I have been looking at the document which Alison Sauer has been circulating about certain local authorities. Before I discuss it, I must mention that this has cleared up a puzzling little incident which occurred a couple of weeks ago. On December 8th, Tania Berlow drew people's attention to a website on home education. It may be found here;
There was some pretty negative reaction to this website from some members of the EO list and as a result, a few things have been deleted from it. A couple of people said that it came across like a hostile spoof and somebody told me that she thought it could be a deliberate attempt to discredit home education. For instance, the site gave some slogans which it was thought that home educating parents might want to use. Among these was, ''Better Than Sex. Get Turned On with Home Education' . (Don't use this one when local authorities or the NSPCC are fretting about home education being used as a cover for child abuse!) Another one suggested that parents who didn't home educate their children, didn't really love them. This is a great line to take when building bridges with the wider community; tell everybody with a kid at school that they don't love their children. That should make them receptive to anything else you have to say!
The reason that I mention this site is that Alison Sauer's document contains a link to it. As far as I can see, this is where she collected the quotations which she uses. I am assuming this means that she is connected with the site and that she and other members of the so-called 'secret group' wrote the material to be found there.
Looking at the document itself, it is hard to know where to begin. It may be found here;
Working as I do in a very diverse part of the East End of London, I was taken aback by one of the very first sentences. This talks of concern about 'ultra vires practices by Local Authorities being deployed against British Citizens'. I work with Asylum Seekers and refugees, many of whom have questionable status. Are the authors of the document saying that ultra vires practices would be acceptable against these individuals, because they are not British citizens? Perhaps saying 'people in Britain' would have been better than 'British citizens.
The next paragraph talks of the cost for local authorities 'in both financial and human capital terms' of their supposedly unlawful actions. 'Financial' means money and so I think that the idea is to tell us how much their activities in the field of home education cost local authorities. I will hazard a guess that 'human capital' means 'people'; if so, why not just say people or staff? Why use this bizarre jargon? Weirdly, after talking of this at the beginning, no attempt is actually made to explain the cost of what the local authorities are doing. The document says that there will be 'G & A' costs and 'Lost-Opportunity cost'. What does this mean? What are 'G & A costs'? What on earth is a 'Lost-Opportunity cost'? Would this be measured in financial terms or in terms of 'human capital'? We are also told that there are 'Implications for Individual Personnel'. What are these implications? The contorted language used here suggests that more than one person was involved in writing it. This is confirmed at the bottom of the thing, where there is a reference to 'authors'. Could Tania Berlow be one of them? It sounds a bit like some of her productions.
This is one of the big problems with looking at this thing. It is couched in a really strange jargon and it is hard to make out just what the authors are trying to prove. The 'ultra vires' actions seem to amount to local authorities asking to visit families and in some cases warning parents that unless they satisfied the authority within fifteen days that an education was taking place, a School Attendance Order would be issued. These are not really unlawful things for the local authority to do. I have in front of me a letter which I received from Essex County Council nine years ago after we had run into a truancy patrol. It says;
'Mrs Joan Barclay, an Education Welfare Officer, has informed me that your daughter Simone does not attend school. I would like to come and talk to you and Simone about the education you are providing. I hope to visit you on the morning of March 18th. If this is not convenient, perhaps you could let me know.'
Now I suppose that this is what is described in Alison Sauer's document as a 'demand to allow access to the home'. Apparently, some parents who have received similar letters have endured, 'six weeks of terror' causing 'sleepless nights, tears and sadness'! I have to say that we were showing this letter to friends and laughing about it. I can't imagine offhand why I would have been, 'bursting into uncontrollable tears' or regard this letter as a 'terrifying threat'. We need to know more about the details here, before we can judge whether or not these are ludicrous over-reactions by parents to ordinary life. In other words, without being told the specific circumstances, we cannot judge whether or not a local authority has behaved unreasonably. It is possible that these are just very sensitive parents who react badly to any sort of questions from anybody who they see as being in authority. One of the difficulties with what are described as ultra vires actions in this peculiar document is that the some of the things are far from being unlawful or ultra vires; they are in fact duties which the local authority is legally obliged to undertake. Take one of the practices which the author complains of; 'written threats of taking legal action to send the children to school unless the parents comply with the demands which were being made'. Now this might be distressing or unwelcome behaviour of the part of the local authority, but it is hardly unlawful. As a matter of fact, they have to do this under certain circumstances. The relevant law says;
'If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory
school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by
regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in
writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period
specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education'
It is to be hoped that the guidelines for local authorities on elective home education which La Sauer has been writing have been put together with a little more care than the above document. (It would, to say the least of it, be unfortunate if they begin by suggesting that abuses of state power are more acceptable when directed against foreigners and stateless persons in this country than if they were to be used against those who had citizenship!) We must hope too that the guidelines are not littered with jargon such as 'human capital' and 'G & A costs'. None of this bodes particularly well for the guidelines themselves!
For those who cannot access the document via the above link, I reproduce it below.
Ultra Vires Activities by Local Authorities in Relation to
Elective Home Education
Part One [Extract 18.12.2010]
Impact upon the Victims of Abusive Conduct by Local Authorities
Immediate Victims of Harassment
A Legal Context
The Damage to Children
The Damage to Parents
Impact upon Home Educators in General
Impact upon the Wider Society
Impact upon Local Authorities
G & A Costs
Implications for Individual Personnel
Human Resource Implications
Summary and Conclusions
Addendums & Appendices
Suffolk, Oxford, Birmingham, Gwent. Gateshead and Bournemouth are all recent examples
of ultra vires practices by Local Authorities being deployed against British citizens. These are
citizens that have made the personal sacrifice and law abiding commitment to Elective
Home Education for their children.
