Thursday, May 13, 2010

A message for Ed

'You - will - never - touch - our - children - again'

(as Mrs Weasley said to Bellatrix L'Estrange)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Local Authority muscle flexing

I have come across several examples recently where local authorities are jumping ahead of their actual role and responsibility with respect to Elective Home Education. They were hoping that, by now, the new powers of the heinous Children, Schools and Families bill would be theirs. But instead, of course, the CSF bill ran out of time and Is Not And Will Never Be Law. [pause for loud cheers]

There is another reason, of course, why the EHE teams are busily sending out letters demanding visits and information that they have no right to demand. In a week or two, the conservatives will get their hands on the account books and (shock) will be announcing that the UK is pretty much bankrupt and they will be cutting back massively on all public spending. Cue EHE running around frantically visiting people they have no business visiting. "You can't make us redundant. Look how buuuuuuuuuuuuuusy we are monitoring the chiiiiiiiildren".

This month, more than any other month in history, is the month to be sending, or advising people to send, letters like this:

Dear subcontracted agency busybody,

We deregistered Child from school on DATE, and since then have been providing her with an education suitable to her age, ability and aptitude. I provided you with written information about our educational provision on DATE at the request of your colleague X. We have had no response from the LA about the education we are providing.

Please explain, in writing:

1) In what way the educational provision as communicated to the LA on DATE was deemed to be unsuitable if, indeed, it was considered unsuitable

2) Why we were not informed in a timely manner of this judgement (if it took place) and why no dialogue with us was entered into in order to support us in developing the educational provision to meet legal requirements

3) why, if the education was judged suitable on DATE, you have sent the letter of DATE, requiring more information/ a visit.

If, indeed, the information we sent you on DATE has raised concerns, please let me know what those concerns are, and I will be happy to write to you again in order to allay them; since I am awaiting information from you about the nature of your concern with the educational provision as it was communicated to you on DATE, and information about what evidence you now need, it is not, of course, possible for me to provide the evidence within 14 days as you asked. I expect you to provide me with the information I require, or to write a letter of apology for mistakenly sending your form letter of DATE, within 7 days of receiving this letter.

I am copying this letter, together with your letter of DATE and the information I provided on DATE 2009 to the Head of Childrens Services at XXXXX Council in the hope that action will be taken to prevent this sort of communications failure on the part of the EHE team in future.

Yours sincerely,

Or even a letter like this:

Dear Mrs LA Numpty,

Thank you for your letter of DATE.

You wrote to me claiming that your "department has a duty to monitor arrangements where parents have decided to educate children 'other than at school'". Please would you tell me which part of the law you are referring to? In the 2007 elective Home Education Guidelines for LAs, available here: it clearly states (paragraph 2.7) that "Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis." Has this been superceded? If not, please would you explain why you have made the statement quoted above?

We received a visit from you/your colleague X on DATE. We have never received your report from that visit. Please explain, in writing:

1) why the LA staff member's opinion of our educational provision on that occasion has not yet been communicated to us
2) Why, if the education was judged suitable at the visit on DATE, you wish to evaluate it again.

If, indeed, the visit of DATE raised concerns, please let me know what those concerns are, and I will be happy to write to you again in order to allay them.

We will not be available to meet you on the date you requested, and would prefer to keep all future contact in writing, as per paragraph 3.6 of the 2007 EHE guidelines.

Yours sincerely

Enough is enough.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Classic schoolboy error, Ed.

Imagine this.

January 2009. The DSCF announces a splendid new support package for home educators. £400 a year per child for parents to spend on exams, ballet lessons, the educational financial outgoings of our choice. Craft materials, broadband internet, you name it.

Obviously, the government needs to know how the taxpayers' money is being spent, so in return, HEers subscribing to the scheme agree to go through an annual process of licensing and monitoring. It's all completely voluntary. Witness the undignified scramble, with lone voices - Techla, Grit, Lisa, Carlotta, Firebird, Maire - drowned out in the glad cries of home educators being given some of the money they feel entitled to. Maybe 85 or 90% of HEers sign up.

January 2010, the government announces that ALL HEers are now required to register and be monitored. In return they will get their money. Grit, Maire, Carlotta and co look a bit, well, _paranoid_ as they start trying to protest against the loss of civil liberties. Autonomous HE is stamped out within 2 years.

I just don't understand why, of all the minority groups in the country, Ed chose the ONE LOT who were least likely to respond in the time honoured way to the tactics of a bully. Smear us, cast aspersions, lie to the other kids and teachers about our activities and motivations - why was this ever going to be the winning strategy?

