Thursday, 11 March 2010

The wind is changing....

I remarked in earlier post that those enlisted by home educators to support their cause in Parliament all seem to be saying that new legislation is inevitable. During the Second Reading of the Children, Schools and Families Bill this week, Lord Lucas said this quite clearly and unambiguously ;

"I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Soley, that legislation in this area is inevitable,"

Graham Stuart MP, another supporter, is of the same mind. He has told home educators that change in the law is coming. What is also very encouraging is that many of the more militant home educators, what one might not inaptly term the rejectionist wing of autonomous education, are now starting to accept this. Take the issue of registration, for example. Six months ago, every single person on the lists seemed to be bitterly opposed to the idea of compulsory registration. During the select committee hearing Zena Hodges, Jane Lowe and Carole Rutherford were firmly against the idea. (Fiona Nicholson of Education Otherwise provided much innocent entertainment of course, by being unable to decide whether she was for or against compusory registration.) Ultimately, the select committee went along with Fiona's view, recommending that compulsory registration both should and should not be introduced. They favoured voluntary registration for two years and then the imposition of compulsory registration for anybody who hadn't signed up voluntarily!

Now I have recently noticed a number of diehard autonomous educators tacitly conceding not only that registration is coming, but also admitting that it might be a good thing. This view has been cropping up on the HE lists, but also I have had dealings in the last week or so with a couple of the more well known campaigners, whose names are always appearing on the subject of home education. Both mentioned unprompted that they thought that registration was not such a bad idea after all.

Of course, this volte-face is not being presented as a change of heart. It is being casually alluded to as if that has always been the accepted viewpoint. It reminds me very much of 1984, where once the war was no longer against Eurasia, but East Asia, everybody simply pretended that that had always been the case. That's fine by me; at least it shows that people are becoming a little more realistic about the business. The question now, is what else will autonomous home educators be prepared to compromise over? Both they and their supporters seem to be coming round to the point of view that a change in the law is coming and many have evidently come to the conclusion that they can live with a scheme of compulsory registration.

I am guessing that most parents would be prepared to meet with local authorities, although not necessarily in their homes. Maybe Family Centres would be good places for such meetings. I doubt that most such meetings will result in a request to see the child alone, but those that did could also be held in either Family Centres or perhaps somewhere like some of the places where I have worked, where there is a two way mirror for observation. That way, parents could watch and listen to the whole interview. If such meetings were recorded, then there would be no danger of the person conducting the interview popping out ten minutes later and announcing, "Johnny says he hates being educated at home and wants to go to school!"

I suspect that many home educating parents are now thinking along more realistic lines and that we shall see more coming out in the coming months and dropping into posts various measures that they might feel that they can live with. It is all very heartening and suggests that maybe with a little good will, the various parties might manage to thrash out some system that all would be reasonably happy with.


  1. The question now, is what else will autonomous home educators be prepared to compromise over?

    No compromise here never! No meeting no visits here.

    or perhaps somewhere like some of the places where I have worked, where there is a two way mirror for observation.

    You like watching these children being interviewed? they something not right about wanting to watch people via a mirror?

    It is all very heartening and suggests that maybe with a little good will, the various parties might manage to thrash out some system that all would be reasonably happy with.

    No good will here! so whats old Uncle Balls?DCSF?Badman going to do about that then? We written to them telling them we will do as we are told and where is that school attendance order? does Johnson look like a man to you? i guess she and Balls are going to very busy in next few weeks trying to hang on to they seats in Hull should be fun to watch!

  2. The places with two way mirrors that I was thinking of are psychology departments and speech therapy clinics. There seems to be a fear by some parents that if they allow a local authority officer to speak alone to their child, that the person may be a paedophile. I was suggesting a way that such fears might be allayed.

  3. there seems to be a fear by some parents that if they allow a local authority officer to speak alone to their child, that the person may be a paedophile

    Some local authority officers could well be a paedophile i suggest we search they house to look for evidence that they are not a paedophile we need to look at they computer books just in case if they got nothing to fear they wont mind us poping round for a friendly chat! LOL

    No one really trusts LA Officers and you got to ask your self why Simon? its because of the way they behave people wont put up with crap service any more! people will complain and make a big fuss! they think by using law they can force people back in line like in a school but it wont work its to late the horse has bolted!

