home education.

and a monitoring visit will pick that up will it?

41. Suitability is at the heart of what the local authority has to consider in determining whether home education is appropriate. An “efficient” and “suitable” education is not defined in the Education Act 1996. In Harrison and Harrison v Stevenson (1982) the Court of Appeal defined education as ‘the development of mental powers and character and the acquisition of knowledge through the imparting of skills and learning by systematic instruction’ and ‘systematic’ as something that ‘achieves that which it sets out to achieve’. The judgement then made the further stipulation that efficient education must be ‘such as to prepare the children for life in modern civilised society and enable them to achieve their full potential’.

Such a pity that so few school children get such an education. Are you sure you wouldn’t like to go away and resolve that little issue first?

42. “Efficient” has been broadly described slightly later in case law (Mr Justice Woolf in the case of R v Secretary of State for Education and Science, ex parte Talmud Torah Machzikei 1985) as an education that “achieves that which it sets out to achieve”, and a “suitable” education is one that “primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child’s options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so”.

If only they would just leave it there. We know they’re not going to, they can’t! Home education is like this over-powering itch, the kind where you can’t help scratching no matter how much damage it does.

43. In his report to the Secretary of State following his review of home education, Graham Badman argues that it would be wrong to seek to legislate in pursuit of an all embracing definition of “suitable”. However, he goes on to say that such is the demand and complexity of 21st Century society and employment that further thought should be given to what constitutes an appropriate curriculum within the broad context of home education. Such a curriculum must be sufficiently broad and balanced and relevant to enable young people to make suitable choices about their life and likely future employment.

Can you begin to imagine, oh minion of Ed Balls, just how much I don’t CARE what Graham Badman thinks? The man has been totally discredited! Do not tire me further with his opinions. It would be wrong to legislate on the definition of ’suitable’ not just because it is not your business but also because you couldn’t even do an acceptable job for right now. For the rest of the century? Give me a break! Drunken party, brewery, DCSF inability to organise. “An appropriate curriculum”? Just the use of those words gives you away, a curriculum is prescriptive by definition and whatever its contents it will outlaw autonomous education.

44. In their report of their inquiry into Graham Badman’s review the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee also reflect on the issue of suitability. They are concerned that any monitoring of home education provision should not undermine the flexibility and freedom currently enjoyed by home educating families in relation to their child’s learning and development. On autonomous education they recognised that, when overseen by a parent who is committed to his or her child’s education, this approach might work well for a child. However, they also recognise the difficult balance between protecting autonomous education and ensuring that all children have the prospect of gaining basic literacy and numeracy skills and of gaining an awareness of the full range of fields of knowledge open to them.

And your and evidence for autonomously educated children not achieving basic literacy and numeracy skills etc. is WHAT? You don’t have any do you? Not one case. You haven’t researched AE at all and you are going to destroy it before anyone can.

45. The Committee took the view that without such skills and awareness a child could not hope to thrive, let alone achieve his or her full potential and access a choice of careers. They formed the view that that there should be a more precise definition of what constitutes “suitable” education and that it must enable local authority officers to tackle situations where the child has no prospect of gaining basic literacy and numeracy skills efficiently or where there is no breadth to their education. It must, then, encompass a positive expectation in relation to, at least, the acquisition of basic skills and reasonable breadth.

You know what, much as I might admire certain members of that committee their report was not without fault as it was unavoidably a compromise reached between individuals with very different ideas about how children should be educated. I do not concede their opinions to be more valuable or better informed than my own.

46. Our existing guidelines make it clear that a suitable, full time, efficient education cannot be determined by the same methods that apply in schools. Children normally attend school for between 22 and 25 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but this measurement of “contact time” is not relevant to home education where there can be almost continuous one-to-one contact and education may take place outside normal “school hours”.

Ya don’t say?

47. The guidelines go on to state that the type of educational activity undertaken can be varied and flexible. Home educating parents are not required to:

teach the National Curriculum
provide a broad and balanced education
have a timetable
have premises equipped to any particular standard
set hours during which education will take place
have any specific qualifications
make detailed plans in advance
observe school hours, days or terms
give formal lessons
mark work done by their child
formally assess progress or set development objectives
reproduce school type peer group socialisation
match school-based, age-specific standards.

