For anyone who is interested in what's happening in Wales...
I'm working on a response to the Welsh Government consultation seeking views on compulsory registration and monitoring of home education which closes in 27 days on November 23rd.
I decided to make a web page with a link to my draft consultation response, mainly because it can be difficult to know where to start but sometimes it's easier when you see what other people are saying (whether you agree with them or not!)
The web page is here edyourself.org/articles/walesdraftconsultationresponse.php and this is the link for the draft consultation response edyourself.org/walesdraftconsultationresponse.doc
I've also made a consultation form which can be used to rehearse your answers, since you can redraft, move paragraphs round, and step back and look at it more easily than in the interactive word doc on the Welsh Government consultation web page.
As part of my homework, I sent Freedom of Information requests to all local authorities in Wales. The deadline for FOI answers is the end of October, and I've put up answers here from 14 out of 22 LAs edyourself.org/articles/FOIwales2012.php
To speed up the reading and save clicking on lots of separate links, I've included all the responses in a single pdf here (currently running to 12 pages) edyourself.org/walesfois.pdf
For comparison purposes, the FOI summaries can be viewed as a spreadsheet here edyourself.org/walesfoioctober2012.xls
I'd be very interested to hear feedback on the FOIs.
What strikes me:
1/ Most Welsh LAs have very few home educated children on their books
2/ Hardly anybody issues School Attendance Orders
3/ The incidence of statements of SEN varies widely in different LAs
4/ Some LAs' idea of "support" consists of "a monitoring meeting"
5/ A number of LAs say that their paperwork is being revised, which might mean that they haven't done anything about paperwork for ages and don't have anything current or could mean that they are cobbling something up based on the presumption that the Government's proposals will inevitably become law. (Not mutually exclusive, of course)
Please share freely anywhere you think it may be useful, particularly on the Welsh lists and on Facebook since I am not a member.
Thanks for reading
I've put my draft consultation response up as a web page here.
Obviously it's still a work in progress, but the consultation on changing the law on home education in Wales does close in less than a month
Question 1: Home Education Register: Do you agree that a register should be kept and that it should be a requirement to register if a parent elects to home educate?
Disagree. I categorically disagree with the suggestion that parents should have to apply to the local council for permission to home educate their children. The Government has not put forward evidence to justify such a disproportionate intrusion into family life.
A framework already exists which sets out best practice for local authorities in their dealings with home educating families, namely the Government Home Education Guidelines published in 2006.
I have carried out a preliminary survey of local authorities' practice with regard to the current Guidelines by obtaining answers to a dozen questions based on recommendations from the current Guidelines.
The responses from local authorities together with examples of current paperwork may be found here edyourself.org/articles/FOIwales2012.php
I have included all the responses in a short pdf here edyourself.org/walesfois.pdf
For an overview and comparison of different authorities, I have set out the responses in the form of a spreadsheet here edyourself.org/walesfoioctober2012.xls
Question 2: Failure to register: Do you agree that if a parent fails to register or provides inadequate or false information then the child being home educated should be required to attend school?
I categorically disagree with the proposal that parents must obtain a licence from the local authority before being allowed to home educate their own children. The suggestion that children should be required to attend school if in the opinion of the authority the parent provides "inadequate information" is setting up the family to fail and gives limitless discretionary powers to the local council whose decisions will inevitably be subject to legal challenge.
Moreover, the Government is currently indicating that there is to be a revised definition of "suitable education" which would bring a completely new set of requirements and obligations for home educating families. It is not difficult to envisage a situation where additional burdens keep being added and where parents can be deemed to have failed in their duty to provide all the required information.
Thirdly, in a separate but related area, the Government is undertaking a massive overhaul of the special educational needs system, which will have an unquantified impact on home educating families. Where a child is categorised as having Additional Needs the proposed new system would require Individual Development Plans to be reviewed every 6 months by a multi-agency team.
It must be acknowledged that there are many reasons for children to reject school and that this option should not be automatically pathologised. In some cases home education may begin as a rejection of school or as a response to intractable problems with the school, but we have seen many cases where home education then becomes a positive choice for families.
Question 3: Working together: Do you agree that home educating parents should engage with their local authority to enable them to assess the suitability of their home education provision?
The Plain English version of this question asks whether "parents should work with their local authority to make sure home education is meeting their child's needs" This particular question caused a great deal of confusion when it was shared at a home education workshop in Wales.
