Thursday, 28 February 2013
More about flexi-schooling
There are any number of activities of questionable legality which may be safely undertaken; provided of course that you just get on and do them quietly, without shooting your mouth off. The use of cannabis for relieving the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis is one of these; registering your child as a pupil at a maintained school and then not sending her every day, so that you can teach her at home for part of the week, is another. As long as you don’t make too much fuss, then neither of these things is likely to attract unfavorable attention and nobody will try and stop you doing them. Of course, if some fool starts shouting about these things in parliament and advertising conferences at which such activities are openly boasted about, then sooner or later, authority will step in and perhaps crack down on things a bit. We have seen this happen in recent days.
As I have already said, I took my own daughter out of school for two or three days a week and taught her at home on those days. This was around twenty years ago and I was not the only person doing this at that time. The great thing about undertaking a dubious scheme of this sort is not to draw attention to what is going on. Unless that is, you actually want trouble.
As is now widely known, the Department for Education has announced that the practice of flexi-schooling is probably unlawful and will not be allowed in maintained schools. The responsibility for the scuppering of arrangements of this sort may be laid fairly and squarely at the door of one person; namely, Alison Sauer. Now I have been accused of running a vendetta against Alison Sauer, but this is not really true. It is just that the woman is a bit of a nuisance and the harm that she causes home educators greatly outweighs any good she might have done. Take the present case, for instance.
There was not a huge amount of money to be made by running the occasional training session for local authorities and explaining to them about home education. Alison Sauer decided therefore that encouraging flexi-schooling was a more practical commercial proposition. Her partners in this venture were not parents, but schools. The aim of the whole thing was to make money. With this end in mind, she organised a conference in the Midlands last year. Attending this one-day conference cost £150, which showed plainly that it was meant for professionals and not parents. This was the point, I think, at which alarm bells began ringing at the Department for Education. The suggestion was being openly made that schools could get full funding for pupils who were not attending every day. The scope for financial abuse of the system was pretty clear. Schools could end up claiming funding for twice as many pupils as they actually had attending each day. Obviously, this was a situation that would make the Department for Education unhappy.
Now as I said earlier, as long as people just get on quietly and do something, it is often the case that nobody will take much notice. So it has been with flexi-schooling over the years. When you start a business with the aim of turning this into an enterprise on an industrial scale which will affect many schools; then people sit up and take notice, they ask what is going on. So it proved with Alison Sauer’s efforts.
I think that most of us will remember Alison’s attempts to replace the 2007 Guidelines on Elective Home Education with a set that she wrote herself. This of course failed. Now though, she has achieved her aim, in that the 2007 Guidelines are being rewritten to take into account her activities. Specifically, section 5.6 on page 17 is being changed to reflect the fact that the practice of flexi-schooling has now been declared unlawful. An announcement about this was made the day before yesterday;
It is success of a sort, I suppose, for Alison Sauer. Her ambition was to change the 2007 Guidelines and now this is actually being done. Nice one, Alison!
I am sorry for parents who have made arrangements of this kind for their children’s benefit. I think we may safely assume that all such arrangements will soon be coming to an end. Any time now, a circular will be sent from the DfE ‘reminding’ maintained schools that registered pupils must attend the school full-time and that it is not acceptable to allow children to be partly schooled and partly home educated. Readers adversely affected by this should be sure that the next time they find a useful loophole of this sort, that they do their very best not to let Alison Sauer hear about it!