The true cost in human terms for the family victims of such abuses and in both financial and
human capital terms for the local authorities is far more significant than most politicians,
members of the public and particularly Local Authorities realise. This document explores
the reasons for both the human cost and financial costs resulting from practices that are not
supported by law and in many cases are contraventions of law.
Whilst remedial changes to guidelines and Statutory Instruments are being considered,
there is a significant need for Local Authorities to recognise all aspects of the damage to
society being caused by ultra vires pursuits.
1. Impact – the Victims of Abusive Conduct by Local Authorities
a. Immediate Victims of Harassment
Serious impact upon the lives of parents of and children occurs with unwarranted and
clumsy interventions into the peaceful harmony of family life, for which there is no legal
basis. It is obvious from LA reactions to complaints that they are oblivious to the impact of
b. A Legal Context
A basic tenet of criminal law in the UK is that the threat is no less a crime than action. This
reflects the real impact of threatening conduct. If you use a toy gun to threaten, it has the
same impact as a real gun upon the victim. The Prevention of Harassment Act does not
accept that the perpetrator did not know of the impact that would result. It simply and
rightly rules; they ought to have known. (section ‘7 Liabilities for the LA’ & section ‘8 Legal
costs for the LA’ of this document refer).
Extract from the Prevention of Harassment Act:
1. Prohibition of harassment.
(1)A person must not pursue a course of conduct—
(a) which amounts to harassment of another, and
(b) which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.
(2)For the purposes of this section, the person whose course of conduct is in
question ought to know that it amounts to harassment of another if a reasonable
person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct
amounted to harassment of the other.
Guilty until Proven Innocent?
An even more fundamental tenet enshrined into British law is the presumption of
innocence until proven guilty. This has been aggressively and wantonly brushed aside by
the recent activities of certain local authorities. (Addendum 1 refers).
c. The Damage to Children
Whilst direct impact upon parents may be shielded from the children in the family, there is
nevertheless an indirect impact upon the children to some greater or lesser extent.
Even when circumstances allow the children to be shielded from the exact nature of the
threat, serious impact upon the children occurs indirectly by causing stress and anxiety to
the parents which of course the children sense.
The psychological effects upon children of such indirect stress are far greater. The impact
caused to parents becomes more real and personal to the child, who is disturbed by seeing
distressed parents. Indirect impact is less understandable to a child and thereby more
troubling. It is less removed and adversely effects the people whom the child has the
greatest emotional and security attachment to in life. Whilst the child may not have the
verbal skills to enunciate their feelings, the feelings of anxiety exist regardless. Such anxiety
manifests its presence to the parents in uncharacteristic behaviour patterns.
In addition and somewhat paradoxically, by deflecting the parents and demoralising them,
the quality of home education is compromised too.
With older children, the seeds of long-term disaffection with the state may well be fertilised.
It is difficult to evaluate the qualitative or quantitative effect of such indirect impact upon
d. The Damage to Parents (and Family)
A third party definition of stress to parents is less meaningful than listening to parents own
description of how they characterise the impact. The following remarks were made by
parents that had varying experiences from, demands to allow access to the home, threats to
bring the police to an unscheduled home visit, demands to prove that education was
‘suitable’ to the LA’s satisfaction, to written threats of taking legal action to send the
children to school unless parents comply with demands that were being made which were
ultra vires in nature. It speaks volumes:-
“Completely frightening threats to deprive my children of home education”
“For a law abiding person to be threatened with the police is demoralising and made me
feel really scared”
“They were deliberately intimidating and totally insensitive to my feelings.”
“It was obvious form the very start that they were completely anti-home educators and
showed not even a n ounce of respect to me.”
“It made me very angry and upset to think that people could be like this”
“Terrifying threats from people that are ignorant about home education”
“After everything I have done to help develop well brought-up children, well educated,
safe and happy, it was a point of abject despair to be verbally threatened with the police
and the law courts and worse the thought of my children being forced into a bad
“Looking back, the six weeks of terror caused sleepless nights, tears and sadness that I
sometimes could not hide from my two children. It has changed my view of Britain being
a fair place to live.”
“I am scarred by the experience.”
“Friends and family were incredibly supportive at a time where I felt devastated.”
“At my son’s birthday party I burst into uncontrollable tears just thinking about it.”
“I guess I never had experience of real fear in my life until then.”
“The implication was that I was not doing the best for my children and it made me feel
inadequate. I lost self-confidence which is still not where it was after all these weeks.”
“I am still frightened and I have cut down the times that I take [name removed] out
during school term.”
“When he said he thought that he would start the legal process against us to get our
children into school, my husband and I both cried together that night.”
“Home edding our children is the centre of family life. What bloody effect do you think it
“I was ashamed by the thought that my daughter would be taken to school and didn’t
want to tell anyone. I found a forum on the internet that really helped because I was not
“Fear, panic, anger and desperation that’s all I can say.”
e. Impact upon Home Educators in General
Abusive conduct from L.A.’s encourages ‘Defensive parenting’.
It breeds contempt for the L.A. and educational services.
It alienates parents of EHE children from the state (the L.A. is seen as being the
frontline representative of the state).
It encourages those EHE families that are not known to the LA to remain so.
It encourages adopters of EHE to decide in favour of keeping an ‘unknown’ status.
f. Impact upon the Wider Society
It leads to increased distrust and alienation towards the LA for people not even
necessarily directly involved in EHE but aware of it through family or friends.
It alienates those people who are suppliers to, contributors or active supporters of
and EHE families (i.e. relatives).
It spreads bad repute far and wide. Local Authorities are oblivious to the total
number of people involved not just directly but indirectly in EHE. Bad repute
spreads more quickly than good repute.
© 2010 This extracted document and its content are the protected copyright of it authors.
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