I am not in general a huge fan of Birmingham City Council. Their record on child welfare is abysmal and they seem to have a knack of screwing up generally where social services are concerned. Nevertheless, they have recently come up with a pretty good idea about home education. Here is their latest policy on elective home education;
Predictably enough, many in the home educating community took one look at these guidelines and then exploded with uncontrollable fury. Hidden away though is an idea which if generally adopted might end a lot of the conflict between local authorities and autonomous home educators.
One of the recommendations contained in the Badman report to which many home educating parents objected was the eighth clause of Recommendation 1. It says;
At the time of registration parents/carers/guardians must provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child over the following twelve months.
This suggestion found its way into Schedule 1 if the Children, Schools and Families Bill and caused a good deal of anger. Personally, I couldn't see what all the fuss was about, but I don't propose to go into that now. For whatever reason, the fact is that a lot of parents didn't like this scheme and felt that it would restrict them and harm the type of education which they were providing for their children. Birmingham have come up with a way round this objection. They say in their guidance;
During follow up visits you will also be asked to provide the adviser with information on the education you have been providing for your child and the progress being made.
Nothing could be simpler. If parents who wished to educate their children at home were given a year to get on with it without any interference from the local authority, the only proviso being that they would be expected after twelve months to give an account of what their child had achieved or done in the course of that time, then everybody would be happy. Parents could simply continue to allow their children to direct the course of their own education as before. All that would be needed would be for the parents to keep a record of what was being covered over the year and what the child had learned. Nothing could be simpler. It would not affect the child; the parents could write up their notes after he had gone to bed. They would not even need to say that they were doing this, lest they upset the delicate balance of this type of education. The local authority would also be satisfied. They would have a comprehensive account of the child's development over the previous year and be able to see how effective autonomous education could be. The more that they saw what such children were achieving, the less sceptical they would become about education like this.
Most parents are, after all, only to happy to boast about what their kids have been doing lately! I was sometimes a little vague when meeting with my local authority what direction my daughter's education might be taking in the future, but I always gave them a full account of the preceding year. They had a list of the operas and plays we had seen, books that she had read, museums visited, lectures attended, music examinations taken, the whole works in fact. It seems to me that this might well prove to be an ideal compromise which would satisfy everybody concerned. The local authority would be satisfied that the children were receiving an adequate education and the parents could provide this evidence without altering or affecting their child's education in any way whatever.