Thursday, 10 September 2009

Should children who are not receiving a "suitable education" be sent back to school?

There can be little doubt that many children supposedly being taught at home are actually receiving no sort of education at all. Does this matter? Should the local authority have the power to send such children back to school? It depends, I think, upon the circumstances.

There are at least three completely different groups of children who are not at school and are probably not receiving a "suitable education". The first are older teenagers who have been deregistered from school because they are regular truants, hate school or are in danger of being excluded for bad behaviour. Another group are children with learning difficulties of such severity that there is no realistic chance of their developing much beyond their current capabilities. The last group are the most controversial. They are children who have been withdrawn from school by their parents with the genuine intention of teaching them, but who then find themselves incapable of providing a good education for their children. Let us look at each of these categories in turn.

Fourteen and fifteen year old youths who have no intention of studying at school and are sick of the whole business of being educated are a very difficult case. On the one hand, dragging them back to school would be pointless for them; they won't actually learn anything there. Even if you can force them to sit in a classroom they will disrupt the education of those who do wish to learn. I doubt there is much to be gained by taking their parents to court either. On the other hand, I would be reluctant to accept that we should just write them off and say effectively, "Leave them to it, there's no point bothering with them!" Perhaps more vocational course at FE colleges are the answer.

Some children with severe learning difficulties, global developmental delay combined with autistic features, that sort of thing, are not going to learn much whether they are at school or home. For such children, being at home with a loving parent doing what they please is likely to be a good deal kinder than the constant badgering and attempts to engage them which they are likely to get in a special school. Sometimes, all the specialised teaching in the world will only cause distress, and all to no real purpose. In these cases, the child is perhaps better at home with his parents, no matter what the staff at the school say. I have had some experience of children like this, whose parents just want them safe at home with them and I am wholly on the parents' side. Even when the child is capable of making progress, the distress caused by the whole teaching process often seems, at least to me, to amount to cruelty. Most LAs turn a blind eye to this group and realise that they are happier at home with their families.

The final category are those whose existence most exercised Graham Badman during his review of elective home education. They are the children who are being kept at home with parents who really do not know how to provide them with an education. These children have been deregistered because of bullying, minor special educational needs or because their parents have fallen out with the school. Many of this group are of primary school age and a lot of local authorities are genuinely concerned that they are not being educated and that this will have a bad effect on their prospects in later life. I suppose that ideally such families would be offered support and help from the LA; help with advice on following a curriculum and so on. There are two problems here. First, many of these families have had a lot of conflict with the school and local authority. They do not want anything to do with them, they just want to be left alone. Secondly of course, many of the parents are "autonomous", so they won't want help with any sort of curriculum at all.

It is families like this who are likely to bear the brunt of any new legislation. Ultimately, I suppose, there will be sanctions like fines and prison in order to force parents to engage with the LA, just as is currently the case with the parents of truants. I really cannot think though that sending mothers to prison just because they are not teaching their children effectively would be a just and equitable solution to such a problem. Nor would taking their children into care, another possibility if welfare concerns are invoked. What should we do then, if we are satisfied that a child is not being educated adequately and the parents refuse to discuss the situation and come to a compromise?

I have no answer at all to this. Like many people I am worried about some of the children who are not being sent to school. I am in favour of new laws, but have not the least notion of what we can do ultimately to make parents educate their children. As I say, locking up the parents and putting the kids in care is hardly likely to improve their educational prospects! I think that other home educating parents are aware of this situation, but avoid fretting over it either by denying that such families exist or claiming that they are very rare.


  1. Simon, you say,
    "There can be little doubt that many children supposedly being taught at home are actually receiving no sort of education at all."

    This is just an assertion. Do you have evidence?

  2. Based upon four LAs; namely LB Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and also Essex. If such parents were rare, then I doubt I would be stumbling across them in practicaly every housing estate I visit. That my experience is not atypical is also borne out by what those working in this field in other LAs say. Myra Robinson in Newcastle and Tony Mooney, to name two.

  3. Whta about the crap LEA who treat parents like Shi!? all the lies that are told by LEA you never say anything about that just blame the parents.peopel are are bloody angry with those crap LEA who tell lies about parents!
    We never engage with Hampshire LEA we see them hell first. just let them try and get into our house there need an army who want to be first though the door we got a nice surspise for them!

