All Party Parliamentary Group on Home Education
First Meeting on 6 January 2010
This report of the meeting consists of notes made by Claire Blades (CB); joint notes made by Betsy Anderson and Alison Sauer (BA&AS); notes made by Deborah Tomkins (DT) and Tania Berlow (TB). The initials of the people whose notes they are appears at the beginning of each section of text.
Meeting was chaired by Graham Stuart MP. There was a short presentation by Diana Johnson MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools helped by civil servant Penny Jones, head of policy for EHE in the DCSF.
Graham Stuart MP
Welcomed everyone. Said this was the first meeting of the APPG on Home Education.
Diana Johnson MP
(CB) Mentioned she had had a meeting with Graham Stuart yesterday about Home Education (HE). Said the Government was committed to supporting choice for HE. Wants a more constructive and supportive approach. Said the Government would publish Statutory Guidance around the registration scheme later in the year and this would be put out to consultation. Wanted to highlight what she sees as key areas:
- LA forums for HE families
- Plans to extend flexi-schooling
- Use of school libraries to be made available
- Support to families with children with SEN.
(BA&AS) She has met many home educating families in recent months. She met with Graham Stuart yesterday and they spoke about issues of concern. She would like to preface all of her remarks with the comment that home education is a well-established and important part of the education system. The government is committed to continue home education as a choice. The new arrangements are to provide support, to provide a more supportive and constructive arrangement with home educating families, and a safe environment. Statutory Guidance will be put out for consultation later this year. This will in particular relate to the registration system, to ensure that it is as user-friendly and flexible as possible. She spoke with Graham about this. There will be broad policy statements about the Guidance ready when the bill goes through. Key positive proposals include: Forums -- so that home educators can raise their views with local authorities. Opportunities to extend flexible schooling, access to school libraries and music lessons. As much support as possible to home educating families with special educational needs. The intention is to widen the practices that are happening in some authorities already. At the committee stage, the bill will be gone through line by line.
Susan Kramer, Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park
(CB) Has met lots of Home Edders. She said Home Education appeared to have been a real choice made by her constituents. She had a real concern that Child Protection (CP) issues have come to dominate the debate.
(BA&AS) She has good schools in her area. Home education for her constituents is a choice, not an act of desperation. Her real concern is that child protection issues dominate over recognition that parents have responsibility over their children. But EHE families are treated as a high-risk, quasi-guilty category, without the evidence that they are high risk. Under the bill they will be the object of a particularly intrusive regime.
(DT) HE families have become a “quasi-guilty category in need of special investigation.” The statistics don’t bear this out. They have become an “object of a particularly intrusive regime.” (I cheered when I heard these strong words)
(CB) The focus of this report (Badman) is education.
(BA&AS) As minister, her concern is education. There already are ways to handle safeguarding concerns. Education is central, the focus should be on education. Though some issues stray into safeguarding. The Badman recommendations are in the vast majority around education. We need to explore more issues about home education, such as autonomous education, explaining autonomous education and what an efficient education is. Referring to the statistics around EHE there are some safeguarding concerns. But to stress again, for her is is about education, she is concerned about supporting families.
Charlotte Atkins, Labour MP for Staffordshire Moorlands
(CB) Handed in a parliamentary petition with 121 names. Emphasised that for her constituents Home Education was a real choice. Said she felt that her constituents were most concerned about plans to interview the child alone (as opposed to registration). Said the right balance had to be obtained. Mentioned that the Select Committee also see the interview with the child as being Draconian.
(BA&AS) She has met some home educating families and their children, and her petition had 121 names. Clearly the families do a good job. For them, the interview alone with the child is the biggest concern. Home education is not an easy choice and she could never have done it herself. We need to get the balance right with safeguarding. The interview is draconian. Safeguarding is taking over the issue of home education, in contrast to what the minister has discussed.
(DT) Said that she had 121 on her petition. HE parents do a “fantastic job”. Also said that HE was not an easy option.
DIVISION BELL RANG FOR A VOTE IN THE HOUSE SO MPS LEFT FOR 10 MINUTES
(CB) We want monitoring to be in the spirit of co-operation not some kind of examination that parents must pass. In most cases there wouldn’t be a need for a child to be interviewed separately. Would be a last resort if parents were not providing enough information about education. Refusal to allow child to be interviewed would be taken into account when deciding on registration. School Attendance Order (SAO) would be the sanction at the end of the process. Wants to make sure that Local Authority (LA) officials have the training and understanding of the issues.
(BA&AS) The monitoring meeting will just be once a year. The main thing is the spirit of cooperation and collaboration, to develop a positive relationship between home educators and the authorities. In the spirit of this, there would not be much need for meetings alone with children. Failure to allow such a meeting, would be one factor taken into account. Instances of non-cooperation and concern would be taken into account when considering allowing registration to carry on. Disallowing registration would be a final sanction. It really is about developing positive relationships. They want local authority officials to have training and understanding of what HE is about. Education officials should understand that education can take place in a variety of ways, not necessarily like school. The Select Committee report is helpful about what issues need to be taken into account. For example, numeracy and literacy. They want the spirit of moving forward positively.
