Thursday, 11 March 2010

The select committee recommendations

Graham Stuart commented on here yesterday, claiming that the select committee, of which he was a member, had opposed compulsory registration. What a shameless rascal he is! He said;

" The select committee disagreed with both you and the government by saying that any registration system should be voluntary. I believe that if a voluntary system backed by proper support for HE parents and children was put in place no government would decide to make it compulsory."

Perhaps it is time to nail a few myths about the recommendations made by the select committee, of which this is one. I really am a little surprised that an MP who was actually on the committee should try to peddle this line! Let's see what the select committee actually recommended about such things as compulsory registration, monitoring and so forth. We shall begin with registration. The committee said;

"In our view it is unacceptable that local authorities do not know accurately how many children of school age in their area are in school, are being home educated or are otherwise not in school"

So far, so good. They went on to suggest that initially registration should be voluntary. Of course, we already have such a voluntary system; anybody can register with their local authority if they wish. Many parents choose not to do so. Regarding this, the select committee said;

"The success of a system of voluntary registration..... should be reviewed after two years. If it is found not to have met expectations- in terms of assisting local authorities in identifying and working with the families of children who are being home educated and those of children otherwise than in school- we believe that a system of compulsory registration should be introduced."

All perfectly clear? You have two years to volunteer to be registered and then, unless all home educators have signed up, it becomes compulsory. How Graham Stuart can have the cheek to tout this as a voluntary system of registration is utterly beyond me. What about compulsory annual inspections by the local authority? Surely, the select committee decided against them? Well, no. They said of home educating families;

"We believe that local authorities need a guaranteed means of engaging with these families."

I like this! Not that the local authorities want to engage, they need to. And the means has to be "guaranteed". The committee went on to recommend;

"Accordingly we recommend that home educating families be required to meet with their local authority officer within three months of the child's home education commencing and thereafter on an annual basis."

Hands up anybody who can tell the difference between this and Graham Badman's recommendation? What the select committee actually did was to take Graham Badman's recommendations, tweak them a little and then embed them in a load of waffle and pretend that they were courageously sticking up for home educating parents. But surely they were sympathetic to the concerns of autonomous educators? Well, let's see what they said;

"The specification of "suitable" education must enable local authority officers to tackle situations where the child has no prospect of gaining basic literacy and numeracy skills efficiently or where there is no breadth to their education."

Or, even better, how about this;

"We recommend that at the point of registration families should need only set out their reasons for choosing to home educate and to outline in broad terms how the education would initially be provided."

After three months, the family should;

"Be required to submit a statement on an annual basis, which includes a brief record of the child's achievement and progress"

I do hope that all the autonomous educators who believe that Graham Stuart is on their side are reading this. Local authority officers "tackling" situations where there isn't a broad enough education. I wonder how they will do that? Or what about those not gaining literacy skills "efficiently"? I am guessing here that the select committee thinks that reading and writing should be taught, rather than just being acquired autonomously. I'm not sure what else they could have meant by "gaining literacy skills efficiently". I am really puzzled as to why anybody should think that the select committee was any more favourably disposed to autonomous home education than Graham Badman. Stripped of the verbiage, their recommendations are almost identical.


  1. You're making an implicit assumption that the select committee members were in total agreement about the recommendations they made. As I'm sure you're well aware, the opinions of individual committee members often differ from the consensus view they present in reports.

    The committee said what it (collectively) thought - which was not the same as what Graham Badman thought, nor the same as what individual committee members might think. Actually the 'verbiage' is quite important; it often gives a clue as to the underlying worldview of the person or people making the statement.

  2. What Graham Stuart actually said yesterday was that the committee believed that any registration system should be voluntary; this was at best misleading and at worst a falsehood.

  3. But that's what they did say. If the committee's conclusions were to be implemented, a voluntary registration scheme would be put in place. To point this out is no more misleading nor false than to suggest that the committee recommended 'that compulsory registration both should and should not be introduced'. The committee said a lot of things, which no one is going to go through in detail every time they make a comment about a particular point.

  4. As we both know very well suzyg, many home educating parents in this country do not wish to register with their local authorities. They are unlikely to wish to do so in the future. the select committee did indeed suggest a voluntary registration scheme. They went on to say that if all parents did not sign up to it, then two years later it would be made a compulsory registration scheme. That is what I meant when I said that they recommended;

    "'that compulsory registration both should and should not be introduced'

    As I have remarked before, this was precisely Fiona Nicholson of Education Otherwise's view when asked about registration. She was both in favour and against it, to the extent that even the Chair of the committee could not find out whether she wanted registration. I suppose that the committee decided that this was a pretty good bet and just copied her ideas on the subject!

  5. "As we both know very well suzyg, many home educating parents in this country do not wish to register with their local authorities."

    I've heard many parents say that they have not registered (or regret registering) because there is no benefit to them and only results in extra work preparing for meetings or reports. I thought the basis of the committee argument for a voluntary register was that support and help should be offered so that registration is mutually beneficial. My impression is that a large majority would register if there were benefits. We only need to look at the Bedford scheme to see this.

  6. We wont register and have told Balls?DCSf?Badman and our LA!

    Not heard a word from our LA for over 4 years!LOL i think they give up i think in a lot of cases once you tell them to f off they give up! dont all bully's dp this once you say thats it f off?