  4. Simon you appear to have a very fatalistic worldview - as if all policy change is due to forces of nature or acts of God, rather than to decisions made by fallible human beings. The viewpoint that change to home education legislation is inevitable does not necessarily mean that those recognising it as inevitable agree with it. Perhaps they are simply in closer contact than the rest of us with those who will have a hand in shaping education policy. History is as replete with examples of legislation that has been abandoned as it is with legislation that has been seen as 'inevitable' and has come to pass.

    With regard to contact with local authorities – I have, and never have had a problem with meeting representatives from my local authority to discuss my children’s education. Unfortunately, my local authority has shown a marked reluctance to discuss what happened to my children in school, and what practical steps I might take to address my children’s learning difficulties - because they don’t want to talk about the first, and don’t know what to say about the second. Also, a friendly chat is not what is being proposed; the legislation addresses the powers local authorities can exercise in respect of parents who might be breaking the law. To suggest that this situation can be handled with ‘maybe a little goodwill’ implies an extraordinarily poor understanding of the issues. If only the police, and those charged with criminal offences exercised a little goodwill towards each other, all that nastiness might be avoided.

    The whole debate around home education has arisen and been propagated by people with a lot of influence and a poor understanding of the issues. A great many of the problems we face as a nation are attributable to the same factors.

  5. Simon my heretical friend, another phrase for you "the sun shall rise again..."

    After your extremely flawed political analysis over the months, I was completely shocked to see you write a blog post such as this.

    You do realize that you have completely fallen into the snake pit of those that you criticize?

    Just as the sun will rise again in the east, change will be coming on education as well.

    Is there anyone that believes there will be no meddling in education over the next 100 years? Twenty years? How about the next five years?

    I shall also be "bold" and proclaim that the "wind is changing" on taxes!!

    So too the "wind is changing" on immigration!!

    Yes the "wind is changing" on the NHS!!!!

    I have read most of your posts and you have a great deal to say, much of it reasonable. But it is also easy to see when you succumb to hysterics.

    I have no doubt, none at all, that home education will be revisited during the next Government.

    But it is going to occur in a much different manner;

    1.) All stakeholders will be at the proverbial table. That will include national home education organizations together with LEAs.

    2.) Good practice will be thoroughly examined from around the world. That will mean looking at what occurs in countries where home education is widespread like the USA not like countries where it is banned outright like Germany or banned in practice like Sweden today.

    3.) Proper Impact Assessments will be conducted so everyone will have a clear understanding of costs before it is even considered.

    4.) Badman and anyone associated with him, will be kept far away from the process.

    5.) The process will not be politically charged with outlandish claims of abuse. Any statistics used will be largely accepted by home educators.

  6. Dear me, you must be a very easy person to shock if, as you say, you were "completely shocked" by this post! Possibly you have led a rather sheltered life and are therefore liable to find the expression of robust views a shock to the system. As for my being hysterical, well I'm not so sure about that.

    I am enchanted by your description of the process which will take place when the question of home education is again looked at by the government. It sounds pretty similar to the Badman Review actually. Tell me, who has given you this inside information about the likely structure of the next enquiry? Whoever it was is, I fear, a little out of date. LEAs were abolished several years ago and so there would be little chance of seeing them take part in this.

  7. Simon, while it may be "fun" for yourself to taunt some of the readers, I shall offer up what are the reasonable paths of "change" that are likely to be seen.

    1.) The 2007 home education guidance will be given more "force of law" either by simply republishing or restating it and putting it on a statutory footing.

    2.) The carrot and stick approach will be the way forward. Voluntary registration will remain but there will be real benefits to being registered. I would not be surprised to see that registration would be a condition to receive the "Child Benefit" allowance in order to stamp out so called benefit fraud and abuse.

    Registration will also be the manner in which that benefit can be rightly claimed after age 16.

    3.) GCSE examinations will become widely available to home educated pupils with government funding. The funding and exam availability will be controlled by the LEA who will in essence be the gatekeeper. You will have to be registered and go through them to take the exams. Personally, I think the GCSE has become rubbish hence the emergence of IGCSE but it is what people appear to want so who am I to question that.

