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.