(CB) Parents are going to have to prove that they are providing a full-time and suitable education. It is that shift that is causing concern. The ultimate say should be with the parent and this (legislation) shifts that.
(CB) I am keen that we move on from that old view of LAs. I am aiming for well-trained officials. BA&AS The aim is well-trained officials who will be looking for key areas, but understand that home education is not necessarily the same as school.
Anne Milton, Conservative MP for Guildford
(CB) I don’t share your optimism about local officials. This will take away the essence of home education. If you talk to parents you will hear a different story from that of LAs. Parents have often withdrawn their children for very good reasons.
(BA&AS) She had 62 signatures on the petition. She does not share the optimism about training officials. She sees in this the "dead hand of the state in glorious technicolour." It will take away everything that is the essence of home education. She wishes that Diana could meet her constituents. In fact she invites her to meet her constituents, many of whom have withdrawn their children from mainstream education because the mainstream is failing to educate their children. The DCSF is suddenly concerned about what EHE parents are doing, and not about the faults in the school system which are far greater.
(DT) Anne Milton talked about “the dead hand of the state in glorious technicolour.” She would like to invite DJ to meet HE families, then she will hear a very different story from that told her by officials. Why not concentrate on the schools that are failing children?
Dave Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon
(CB) Why should I be licenced to look after my child? Questioned the quality of the data Badman used and said that if the data were flawed then any decisions based on those data were also going to be flawed.
(BA&AS) What works people up, is licencing, and seeing the child alone. Also concerned with the quality of the Badman data. If his data is wrong, then the decisions produced from it are wrong. He was a trade union rep for 16 years representing non-teaching staff and social workers. He saw many examples where knee-jerk reactions to child abuse created disasters.
(DT) He also mentioned he’d had 16 years as Trades Union rep, saw many examples of child abuse with disastrous knee-jerk reactions from those in authority. He said that this new legislation would undermine good work as well as bad work. (I think he was saying don’t jump in with both feet.)
(TB) He also mentioned he’d had 16 years as Trades Union rep, saw many examples of child abuse with disastrous knee-jerk reactions from those in authority. He said that this new legislation would undermine good work as well as bad work. (I think he was saying don’t jump in with both feet.)
(CB) We don’t know how many children are being home educated. Part of the reason why Badman and the Select Committee want a registration scheme (yes, she said this) is to find out the numbers so we can plan for resourcing.
(BA&AS) They don't know how many HE children there are. They think it is around 20,000. But they don't know the full picture. Registration would mean knowing the numbers. The registration scheme would allow them to plan effectively. She referred to Penny Jones as knowing more about the statistics.
(DT) Diana Johnson seems obsessed with getting statistics. She talked a lot about the need to have the numbers of HE children.
Penny Jones, head of policy for EHE in the DCSF
(CB) Graham knew the statistics from the LAs were incomplete. He actually said in his report: “the number of children known to social care is disproportionately high ... etc.” (This is a quote from the Badman report.) Penny said: “That is all he said.”
(BA&AS) Badman knew when he did his report that the statistics were incomplete. Because of this he was cautious about drawing inferences from them. The number of children known to social services was disproportionately high relative to the HE population.
(DT) Penny Jones also said that Badman conceived the report as one on education not safeguarding. Also that there is a small minority of people who say they are HE but are not.
(CB) He came forward at the Select Committee with new statistics because his first set had been discredited. (He said something about the second lot not being much better, but I didn’t catch all of it.)
(BA&AS) Penny had only mentioned the original statistics. Graham pointed out that Badman had come forward with new statistics, and they were still incomplete.
(CB) We have a lot of case study evidence that we can’t put out in the public domain.
(BA&AS) What you don't have and what can't be put out in public are the case studies. They have seen case studies of HE children who are not being educated.
(CB)Many children in school are not being educated. Why don’t you address this?
(CB) Many children are on school rolls who don’t go.
Sandra Gidley, Liberal Democrat MP for Romsey
(CB) It is a depressing indictment on society that we have to measure everything. I have met people whose children do not go to school, some because they are gifted, some not. Schools do not suit everyone. My fear
(BA&AS) She has had the privilege of meeting home educating families. It is a depressing indictment of our society that we need to measure and quantify everything. Her big concern is that the home educating families she has met, chose EHE because it was right for their child and their child's circumstances. The worry is that an LA official will come in and look at a standard set of achievements and will not look at the individual circumstances of the child.
Oliver Heald, Conservative MP for North East Herts
(CB) There may be a small number of cases (can’t remember if he meant CP cases or ‘not receiving suitable education’ cases) but the principle is that parents should decide what is right for their children.
(BA&AS) There may be a small number of bad cases in home education. But freedom is important. It is important that parents can decide for their own children what is right. There is a power to intervene through social services. We should not confuse it with the role of the education department. We have to stand up for the freedom to choose.
(DT) Oliver Heald also said don’t confuse the role of Social services with that of the Education department.
Eleanor Lang, Conservative MP for Epping Forest
(CB) One thing that is missing in the assessment is that every child is an individual and needs an individual education. Regarding the interview with the child alone: there is a presumption that the child will say something that the adults will not say.
