Wednesday, 20 July 2011

On the idea of home educators inspecting the educational provision of other home educators

I have written before about the so-called ‘Tasmanian Model’. In that Australian state, home educators work with the government to inspect and monitor home education. It seems to work well enough and I think that it would be a good scheme in this country. There are problems though and the appointment of two home educators in Wigan has underlined that a good deal would need to change before this notion would be universally applauded by other home educators here. For one thing, there is the fact that these people will inherit a framework which is already immensely irritating to many home educating parents. Take this bit from Wigan’s policy on Children Missing from Education:

'The Children Act 2004, places a duty on all agencies to work
together to promote the welfare of children and to share
information. This principle underpins this policy and there is an
expectation that all agencies will work together to ensure children
are safely on school rolls.
1.4 There is now considerable research available which identifies the
reason for children and young people being ‘missing from school’.
The most common reasons include:
· failing to be registered at a school at age 5'

We observe the phrase ‘children are safely on school rolls’. Does that mean that children not on school rolls are automatically in danger? As for the idea that a reason for children missing school is that their parents do not send them to school at five, well this is so but blindingly obvious. Children miss school because they are not sent to school!

When we were stopped by a truancy patrol when my daughter was eight and had never been to school, I was fairly OK with the business. This was because the people asking the questions were what I would regard as professional busybodies. Imagine though that after not having sent my daughter to school at the age of five, there was a knock on the door and a home educator stood there. He tells me that it has been noticed that I am not sending my child to school and wants to know why. I might give a home educator shorter shrift than I would a run of the mill local authority officer. Why? Because he ought to know better.

Now consider the following passage, also from Wigan’s CME policy.

'4.6 If a school learns of a school aged pupil without a school place
(e.g. a sibling or friend of a current pupil etc) the school must
inform the LA of the child / young person. This can be done via
the dedicated e mail address www., by
telephone or in writing to the EWS Admin Team located at Wigan
Investment Centre, Waterside Drive, Wigan WN3 5BA. Tel:
01942 705405 Fax: 01942 705408'

Some of this home educating parent's work will entail knocking on doors following reports of this sort from teachers who have noticed that one of their pupils has a friend who does not appear to be attending school. Would this not make some home educators feel a little uneasy, to find themselves acting on information of this sort from schools?

I think that this whole thing could work and is definitely an improvement, but will need a sea-change in thinking. If home educators are going to be checking up on other home educators in this way, then all policies will need to be revised accordingly. I find this quite an exciting development and will be interested to see if other local authorities try it out.


  1. "If I was going there, I wouldn't start from here".

    That is the big problem, we're in a hole where home educators, for good reason, distrust the motives of local authorities. Any initiative to move us away from that is going to have a long and difficult job to get us to the path we should be following.

    If those in Wigan now employed by the LA didn't have lots of detailed discussions with their local HE community then they are either very brave or very foolish. If they did discuss it, then perhaps it's all a huge scheme set up to beat the LA procedures into better shape before stepping aside in a year's time.

  2. I'm back to agreeing with you, but I do find it interesting that you think that a home educator should be judged by a higher standard of competency than any other council officer.

    Is this a ringing endorsement of the sort of people who choose to HE their children? Or a depressing acceptance of the level of knowledge of the average council officer?

  3. "Is this a ringing endorsement of the sort of people who choose to HE their children? Or a depressing acceptance of the level of knowledge of the average council officer?"

    I would probably say the latter.

  4. What many people fail to take into account when arguing against LA " monitoring" or "interference" - call it what you will, is that some families WANT it. I might not want home visits ( and never had them) you might think that the LA should have no part in even commenting on your provision, but some families feel exactly the opposite. Only a couple of weeks ago I spent time with a local family who felt very let down because they hadn't had a visit between school years 8 and 10 - and felt really abandoned.

    Now If schemes like Wigan work, it will be because they have the time and expertise ( gained by experience of doing HE) to spend time with such families and offer the support they want.

  5. In a perfect world, we would all be able to choose the level of contact we want (above and beyond the basic informal enquiry as per Donaldson). However, money is an issue (one reason why visits may not happen, schools are provided, so why should they spend money on other types of support), bias (in both LA employees and home educators) is an issue, and whether we like it or not, what one group of home educators want/accept affects what other home educators receive/experience in both directions (those who want more or less contact).

    I don't know what the answer is. It would be good if everyone could be reset to some kind of neutral position, but that's not going to happen. If the information about Wigan willingly ditching previous poor material is true, maybe there is hope that the home educators now working for them will be able to correct other legal errors over time. But this depends on the knowledge these individual have of the law and their willingness to do something about it.