Archive for April, 2010

Rent seekers already gearing up for next attack on HE

The “Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People’s Services (C4EO)” have been surveying LAs for information on how they deal with home educators. The dreadful NASWE have an HTML copy here.

Our intention is that, by sharing this information, you will enable C4EO to begin to draw a map of existing practice, and indicate future work required on developing the safeguarding and promoting welfare aspects of home education responsibilities for Children’s Trusts.

I think we can see where this is going can’t we? The CSF Bill threat may be gone but no doubt C4EO will have collected its ‘evidence’ and will be working away behind the scenes producing a report with which to influence whoever is running the DCSF after May 6th.

An idea

I’m blogging this as an idea in progress, as much to sort it out in my head as anything.

First there’s the problem. The Home Education community in the UK is frazzled. We’ve won a major battle with the death of the EHE clauses of the CSF Bill and if life were fair we’d be due a nice long rest with nobody bothering us for a few years at least. Life isn’t fair and we’re not going to get that.

Kelly Green and Gold blogged about “Home Education: The Image” earlier this month and “Why it isn’t over” yesterday. Others have made similar points but I can’t face looking through the rather long list of blogs that I follow to find them all right now. The point is, it’s NOT over. Right now there’s a break in active hostilities against us but do we want to wait for the next attack? I really wish I could find the blog post on the timing of the Kyrah Ishaq case and the Badman report and all the behind the scenes plotting and planning that went on after the ‘light touch’ changes were dropped, but you get the point. Just because they’re not making slanderous statements to the press right now doesn’t mean that they’re not doing anything, that there aren’t meetings taking place, memos being circulated. They won’t underestimate us again and we can’t count on the kind of good luck that saw the Ishaq mistrial scupper DCSF plans last year.

Back in February Blogdial made the case for the home ed community hiring a professional PR firm.

This full time PR endeavour has only one purpose; to make it psychologically impossible for any MP to consider any controls on Home Education. It should be anathema to them; they should bristle at the suggestion of controlling or interfering with Home Education.

Maybe that’s what we need, but it’s not something I feel equipped to try to convince anyone of right now so I’m going to suggest that we start off with a much more typically HE approach.

Do1Thing4HE

The Do One Thing idea seemed to work well when the BBC used it for wildlife. Not everyone can or wants to install a wildlife pond or set over their garden to plants for bees, but everyone can do something, however small like hanging up one bird feeder, and thousands of something smalls add up to something big.

There are thousands of us. Some blog, some get out there and petition parliament, blow bubbles, bang drums, and some feel like it’s all too massive a problem to be able to do anything, but everyone CAN do something. It might just be making the decision to attend that Not Back to School Picnic this year rather than not attending. It might be writing the letter to your local paper that you’d though about but never got around to. If everyone, yes EVERYONE, decides that they are going to do something, even just one small thing to raise the profile of HE in a positive way, to educate MPs, LAs and the public, then the cumulative effect will be amazing.

You don’t even need to decide right now what your One Thing is going to be, just make a note of your commitment to doing something. If you’re doing 101 Things in 1001 Days then make it one of those things. “Do something for HE”.

So, there’s the basic idea. Comments? Suggestions? Links to relevant blogs that I should have linked to?

SCC update

The Education, Learning and Development (formerly Schools and Learning) Select Committee met on April 14th with the council’s EHE policy on the agenda. Supporting documents, including letters from local home educators, can be found here (minutes to follow). The outcome of the meeting is that a Working Group is to be convened to draw up a new policy.

SCC info page for background and further details.

So what was Schedule 1 about really?

Home education being used as a cover for abuse and forced marriage … * no it was really about educational standards … except that no it wasn’t it was really all about safeguarding … except that actually the “the point of the compulsory registration scheme” was to know more precisely where children were.

It would have helped their case if they had picked one lie and stuck with it don’t you think?

* You’ll notice that I skipped a whole year of flip flops, life is too short to hunt them all down!

A short written summary of my thoughts …

For those who wanted to read it, here’s my response to SCC’s request for comment on their Draft EHE Policy and “national developments”.

Last night (7/4/2010) the EHE elements of the Children, Schools and Families Bill was voted down in the House of Lords. The national situation is that there has been no change in the law and short of a Labour government being returned to power it is unlikely that anything similar will be put forward again. In practical terms this means there is no legal foundation for the monitoring of home education and no central government funding.

Unfortunately the DCSF has been sending out guidance and holding briefings which presupposed that Schedule 1 was going to go through despite a clear public promise by Michael Gove MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families) that it would not be permitted to pass into law. I can only conclude that it was part of a politically motivated policy of ‘muddying the waters’ and further damaging the relationships between home educators and LAs.

The Badman report has been soundly discredited and almost unanimously rejected by the home educating community, even the Labour dominated HoC CS&F Select Committee found it to be “too aggressive” and based on “less than robust” evidence. It is certainly not a good basis for policy!

The SCC draft EHE policy is deeply flawed, even the first sentence is factually incorrect. The parental duty to ensure “children receive education suited to their age ability and aptitude, and to any special educational needs” applies to all children, not just those not registered at school. I will refrain from a point by point criticism of the policy as I am sure that the committee will have neither the time or inclination to discuss it in that kind of detail, but the policy does not “Follow the DSCF [sic] Guidance To Local Authorities On Elective Home Education”. It is drafted almost entirely on the basis that children who are home educated will have been withdrawn from school and it misrepresents education law.

The petition presented to SCC last year specifically asked that a new EHE policy comply with CURRENT law and guidelines, not the wish list of anti-home education elements in government, and that it be developed in consultation with home educators, the main stakeholders.

The EHE team sent out a short satisfaction survey last February but by no stretch of the imagination could it be taken to constitute a consultation on a new EHE policy. The cover letter for that survey dated 11th February 2009 included the following statement “the Local Authority is hoping to form a working group from members of the home educating community and the EHE team to look at ways to support home education”. This never materialised. “The results will be published early in the Summer Term” also never happened.

A Surrey EHE policy not only needs to comply with the law and be acceptable to home educators it also needs to represent value for money to the tax payers of Surrey and not to divert scarce resources from where they are really needed. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the projected budget cuts outlined in the SCC Corporate Business Plan, nor of the unfortunate outcome of the children’s services inspections carried out by Ofsted.

Surrey should seek to be an example of good practice and positive relationships which benefit everyone and the first step towards that is a good official policy.

Happy Day!

As I write the Lords are still slogging through the Financial Services Bill, but the DCSF have issued a statement admitting that the Home Ed licensing part of the CSF Bill is dead. Of some interest is how they phrase it.

Registration and monitoring of home education – following Graham Badman’s independent report into home education, these provisions put in place a valuable tool for local authorities in their work to safeguard all children.

Again with claiming that Badman was independent, but worse they are back to saying that it was all about safeguarding. Mark my words, we haven’t seen the last of these bastards!

But just for today PARRRRRTAY!!!!