I believe that monitoring of home ed children in the UK isn't fit for purpose. Can I ask what people's thoughts are regarding this?

(18 Posts)
MistressBunfight Fri 25-Dec-15 14:04:23

I'd like to state that I have first hand experience of HE. I was homeschooled as a child myself. Though I am sure that there are many HE mums who are doing a stellar job, and whose DCs are thriving, my own experience was far less rosy. The problem I had was that I was very isolated and lonely during the time I was HEd. I had minimal contact with other kids and rarely socialised with anyone after leaving school. I often feel wistful when I read posts from mums whose DCs continue to have busy and bustling social lives while being homeschooled. I have seen frequent mentions of regional facebook groups for HE families and children. During the time I was HEd, which was from 1999 until 2006, I can only assume that these groups did not exist as my mum wasn't able to find any.

In reference to monitoring, as far as I know, the only contact between my mum and the local authority came when I was 15. They wanted to know how my education was progressing. There was no contact at all in the preceding six years. It concerns me that homeschooled children are seemingly allowed to slip through the net with virtually no monitoring. While I understand that mums who are HEing their DCs would not welcome excessive interference from their LA, I am sure most would accept that the LA have a duty to make sure children in their jurisdictions are being adequately taken care of. They have a duty to make sure those children are receiving a proper education as well as ensuring no abuse is taking place.

It is worrying to me that there may be HE kids out there who might be having a much worse experience than mine without any relevant authorities being aware of their situation. In contrast, children attending school are much less likely to slip through the net, as teachers and staff who they are in contact with each day will have been trained to spot potential signs of abuse taking place at home. It also concerns me that parents are under no obligation to inform local councils that they intend to HE their DCs. I feel strongly that they should be legally bound to do so.

GlitteryShoes Fri 25-Dec-15 14:13:57

I totally agree. I briefly homeschooled my dd, who is autistic as there was no suitable local provision available. I was in touch with both the LA and local groups of homeschoolers ( I live in a city where it's popular). I expected to be grilled as my dd had a statement, but the monitoring WA very basic. What disturbed me was the other homeschooling families - there were a couple who were great, but the majority seemed to have their own issues that they had projected onto the children is bullying). There were lots of children with SEN whose needs weren't being met, and the ethos of many of the families was independent learning to an extreme degree - great for some things but much more challenging for young people who wNted to pursue a career rather than artistic lifestyle. Most of the dMilies refused to engage with the LA and weren't followed up.

As a foster Carer, I increasingly work with families who homeschool to avoid the authorities / they do nothing with the kids except use them for childcare.
I absolutely think there is a place for a variety of learning and teaching styles, but I found the adversarial nature of a lot of the homeschoolers I met to be intimidating and unhelpful, and not conducive to learning at all ( with a few exceptions).

BrandNewAndImproved Fri 25-Dec-15 14:18:28

Agree they need to be ofstead inspected the same as schools.

jomidmum Sat 26-Dec-15 06:46:46

We home educate, DC ages 11 and 13. We don't accept visits from the LA. We provide them with a yearly written account of what our children have been learning.
The reason we decline visits is because the "assessment" is carried out in a "school approach" manner. We don't home school, we support our children's learning. They could not assess our children's learning using the framework they offer.
Our LA got us muddled up with another family and then said I was not being truthful about something.....they eventually apologised when they realised it was not our family! This does not give us any confidence in them.
My daughter was extremely traumatized by attending school from age 4-7 years. She has now recovered but there is no way I would risk an Educational Welfare Officer assessing her. She is happy, thriving and learning.
I do think some home ed families need more assistance and support, but all of these families were severely let down whilst their children attended schol (ourselves included). Why should we think that the "support" offered for home ed would be any different?
Unless there is a hugely improved approach to registration, assessment and support, I am against it all.
I am very sorry that the OP had social isolation issues. Many children suffer this at school too.

Saracen Sat 26-Dec-15 09:28:54

OP, I'm sorry to hear you had an unhappy time while home educated. It's fairly galling that your LA never contacted your mum to offer her any help in finding other HE families. Other families are usually considered the main source of support, friendship and good advice for home ed families, and it wouldn't have been at all difficult for your LA to offer to put your mum in touch with them. Also disappointing that they waited until you were 15 to ask whether you needed any pointers on where and how to do exams. This remains a problem today. Given that one of the "concerns" regarding HE which is often cited by people in national and regional government is that kids can emerge without GCSEs, it's shocking that most LAs still offer no assistance whatsoever when it comes to exams. There is no financial assistance and rarely any help in identifying exam centres or encouraging schools to permit external candidates to sit exams there. I believe this is the main thing which most HE families say they want from their LA. So I do think your LA should have offered you more help. But I don't think they should have monitored your family.