(BA&AS) The government is missing in this assessment that every child is an individual needing a different education. Parents know their children best. There are even differences among children in the same family. The interview alone with the child is what bothers her constituents, and her constitutents' children, the most. She is bothered by the presumption that the child would say something the parents would not.
(CB) This is about education. It is about showing that children are getting a suitable education. The parent brings up the child. The children are individuals and have different needs. This is a stale debate about the state getting involved in the family.
(BA&AS) This is about education. There are a small number of words in the Badman report about safeguarding, that are getting too much focus. Yes the parent brings up the child. No one wants to say that is not acceptable. What the state is doing, is assisting and helping families, and supporting education.
(DT) Somebody said that HE families would like help, but not with strings attached. DJ said it’s not got strings, or words to that effect.
John Hemming, Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley
(CB) I am also the chair of Justice for Families. The British Association for Fostering and Adoption recently published a report that showed that it is the action of the state that causes the (poor) behaviour of children in care rather than what they suffered before they went into care. It was written by Professor Alan Rushton of the Maudsley Centre. There is great concern about the way LAs are going at this. Why do you need a licence for home education? Generally if the state gets involved they cause harm. (This wasn’t exactly what he said, but it was similar.)
(BA&AS) The actions of the state cause are causing more problems with children in care, than what led the children to be taken into care. Research shows the damage caused to children from state intervention. Mentioned document from BAAF last year.
David Howarth, Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge
(CB) A lot of parents in Home Education are qualified teachers. If they don’t think school is the right place for their children, there is something wrong. Is it standard practice for Ofsted inspectors to interview children alone at schools? If not, then your argument does not stand. You say you “need to know how many there are”. If the Government wanted to know about numbers they could include a question on the census.
(BA&AS) The argument that this is about education does not stand up. If it is not normal to interview a child on their own when you inspect a school, then it is not ok to do the same to a home educated child. If you need to know numbers, why not just put a question on the census? This would give you the numbers, without being intrusive.
Kate Hoey, Labour MP for Vauxhall
(CB) Ministers change and this legislation will be added to. It will bring Home Education into a straitjacket. The last thing Home Educators want is Local Authority people coming into their homes and interfering. I don’t see why we are getting ourselves into this straitjacket. It is a very sad day if we go ahead with this.
(DT) Kate Hoey seemed extremely supportive, said she doesn’t understand why the govt is “putting this extra burden on parents who have quite rightly chosen to take responsibility.”
(CB) We are not telling people what to do. Some Home Educating families want support.
(BA&AS) She does not accept that they are telling people what to do. We need to know how many families are home educating, and what support is needed. She has met families who want support. This is very light touch regulation.
(CB) You don’t need to interview a child on their own.
(CB) This is very light touch.
(CB) This is how it starts.
(CB) Regarding interviewing a child alone: a request would be made of the parents. A census is a blunt instrument every – is it five years? (She was told it was every ten years.) The spending cycle is a three-year cycle. We need up-to-date information. Regarding the LA care system – we all acknowledge the care system has problems.
(BA&AS) Parents can refuse the interview. It would be a last resort to interview. The census point is interesting. How often is that? Every five years? She had not heard this suggestion before. It would be a very blunt instrument. The thrust of the Badman report is education.
(CB) Whenever the Government does anything, it can have a constraining effect. What assessment have you made of the downside: an autistic child fearing inspection, worrying that they will be sent back to school?
(BA&AS) What is so bad in the current situation that is worth spending tens of millions of pounds and incurring all of the downsides it would have? There would be downsides especially with special needs children.
(CB) It is about education. (I think this is what she said.)
(BA&AS) She wants training, so that local authorities can work more positively with families. We need to assure there is training, especially for SEN.
(DT) In response to Graham Stuart, Diana Johnson also said that things are not going to be the same, there is going to be more training (of LA officials), better resources for HE families. HE children will continue to get the same support as they would get in schools, eg for autism etc. (!!! Yes, she really said this)
Annette Taberner, from Education Otherwise (I cannot do this justice. Graham Stuart commented afterwards on what a great speech it was.)
(CB) I am here to represent Education Otherwise. I am here to represent all those people who have had a horrendous time with their LA. We have a postcode lottery. I would register if my LA understood why my 12-year-old dyslexic son could not read. He was not reading at 12. I would not want someone coming into my home telling my son there was something wrong with him. We have talked to you until we are blue in the face. We have sent 5000 submissions to your consultation and still you don’t listen to us. You have not understood the ramifications of what you are doing. It is appalling, draconian. If we have to be licensed to teach our children, do we also have to be licensed to feed them, licensed to clothe them?
(BA&AS) You don't know how many of us there are because we are treated so poorly.
(DT) Annette Taberner also said that the Bill is not about support, it is negative and amounts to abuse of our community. These proposals will do nothing to improve relations between families and LAs.
Alex Burghart, assistant to shadow children's minister Tim Loughton (CB - I did not catch his name but I have since been told this is who he was.)
(CB) Why can’t you use ContactPoint to find out how many home educated children there are? When will you be able to use ContactPoint?
Diana Johnson (speaking to Penny Jones)
(CB) From September we will be able to us it.