You see, your current guidelines aren’t really too bad. They could do with some tidying up, making it a bit clearer for the more hard-of-thinking local authority employees what they are NOT allowed to do and what duties they do NOT have. Your CME guidelines seem to have confused the poor dears.

48. We will soon commission work to establish whether the current interpretation of ‘suitability’ needs to be updated to provide a definition that takes account of developments in education policy and practice over the years.

Because they’ve turned out SO well! [snort]

We intend to commission work to examine whether we can develop a set of principles describing good quality learning in home education, possibly along the lines of those set out in the Independent Schools Regulations, although less detailed and prescriptive.

So no pre-determined outcomes there, eh?

49. From those principles would flow guidance on factors that local authorities would need to take into account in monitoring home education in different circumstances – for example where children have special educational needs, where they have been bullied or suffered from school phobia, of where they are following an approach such as Montessori/Steiner/autonomous. In this way we would set out the considerations that would apply either to individual children, or to the way education is carried out

You really don’t get it do you. Assessing the suitability of my child’s education is MY job and I don’t need your help.

50. The new guidance will include descriptions of what this means based on the review of suitable and efficient education that we are undertaking (para 62). The guidance will make it clear parents are not required to have any qualifications to teach their children and they are not required to teach a specific curriculum. Parents will also not be required to set tests or put their children forward for examinations. The guidance will give additional information for those parents who wish to access existing curricula or programmes of study and examinations.

51. Guidance will emphasis that, so far as is practicable, monitoring will be carried out informally, with parents and children describing the education that has taken place during the year, their plans for the following year, and discussing with the local authority any support they would like to receive in the short or medium term. Parents and local authorities should agree at the point of registration the extent to which monitoring will be carried out more formally through written reports, provision of work samples etc, or informally through discussion with the parent and the child. We would expect local authorities to be flexible in accommodating the wishes of parents and children which may change over time, particularly when parents start home educating after withdrawing their children from school.

JUST GO AWAY. Alright? GO AWAY AND LEAVE US ALONE. You wouldn’t know a suitable education if it bit you on the arse. Go away and fix your own crumbling, failing excuse for a state education system. You haven’t got a clue and everything you touch turns into CRAP!

Fisking the CSF Bill HE Policy Statement Part 4

Statement of Educational Provision

Guidance will make it clear that the education statement should not be a significant burden on parents

I suspect your definition of ’significant’ and mine are going to be rather different.

and it will not require detailed curriculum or teaching plans. In the current guidelines tolocal authorities on home education we advise them that they may reasonably expect the provision of home education to include the following characteristics: “consistent involvement of parents or other significant carers…; recognition of the child’s needs, attitudes and aspirations; opportunities for the child to be stimulated by their learning experiences; access to resources/materials..”. These guidelines are well regarded by home educators and we would expect an education plan to contain these sorts of characteristics.

OK, so you include a list of ill-defined but unobjectionable characteristics. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop …

Regulations will set out the information needed in the statement and the form it should take.

… and there it goes. Again we run into some serious trust issues here. I don’t trust you and your unpublished regulations.

We envisage that the statement will contain three types of information. First, it must set out the educational needs of the child, and contain any relevant background information which affects the way education is structured and delivered. This may include information about special educational needs, any particular aptitudes the child has, such as sporting or musical ability, the child’s wishes (particularly for older children who may be preparing for employment), any issues affecting wellbeing, such as bullying, and refer to prior attainment at school or otherwise, and any assessment of potential if available.

And this is not going to be ‘a significant burden’?

The second type of information will be the educational philosophy or approach to be adopted. This might cover the degree of formality of education, any specific curricula that will be followed, or qualifications pursued.

OK I’ll grant that’s easy enough, just two words in fact. Presumably you won’t need me to explain what Autonomous Education means?

The third piece of information will be outline plans for the forthcoming year. We recognise this will be particularly difficult for new home educators who might like to submit provisional plans and update them at a later stage once they have explored the best approach that suits the family. For some families these plans will be well structured but for others adopting an autonomous approach they may be able to do no more than set out the range of opportunities that are available to their children, although – depending on our review of suitability – there may be broad parameters such as those set out by the recent Select Committee report - numeracy, literacy and breadth (see section on monitoring below).