I think everyone would acknowledge that not all home education is successful. But the question of whether increased monitoring would do more good than harm is critical. Monitoring would certainly identify some families whose children aren't being home educated well, though it's difficult to say whether all of those children would be better off at school. But, since a good education can take many forms, and assessing home education is highly subjective, it woud also result in many "false positives": children who are wrongly thought to be receiving a poor education.

This worry about false positives is no theoretical concern for me. Some LAs, including mine, have been quite heavy-handed in their attempts to monitor home education even though there's no legal basis for them to monitor at all. For this reason, many of us who are well-networked and who have been HEing for a while know families who are quite clearly (to us) providing a good education, yet they have been assessed by the LA as failing to do so. This can cause untold misery. For example, I know three children with autism who have returned to school as a result of misguided pressure from my LA. The children's mental health then suffered tremendously in the school environment, as it had initially, that being the reason they'd been taken out in the first place. LA staff didn't understand home education, and didn't know the children well enough to understand what was going on with them.

Look how much effort Ofsted puts into assessing an entire school. Maybe it's worth it; that school provides an education to a lot of children. Would you have home ed inspectors spend just as long assessing the education of each HE child? If so, that is incredibly expensive. If not, how are they going to see what is going on and have a decent chance of not getting the wrong end of the stick?

Or think about this. Set aside the question of education for a moment and consider how we approach welfare in this country. We only expect Social Services to visit families where there is reason to believe there's a problem, rather than having them inspect every household in the country. Inspecting everyone "just in case" isn't practical, and isn't harmless. Even a one-hour annual check isn't practical. Assessing home education is no easier than assessing parenting. Send a poorly-trained inspector in occasionally with a little checklist and they will get things absurdly wrong. I've seen it happen.

So yes, some children are failed in home education and it woud be great in theory if they could be identified. But there's no reason to believe that this is possible, or that the cost and risk to children wouldn't outweigh the benefit.

ExAstris Sat 26-Dec-15 11:11:57

Aren't there statistics to show school children are more at risk of abuse than HEd children? Can't remember the ref but have come across it several times.

I would also draw attention to the number of children whom school fails - an alarming percentage of school children have their mental health severely damaged due to bullying, and depending on which study you go by at least 17% of school children leave senior school functionally illiterate and 22% functionally innumerate. If you want to monitor HE kids with a view to forcing them into school if they fail arbitrary assessment criteria, you need to assume there's a good chance they may fall into the roughly 1/5 that school fails academically and a very good chance they'd suffer from the school environment (parents often choose HE due to knowing their child wouldn't thrive in school). Perhaps those 1/5 school children failed by school would've done better if HE, maybe not, but it narks me that if a child does not 'succeed' in HE it's assumed they would in school, but a failing schoolchild is put down to specific individual circumstances and no-one suggests the parents are failing them by choosing to send them to school!

GlitteryShoes Sat 26-Dec-15 12:06:34

Exastris, there could be no meaningful statistics re abuse as the groups would not be comparable due to the small numbers in he, and also the different socioeconomic a of that group, so any stats that do exist would be flawed ( and the numbers he children hidden, as well as hidden abuse in both groups would also complicate things)

Yes children fail in school, but there are potentially more people around to advocate and support them. Children in he are more reliant on their parents to do this. While some parents are able to do this very effectively, not all are, meaning children may fall through the protective net more - I'm not speaking from any research viewpoint, but personal experience. While anecdotes are themselves flawed, I felt really worried about lots of the children who were being he. I think monitoring would be a good thing - not necessarily as in schools but maybe somethin akin to childminding or something that cann guide and support as well as check up on. This could help the parents who want to do the best for their children but have limitations too.

Ineedapiginblanket Sat 26-Dec-15 14:09:59

My local authority completely failed to support us and my daughter at school, they have no appropriate settings to meet her needs and know nothing about the best way to support her!

They had their chance to work with us durung the 8 yrs Dd3 was in school and all they did was force us to take them to court 3 times !

They won't be getting another chance to screw us over, I will be sending a written report when they bother to contact me!

