Judging from some of the questions being asked on Internet lists, there is confusion about what these guidelines are which Tania Berlow and her friends are working on. Let me just give a brief outline so that people can see what is going on.
The law relating to home education in this country is very muddled and confusing. So much so, that even lawyers cannot always agree on what the situation actually is. In addition to the basic bit of law which allows home education, Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act, there are various old precedents and also a number of more modern pieces of statute law. The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006, Children Act 2004 and of course a new section added years later to the 1996 Education Act. Section 436A, laid upon all local authorities a duty to identify children missing from education. Section 437 goes on to specify that home educated children receiving a suitable education are not to be regarded as being missing from education. The result of all these laws is that local authorities sometimes get a bit mixed up about what their legal duties actually are when it comes to home education. For this reason, in 2006 it was decided to try and produce some guidelines for the local authorities, government approved guidelines which would explain their duties. Between August and November 2006, York Consulting Ltd. undertook a study for the Department of Education and Science, which in May 2010 became the Department for Education. Their brief was to examine elective home education in England and try to identify any perceptible trends.
The result of York Consulting's work was that in 2007 the Department issued the Guidelines for LAs on elective home education. They can be found here:
The aim of Tania Berlow's group is to rewrite these guidelines. There are two difficulties. Firstly, the guidelines are not statutory. This means that local authorities can ignore them is they wish. The second problem is that the current guidelines could hardly be made more favourable to home educators than they already are. For instance, they say;
2.7 Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis.
Some parents may welcome the opportunity to discuss the provision that they are making for the child’s education during a home visit but parents are not legally required to give the local authority access to their home. They may choose to meet a local authority representative at a mutually convenient and neutral location instead, with or without the child being present, or choose not to meet at all.
3.11 Local authorities should bear in mind that, in the early stages, parents’ plans may not be detailed and they may not yet be in a position to demonstrate all the characteristics of an “efficient and suitable” educational provision.
3.14 It is important to recognise that there are many, equally valid, approaches to educational provision. Local authorities should, therefore, consider a wide range of information from home educating parents, in a range of formats. The information may be in the form of specific examples of learning e.g. pictures/paintings/models, diaries of educational activity,
projects, assessments, samples of work, books, educational visits etc.
In fact it is hard to see how these guidelines could be any better from the point of view of home educating parents. They already make it clear to the local authorities what they can and cannot do. Why do they need to be changed? Of course some parents are not happy with the law itself and want that to be changed. This is quite a different matter and there are, as far as we have been told, no plans for this.
So much for the background. The only public face of the changes to the 2007 guidelines is of course Tania Berlow. Two slightly alarming things have been noticed about her more recent posts on the Badman Review Action Group; one relating to form and the other to content. Tania seems to be falling into the habit of emphasising important words by the use of capital letters. Rather like THIS. This is SELDOM a good SIGN and unless she is CAREFUL, she might end up using GREEN or YELLOW ink like another well known home educator! The second and even more chilling feature of her latest post is mention of the New World Order. Now in my experience, once people begin talking of the New World Order it is only a matter of time before we start hearing about Rosslyn Chapel, the Illuminati, Area 51 and Prince Philip being responsible for Diana's murder. It is devoutly to be hoped that there will be no mention of either the New World Order or any of these other topics in the new guidelines!
If Alison Sauer's company, Sauer Consultancy, has been officially commissioned to do some work on behalf of the Department for Education, as York Consulting was in 2006, we should be told. It is high time to drop the secrecy and come out into the open. When York Consulting carried out their work in 2006, work which led to the publication of the 2007 guidelines for local authorities, there was none of this secrecy and I cannot for the life of me see why there should be now. The only reason which I can think which would explain this lack of openess is that something a bit fishy is going on.