Monday, 28 March 2011

Home educating parents expecting to be treated differently from everybody else.....again

    Most people dealing with their local authority notice that the authority often makes mistakes or gets muddled up about the precise legal position of various matters. Property developers, for example, often find that they know more about planning law than do the local authority officers with whom they deal. There are so many laws and by-laws that it is not surprising that councils get a little confused from time to time. Sometimes of course, they also try and bluff people by misrepresenting the law. On some local land owned by Essex County Council, I saw a sign recently warning that trespassers would be prosecuted. This is of course quite untrue. It is however a good deal shorter and more menacing than a sign reading;

      'Trespassers who continue to cross this land after having received a number of verbal warnings may, if we are able to establish their address (which by the way we have no legal right to demand from them), possibly receive a letter from our legal department asking them not to trespass again. Theoretically, we could take action against you in the civil courts, but this would cost more than its worth and there would be no practical consequence for you in any case, except perhaps being ordered by an injunction not to cross this land again'

        Which is more likely to be effective; the above text or 'Trespassers will be prosecuted'? This is why local authorities sometimes send letters to people threatening them with non-existent laws. Home educators get these letters and are infuriated; everybody else ignores them. Coventry have been sending letters to parents whose children are not at school. Among the things which they have said which have made people angry are; 'You will need to decide if you have the skills and ability to educate your child', 'Failure to notify the LA in writing of your intentions to educate at home could result in prosecution for failing to ensure your child's attendance' and 'If you are new to home education an education officer will contact you and a convenient time will be arranged for a home visit, in order to further discuss your educational arrangements' Only home educators could be made angry by such innocuous advice! Of course one would need to decide if one had the ability and skills necessary to educate a child before embarking upon home education. It is not of course a legal requirement to notify the local authority in writing, but I can see why they put this. Some schools off-roll pupils by getting the parents to write and say that they will be home educating. The school keeps quiet about this awful practice and tries to conceal what they are doing from their local authority. It would certainly be a good thing if local authorities knew about this. In other areas, the schools just don't bother to notify their local authority about pupils deregistered to be home educated. The London Borough of Enfield is famous for this. Obviously the home is the most convenient place for the local authority officer to meet the parent and child, but if parents object, they can always meet elsewhere.

          Most special interest groups, whether electricians, builders, shopkeepers, farmers or home educators, find that their local authority gets a bit mixed up from time to time. On other occasions the council will try to bluff people into believing something which is not true. Most people take this in their stride and usually laugh it off. Home educators are such a prickly bunch though, that they take these things personally and see them as evidence of a conspiracy to attack their way of life! They should lighten up a bit and just try to accept that a lot of what happens between them and their local authority is par for the course. They are not being persecuted, nor can they expect to be treated any differently from any other group dealing with the council.


          1. I know I'm easily confused, but...

            If the local council had on its website inaccurate information about planning matters and I complained about it, would that make me part of a group expecting special consideration? Or would I simply be attempting to ensure that only accurate information was being given by the council? Would you describe me as feeling 'persecuted'?

            If the LA website had the advice,

            'Anyone wanting to erect a shed in their back garden must notify us in writing and ensure they posess the correct skills to do so. If you are new to shed construction a council officer will contact you and a convenient time will be arranged for a home visit, in order to further discuss your outside storage arrangements',

            wouldn't that be worth correcting? I would think there'd be hundreds, if not thousands, of complaints from people pointing out the law. They wouldn't necessarily be feeling persecuted. Just annoyed and concerned with the truth.

            Of course, because HE is so much more important an issue than shed erection, I'd expect even more complaints.

          2. Since part of the remit of local authorities is to enforce the law, and another part of their remit is to deliver services required by law, they have no business getting 'muddled up about the precise legal position of various matters'.

            It's not as though every local authority officer has to deal with every aspect of the law, so that confusion is understandable. LAs have separate departments to deal with different aspects of their job so ignorance of the law looks like incompetence to me.

          3. if those letters dont mean anything why dont LA'S write something nice to home educators? its LA's that need to lighten up!

            What LA;s dont like is that now people see theirs selfs as custmers of services and will not put up with a shoddy service from anyone!(dont foget us we pay the LA their wages!) Im certain you Webb would not put up with a shoddy service as a custmer or are you saying you would?
            Its high time LA's understood thier are providing a service to paying custmers and must act in a far better way! People just wont put up with it any more maybe that is what hurts LA the power has shifteed to us the custmer!

          4. I am in two minds; on one hand I can't see why any council can't actually stick to the correct facts - ie all the paperwork should reflect what is legally true. It need not go into minute detail, but it shouldn't be deceptive, or misleading; one of the first jobs with our LA was to get them to change the leters which they sent out to home educators from "you will receive two home visits" to "you will be offered two home visits" .... people might not want them, but at least that is accurate.

            On the other hand I am all in favour of parents providing their children with a good education, so I am not so against the " think about your decision carefully" sort of stuff, nor can I see why the "20 days before name removal" new regs that is about to hit is is actually a bad thing at all. Of course, it could be misused, but it also could help some families.....

          5. Interesting formatting! Blogger still playing up, I see.

          6. Teacher Julie says-you will receive two home visits" to "you will be offered two home visits" .... people might not want them, but at least that is accurate.

            that gone up to 2 home visits? that is not going forward! you gone backwards their Julie it was only once a year(not that we had one)

            Whats this about 20 day ref before name removal about to hit? their are No new laws being put before the house of commons on home education?

          7. 'Anonymous said...
            Interesting formatting! Blogger still playing up, I see.'

            You're not wrong there, Anonymous. I am having to do the paragraphs in bullet points and then remove the bullet points!

          8. 'Whats this about 20 day ref before name removal about to hit? their are No new laws being put before the house of commons on home education?'

            A new law is not necessary. All that is being done is makinng a change to the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 - as amended by The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2010. I shall be posting about this tomorrow.

          9. Peter - the two home visits bit is because HCC (like so many others...) send out an EWO first, and a consultant/inspector/advisor second. The 1st bit is a complete waste of time anyway (since EWO's know nothing about Home ed) and our current campaign is to cut the out of the picture completely. In the meantime getting the LA to at least admit that all such visits were voluntary was a small start!

          10. I found the "think carefully about it" stuff incredibly patronising when it was on the leaflet from our LA. I don't really need basic parenting advice from some ex-teacher I've never met. I work in a profession where we offer services to people and I'd never word a leaflet or a web page like that - no matter how right I thought I was! The trouble is that some LA staff really can't get past their mistaken notion that home educators are all naughty children who have just got a silly idea in their heads about providing an education for their own children.

          11. Unfortunately, most LA/NHS/etc literature is aimed at the lowest common denominator :( which is annoying at best for most of the population, insulting at worse.

          12. Julie says-In the meantime getting the LA to at least admit that all such visits were voluntary was a small start!

            i got letter dated 2007 from HCC saying visits are voluntary!

          13. I know the visits are voluntary, the LA know - we all know, but now new home educators get a letter which is legally accurate rather than just being told you will get 2 visits...

          14. Julie says- the LA know - we all know, but now new home educators get a letter which is legally accurate rather than just being told you will get 2 visits...

            But do all new home educators get the legally accurate letter about visits or just those that the LA belive will do home education the right way? we know that some of those LA officers tell lies to!
            I wonder if you phoned them and said im thinking of home educating my child what sort of daft ansewer you get from the headquarters in Winchester?
            As you done fostering of children i go easy on you! i could not do it so respect where it is due to you!

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