As far as radicalization goes, I live very close to the city where that was happening in schools right under the authorities nose!

Piratepete1 Sat 26-Dec-15 14:39:49

I'm sorry to say but, as a teacher who has seen 6 home schooled children join school, every single one of them was 'behind' in some subject areas. One didn't appear to have ever learnt any maths although had excellent literacy skills. I think you have to be very disciplined and dedicated to home school properly as it is very easy to become lax or merely focus on what interests you. I do think there should be more regulation.

Saracen Sat 26-Dec-15 21:00:05

That isn't at all surprising though, is it, Pirate? Unless a family is completely replicating the curriculum you use, the child will almost certainly be behind in some areas. She'd probably be ahead in other areas, but that might not come to your attention as it doesn't represent a problem for you. They might be areas which aren't on your curriculum at all, so you wouldn't ever discover her strong points.

I think many parents who take a child out of school find that in some respects, the child is "behind" what the parent would hope or expect to see. That isn't necessarily a criticism of the child's previous education. It just indicates a different focus and different priorities.

Piratepete1 Sat 26-Dec-15 22:19:03

Well yes Saracen but unfortunately, unless you are withdrawing your child from society, then societal constraints dictate which subjects your child needs to study. You aren't going to get far in life without GCSE maths for example.

Saracen Sat 26-Dec-15 23:06:08

It depends what you are planning to do. I do know young adults who were home educated who've done very well without GCSE maths. In fact, I'll take a moment to list the current outcomes for all of the young people of my close acquaintance whom I know are without GCSE maths:

Age 20, assistant manager of small local supermarket.
Age 25, qualified plumber.
Age 23, lifeguard.
Age 21, sports coach.
Age 19, software developer.
Age 18, would-be entrepreneur who's had a string of short-term jobs in the last three years including cafe work, working on a market stall, cleaning jobs, and marketing. She's only just scraping a living at the moment, I understand, but she is quite young still. It's no disaster to be a bit aimless and short of cash at 18!

None unemployed. Two of the above aren't enjoying their current work and are looking at a career change, but that's hardly an indication of failure in life.

It is true that most HE teens do choose to do maths to exam level. Clearly many of them do expect that it may be a key to their future success. Even so, GCSE-level maths does not need 12 years of formal maths study by way of preparation! Many of my daughter's friends started working on formal maths for the first time between the ages of 12 and 14 and found that was quite adequate for achieving a good GCSE/IGCSE pass.

jomidmum Sun 27-Dec-15 05:22:59

Pirate, so many children are behind where they "should" be when they attend school!
My daughter left school aged 7 years and could barely read and had absolutely no idea at maths. She was way behind most other children in her class.
She's now 11 and with the one-to-one support I've given her at home and with the freedom to learn at her own individual pace, she is completely flourishing.
She never wants to return to the school system. She was deeply unhappy there.
Mental health of children and young people is vitally important. They will learn at their own pace with the right support.
If she went into the school system I am totally sure she would be behind in main stream science subjects, but she has chosen to study the arts, botany, astronomy, history etc.
you can't compare because it's a completely different approach to learning!

ommmward Sun 27-Dec-15 09:35:54

" They have a duty to make sure those children are receiving a proper education as well as ensuring no abuse is taking place."
No. They don't have that duty. It is the legal duty of the parents to ensure that their child receives an education suitable to their age, ability, aptitude and any sen. It is legally extremely important to maintain that distinction rather than to place responsibility for education in the hands of the state. Otherwise, the state opens itself to thousands of legal cases by people for whom the state provided education was not suitable to them.

Saracen Sun 27-Dec-15 11:02:01

To expand on my last post, Pirate, I can well accept that for the young people you encounter every day, failing to achieve a decent GCSE maths pass at 16 will feel catastrophic. GCSEs have been the sole focus of their school career for years. They've been told constantly, whether explicitly or implicitly, that leaving school without decent GCSEs is not an option, that it will ruin their lives. For that reason, I can imagine that if you list for me the destinations of the young adults you know who lack maths GCSEs, it will not look so rosy as my list.

The trouble is that for kids who go to school, leaving without good GCSEs is represented as such a great failure. Ending up in this situation, whether through low academic aptitude or through not applying themselves, can knock their confidence hugely. And that low confidence can damage their future prospects far more than the actual lack of GCSEs would. Failure in life as the consequence of failure at GCSEs becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy which only the most resilient can thwart. I suppose the Richard Bransons of the world are seen as the exceptions which prove the "rule" that there's no future without good GCSEs.