And here we see the planned death of Autonomous Education.

We do not expect families to submit detailed curricula, nor to make detailed commitments in their plans. We anticipate that all plans will be open to change as new opportunities present themselves, and children develop new interests so we would expect local authorities to consider the plans flexibly in monitoring, recognising that home educators will want to fine tune provision to the opportunities available in their locality and the changing needs of their children.

So they’ve listened to us just enough to use our own words against us. Again none of this is actually in the bill and we must take it ALL on trust.

We envisage plans should cover around 2 sides of typewritten A4 paper as a very rough guide to the extent of detail that should be provided.

Envisage again.

Where local authorities have committed to provide support, we would expect this to be detailed in the education plan and for the quality and extent of that support to be part of the monitoring discussion at the end of the year

What support? There is NO FUNDING for support.

Section 19D provides that the registration period is annual beginning with the date on which the application for entry of the child’s details on the register is received by the local authority. There are no regulation making powers in this section. Guidance will make it clear that local authorities should make every effort to make it straightforward for parents to reregister if home education is continuing once the annual period of registration is close to an end. Parents should not be expected to submit a full reapplication if home education is continuing and most details are unchanged. The guidance will recommend that local authorities explore whether reregistration can be effected alongside monitoring if that accords with the wishes of the parents, as for many families that may be the simplest course of action. If this is not feasible, we would expect local authorities to contact home educating families 3-4 weeks before registration expires to confirm whether or not registration is to continue, and whether any details have changed. In particular local authorities should work with parents to see whether the existing education statement can be notated with minimal effort on the part of parents, and local authorities should explore whether this could be incorporated into the monitoring visit if that is the easiest approach for parents.

Whatever, by now most of us will have been refused our licenses anyway. I’ll leave my opinions on the monitoring visit for that section.

Section 19F sets out the specific circumstances in which registration can be revoked. Subsections (5) and (6) enable regulations to make provision about steps to be taken by a local authority in connection with revocation or proposed revocation and to make provision about matters that should or should not be taken into account in determining whether any of the revocation conditions are met or whether to revoke. Our main concern here is through the regulations to make sure that local authorities do not make arbitrary decisions, act reasonably and do not revoke registration if, for example, a parent makes a small administrative mistake, or if there is a misunderstanding about practical arrangements for monitoring.

We envisage that the regulations covering revocation will include the steps that local authorities must take when they are considering revoking registration, for example communicating by letter and telephone with parents at the last known address and giving parents a reasonable length of time to respond (possibly 2-3 weeks for example). Local authorities will need to bear in mind the arrangements of families who are mobile and make appropriate arrangements for these families so that they can maintain contact if the family is likely to return to the area in order to avoid repeated revocations and reregistrations. Guidance will make it clear that local authorities should at the point of registration ascertain whether any particular communication difficulties are likely to arise and how these might be overcome in order to accommodate families without a settled lifestyle, or who may spend extended periods at an address other than that at which they are registered. Parents will also have the right to appeal against a local authority’s decision to revoke registration.

39. We would expect the local authority to make comprehensive enquiries before revoking registration and to give home educating parents ample time to make representations if they believe the grounds for revocation are unreasonable. They should in particular take advice from appropriate experts before concluding education is unsuitable if it is conducted in accordance with a specific philosophy, from those with relevant SEN if that is a factor in any decision and with social services before revoking registration on welfare grounds. The local authority should also consider whether providing support would assist in the particular circumstances.

All this care and consideration, you’d almost want to believe it until you realise that the people they are talking about are the same ultra vires acting bullies who have been over-stepping their duties and making home educators’ lives miserable for years.

Fisking the CSF Bill HE Policy Statement Part 3

THE REGISTRATION SCHEME
The Register: Content and Application Process
Section 19A requires a local authority to keep a register of home educated children. Subsections (2) and (3) enable regulations to be made about the way in which local authorities will maintain and amend the register.

