Monday, 1 October 2012
Clearing the ground…
One of the frustrating things about this blog is that I often assume that readers, being composed in the main of home educators and former home educators, will share with me a common knowledge about the situation regarding home education in this country. Many do not and I find myself having to explain even the most basic details before I can even think of progressing to a discussion of more complex matters, such as the possible need for new legislation. To give one example of this, somebody is still arguing on a thread which began a few days ago as to whether the five outcomes of the Every Child Matters agenda are binding in law. This is important, because any and all debates at every child protection conference in England will be dominated by Every Child Matters and the five outcomes. If the five outcomes are, as some described them in the comments here, no more than, ‘a policy of the last government’ or part of ‘a discussion paper’, then why on earth are social workers, teachers and local authority legal departments behaving as though they are the law of the land? It is this kind of nonsense that makes it very hard to get a proper discussion going here.
Every Child Matters was a green paper, largely concerned with child protection. One of its key recommendations was that professionals involved with children, including local authorities as a whole, should work actively to ensure that every child had access to five outcomes. These are; to be healthy, to stay safe, to enjoy and achieve, to make a positive contribution and to achieve economic wellbeing. The green paper gave rise to an act; the Children Act 2004. This enshrined in law some of the Every Child Matters agenda. For instance, the five outcomes became legal duties for local authorities to work towards. The wording was changed slightly and so the original five outcomes from ECM became;
physical and mental health and emotional well-being; .
protection from harm and neglect; .
education, training and recreation; .
the contribution made by them to society; .
social and economic well-being.
This means that the five outcomes of Every Child Matters are now part of the law of England and everybody working with children is mindful of this. Local authorities have a duty to work towards ensuring that all children in their area have access to these outcomes. It will be observed that education is one of them. The section about economic well-being is also connected with education, because the more qualifications a child gains, the more likely she is to get a good job and stop being poor.
I am aware, and so are local authorities, that some non- statutory guidance suggests that the 2004 Act lays no new duty upon local authorities as regards elective home education, but there is more to the case than that. I don’t propose to discuss that in detail; all that I felt I needed to do was demonstrate that the five outcomes of the Every Child Matters agenda are alive and well and that local authorities have a binding legal duty to ensure that every single child in their area, not just those at school, have access to them.
Having cleared up this misunderstanding, I hope in the next few days to return to the question of the urgent need for new legislation.