Educating Outside the Box

Just look at the dust and cobwebs!

Has it really been nearly three years since I last posted to this blog? How time flies!

Looking back at those old posts full of battles with national government and SCC it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, but I guess it is. Three years of peace and quiet and being allowed to get on with the day to day business of home educating without feeling we have to justify ourselves to anyone. Bliss.

I don’t plan on blogging here regularly but the site clearly needs a serious spring clean. There are broken links on the HE Groups page and things like the HE News page is so, so old that I might just rename it as an archive.

Consultation on new Surrey County Council EHE Policy

Today home educators known to Surrey County Council will (Post Office permitting) have received a copy of the DRAFT EHE policy [pdf] with a cover letter [pdf] explaining that the consultation will run until 30th September. There is to be a ‘feedback meeting’ on Wednesday 29th June (or Thursday 30th for GRT parents) or you can send written comments via Angela Lee (see cover letter for details).

As usual, if you are ‘unknown’ and feel nervous about communicating directly you can send your comments to me to pass on anonymously.

The SCC EHE policy consulation

I’ve updated the SCC page with copies of the EHE Task group terms of reference, report, draft policy and the Cabinet response. Fun packed stuff I can tell you, but if you haven’t been following in detail and don’t want to download them below are the recommendations, the Cabinet official response and my comments.

As a side note the “570 children registered for EHE in Surrey” means that according to Ed Yourself it falls into the top 4% of LAs by number of know EHE children.

Recommendation A: That a three month consultation takes place on the draft Elective Home Education policy attached to this task group report as appendix A.

Comment: Officers support the proposed changes to policy. They reflect the current legislation accurately and are designed to lead to a more positive working relationship with home educators. The proposed policies have been agreed in respect of their safeguarding and SEN content with the relevant Heads of Service. It is suggested that the policy be further considered in the light of consultation responses and reported back to the Cabinet in the Autumn Term

Recommendation B: That greater analysis takes place regarding the reasons why children leave school for home education.

Comment: The service does not have the capacity to undertake statistical research in this area. Each case is considered individually and an Annual report providing abroad overview is produced each year.

My Comment: Bit of a misunderstanding on this one. It didn’t mean anything statistical, the numbers aren’t high enough for that to be meaningful, more that an eye should be kept open for patterns (e.g. multiple children being deregistered from the same school) and where something looks ‘off’ it should be investigated.

Recommendation C: That the new Surrey EHE policy should be supported by a series of procedural documents to be issued in the coming year. These should make explicit the role of EHE adviser and be made publicly available via the Surrey website.

Comment: The service consists of one full time officer, supported by home tutors. It is timely to review the operational procedures and this is a mater that will be undertaken by the EHE team.

Recommendation D: That the support, advice and information available is made more explicit to ensure that home educators are aware that there may be positive benefits to registering with the Council.

Comment This will form part of the review of operational procedures and be reflected in service documentation.

Recommendation E: That the EHE team offers home educating families a ‘menu’ of support options, including one option where families can choose to not receive direct advice or support from the Council.

Comment: – This is now in place.

My Comment: Yes, you read that right. “Thanks but no thanks”, or “we’ll call you if we need anything” are officially options if you’re a home educator in Surrey.

Recommendation F: That drop-in sessions are held around the County at regular intervals, where home educating parents can receive advice and support from an EHE adviser and network with other families.

Comment: As for C and D. These are being established in the Summer Term.

My Comment: This was something asked for by some home educators. With only one full time advisor it’s hoped it will prove to be a more effective use of her time for meeting some of the families who do want contact.

Recommendation G: That a new e-mail group is set up, through which home educators could register to receive useful updates and information from the EHE team.

Comment: The service does not have the capacity to undertake this coordination at present.

My Comment: The one EHE advisor was on the Task Group, so this is something she agreed to. I’m sure you’ll agree that firing off info to a mailing list when you get it isn’t exactly a major task. Hopefully this one will be un-scrapped.

Recommendation H: That the home education web pages are moved to sit under the ‘Learning’ section of the Surrey County Council web site, rather than the ‘Schools’.

Comment: This has been completed

My Comment: And so it has, go look, linked from Learning which is one level down from the front page. Can’t ask for better than that.

Recommendation I: That the EHE team should continue to work with Schools to explore the possibility of establishing home education ‘link’ schools that would be willing to take private candidates for exams.

Comment: As in G

My Comment: another one which we’d like to see un-scrapped as the school heads agreed it was a good idea.

Recommendation J: That the EHE adviser uses the home education e-mail group (see recommendation G) to advise parents of schools and exam centres that are willing to accept candidates for exams.

Comment: As in G

My Comment: If the e-mail list happens it was envisaged that this was one of those things where HEers would feed information to the EHE advisor who would circulate it, rather than having to phone schools to ask, which would indeed be a major task.

Recommendation K: That a leaflet or advice page on the website is developed to advise home educators through the complexities of entering private candidates for exams.

Comment: As in G

My Comment: I’d suggested directing people to the GCSE etc Yahoo Group, but a bit of an introduction wouldn’t hurt and could either be written by home educators who’ve been through it or lifted (with permission) from one of the national HE groups. I don’t think it needs to be that time consuming.

Recommendation L: That as part of the home education policy a commitment is made to the training and development of EHE advisers in home education law and practice as well as alternative learning styles.

Comment: This is in place. The EHE lead officer attends relevant events and training is being provided to tutors supporting home educating parents

Recommendation M: That the role of the EHE adviser is clarified within the traveller community through closer working with the Traveller Education team.

Comment: This will form part of the review of operational procedures and be reflected in service documentation

Recommendation N: That training sessions are held to increase common understanding and awareness between the social care and EHE teams on an ongoing basis.