We envisage

Envisage [vb] (tr) 1. to form a mental image of; visualize; contemplate 2. to conceive of as a possibility in the future; foresee. It strikes me that the repeated use of this word by people who aren’t afraid to say ‘ensure’ when that isn’t even possible, is intentional. Envisage is vague, it makes no promises, no commitments, it’s just a picture they’ve dreamed up in their heads of how they would like, or maybe how they imagine we would like, the future to turn out. Personally I can envisage Ed Balls sulking on the opposition benches having failed to get himself elected leader of the Labour party and it’s a mental image that gives me some pleasure.

that regulations relating to the maintenance of the register will cover matters such as the local authority’s duty to keep the register up to date, making it clear that local authorities can keep the register in any format that is effective eg paper or electronic. The regulations will clarify that the register will not be publicly available and that access to the register must be restricted to people who need to inspect the register in order to gain information about a home educated child for the purposes of carrying out other functions of the local authority (for example in relation to children missing education or safeguarding) or else the monitoring or support of home education.

Oh yes because you and the local authorities have SUCH a good track record when it comes to keep children’s personal data secure. [cough ContactPoint]

We envisage

glorious summer days paddling in streams and climbing tress with a picnic on the grass and … oh sorry, got lost ‘envisioning’ there. Where were we? oh yes

that regulations covering maintenance and amendment of the register will require local authorities to accept information from parents in a manner that is least burdensome, for example in writing, by electronic means or by a telephone call.

Any limits on what we can write it on, or what languages it can be in?

They should also make provisions for allowing local authorities to make changes to the register where information other than from the parent suggests that the register needs amending – when the family moves house, for example without notifying the local authority. These provisions will ensure that where details are incorrect owing to an oversight by the parents, amendments to the register can be made by the local authority rather than the local authority having to consider revocation under 19F (1) (b) and a fresh application to register.

See how they pick an example which sounds reasonable and then allow the local authority the OPTION of not punishing the family by revoking their licence. Of course there will be lots of other information on the ‘register’ which might change.

Sections 19B and 19C provide that regulations will cover the manner in which the application will be made, what needs to be included in an application and the entry of a child’s details onto the register.
Manner in which the application will be made: Local authorities will decide how they want to populate and maintain the register, for example on line, in writing or in person; at the local authority’s offices, at a school or at a library or other public building. Guidance will say that in doing so they should take into account the views of home educators locally about how the process might work and operate on the principle that registration should be convenient for home educators. It would be best practice to agree arrangements through the consultative forum that Graham Badman’s report on home education suggested each authority should create.

But as always they can totally ignore our views and make the process as onerous and inconvenient as they like. Some will do so out of pure spite.

What is to be included in an application : Regulations will provide that applications for a child’s details to go on the home education register should include the child’s name, address and date of birth; gender; race; religion; special educational needs including whether or not the child is statemented; whether the child has any disability; the names and addresses of those with parental responsibility; other addresses the child has lived at over the past 5 years if of compulsory school age; contact telephone number(s) and email address; place of education, or where most education is carried out if different from the residential address; name of person providing the education if not the parents; details of any previous refusal of or revocation of a registration to home educate and details about the reasons for refusal and the local authority in whose area this refusal or revocation took place; details of any school attendance order served; name of any school that the child has been withdrawn from prior to being home educated. Parents may refuse to supply information such as race, religion and special educational needs but must supply the other information specified.

Why do they need previous addresses for the last 5 years? Email address, why will we HAVE to provide an email address? Not everyone HAS an email address, and yet you make providing one compulsory.

An application should be made within 20 days of the start of home education although there will be transitional provisions covering those parents who are already home educating who we propose should be given 3 months to come forward for registration once the relevant provisions in the Bill are commenced.

And to get our yellow stars sewn on.

Applications will also have to include a statement giving information about the child’s prospective education. Regulations supported by guidance will set out what should be included in this statement and the form it should take and more information on this document is provided at para 29 below. We envisage that it should be provided in written or electronic form as best suits the parents.

OK that’ll be AppleWorks 6 format then.