  4. So, three people say they 'often' encounter something and that is evidence? It seems that anecdotal evidence is fine when you use it but surely not be trusted when others do...

  5. not that idiot Tony Mooney he is such a pratt have you heard him on the radio? has any one ever been visited by him? the state controlled BBC wheel him out and that women Myra Robinson to talk about home education she always talks a load of crap! blaming everyone but herself.

  6. No, Allie it is not three people at all. I gave the two names which I did because they have already spoken in public on this. I do not want to out other LA officers of whom I have knowledge. That there are many such children who are not receiving a suitable education is pretty much a fact. We can debate the reasons for this state of affairs and we can declare that it does not matter, but I cannot really be persuaded that the situation does not exist. However, I am happy for you to continue in that belief if that is what you prefer.

  7. "Based upon four LAs; namely LB Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and also Essex."

    Some background information from Freedom of Information requests sent to Local Authorities recently.

    Hackney, 57 known home educated children, they have concerns about suitability of education for 11 (19.3%) children.

    Tower Hamlets, 72 known, 2 (2.8%) concerns.

    Waltham Forest 63 known, 0 concerns.

    Essex 472 known, 43 (11%) concerns.

    Compared to 112/152 LAs, 13318 known, 721 (5.4%) concerns.

  8. That is all true as far as it goes, but I have the advantage here of having an office in the same building as Hackney's Home Tutoring service. There is a great difference between these figure and the real situation on the ground.For reasons which I have gone into in detail before, LAs do not want to hear about this sort of problem. EWOs who bring them to their line managers are told to forget it. These people have opted out of the sytem and the LA are not about to spend time and money pursuing them. Often, their children and their parents were a pain when they were in school and the last thing the La wants is to drag them back again. Get real.

  9. "These people have opted out of the sytem and the LA are not about to spend time and money pursuing them. Often, their children and their parents were a pain when they were in school and the last thing the La wants is to drag them back again. Get real."

    And you think the answer is that these obviously caring and kind people should have more powers over home educators?

  10. You know, I started a reply to this which said something like "I agree with Simon about the problems but not about the solution" - but then I read the article more clearly... and discovered that Simon doesn't know what to do either - the issue being that even if home education is "failing" a child, what possible solution is there that will be guaranteed to be better? Sending disenfranchised children back to school, or sending vunerable ones into hostile environments seems worse than leaving them at home in every way. When I was involved in a high profile case of possible "HE failure" a few years ago, some delightful children at what would have been the catchment school tried to drown an SEN school child in a handy moat during school it was obviously an entirely safe place to send another vunerable child into, wasn't it? Fortunately in that case, the right side won before that could happen....

  11. Simon,

    Do you think it's possible that you are confusing home educated (de-registered children) with those who have been excluded or can't go to school for some reason or another (illness, pregnancy or school phobia etc) and are meant to be receiving certain numbers of hours of home tutoring from the LA?

    I ask because it seems to be a common misunderstanding in our area. People will tell me that 'so and so is home educated' but when I chat to the parents they tell me that no, the LA is spposed to be providing tutoring for various reasons but isn't doing so, or is only providing a couple of hours a week.

    There's one teenaged lad, in particular, who I see hanging around, sitting in the corner of the park with his head in his hands etc who is off school for a couple of years now with ME (tired and sick all the time) but who gets precisely 3 hours a week home tuition. When I suggested to mum that maybe she could do better for him if he was HE'd, her reply was that his education was the LA's responsibility.


    However, because of this common misunderstanding and your mention of knowing people from the home tutoring dept of an LA, I'm wondering if all the failed HE'd kids you have heard of are actually kids who are being failed by the LA and SHOULD be being home tutored.

    Home tutored, home educated. Easy for the general public to get the two things confused.