Comment: This will form part of the review of operational procedures and be reflected in service documentation

Recommendation O: That safeguarding awareness and training resources which are traditionally delivered via schools are also offered to home educate young people through alternative methods.

Comment: As in G

My Comment: This one came from the social care team, they said they have resources they provide to schools which could easily also be provided to home educated children if people wanted it. There are also things like ’safety days’ run for schools which EHE children could attend, it would just be a matter of remembering to offer.

Recommendation P: That a revised procedure for handling annual reviews for children with SEN statements who are educated at home, is produced as part of the new policy.

Comment: This has been agreed with the Head of SEN and is an operational matter. The new procedures will operate from September 2011

My Comment: there has been a lot of ‘falling through the net’ with properly maintaining the statements of EHE children and the Head of SEN is keen to stop that happening.

Recommendation Q: That training is held for SEN case officers to give them a greater knowledge and understanding of home education.

Comment: This will form part of the review of operational procedures and be reflected in service documentation

Recommendation R: That a leaflet is produced to specifically advise anyone with a child with SEN who is considering home education.

Comment: This has been agreed with the Head of SEN and is an operational matter. The new procedures will operate from September 2011

Hello blog

I’ve certainly let the blogging slip haven’t I? Nearly 5 months since the last entry. I suppose this could be seen as a good sign, a lack of things that I’ve felt compelled to rant about longer than the 140 characters on Twitter?

That’s going to change (the lack of blogging but hopefully not the need for ranting) because the draft Surrey County Council EHE policy will be going out to public consultation any day now. The relevant page on the SWSurrey web site needs some serious updating (my next task after this blog entry) so I won’t link to it here and now.

Swimming lessons

What is the purpose of swimming lessons? I thought it was ‘to learn how to swim’? You know, not drown and further to learn how to propel oneself through the water with some degree of style and efficiency? But no, apparently the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority have something to say about the matter according to our local sports centre (see below).

Could someone explain to me exactly HOW “Work well in groups to solve specific problems and challenges, sharing out the work fairly” can possibly apply to swimming? Seriously, it is just this kind of pointless busy-work drivel that convinces me that home education was and is the best choice. I almost pity whoever had to make this BS up, “you want what? a whole page on the purpose of swimming lessons?”

Aims and Objectives of the Schools Programme
Swimming Lessons

The National Curriculum in swimming is about far more than achieving a 25 metre swimming award. In addition, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has the following expectations of school swimming programmes:

Most children will be able to:

Swim between 50 and 100 metres and keep swimming for 45 to 90 seconds.
Use 3 different strokes, swimming on their front and back.
Control their breathing.
swim confidently and fluently on the surface and under water;
Work well in groups to solve specific problems and challenges, sharing out the work fairly.
Recognise how swimming affects their body and pace their efforts to meet different challenges
Suggest activities and practices to help improve their own performance.

We aim to provide an all round Schools Programme and have devised a series of awards to reflect these challenges. Swimming is a life skill and we recognise both the contribution that swimming can make to encourage a healthy life style in our school children as well as the importance of educating our young people in water safety awareness.

To meet these objectives, in addition to the teaching of swimming stokes and skills we recognise the need to educate and increase the understanding of our children in the following:

An understanding and awareness of safety in and around swimming pools.
An understanding and awareness of open water safety and how such environments differ from supervised swimming pools.
An introduction to survival swimming
The importance of an active lifestyle
To recognise how bodies feel different and are effected by exercise
To understand the importance of warming up and preparing for exercise
To understand why physical activity is good for health and well being

We recognise the right of each child to be treated individually and given equal rights to participate whatever their needs and in a stress free and encouraging environment.

To celebrate international freedom in education day

We went shopping and had lunch at Krispy Kreme. Why? Because we could! I think I can swing that as making a political point don’t you?

FAO Surrey resident Home Educators

Surrey County Council are running a focus group for local home educators on Wednesday October 20th. If you are interested in attending or submitting written evidence (SCC residents only please) and are not known to them please contact me or join the surrey_home_ed Yahoo Group. If you are known to the LA you should receive an invitation from them, but still feel free to join the group for background documents, discussions, reports etc.

The focus group forms part of the consultation process for a new EHE policy for the council.

CME

Remember my little theory that LAs want a compulsory register of home educated children as a way to divert attention from their inability to find children who are REALLY missing from education?

Schools ‘failing over exclusions’

Well, maybe I was a little harsh and it was more like them going for the low hanging fruit to make the numbers look better? If they can get us to register then that’s what, maybe something like 100 children per LA who will move into the ‘known’ column? But is that really a much better excuse? When schools are getting away with illegally off-rolling problem pupils which LAs apparently don’t even know about?

What Ofsted are claiming here is that there is a real CME problem, one which LAs are going to have to do something about. How should they do this? Register and monitor children who are NOT missing education OR investigate schools and, oh I don’t know, prosecute where they are found to be acting illegally?

SCR 4

Well well well, the plot thickens. The NSPCC produced the Khyra Ishaq SCR FOR FREE. It goes some way to explain the low standard of the document but why do we think they were so desperate to get the job that they under-cut any competition by offering to do it for nothing?

More info and links on the Staffordshire blog.

Compulsory registration and CME

You know those optical illusion pictures which you see one thing and then after staring at it for while suddenly the whole image flips and you see a different one? I just had one of those moments with regard to the argument that home educated children should be registered ‘to help’ LAs with their duty to find Children Missing Education (CME).

Maybe the issue is really that the publicly acknowledged existence of thousands of home educated children not known to their LA draws unwanted attention to the fact that those LAs aren’t in fact trying to find CME, or at least not trying very hard.