Regulations will also provide for flexibility around the provision of this statement, so that if a parent is unable to provide the statement with the initial application information (because for example they need more time or support from the local authority to prepare it) regulations will specify that a parent may give an undertaking to provide the statement within a period determinedby or in accordance with regulations which we envisage should not be more than three months after the date of application. Information such as names, addresses, contact details, previous history of home education registration and the statement of prospective education (or an undertaking to provide one) will be core information and if it is not provided the application will not be “in the prescribed manner” and the local authority will be unable to register that child. Guidance will make it clear that local authorities should work cooperatively with parents and should assist them in registering through ensuring that administrative errors in applications (eg dates that are inconsistent) are investigated and rectified promptly and in a manner that is not onerous to applicants.

Oh joy, more envisioning. Remember this is pie in the sky no commitment to anything language.

Local authorities will be able to specify a period, prescribed by or determined in accordance with regulations, within which an application to enter on their home education register the details of a child whose previous application has been refused or revoked, may not be made unless the authority is satisfied that there has been a change of circumstances that justifies an application being made within that period. We envisage that the local authority will have discretion to determine a period on a case by case basis not exceeding one year, within which no repeat application may be made. The period specified by the local authority should reflect the authority’s assessment of how long it will take for circumstances to change such that parents might reasonably expect that a renewed application would stand a reasonable chance of success.

One year? But no, there’s an ‘envisioning’ in that sentence, that’s not a commitment. Even a nice local authority with staffing and budget constraints will be inclined to make the reapplication period a long one and the upper limit isn’t fixed, it could be for life.

The regulations will also specify the information to be held on the register which is likely to include the child’s name, address and date of birth; names and addresses of those with parental responsibility; other addresses the child has lived at over the past 5 years if of compulsory school age; contact telephone number(s) and email address; place of education, or where most education is carried out if different from the residential address; any previous refusal of or revocation of a registration to home educate and details about the reasons for refusal and the local authority in whose area this refusal or revocation took place; name of person providing the education if not the parents; gender; race; religion; special educational needs including whether or not the child is statemented; and any disability.

Did they copy paste this document together, because they do seem to be repeating themselves a lot, virtually the same thing just 3 paragraphs back.

Information of a statistical nature such as gender, race, religion or special education needs will not be a requirement for registration although applicants will be encouraged to provide it in order that local authorities can provide appropriate training for staff, ensure that appropriate staff are selected to conduct monitoring, and in order to inform national policy

Pardon me for being picky, and I am opposed to the whole thing, but on what planet exactly are special education needs ‘information of a statistical nature’?

Where a family has more than one child that is being home educated, a separate application will be needed in respect of each child although local authorities should identify ways to simplify the registration process for families with several children, particularly where the details supplied in respect of each child are similar.

No shit Sherlock.

Registration of a child: Once an application has been made in the prescribed format the child must be registered unless one of the specific grounds for refusing the application set out under 19B is satisfied. There is therefore a presumption of registration unless one of the specified grounds is satisfied. The grounds are (broadly), previous refusal or revocation of a home education application; inaccurate or inadequate information; and welfare issues.

‘Broadly’ but the devil as they say, is in the details. As a reminder, this document exists to pull the wool over MP’s eyes and convince them that the bill is reasonable and proportionate.

The local authority will have a discretion to register (or refuse to register) where a previousapplication has been rejected, registration has previously been revoked, or a school attendance order has been served and is still in force.

Even where the previous rejection was for purely procedural reasons.

Regulations may make provision about matters that are or are not to be taken into account by an authority in making any decision not to register and what steps should be taken by a local authority in the process of making its decision.

So in other words the DCSF and whoever is then Secretary of State will have the power, without any parliamentary oversight at all to include absolutely anything they want as grounds for refusing registration. ANYTHING.

In relation to a decision to refuse to register on these grounds the regulations will make it clear that the grounds for refusal or revocation must be substantial to protect parents from arbitrary decisions or those with a purely administrative basis.

And I’m the Queen of Sheba.

In respect of the local authority discretion to refuse registration where registration has been previously refused or revoked we envisage that each case must be considered on its own merits.

Envisioned again which means local authorities will be left to their own devices.

The sorts of factors which might affect this are where there have previously been educational or welfare concerns but circumstances have now changed.

The local authority also has a discretion to register (or refuse to register) if it considers that material information provided by the parents is inaccurate or that material information relating to the application has not been disclosed.

Another massive opportunity for abuse and prejudice then.