    In the alternative of an LEA gatekeeper, it could be conceivable to see local schools become a gatekeeper. Their incentive would be the money and the ability to improve their overall scores by allowing them to count home educators that sign up through them.

    Yes, if the "wind of change" is coming it will be benefit driven not fear driven.

    Unless Labour has so screwed up UK finances that everything is on the table then we could see even the already existing voluntary registration go away out of budget necessity. I do not discount that possibility.

    Considering that today the UK is borrowing money from foreign investors to effectively fund the existing inspection of home educators, if there are failed gilt sales then the existing regime will be scrapped out of budget necessity.

    Simon, you neglect to consider that UK political decisions are leaving the scope Parliament and are being made more and more by bond traders and sovereign funds.

  8. Hi Simon,

    Interesting post. I don't think compulsory registration is either right or inevitable. There do need to be changes in the regulatory framework but they should be to clarify and reinforce the duties of local authorities to support parents in the performance of their legal duty to educate their children.

    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. You will get greater engagement from families with local authorities if the families stay in control than if you allow local authorities to call the shots.

  9. Actually, the select committee said that initially registration should be voluntary, but that if after two years not all home educators had volunteered for it then it should be made compulsory! (Para. 63)

  10. In order for a voluntary registration scheme to work (if "working" means that people would take up registration) families will need to be offered some incentive. Down here in south Hampshire, we are perhaps succeeding in that we are being "given" some goodies (ie the LA are registering an IGCSE centre for us, we have access to a school science lab etc)- however they have been given to us without any attached conditions. If you belong to our HE group you can attend science sessions, but there is no need to be known to the LA first, and we won't be submitting any data on who is attending that would allow follow up to be made. Now that is all to the good; but why should such families want to register if they can get what they want without doing so?

  11. A very good question Julie and we must hope that Graham Stuart MP has the answer! The select committe said that local authorities should offer lots of help for those who registered and then if not enough signed up after a couple of years it would have to be compulsory.

  12. "Actually, the select committee said that initially registration should be voluntary, but that if after two years not all home educators had volunteered for it then it should be made compulsory! (Para. 63)"

    Actually Simon you seem to have overinterpreted what is written. Here is EXACTLY what they wrote:

    "We believe that registration would encourage local authorities and home educators to recognise that it is to their mutual advantage to have a clear record of children who are being home educated. Any registration system for home educating families should be light touch. In view of the concerns expressed by home educators about compulsory registration, we suggest that registration should be voluntary. Local authorities should publicise the benefits of registration, including the resources that will be available to registered families. The success of a system of voluntary registration (combined with improved information sharing) 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 not otherwise at school—we believe that a system of compulsory registration would need to be introduced."

    There is no mention of ALL home educated children registering.....just an interpretable "met expectations"

  13. Yes, Alison. This is what I said. "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"

    There is no interpretation needed here. If the voluntary system does not assist local authorities to identify the families of home educated children, it should become compulsory. As I said, if not enough have signed up after two years, it will become compulsory.

  14. ...however in order to be made compulsory the LAs would have to be able to say that the 'voluntary' uptake was not working.
    This is why in the 'interim' years, certain issues must be addressed so that most home educators do not find it onerous to volunteer.Lets hope it is not a mere two years as this is insufficient to fix the existing problems which leads Home Educators to run the other direction.
    IF the issues are fixed and then enough people actually can see a benefit to becoming registered then the scheme will be judged a success simply because the LAs will see a rise in numbers.
    If a few thousand nationwide choose not to volunteer but many more thousands do step forward , then only if Contactpoint actually works and each LA has the resources to actually cross match all that data , will the non volunteers be 'found'.
    If there is a possibility that major issues are corrected and the Home Education community can see benefits to voluntary registration, does anyone have a clue what might 'meet expectations'?

    Whilst government can hypothsis and speculate that 20, 30, 40, 50 or 60 thousand are not known to the LAs, most LAs seem to think only about 30% may be unknown to them . Many Home Educators seem to think it may be as high as 60%.