    Mrs Anon

  12. I am not sure whether I think you are right, Mrs Anon. Yes, there are children locally who are in the non Home ed "EOTAS" camp...for whom the choice is either attendace at a PRU or home tuition (they get 5 hours a week here in four sessions of 1 hour 15 mins..which is silly when you think about all the fuss we put up with about what really is meant by a full time education). Yet I also know several families who have had children "off rolled" by the local school who are now "technically" home educated, and our home ed group has met with lots of families who have what many people describe as "difficult children" who they have removed from school with the intention of home educating..but who find it difficult to do so in reality. I suspect that any LA officer who took a good look at those families would call them "failing" - interestingly a number of them each year do ask for a school place again and few succeed in finding them - because schools don't want them back either.
    Then there are families with younger children; I do try very hard not to be judgemental about how others home educate (I am sure others have plenty to say about how I do it, too!!) but some of these families admit (to other home educators, if not to the LA) that they can't get their children to "do anything" and that they feel they are failing their children. If there are families that feel like that on their own admission, it can't be an imaginary problem- mind you I am sure we wll have days when we think we have failed!

    The real issue though is will Badman etc improve the lives of these children - and I don't think that in most cases, changes in legislation will do good, rather than harm.

  13. Julie The real issue though is will Badman etc improve the lives of these children - and I don't think that in most cases, changes in legislation will do good, rather than harm.
    and you think mad badman will do good? The man is crazy and should be locked up at once!.He is a grave danger to home educators like Jack Cawthra.
    I do enjoy these chats Julie aand knowing that you a re teacher makes it more fun!

  14. er...I think I said the opposite? ie " I don't think changes will do good" not that they will?

  15. There is some crossover between children who are receiving "home tutoring" from the LA and those who are actually "home educated", Mrs. Anon. I have a friend in an LA home tutoring service and she knows a good deal about what goes on as regards elective home education. Often the home educated children and the home tutored ones are practically identical twins ; they come from the same schools, same backgrounds, even the same estates. the only difference is that some parents tcould take a hint and deregistered their kids before they were excluded. others, slower on the uptake, did not see the warning signs. It is those who have actually been excluded who sometimes get home tutoring, and a thankless task it is too by all accounts!

    For those who have to live near some of these youths, (most are fourteen or fifteen), there is little difference between the two groups and as you say they are easily confused.

  16. So forcing the ones that say they are home educating (but aren't really) back into school will not change much from the sound of it. They may gain a few hours of tutoring a week, if they are lucky? Do you think anything in the Badman recommendations will help with this issue? What changes would you expect to see for these children if the currently planned legislative changes go ahead?

  17. Am I sure what - that I said the opposite? Yes of course I am what I said " I don't think that in most cases, changes in legislation will do good, rather than harm" come on- that is perfectly clear????

  18. Julie i do enjoy these chats with you!

  19. I wonder if Julie reciprocates this feeling....

  20. Simon- who knows? but i really do enjoy chating to Julie the teacher and nust give her that apple one day!

  21. Oh not again. He called Graham Badman mad? I think that is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

  22. Im still here and Graham Badman is crazy and needs to go to broadmoor where he can get the treatment he needs to cure him of this illness.
    Its such fun simon web page i like Julie the teacher best!

  23. So it seems to me, from reading the above, that the B. Recommendations, which are intended to stop those children not currently receiving and education, but will bear heavily on the families of those that do provide an education, will actually make zero impact upon the very children they're supposed to be helping.

    Why are you in favour of the recommendations then Simon? I just don't understand. Especially as we won't get any resources with which to help educate our children, but we will be held up to standards that we didn't choose.

  24. "Why are you in favour of the recommendations then Simon?" - clearly I am not Simon, but I am pretty sure that the majority of people who are in favour of the recommendations are so because they are deeply concerned about a few of the families they have nmet who are supposedly home educating but appear to be failing their children. It is a big dilemma in lots of similar areas- do we overlook the problem or do we try and do something about it? Where I differ from Simon is that I think that the legislation won't make much difference anyway; I am concetrating in forging better relationships between the LA here and the home educators - to try and get rid of the fear, to try and get some help for those who want it ( please note- notthose who don't) and so on!

  25. I do understand where you and Simon are coming from, even if I disagree. The problem is the focus. Even if none of the home educating families were providing a 'suitable' education, that is still a tiny number, compared to the millions of children in failing schools who are not receiving any where near a 'suitable' education, and may be experiencing abuse and a complete breakdown of self esteem in the process.