Regulations will provide that the authority should consider whether to contact other local authorities, children’s services colleagues and/or schools if they think it is likely that they will have information that has a bearing on the application to home educate. Regulations will also specify that local authorities will not be required to accept another authority’s decision to refuse or revoke registration but can take it into account when receiving applications from home educators moving into their area. There are provisions in the legislation which will allow local authorities to share information amongst themselves relevant to home education registration decisions to ensure that families moving from place to place can register as quickly and efficiently as possible (19 H).

So if your local EHE inspector doesn’t like you there will be no escape, you will be marked for life.

Section 19B requires LAs to refuse registration where they consider that home education would be harmful to the child’s welfare.

Which some people think home education ALWAYS is.

Regulations and guidance will set out the sorts of circumstances in which this will or will not be appropriate and what steps local authorities will have to take in reaching any decision on a child’s welfare.

Never mind, I’m sure you’ll make it wide ranging and vague enough to allow absolutely anyone to be refused ‘registration’.

The sorts of circumstances where we envisage that local authorities may have to consider carefully whether in their view home education may be harmful to the child are, for example, where a child has a child protection plan which specifies that the child must attend school, or where the local authority considers that the child is a child in need (s17 Children Act) because they are suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. This may include cases where there is a history of domestic violence, serious neglect, domestic chaos related to mental illness or addition, or other forms of child abuse. Local authorities may also decide that children who are the subject of a s47 Children Act enquiry may not be registered because of the circumstances that triggered the enquiry. We expect these cases to be very few in number with local authorities considering each case on its merits [and without making any general rule about particular types of case]. Parents refused registration will be informed of the grounds for this decision and will have the right to appeal against the decision to an independent panel.
Regulations will require local authorities to acknowledge applications for registration and to make a decision on registration within a reasonable period, possibly 20 working days. Local authorities may not make any charge for registration or monitoring.

So there will be an appeals process with an ‘independent’ panel. This wouldn’t be the same kind of ‘independent’ that Graham Badman was? Pardon me if I’m not exactly reassured by this ‘independent’ panel, I’d personally have preferred a court. Oh and not charging us to be licensed and monitored? As if all this wasn’t bad enough it actually crossed your minds that you might make us pay for our own oppression?

Fisking the CSF Bill HE Policy Statement Part 2

A New Approach

Not really, plenty of local authorities have been trying to pull this authoritarian control freak approach for years. If home educators weren’t so good at educating themselves it might have worked to.

Home education is a well-established and important part of our education system.

Good grief, can’t they manage to go one sentence without getting it wrong? Home education is NOT part of your education system, that’s the WHOLE POINT. Home educators have opted out or never even opted in to your education system.

England is and will remain under our proposals one of the most liberal countries in the developed world for parents who choose to home educate.

No, it IS one of the most liberal countries in the developed world (btw that is a GOOD thing) but your proposals will put an end to that and make it one of the most draconian, and please don’t mention Germany because the reasons for home education being illegal there are not something you want to admit to, even it they are dangerously near to the truth.

Our reforms will have minimal impact on home educators who are doing a good job -

Some people might give you the benefit of the doubt here and assume that this statement is the result of ignorance. I don’t think you can be THAT stupid so this is a LIE. You know damned well that your horrible bill will make a massive difference to home educators who are doing a good job, even an amazing job.

unlike many other countries, parents will be able to follow the wide range of different educational philosophies they currently adhere to, including autonomous learning.

LIE.

Home educated children will not have to follow the National Curriculum, take SATs tests or other public examinations. They will not have to observe school hours, days or holidays.

Like a mugger trying to convince you that they’re doing you a favour because they’re letting you keep your clothes and shoes.

For most home educators who already work harmoniously with their local authorities, the provisions in the Bill will bring little change on the ground.

This sentence isn’t at all clear. Are they saying that most home educators DO already “work harmoniously with their local authorities” and for them there will be little change? No, that can’t be right because if the figures they’re bandying around, 20,000 known, 70,000 total, are even remotely correct most home educators aren’t even known to their local authority. So it MUST be about the small minority of home educators who are both known to their local authority AND ‘work harmoniously’ with them. So in fact what they’re saying is that if you already do what your local authority wants, jumping through their hoops, accepting home visits etc. THEN there will be little change. Sorry, but SO WHAT?