(CB) You would know which children are being home educated. You would have their names and addresses. You could visit them so why do you need registration? You have spent £244 million on this database.
(CB) Then you have to monitor the families.
(BA&AS) Penny Jones said, but it's not about numbers. It's about making sure that children receive efficient and suitable education. Diana Johnson said, it's about registration. We need numbers, but we need to monitor. We will get the numbers, but we need to monitor to make sure children are receiving education.
(DT) The exchange with Alex B. and DJ was odd as each of them accused the other of not getting the point. He was going on really about the duplication of information that was already available on Contact Point, the massive cost etc etc. Her eventual reply was about powers – Local Authorities have no powers under Contact Point.
(CB) You would find it difficult to deny that the Badman report is rushed. It is not balanced. It has no good examples of home education in it. I had a constituent who, four years ago, withdrew her child with Asbergers from school because of bullying. She was a single parent working nights and teaching her child in the day. I wrote to the LA asking why she was not getting any support. The LA wrote back to say that when a parent takes a child out of school they are on their own. I kept copies of all the correspondence and sent it to (I think she said the minister). We should make sure there is support for people who want it. I think ContactPoint is useless. I understand that all we would know from it about the children is that they are not registered at school. I do think there has got to be some information about who is home educated. The National Curriculum is a straitjacket.
(BA&AS) What is required is a massive cultural change. We should have started with that change, not this. My case only happened four years ago, that is not a long time. It is not surprising that the trust is not there. Govt needs to rethink the partnership approach. We need information about who is home educating. But she is very worried about the consequences of this bill.
(DT) Annette Brook is I think cautiously supportive of HE. She also said that this new legislation is a big cultural change, and it is not surprising that the govt is not carrying a majority with them on this. She is also very concerned about what would be attached to HE as a result of the Bill. National Curriculum is a straitjacket.
(CB) We want to do more research. This is not the end.
(CB) Why not do that research first? Why not kick the LAs up the backside and make them give home educators support? Why not move with humility? Why not move slowly? What is the big rush?
(CB) What the Badman report does is recommend that support. Some LAs are good.
(CB) Before the 2007 guidelines, we produced a blueprint of what we wanted. We did the work for you.
(CB) The support is patchy. Why can’t support be provided through a voluntary registration scheme?
Betsy Anderson, home educator
(BA&AS) Agreed with Graham Stuart, that if the government say they need to learn more about home education, especially autonomous education, then they should not be putting this bill out now. Diana Johnson said that they need to make sure that authorities understand home education, but this bill shows that the government do not understand home education, such as with all the talk of putting out plans for a year and needing to stick to that plan. There is a lot of rhetoric coming from DCSF that the bill is about support and building relationships of trust with home educating families, but the bill would be the worst possible thing for that. The bill has destroyed any trust. The actual terms of the bill are not about support, and there is very little about suitability of education in it. The authorities can refuse or revoke registration for many things that have nothing to do with suitability. In fact they are forbidden to consider the actual education in deciding whether to issue a school attendance order.
(DT) Betsy Anderson said that there is a dichotomy (words to that effect) – the govt does not understand HE and how it works, but wants us to have plans. The Bill is the worst thing for trust between LAs and families. There is very little in the Bill about the suitability of education – lots about monitoring/plans etc.
Claire Blades, home educator
(CB) My son is of compulsory school age – five – and yet the Cambridge Review of Primary Education says that no child under six should receive any formal education. I am concerned that if local authority inspectors come to my home they will want to know why I am not “educating” my child. I will tell them what the Cambridge Review recommends but that review has been dismissed by your department so what are the local authority inspectors going to say to me?
(CB) We all recognise the importance of play for early years children. A lot of play goes on in schools. I don’t think that is something you should worry about.
(DT) In reply to Claire’s comment about the Cambridge report, DJ said, yes the report says that children shouldn’t go to school till they are six, but I think what they are really talking about is play-based learning that goes on in schools at that age. (For what it’s worth, I think that if Cambridge academics say something, then that is what they mean! And it doesn’t need to be re-interpreted for our benefit by a govt minister. I was outraged!)
MEETING ENDED AT ABOUT 5.25PM
(CB) After the meeting, Graham Stuart seemed to suggest that all Home Education APPG meetings would follow a similar format to this. (I hope he doesn’t mind me saying this as it was not said in the public part of the meeting.)
(BA&AS) He asked for suggestions of what to do in future APPGs, who to invite, what sorts of experts.
(TB) I spoke with Penny Jones who seemed to be up on the statistics. She admitted that the Impact Assessment will have to be rewritten due to it using the wrong figures! (See below) She also stated that a written report is not enough for LA's which is why they want to be able to insist on home visits (or possibly at other venue?)
- The fact that the Impact Assessment will have to be rewritten has been confirmed in a Parliamentary written answer on 6 January 2010: "We will be revisiting the Home Education Impact Assessment over the coming weeks to take into account comments we have received from the DCSF Select Committee, the Local Government Association and others on the proposed costs and we will publish an updated version in the new year in line with the usual requirements for the passage of the Bill." Parliamentary written answer
Second Meeting on 2 March 2010
This report of the meeting consists of notes made by Claire Blades (CB). Please note: I have not yet checked this article for typos, spelling mistakes, etc. If you are adding your own notes, please include your names and initials in the first sentence of this paragraph and add your initials at the beginning of each section of text you contribute.