We are the parents for whom zero tolerance DOES mean zero tolerance - our children have freedom of association, we do not expect them to submit to bullies, to stand up to bullies, to engage with bullies. We expect our children to treat bullies with the contempt they deserve, and not to have anything to do with them if they don't want to. Why would Ed think we would be cowed by him? What kind of an example would that have set for our children?

I am, in an odd way, delighted that we have been dealing with Ed this last year rather than with a Dan level Go player.

Monday, January 25, 2010

make that, two bishops!!!

I just remembered. I know a bishop personally. So I wrote to him as well. Friends in high places, wink wink.

Time to write to your bishop!

[mostly cribbed from Dani Ahrens]

Dear Bishop XXXXX,

I am writing to let you know of serious shortcomings with the Home Education-related aspects of the Children, Schools and Families Bill currently on its way through parliament, and to ask for your support in amending or removing Schedule 1.

The process began with a report commissioned by the DCSF into whether Home Education might be used as a cover for child abuse. The CofE's education division submission to Graham Badman's review concluded: "We have seen no evidence to show that the majority of home educated children do not achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes, and are therefore not convinced of the need to change the current system of monitoring the standard of home education. Where there are particular concerns about the children who are home-educating, this should be a matter for Children's services." (1) The education division was very concerned about the selective quoting of their submission in the Badman report, which entirely misrepresented their position, (2) and this misrepresentation formed a small part of the CSF select committee's strong criticism of the report's contents and the conduct of those involved in writing it. (3)

The government's Children's Plan says that 'Parents bring up children, not Government', but the bill fundamentally undermines this.

If the proposals in the Bill become law:

• Every year, parents would have to ask permission from the Local Authority to home educate. The Government is calling this a ‘register’, but a more accurate word would be ‘licence’. Local authorities would have the power to refuse ‘registration’ or to remove children from the ‘register’ if their parents do not cooperate with the system. ‘Registration’ would have to be renewed every year.

• Unregistered home educated children would be ordered to attend school
Local authorities would not be allowed to consider whether the education of unregistered children is suitable for their needs. The only consideration would be whether the child was ‘registered’ or not. “In determining for the purposes of subsection (3A)(b) whether it is expedient that a child should attend school, an authority shall disregard any education being provided to the child as a home-educated child”. The proposals are not about making sure children receive an education. Instead, they are about taking control of educational choices away from families and placing it in the hands of the state.

• Parents would be required to supply an advance plan for their children’s education every year in order to remain on the ‘register’. Local authorities would be given the power to decide whether the education provided is suitable, and whether it measures up to the plan. The power to decide what constitutes a suitable education for an individual child would be taken out of the hands of that child’s parents and given to a local council officer,
who may have met the child only once.

• Local authorities would have to reassess home educated children and parents every year. If home educated children, or their parents, do not give consent for a child to be interviewed alone, the local authorities would not have the right to insist. But they would have the right to remove that child’s name from the ‘register’ as a punishment for this refusal to cooperate. Loving parents would be forced to override their children’s wishes in order to protect their freedom to be educated outside the school system. While Ed Balls said in the House of Commons "“The Bill makes it clear that there is no right for a local authority to see the child of a home-educating family on their own, without the parents there,” the bill actually says “A local authority in England may revoke the registration of a child’s details on their home education register if it appears to them that ... by reason of a failure to co-operate with the authority in arrangements made by them [to monitor the home education], or an objection to a meeting [with the child alone] the authority have not had an adequate opportunity to ascertain the matters referred to in section 19E(1)”

Clause 26 of the Children, Schools and Families Bill gives this or any future government the power to issue guidance to local authorities about what they may demand of parents as part of this new ‘registration’, monitoring and inspection regime. You are being asked to approve the Bill without having sight of this guidance.

Clause 26 of the Children, Schools and Families Bill was presented to Parliament before the results of a public consultation on the proposals were released. Over 5000 people responded to the consultation but their views have been completely ignored in the drafting of the Bill. In the House of Commons, Ed Balls said that "a minority of home educators... do not like the provisions in the bill" when in fact a clear majority of the 5,000 consultation responses (over 75% for 8 of the 10 questions) disagreed with the proposals.

Of particular concern, the "Impact Assessment" for the bill completely failed to address the potentially disastrous impact of the new regime on children with special needs and their families. (4)

As the CofE education division concluded, there is no need to change the law regarding home education. Home educated children are at no more risk of abuse than any other group of children. Local authorities already have powers to take action if parents are not educating or caring for their children properly.

Please oppose the bill in the House of Lords, mirroring the strong cross-party opposition in the Commons at the second reading. If it would be helpful, I would be delighted to come and visit you to discuss it further, or to put you in contact with others who can advise you about the bill.

Yours sincerely,


(1) The whole submission is here:



(4) for a home educator's informal assessment of the potential impact on children with special needs, see