However, when combined with our wider proposals, home educators will have much better access to support if their children have special needs, or want to attend college, or take public examinations.

Also SO WHAT? None of those proposals are in this bill. They will require significant funding which this bill will NOT provide. Significant funding at a time when public services are going to be cut. There will be no access to better support. In fact ‘better’ implies that some exists now!

There will also be funding to help local authorities provide support to home educators such as access to school libraries, music lessons, after school clubs and sports facilities.

LIE. There is NO FUNDING.

For the arrangements to be successful there needs to be co-operation between home educators and local authorities.

What arrangements? Arrangements for the non-existent support and services for which there is and will be NO FUNDING. Just how stupid do you think we are?!

They must recognise and respect each others’ responsibilities. Local authorities must respect the right of parents to decide the educational approach of their child,

Well that would be nice, but you’re really not helping.

and the current Bill reinforces the well established principle that parents are responsible for the education of their children, not the state.

No it doesn’t. It undermines it totally. Black is white again!

Home educating parents and their children should respect local authorities’ duty to ensure that every child in their area is being educated and assist them in discharging this duty in a way that is cost effective for the taxpayer.

Local authorities do NOT have such a duty. A nice touch here don’t you think that our children are now being told that they have to respect the local authority’s fictional duty, be good little girls and boys and cooperate.

As well as monitoring, our proposals envisage local authorities adopting a more supportive role to home educators in their area and homeeducators becoming more involved in shaping their local authority’s policies and practices that relate to home education.

So with no money to pay for this ’support’ and home educators justifiably upset you ‘envisage’ a world full of hearts and flowers and fluffy bunnies. Local authorities and home educators skipping hand in hand into a rose tinted sunset? What are you on?

Guidance will recognise that home educators and their children are a diverse group who are home educating for many different reasons. Many will be home educating because their child has not had a positive experience of school; others will have a philosophical preference for an educational approach which is very different from that offered in school. The local authority should approach monitoring from the perspective of collaboration and support, and make every effort to make arrangements for monitoring which are tailored to fit family routines.

Based on the contents of the bill and everything else we’ve seen, not to mention the past behaviour of many local authorities, excuse me if I find this wholly unbelievable.

For these reasons local authorities need to approach registration and monitoring with the widest possible perspective on what constitutes a ‘suitable and efficient’ education recognising that home educated children do not have to follow a prescribed curriculum, take tests or examinations, follow school hours or use any particular resources. There must be a focus on whether the home educated child is learning and making progress appropriate to their individual needs and aptitudes.

‘Progress’? Sorry, where did you pull that from? We are as parents obliged to provide a suitable education, our children are NOT obliged to make ‘appropriate progress’ whatever that is. Who I wonder will get to decide what progress is appropriate? I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark here and guess that it won’t be the child or the parent.

Monitoring must also be carried out in a supportive way,

This feels like I should be able to call it an oxymoron.

with the LA listening to the family, and doing everything possible to respond to the reasonable requests of home educating families for support, bearing in mind the cost and efficiency of delivery.

And once again there is no funding. So however ‘reasonable’ (who decides) the request it will be refused because (repeat it with me boys and girls) THERE IS NO FUNDING.

Local authorities should establish mechanisms for engaging with representatives from all parts of the home educating community in establishing arrangements for monitoring.

So they will ask us just how we’d like to be oppressed? Lovely!

We would expect the home educating community to be involved with commissioning monitoring arrangements, support services and in providing training to local authority officials carrying out monitoring.

Dream on! Not going to happen. An EO rep has already told you that they won’t be helping you.

The regulations and guidance on registration and monitoring arrangements will recognise that the interests of the child are of paramount importance.

But it’s not in the bill is it? So that’s just another empty promise thrown into this document to fool anyone who doesn’t know your track record.

The focus of the arrangements in the Bill is on the education of the child.

Just not in a positive or helpful way.

Where in the course of monitoring safeguarding concerns come to light these will be addressed through existing child protection legislation which is entirely separate from the educational arrangements set out in the current Bill. The following statement outlines our proposals in more detail for the regulations and guidance.

I think I’ll take another break here.