Meeting was chaired by Graham Stuart MP. The Lords present were: Lord Lucas, Baroness Warnock, Baroness Deech, Shirley Williams' aide, Lord Hodgson, Lord Soley, Baroness Mallalieu , Baroness Perry (Lil thinks), Lord Selbourne, Countess of Mar, Parmjit Dhanda MP’s researcher, Matthew Kelcher
There four short presentations by Michael Crawshaw, Christine Waterman, Dr Alan Thomas and Jane Lowe, followed by questions.
Michael Crawshaw (written notes he gave out summarising what he said)
1. It is claimed that a Home educated child is twice as likely to be the subject of a Child Protection Plan. This is based on a finding among surveyed LAs that of 11,700 Home Educated children registered with them, 51 were the subject of a CPP. This ratio of 0.44% compares to a national figure of 0.26%. It was Graham Stuart who pointed out that the 51 CPP figure needs to be divided by the total Home Educated population in the sample and not just those that are registered. This is because when an unregistered child becomes the subject of a CPP then the LA will automatically register the child as Home Educated. So the unregistered population has been cleansed of CPPs. The rate of CPP in EHE is probably lower than the national average.
2. NEETs- There is no basis for the assertion that Home Educated children are four times as likely to be NEET. The 74 surveyed LAs found that 270 out of 1220 EHE children who had turned 16 in the autumn were NEET. That is a ratio of 22% and compares to 5.2% nationally. But the figure of 270 for Home Education NEETS is totally unreliable. At least 50 out of the 270 are guesses by Local Authorities because they don’t have the data. Then there is the distortion of ‘off-rolling’ where persistent non-attendees are deregistered from school and misclassified as home educated. Some of 270 will be GRT young people who do not have conventional employment profiles. They are recorded as NEET although they may be earning a living in their traditional ways. EHE children who remain home educated after 16 (doing A levels, still taking GCSEs over a second year or retaking GCSEs) are automatically misclassified by LAs as NEET.
3. It has been falsely claimed that 20% of EHE children are receiving an unsuitable education. The Badman survey of LAs actually found that just 1.9% of EHE children were receiving an education that was judged to be unsuitable (we could even question this judgement) with another 3.4% categorised as not full time (which guidelines on EHE actually accommodate). Why do the DCSF claim a figure of 20%? They’ve added the 3.4% to the 1.9% to get 5.3%. Then included a further 15% of EHE children where no assessment has been made. You can’t put a number on something you haven’t measured. The 20% figure is indefensible.
4. The Impact Assessment shows a net benefit over ten years from implementing the proposals of £96-766m. But it has overstated the benefits. If we reduce the benefits to reflect 5.3% instead of 20% the figures go into a net COST of £10 to 60m. If we reduce further to only reflect school graduates from year 2 onwards (rather than anyone who is touched by even one LA visit at whatever age) then we find net COSTS of £85 to 360m.
5. Finally, they’ve understated the costs. If we increase the costs to include ten years of support costs (identified but not put into legislation) then we find net costs of £285 to 1160m. If we increase costs to reflect, say, a ten percent EHE population fall (with those going to state school instead) we find net costs of £0.5 – 2.0 billion.
6. Is it worth spending this if it saves just one life? Perhaps; but then spend it in the right place. Don’t visit every EHE child for eight hours each year to check on their education. Visit all the thousands of children already identified as at risk. This will capture the fraction of a percent of EHE children who may be at risk (including the pour soul in Birmingham) and not waste resource on an educational problem that doesn’t exist within EHE.
Christine Waterman (written notes she gave out summarising what she said)
Christine Waterman, Advisory teacher for children with SEN, home educating parent of son with brain injury, who is now 18 and has never been to school, SEN contact for EO and Moderator on Internet support forum, HE Special..
I have contact with several hundred families a year over the year, by email, phone, in person or on message boards. Without exception they are dedicated families, eager to do the best for their child, and the majority assumed this would be through school, until the school experience became a negative one. De registration may be for a variety of reasons, but is not something parents do lightly, especially as it is often at significant personal and financial expense. It is usually a response to the child’s growing distress, and sometimes even a concern that a child is suffering harm – due to either bullying, the schools inability to keep him safe, or to manage significant medical or physical needs, such as leaving a child in a wheelchair all day causing pain and deterioration.
I see that these parents bring huge dedication to home education; researching and reading about learning styles and educational approaches and their child’s diagnosis, as well as hunting down suitable materials, local services and resources, consulting therapists, and sharing all their information and ideas on the internet discussion boards, which have impressed me with their standard of knowledge and creative problem solving. There is a deep personal desire to find out about anything that can be of help, and parents whole lives centre around improving the life of their children, where as even the most dedicated teachers are constrained by managing the whole class. This is why HE parents are so angered by the DCSF comments about needing to balance the rights of the parent and the child.
