Freedom for Children to Grow
The Law Relating to
Background Briefing Paper
What has changed? What is it all about? What Can YOU Do?The Children's Act 2004 and the outcomes of the Victoria Climbie case have placed new duties on local authorities (LAs). All LEA's are being merged into bigger departments which cover all work relating to children and young people. As the legislation takes effect more LA employees are going to become aware of home education. Many, because they have little knowledge or experience of it will be concerned.
LAs are also concerned that there are home educated children they never have contact with and that this number is rising. They are afraid of a high profile case in which a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving a suitable education and of child protection issues.
In addition the government has piloted the Information Sharing Index (ISI) which aims to put the details of all children onto a database, at a local level, so that professionals concerned with a child can access their details and examine the contact others have had with the child.
Draft DfES guidelines to local authorities were discussed in 2005 but were never issued. Instead the DfES planned to launch a full public consultation into home education in February 2007 with a view to changing legislation and making compulsory registration, mandatory access to the child and a clear definition of educational "standards". This was narrowly averted for reasons we are still not clear, and instead the DfES launched a full public consultation into the wording of the draft Guidelines for Local Authorities.
On Friday 22nd June members of Education Otherwise Government Policy Group, together with EO Local Contacts in South Yorkshire, met with Helen White who is co-ordinating the DfES consultation response on Home Education Guidelines. You can read a report of the meeting here. The conclusion we drew from this meeting is that home educators in their hundreds must act now and respond to the Guidelines Consultation because the local authorities are already making their voices heard LOUD AND CLEAR. We have put together some draft responses and links for you to download which we hope will be useful in giving you ideas for making your response. It is important that we all use our own words! Click here for more information on how to respond.
What will happen if we don't make a strong concerted response to the guidelines consultation? We don't know, but it is likely that the DfES will revert to earlier plans for much tighter regulations and monitoring arrangements. It is important that we all make whatever contribution we feel able to to defending our rights to home educate in the way we feel is best for our children.
We would urge as many individuals and groups as possible to submit a response. You can say what you want to and you do not have to respond to all the questions .
Don't be bound by the wording of the questions;, send in additional pages to support what you want to say.
This document hopes to give people an overview of the key issues, help to direct people to where they can get more detailed information and give ideas for campaigning.
This will not go away, the whole face of home education as we have known it is changing and we need to find new ways of working together to safeguard our freedoms and choices in this new climate.
The ConsultationWhy are the DfES having a full consultation?
There are a number of factors but it is mainly because local authorities have put pressure on the DfES to get changes to the law relating to Elective Home Education (EHE).
For example, some local authorities have been pressing for:
The experts on home education, us, the people who do it, were not invited to help draft the questions. This is a bit of a problem, the people who have been involved probably only know about home educating families they are worried can't do a good job and those who they inspect. They are probably not very well informed of the full range of provision and different ideas about education. They are less likely to know about autonomous families and they are unlikely to be experts in the special and particular needs of some SEN (special educational needs) children. They are not asking the questions we would want them to ask and they are asking questions we think are unnecessary.
We could write now to our local MPs and the DfES making them aware of this. It is unlikely to stop the consultation going ahead but it may make them realise that they have failed to consult with, what in their language they call, "major stakeholders". It would also help to alert MPs to our existence, our concerns and the consultation.
You could go one step further and ask to have an appointment at your MPs regular surgery where they meet their constituents. Go as a group. Just tell it like it is for you and what your concerns are. Why do you home educate? Why do you think this is best for your children?Ask them questions too.
ACTION POINT - Day of Action We thought it would be good to have a high profile event to make more people aware of the consultation. Maybe on the last day or a little before.
It would help boost our morale and bring our concerns to a wider audience. It would help make the DfES realise we intend to be active in defending our present freedoms.
We wonder if there is enough support for people to travel on one day to the place where the responses are being collected (We think it could be London or Darlington) to hand in written responses and possibly ask for a receipt?
We could inform the press and take our lovely kids along. We have a few ideas of how we might make a good photo call for the media. Other ideas welcome.
Let us know what you think. Would you come along?
There would be a lot of work involved - would you be prepared to help with the organisation of the day? Let us know.
For those not willing or able to travel,groups could have a local day of action linked in. Local press could be invited. Local radio might come to an event or offer an interview.
Maybe hand in a letter or signatures at the MPs office, invite the mayor to an event, get a display of childrens pictures/poems etc and some information on home eucation up at your local library, get your thinking caps on. We know there are lots of creative people out there. Let's share some ideas.
Spreading the WordGetting active and keeping in touch
If we are to have maximum effect and so the best possibility of defending our rights we need to improve the channels of communication and we all need to work together.
Make sure other families you know are aware of the situation and how they can help and be involved.
Could your local group hold a meeting to discuss this, think of what you want the wider world to know about home education, discuss why it is important to retain the choice and flexibility we currently have?
Could you find a couple of people or more who would talk to the press about writing an article - either just about home education and "a day in the life of a home ed family" or about the consultation, the proposed changes and why you oppose them?
Are there families locally with grown up children who were home educated? Would they be prepared to contribute by saying what they did and what their grown up children do now?
Let us know if you have personal accounts and stories you are prepared to share to help illustrate why changes would be harmful.