The Plain English version seems to lay emphasis on co-operative joint working, with the possible implication that the authority might have a contribution to make, whereas the standard version makes it clear that the authority's role is to "assess" the provision.
There is a further difficulty with the concept of "suitability" since the Government has also announced plans to redefine what is meant by suitable education for home educated children.
Registration could be revoked if the family does not "engage" (or "co-operate with reasonable requests to monitor") but by the same token, any engagement could supply the authority with evidence to refuse registration.
In short, home educators are damned if they do and damned if they don't.
Question 4: First meeting: Do you agree that the initial meeting between the local authority and the home educating parent should take place in the main location where the education is being provided?
It should not be compulsory for a family to meet with the authority simply because the family has made a decision about the child's education. I disagree with the first premise of the question, namely that parents should have to apply to the local council for permission to home educate their children.
Therefore to an extent, any debate over where such a meeting would take place is a secondary issue.
However, in using the circuitous phrase "the main location where the education is being provided", the consultation is not being conducted in an open and transparent way since it ducks the issue of whether the family is required to grant the council access to the family home as a precondition for being allowed to home educate.
The Plain English version of the consultation (which the Government specifically states is for children) refers to "the place where the child is being home educated". The person responsible for translating the question into Plain English certainly seems to have understood "the home educated child's main location of education" as meaning the home.
We are told that registration could be revoked if the family does not "engage" or "co-operate with reasonable requests to monitor", from which it follows that a family would be severely disadvantaged if the parent objected to what a third party might define as "reasonable", irrespective of whether access to the home is specifically granted by legislation or not.
Question 5: Annual review place of meeting: How often should the annual monitoring meetings with both the home educator and the home educated child take place at the main location of education?
There should not be an "annual monitoring meeting". Any meetings between the authority and the family should not be compulsory.
Firstly, the question presupposes that there has to be a meeting between the authority and the family every year as the family seeks the council's permission to home educate. I disagree with the proposal that parents should have to apply to the local council for permission to home educate their children.
Secondly, the question skirts the issue of whether the family is to be required to grant the council full access to the home as a precondition for being allowed to home educate. The Plain English version of the consultation (which the Government specifically states is for children) refers to the place where the child is being home educated where the person responsible for translating the question into Plain English certainly seems to have understood the home educated child's main location of education as meaning the home.
Question 6: Refusing registration: Do you agree that registration should be denied or revoked in the limited set of circumstances set out in the consultation document?
From the consultation document page 6:
"The LA would only be able to refuse a new application or revoke an existing registration in a very limited set of circumstances:
if the parent fails to satisfy the LA that they are fulfilling their duty under section 7 of the Education Act 1996
if the LA becomes aware of new or existing welfare or safeguarding issues that affect the suitability and effectiveness of the education provided
if the parent fails to cooperate with monitoring and/or reasonable requests to monitor"
I disagree with the proposal that parents should have to apply to the local council for permission to home educate their children. There is no need for additional powers with regard to education, welfare or child safety, since existing powers and duties are sufficient.
The relevant extracts from the Government Home Education Guidelines can be found here:
Question 7: Notice of registration: Do you agree the amount of time taken between receipt of application to register and notification of registration outcome should be no more than 12 weeks?
I completely disagree with the proposal that families should have to stop home educating until they have obtained permission from the council. Almost a thousand children in Wales are already recorded as being home educated; there would be overwhelming objections to these children having their lives significantly disrupted by being sent to school while the council works its way through all the home education applications.
For children who are currently on a school roll, it is equally unacceptable that they should have to remain at school until the council has finished its deliberations. This puts the family between a rock and a hard place if the child rejects school, since the Government is proposing to pathologise "school refusal" and "school phobia", whereby the family would be required to attend multi-agency panels twice a year and the child's home education would have to be approved as suitable by "a qualified and appropriate expert in the relevant field."
Please share freely anywhere you think it may be useful particularly on the Welsh lists and on Facebook since I am not a member of either, thanks.
You can now read responses from 16/22 LAs in Wales.
Individual Freedom of Information responses
All FOI answers in single pdf
All FOI answers summarised on spreadsheet
Newport's is what I guess would be termed "refreshingly honest"...
Only 24 days till the consultation on changing the law in Wales closes
Please share freely especially on Welsh lists and Facebook where I am not a member.
I have been trying to read everything but it gets overwhelming...im in gwent and this is all new to me....as we only deregistered in april .....but ill make my way through it thanks for that ...