As the school approach didn’t work, home educating families often work in a way that looks very different from school. Some children are so stressed by their school experiences, or so sure that they are bound to fail, that parents leave things like reading, or writing or maths, and give the child time to feel stronger, or choose activities that have a therapeutic quality such as building the child’s confidence or pleasure in life. Where a child has had social difficulties at school, they are often not ready to join large groups but are able to build up positive social experiences with one or two companions.. Children are often encouraged and supported to learn through play, computer games or TV, and through daily life activities, or through discussion and visits to places of interest, but this approach to learning is not always understood or accepted by Local Authority officers, who expect to see written work, group activities, etc.
Despite being such passionate experts in subject of their own child, parents can find that under the proposals in the new Bill, they are refused registration by someone who has barely met the child, and who dislikes the approach the parents have taken, or who feels the child has not made enough progress, despite severe learning difficulties, or even because the parent was inexperienced in writing educational plan and did not manage to give a full picture. This Bill takes the responsibility for deciding what is best for a child away from the people who know him best, and care about him most.
Dr Alan Thomas (written notes he gave out summarising what he said)
I have carried out extensive and detailed research over the last 15 years into parental approaches to home education, from highly structured to completely informal.
The proposed legislation will effectively prohibit home education which relies on informal/autonomous learning.
Many home educating parents find that children do not need to learn in the same way as they do in school. Children need little or no structure in order to acquire an education at least on a par with school, no curriculum, no lessons, no written exercises, certainly through the primary and early secondary years. As one parent came to realise…
“School seems unnatural. With a huge effort and cost and sometimes pain, you try to get something into children which would happen anyway”
The consequence of the legislation will be that a new and pioneering alternative to traditional education will be lost.
This will be happening just as mainstream education turns towards what our research highlights – informal learning out of school, following children’s interests and family involvement.
Although it breaks nearly all the rules of conventional schooling, children emerge well prepared to enter formal education to prepare for public examinations and appear to do very well.
Such an education is now becoming increasingly common in North America, Australia/New Zealand and Europe.
I have been humbled by the way home educators, often in the teeth of opposition from officials, academics and others, have stuck to their guns while at the same time contributing to the scientific understanding of the nature of children’s learning.
Dr. Alan Thomas, Institute of Education, University of London
(Alan Thomas & Harriet Pattison, How Children Learn at Home, Continuum 2008)
Jane Lowe (written notes she gave out summarising what she said)
I am a secondary school teacher who has always been interested in individualised learning. I have been involved with elective home education (EHE) for the past 23 years, both as a practitioner and as an unpaid advocate. I am a founder trustee of Home Education Advisory Service. For the past 10 years I have also worked under contract to a LA to provide short- and medium-term individual tuition for vulnerable children. Working with LA staff has given me a insight into the mindset of the LAs regarding home education. I would like to touch on three areas of interest today:
Current practice amongst local authorities
- Confusion between EHE and ‘problem’ cases: staff are so steeped in the mechanisms for dealing with problem families who are not home educators that it is hard for them to approach EHE families with openness and respect
- Some say that the current legal situation is unworkable but others are content with the law as it stands; some staff are respectful but others are deeply prejudiced; HEAS notes an increase in problems between families and LAs
- Practice is inconsistent across different areas and also within individual LAs
The implementation of the 2007 DCSF document Elective Home Education: Guidelines for Local Authorities
- Although it is simply a clear and specific statement of the law relating to home education, it does not have statutory force and it is ignored in some areas
- training is needed on its use; staff are overworked; more resources are needed to help them deal with the problem cases that are all too well known to them
Reasons why changes to the law are not needed
- The two opposing views: regulation versus privacy: ‘if it saves just one life...’
- The practical reality: compulsory registration and monitoring would not prevent tragedies; inordinate amounts of money would be wasted on needless interference with the the vast majority of successful home educators; this interference in itself would cause suffering; the scarce resources should be used to improve outcomes for children who are known to be in need
A footnote about the tragic Khyra Ishaq case:
- The court report of the care proceedings shows beyond any doubt that all the children were thin, hungry and cold and that teachers at the school were more than concerned; they had acted to try to protect the children
- Social services declined to act upon the school’s concerns; they said that the school should continue to be involved and denied the need for an assessment
Looking at the sequence of events, it is clear that neither the mother, nor the school, nor the Educating Otherwise department knew the precise legal position regarding home education and it is also clear that the children’s names remained on the school roll for many weeks after the mother stopped them attending. Proceedings should have been taken against the mother under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996 and the case should have been fast-tracked because of the concerns. It is shameful that the Secretary of State suggests that home education was a ‘factor’ in this case. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a factor as ‘one of the circumstances, facts or influences which produce a result’. Home education was not a factor; it was no more than an incidental issue; even if the Badman recommendations had been in force they would not have made the slightest difference to the tragic outcome for the child.