  7. Here is what I think actually transpired at the Select Committee.
    Some members of course thought immediate compulsory registration would be the best idea -they were not convinced by the submissions that stated there was another side to this and they were not personally engaging with home educators to actually understand them like GS and Lord Lucas have been. I think this is incredibly important in order for people to genuinely hear the others dialogue .
    You single out Graham Stuart but he may not have been alone in his concerns about feasibility and desirability and not alone in wanting a recommendation that did not state a mere 2 years. Having listened to home educators he was convinced that 2 years are not long enough to heal the relationships between HE families and LAs- and without healing you will get no co-operation- and ego a financial and political disaster.
    These are problems I can name which already exist-and these are the problems that stand in the way of mutual respect, understanding and co-operation and a way out of this deadlock:
    The lack of LA training in SEN and differing Ed Phils.
    The lack of longitudinal studies , the lack of co-operation and respect (may I add on both sides).
    The lack of a unified nationwide 'policy'
    The lack of accountability and equitable approach -no statutory guidance and a top down approach of 'power over' rather than 'co-operation between'.
    The lack of funding so that LAs can do all these things and also feel able to afford the SAOs that they feel are needed but are not even able to issue currently.
    The latter Select Committee members that you , Simon incite us to regard as 'traitors' may actually think that the government has handled this very badly and has placed the 2 'parties' in an adversarial relationship since coming to power and particularly in the past year! So whilst they may see that it is inevitable that some form of 'registration' or 'notification' system comes about , they also would want that stalled until the problems are fixed and the majority of home educators will have no qualms about volunteering. This may be envisaged to look somewhat similar to the British Columbian system .
    The 2 years was a compromise struck by bargaining and is not really that important as it is a rather a meaningless figure depending on the actions of the next government.


  8. continuation....

    Meanwhile in the interim ' X' years these people would want home educators to be masters of their own destiny by making suggestions as to what would bring about a sea-change so that enough people volunteer to uptake the 'services' as to make those who do not volunteer (for philosophical reasons: a choice to be free from the State) are not in a significant number.
    If enough people volunteer because it is not only 'safe' to do so but also it is worthwhile, (In BC those who chose to register get a sum of money annually as a tax break) then the number who are choosing not to register become small so that no-one will consider it a concern - especially since...and here is the part I find most desirable... when the Civil Service see that most are choosing to have contact with their helpful , friendly, well funded , well trained Local Authorities and even decide they would welcome them in as 'guests' rather than 'visitors' or ' compulsory inspectors' that lo and behold they are NOT seeing a rise in the cases they seem to be so worried about.
    The point that people are trying to make now is that the percentage of problems are 'probably' already for the most part known. That view will hopefully be vindicated although I concede that no-one really is sure about how many are choosing for good reason to avoid their LAs . This is one of the reasons in BC that the HE groups recommend that incoming families choose to register the 'know' that there are not significant problems .To me this sounds like a win -win situation-
    but then again maybe I am just a dreamer - hopefully I am not the only one.(cue music)
    Incidentally the concept of peaceful , equitable and generous negotiation is one that has arisen through my 30 year involvement and interest in Israeli- Palestinian conflict resolution and dialogue-
    My sentiments on what sort of engagement I choose to have on a personal and political level have been rather well (although not exhaustively) expressed here
    However, Simon despite noting a softening in some of your approach, I still do not see that you are genuinely interested in a dialogue that does not include antagonism and inciting other home educators. This puzzles me.

  9. "The latter Select Committee members that you , Simon incite us to regard as 'traitors' may actually think that the government has handled this very badly and has placed the 2 'parties' in an adversarial relationship since coming to power and particularly in the past year!"

    At the second reading (in the Commons) didn't Ed Balls say he finds setting two parties at odds with one another is often the way forward?

  10. Hi Simon,

    Mind the insults or no one will post!

    The select committee came to a compromise agreement which opposed the government's proposals for a compulsory system for at least two years. From my point of view that provided a breathing space to win the argument and stop a compulsory system ever being introduced. The report's wording says that any review would look at whether a voluntary scheme met expectations not whether everyone had registered so I don't think your point there is accurate.

    If you have a voluntary scheme and keep it voluntary then all the other recommendations only apply to those who voluntarily participate.

    Nonetheless the report is a bit incoherent. It was initially drafted on the premise that the committee would broadly support the Govt's recommendations. I had written a report of my own and agreed to drop it on the basis that we didn't support the Govt's proposals for compulsory registration and the Chairman's report was changed at a late stage.

  11. Tania and Andrew say to have contact with their helpful , friendly, well funded , well trained Local Authorities and even decide they would welcome them in as 'guests' rather than 'visitors' or ' compulsory inspectors' that lo and behold they are NOT seeing a rise in the cases they seem to be so worried about.

    and Pigs will fly! are you having a laugh welocme the LA in as a guest? most LA officers hate home education the one in Hampshire does!
    What cases are they seeing a rise in? more likly they made them up! the DCSF dont tell the truth and also hate home education!

  12. I didn't mean to be insuting, Graham. Just a little good natured joshing! I don't think "shameless rascal" would be taken by anybody to be a deadly insult, but if you feel offended, I apologise. Your explanation of how the committee came to make the recommendation about registration in this way is very interesting. Thanks for that.

  13. How about the 'misleading' and 'falsehood?

  14. Thank you, suzyg. Little chance of reaching any sort of rapprochement while you are ready and willing to contribute your two pennorth!

  15. Implying that someone is being over-sensitive by picking the least offensive example when you are supposedly apologising to them doesn't help either.

  16. You dropped the two pennies; I just picked 'em up and gave 'em back.

  17. Love the demotic use of language, suzyg.

  18. 'Anonymous'- pigs must be flying over South Somerset. Not only do many people choose to have contact and welcome the HE visitor in as a guest but they also help fund some HE activities which are run by unregistered people. The HE department knows these people wish to remain 'off their list' and respect that -hence respecting current law. If some of the helpful guidelines were made statutory, training was done well and the models which work well are studied then I see no reason for the dreadful sate of affairs within LA's currently.
    It will of course take time to retrain LAs and regain trust but it is perfectly possible- British Columbia has many home eductators under a system that works.


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