Currently ultimate responsibility for a child's education resides with the parents & not the state. This is an incredibly important distinction that has unseen ramifications for ALL children not just home-edded ones.
A critical parental/human right is being removed, as parents will by default lose the right to insist that educational standards are maintained in state schools over time.
Given the educational outcomes of those children in local authority care,parents have a right to be concerned & ask - What new checks and balances are being introduced upon the state to ensure suitable educational standards? Absolute power always corrupts.
In the event then of educational failure will the child then be able to sue the state for it's failure to provide a suitable education?
I've quoted section the law here
Section 7 of the Education Act (England and Wales) 1996 states that "the parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable (1) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (2) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."
I agree with you that parents have responsibility, but I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "parents will by default lose the right to insist that educational standards are maintained in state schools over time".
Would it be possible to say a bit more about how this could happen?
As far as "educational failure" is concerned, do you mean that if the parent was not allowed to home educate (because the council refused permission) and the child then had to go into school, and the school subsequently failed the child, that the child could sue the council for what happened in school?
Or do you mean that if the council told the parents they had to home educate in a particular way to conform with registration requirements and that this led to educational failure, then the child could sue the council?
Or neither of the above?
Sorry for the questions, I'm just trying to make sure I've understood properly
I've just put my Position Statement up on various relevant pages of my site and also on my home page
I disagree with the suggestion that parents should have to apply to the local council for permission to home educate their children. The Government proposals are a disproportionate intrusion into family life. Existing powers regarding education, welfare and safeguarding/child protection are sufficient, but the Welsh Government may wish to address the disparity in local authority procedures - as revealed by my Freedom of Information request, October 2012 The Welsh Government could usefully signpost to models of good practice.
Simply put at the moment if your state school is failing to educate your child, for whatever reason - you can vote with your feet and educate otherwise than in a state school!
Once parents cannot remove their kids from poor provision as they do today - who monitors the quality monitor? What's to stop standards of education sliding?
If you have a child who is NOT learning in his state school will you be expected to forced eventually accept that the state has raised an adult from 4 to 18 who cannot read & write!
But that'll be OK simply becuase his/her bum was on the state school seat for all those years?
This right to vote with your feet actually helps maintain standards in state schools for ALL children's education by providing a natural system of checks and balances.
Take a quick look at the SN board to see what I mean - lots of kids wind up homeschooled, or in independent school provision because for whatever reason the state CANNOT adequately educate these children. Getting LA's to admit they are failing children is a difficult process at best even with the existing checks and balances of the current system. It just won't happen if parents cannot opt out. Parents will be reduced to the role of mere caretakers for children who "belong" to the state.
The sausage factory approach as it stands today fails many kids - this will only get worse if the state is given the ultimate responsibility for educating our young. "Dumbing down" will be the only accurate description for what will happen.
The closing date for the consultation on changing the home education law in Wales is November 23rd
Welsh Government consultation web link wales.gov.uk/consultations/education/registeringandmonitoring/?lang=en&status=open
I've added a paragraph to my draft consultation response for Question 3 as follows (longer answer available on the web):
Question 3: Working together
Do you agree that home educating parents should engage with their local authority to enable them to assess the suitability of their home education provision?
The question is phrased from the wrong perspective since there is an implication that the authority is ready to engage and that the authority performs a useful function in signposting families to information. However, the Government has failed to give consistent direction to local authorities, so the process is somewhat random.
For example, according to Freedom of Information responses received in November 2012, the Government did not routinely ask local authorities to circulate information about the present consultation.
Ceredigion told me that they were not asked to circulate information about the consultation or about the consultation events, and that they did not send anything out, although they "did discuss it with those families with whom contact was made."
Denbighshire told me that they sent information to the co-ordinator of the Denbighshire network for parents who home educate so that she could notify parents who are in their group as the council does "not have email contacts for any other parents so could not send it directly to any other than the co-ordinator of this group."
Pembrokeshire told me that while they didn't actually receive a request from Government to circulate information about the consultation, they did nevertheless send information by post about the regional consultation event to all home educating families of whom they were aware.
The LA FOI responses are hyperlinked and you can click on them if you go to the web link above.
Draft consultation form for you to rehearse your response before using official Welsh Govnt form edyourself.org/articles/walesconsultationform.doc
Please share freely, especially on the Welsh lists and on Facebook since I am not a member of either.
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