Home Education Advisory Service, PO Box 98, Welwyn Garden City, Herts AL8 6AN tel 01707 371854 fax 01707 338467 email firstname.lastname@example.org www.heas.org.uk
FionaNicholson 07:38, 14 March 2010 (UTC)Just a note to say that the charity, Education Otherwise took up the issue of Birmingham using the term "Education Otherwise" with the council and with the clerk to Mrs Justice King. We felt it was extremely misleading to suggest that a home education support charity had approved home education provision. I am told that the records have now been amended appropriately and also that Birmingham no longer uses this term, though I have not yet had time to verify this. The term ~"Education Otherwise" is registered with the Intellectual Property Office.
(CB) What puzzles me is that I know very few people opposed to Home Education. I am not opposed to it. Regulation in Britain is weaker than almost any other country. I knew a home educating mother with depression whou would retreat into herself. I worry about what happens to a child in that situation. The abuse bit is a tiny minorty but it does need addressing. We have to work out in more detail HOW we regulate. Why not organise yourselves? Badman says there should be support groups for Home Educators.
Annette Taberner: they should have confidence in getting help from usual support services - but we couldn't - would be an admission of a problem and result in School Attendance Order, we won't be able to admit to any problems or doubts without jeopodising our right to home educate FionaNicholson 07:58, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
(CB) There are support groups. The Scottish Guidance says that safeguarding is the responsibility of all people.
Support is in this Bill. Use the Parliamentary process.
I did put amendments in and they were all defeated. There is no support in this Bill. There is nothing in the Bill except what Home educators say is oppressive regulation. There have been no positive efforts by Government and then this Draconian regulation.
(CB)I am here because I had letters about the Bill. What about immigrant communities where English is not their first language? It is undesireable for the cohesion of society that they educate their children in their own language. I hated school. From the age of 13 I wanted to be in the wide world. Some structure is necessary to help people like me.
(CB) These children don't need teacing in the traditional sense.
(CB) The 1870 Education Act said everyone should have an education.
Imran Shah, a home educator
(CB) I am a qualified social worker. I have two children aged 2 and 5 and I speak to my children in Urdu. A suitable education is one that prepares the child for the culture he is in without forclosing any options. There are already powers in place under the 1996 Education Act to deal with the first point made by Lord Hodgson.
(CB) How does one know that this is happening?
Imran Shah, a home educator
(CB) All home educators are part of a community. The issue is if the Local Authority know, should they know? Who will suffer is all the children who aren't suffering but will be burdened by this legislation.
(IS) All home educators are part of a community. They maybe part of a HE community, and they will be definitely part of a familial community. If someone is not providing a suitable education then LA's have sufficient powers under the 1996 Act to intervene. If someone is determined to hide away their children so they can abuse them, then the new Bill will make no difference to that. It is not possible to legislate away abuse.
Chole Watson, chairman of the Home Education Youth Council
(CB) I want to address Lord Soley's comments. We do have regulation and it is suitable. Local Authorities say it is unworkable under the Inspections ACT 2006. The issue is not that there is no regulation, there is. If you knew there was a problem with that mother with depression, why didn't you do anything about it?
(CB) Eventually I reported it to Social Services.
(CB) I am here to represent Education Otherwise. The legislation as drafted is anti-safeguarding.
(At this point a beeper went off in someone's handbag and CB could not concentrate on what Annette was saying.)
This Bill creates an atmosphere in which we have to be perfect and our provision has to be perfect. The Bill is anti-safeguarding because children would stay in dangerous situations in schools if the government made it harder to start home educating. People will not go to same person for support who was also policing them. There is nothing in the Bill about support. FionaNicholson 18:00, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
(CB) I am becoming more and more worried about this. A month ago I wasn't worried but now I am. I was an educator. How would you know how many children there are out there. How would you find out if a child wants to go to school? How would you know? What about the rights of the child? What if a child wanted to learn languages or take Advanced Chemistry. You can't do that at home. What about children who are taken abroad and forced to marry?
(CB) My children have five languages between them. Home Educators are capable of finding help for a child in those circumstances. Does anyone ask school-children if they want to go to school?
(CB) I have read the blogs. Leaving aside the grammar and the spelling, the message seems to be Leave Us Alone.
(CB) It is unsurprising that Home Educators are concerned. Children being "shipped off abroad" is not addressed by this Bill at all. An annual visit and a short statememt about the education will not help children. Cynical parents will easily do that and parents of children with Sepcial Educational Needs will struggle.
(CB) I suppose the Forced Marriage Bill will help a little.
Not sure who said this
Why are we talking about children going abroad? You are sidelining the real issue.
Carolyn Crawshaw, a home educator
(CB) Research mainly in America shows that it is in the lower socio-economic groups that home educated children make the most progress. The instinct is for the parent to help the child. Parents go to immense lengths to help their children. (CC) Our children can be motivated enough to find out things for themselves--and parents motivated enough to help them --there are computers, distance learning courses, DVDs.
(CB) How would they do Chemistry A-Level?
Pam Perryman, a home educator
(CB) My son did no maths until he was 15. He was taught autonomously and he went to Imperial College to do maths and computing. He went to college. He got the books. Our children go out to classes.
(CB) We probably come across as being really defensive. We started out being reasonable and open-minded but then this report came along. We are angry about this report. The safeguarding issue is a Trojan Horse. It was put into the report to get the monitoring that Local Authorities want. It has been terribly handled.