The picture is quite different for home educated teens like my daughter. They consider alternative paths to achieving their ambitions. They have seen some older HE friends do just fine without GCSEs, and watched other friends sit exams aged 17 or 18 with no ill effect, having realised they do need them to get where they want to go. They're confident. That optimism makes all the difference to them. They live in a world where anything seems possible. They may not be entirely right, but the consequence is that many more things are possible for them.

Of course I don't deny that there are careers and academic courses which would be entirely out of the question without GCSE maths or equivalent. But it's certainly not essential for everyone. It only looks that way if you're in an institution where staff heads will roll if the kids aren't demonstrably on track to produce the right results by the magic age of sixteen, after which the school no longer stands to get the credit for their achievements.

lostinmiddlemarch Sun 27-Dec-15 12:16:34

No, I disagree with your thoughts on this matter.

Professionals should be involved in a child's life if there is a reason to be concerned. Being home-schooled is not a reason to be concerned.

Under law, it is the responsibility of the parent to provide an education. That's their right and their responsibility. It's the responsibility of the school to provide a decent education if that is how the parent chooses to discharge their responsibility. Teachers are not social workers and school is a place for education, not monitoring welfare. If it is a place for monitoring welfare, it's unsuccessful at it and the majority of teachers are woefully under-prepared for this role.

School authorities should not monitor the education being provided to home schooled children because (a) they can legally only step in if they have a reason to be concerned, (b) they are experts in schooling, not education as such. They're in no position to see that an adequate education is given because an education can come in all sorts of forms, many of which the average education authority will know little about (they usually have a teaching background).

Home schooling should not trigger social services involvement because there is no basis for this in law.

If there is a need to keep tabs on every child in the country in some way, then that should be formally done that social services for every child in the country. If there truly is a need for this, it's lax for social workers to assume that teachers have got it covered. If not, it's insulting, illogical and an invasion of privacy to assume that the decision to home school triggers social services involvement. Under the law, parents have the right to decide what is best for their child and that includes who has access to their child, unless there is reasonable evidence to suggest the parents are not doing a good job.

The vast majority of home schooled children have given healthcare providers no reason whatsoever to be concerned and the vast majority of abuse cases (sadly) occur to children who receive a school education. There has been a great deal of inaccurate reporting about home schooling in the media with some abused children wrongly reported as being home schooled, and cases of neglectful treatment from professionals reframed as a home-schooling problem.

In the majority of cases, education authorities approach the monitoring of home-schooled children inappropriate, incompetently, and with suspicion. In my area, they have repeatedly lied about what has been said in meetings, asked to see children on their own only to ask them leading questions like 'Wouldn't you prefer to be at school?' and found fault with everything to the point that it really is impossible to get it right. If your home is polite it's over-regulated, if it's messy it's inapropriate too. If the child is ahead for his age the complaint is overly high expectations, and if he is behind then the complaints are there too. This is because education authorities are not impartial and they basically tend not to want home schooling to be successful. They also have very little understanding of the law, with many school principals claiming that a child cannot be deregistered without their consent and the local authority claiming that they have a legal right to access the children on their own. Things have got to the point where parents only feel able to communicate with the LEA in writing, through a solicitor, in order to give no information that can be lied about or twisted later.

Ineedapiginblanket Mon 28-Dec-15 12:03:56

pirate as you are only involved with the world of the school system and not the world of home ed apart from those 6 children, I dont really think you are in a position to judge!

The home ed community where I live are doing an awesome job of raising wonderful happy children!

If in a school system some of these children would have been written off, excluded, put in isolation and made to believe they are failures by the end of yr 6!!

There is a reason for the massive increase in home ed!!

Nigglenaggle Mon 04-Jan-16 22:22:31

The trouble with regulation is that you always often end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater. This has happened to a large extent in schools - witness the number of people complaining that their children are being schooled for SATS (which benefit the school not the child) rather than educated.

I've thought for some time now though, that there are plenty of ways the LA could be useful to home educators, putting them in touch with groups, bringing projects to their attention that school children will participate in (robot building competitions, chats to astronauts on the ISS), helping them join school sports clubs, keeping lists of places to sit GCSEs. It wouldn't cost much more than their attempts to monitor home edders and would waste a damn site less time be a bit more useful. But I haven't heard of this happening.

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