(CB) I think this Bill won't become law. The Opposition has said it will oppose it. But we have to find a settlement that respects home educators and LAs. It will come back.
(CB) (I'm not sure what Betsy said first.) A lot of people want to rebel at 13 whether they are in school or not. (CC) Betsy said something like --my son has managed to study Nuclear physics --I know nothing about the subject but he has found out information --I have helped him to find out (?)
Baroness Deech ( as she left the room)
(CC) Well that's because YOU"RE educated!
A home educator wearing a green tank top
(CB) We are aghast to see two billion pounds spent on this. It is a tremendous waste of money.
(CC)All Peers left the room at 7pm.
The rest of the conversations were between Graham Stuart and home educators.
Ruma Lacy, an EHE inspector from Essex Local Authority (she declined to give her name at the meeting
(CB) This Bill legitimises home education for the first time. If we (local authorities) can draw down funding some good will come of it. For working people on the ground, there are people who need support. The majority of home educators want to relate to the Local Authority. I think we need to make it simpler and fair to all. I work for Essex Local Authority. I have asked the DCSF to draw up a code of conduct so that you are treated fairly. There will be support for SEN children. I filled in a form from the DCSF about it very recently.
(CB) I will trample on your civil liberties if there is found to be a reason for it. Everything the Government does is based on research. What research do we need? If we can get a clear picture, we are more likely to agree.
(CB) Research that looks at all the interested parties. I wouldn't mind knowing the number of home educators so you can get a proper sample. I am the only person in the world who has done research into autonomous education. We need more research so that people can say 'Alan Thomas got that bit right' or ' He didn't get that bit right.'
Dave Hough, a home educator
(CB) When we consider where we were a year ago, an awful lot of people have been educating themselves. We learn alongside our children.
Kaiya Williams, a home educator
(CB) I am a single parent. When I can't do something, I set up a group and get people in to help me. For example, learning French: I found a native speaker to come into our group. If we need it, we find it. I have run workshops for after-school clubs for schoolchildren.
(CB) (Referring to the fact that all the Lords and researchers had left) We are talking to ourselves now. This is an opportunity to have a quick chat about what comes next. What do we need to do? What research do we need?
(CB) Look at outcomes for home education methods. We don't know how education works. What are the outcomes? Put Home Education in the Census.
(CB) The Government likes everything to be neat. Nothing about home education is neat.
Tania Berlow, home educator
(CB) What is good practice among local authorities? Why are two-thirds of families not known to local authorities? Ruth (Deech) is a teacher. She would qualify as an EHE inspector.
'Not sure who asked this
(CB) This Westminster Briefing was a waste of money. Did Essex go?
(CB) I didn't go. My £250 went on a author to work with the children. I want money for things that children can engage with.
Not sure who asked this
(CB) How do we change the publich perception of home education?
(CB) It is very difficult.
(CB) I introudce families to county-based projects. The Country Park event will be monthly.
(CB) I think Local Authorities should pass a satisfaction survey from home educators. There are some issues. There is a welfare issue.
Lady with red tartan tights, home educator
(CB) Lord Soley mentioned mental health problems. These could arise in the summer holidays for the parents of schoolchildren. It is similar with Child Protection. Hurting their child is a crime. Why is it connected to home education? Things have to be done in a spirit of trust. My local authority said that just being home educated we were placed on the At Risk Register.
(CB) You can't ask for help or support from someone who is a position to judge you. I knew a mother who was really honest with her inspector and they failed the mother.
(CB) If there is any hint of mental illness ...
Young man in a tweed jacket[Garett from HEYC]FionaNicholson 18:00, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
(CB) We should focus on what the children need (and want). Vernon Coaker said to use that he wouldn't put the child's needs in the Bill.
(CB) The next meeting of the APPG will be after the election. I will try to ensure the group is reconstituted in the New Parliament. We should be talking about the way ahead. That is going to be tough.
(CB) What are the Conservatives going to be doing considering that this is an infrngement of civil liberties?
(CB) We wouldn't be visiting this too strongly. But Sir Humphrey will be back. I don't like Government. I didn't like school much. Local Authorities are not happy. They have a brief they can't cope with. They think Home Education is a risk. Some of them don't know the law. We have an astonishingly engaged group of people. You guys have been transformed. You have a choice. Don't say 'Thank God it's all over' If you beleive in this, prepare and work the ground. Someone will come back for you at some point. We need a settlement that all Governments should live with and all LAs can live with.
Someone asked if the Children Schools and Familes Bill will become law
(CB) It is my understanding that it has no chance. The Conservatives are against the whole Bill.
(CB) Our biggest friend has been time. If this Bill had been put forward earlier it would have got through. We are only OK because the legislation is at the end of this parliamentary term and will get lost in the washup.FionaNicholson 18:00, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
(CB) (Referring to Chloe Watson's promising Parliamentary career:) I look forward to serving in a junior capacity in Chloe's administration.
FionaNicholson 07:38, 14 March 2010 (UTC) I have put the Education Otherwise handout on a subpage here http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/User:FionaNicholson/All_Party_Parliamentary_Group_on_Home_Education/EO_briefing_Lords