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Education Otherwise Commentary on the Initial Regulatory
Impact Assessment For The Consultation About
Raising The School Leaving Age

DfES e-consultation Raising Expectations: Staying in education and training post-16

Raising Expectations: Initial Regulatory Impact Assessment (PDF)

According to p.17 of this we have to reply to either Gareth Conyard or Amy Collins, DfES London.

gareth.conyard@ dfes.gsi.gov.uk

amy.collins@dfes.gsi.gov.uk

The following is a draft of what Education Otherwise Government Policy Group intends to say.

Page 1 says every young person would "pursue a course of education or training"

This needs to be clarified to ensure that it is not narrowly defined as attendance at an institution or just working towards accredited qualifications. We are not clear what is meant by "a course". How would this apply to home educated young people who would be continuing in full time education by other means ? What about self-directed learning ? What about on-the-job work experience with a small specialist employer ? What about Open University courses and online courses neither of which require "attendance" ? What will the Government do to make funding more widely available for under 18s ?

Education Otherwise requires urgent clarification on what is meant by "participation" .

With reference to NEETs [ not in employment education or training ] it depends how you define "education". Home educated young people may not have formal qualifications but they have other skills, knowledge and experience which contributes to their employability.

Education Otherwise notes that 6% of 16 and 17 year olds were said to be in JWT [jobs without training] But these people can now re-enter education or training up to age 25 under the September Guarantee. So this does not mean that the JWT is a fixed state. Young people who have had experience of low wage unskilled jobs are more likely to see the benefits of training so you have the motivation and this removes the need for compulsion.

Education Otherwise is very sceptical of pp. 2-3 claims to "greater personalisation" . If no child is to be left behind, how exactly are young people in the system to be given "more time to develop their interests" ? This does not allow for late developers nor for SEN difficulties.

When the Government says " at least until their 18th birthday" are there plans to extend this to the end of the academic year in which the young person reaches 18 ?

The "September Guarantee" talks of "an appropriate learning place" for 16 year olds. EO would like to make it clear that this could include home-based learning and is not to be restricted to attendance at an institution. This also requires explanation as to what will be deemed "appropriate" and who will be the final arbiter. How much real choice are young people and their families to be given here ? Will it not depend on local availability ? Where is the information about help with transport to other areas ?

EO is curious to learn more about the extension of Educational Maintenance Allowances in the Learning Agreement Pilot areas . These should have been included in the Impact Assessment detailing what is happening in the following areas since the trials have now run for more than a year:

" Learning Agreement (LA) pilots also in 8 areas of England (Essex, Black Country; West Yorkshire; Greater Manchester; London East; South Yorkshire; Lancashire; Devon and Cornwall) to increase the training options available to 16-17 year olds in jobs with no accredited training, to improve learning options for this group "
The rationale for Government intervention [p.5] comes from statistics which are 7 years old. There is no evidence for the assertion [17] that a level 2 qualification is "the minimum threshold for employability". Indeed employers have frequently stated that GCSEs are no indication of an employee's suitability or fitness for the job.

Education Otherwise disagrees with the assertion [p.6] that "those who participate are more likely to be healthier, and to develop good social skills, which makes it easier for them to find work and succeed in life". Once again "participation " is not defined but EO must point out that "education" is about much more than attendance at an institution. This is particularly the case for young people with SEN whose social skills are least likely to be developed by being forced under fear of prosecution onto inappropriate courses without adequate resources or support and who under the Government's current inflexible and impractical proposals would not be allowed to leave such a course to continue learning at home.

In terms of consulting stakeholders [p.7 ] the document does not mention consulting parents of younger children who will themselves be affected by proposals to take effect in 2013.

As far as Local Authority Registration is concerned [p.8 ] compulsory registration for home educated children and young people has been specifically ruled out by Lord Adonis [ in a letter to a home educating parent ] Home educated young people who considered that their education was best continued at home will not be on this "register" as "in education or training" and therefore will face discrimination in the job market. This is unacceptable. Home based education has equal validity with the education delivered in institutions before the child is 16 and there is no logical reason why this should not continue beyond 16. Home educated young people might for instance choose to bring a portfolio of work to an interview in place of proof of attendance at an institution.

Education Otherwise notes that the Government reports 76% participation in full time education at the end of 2005 [ statistic cited but not given a reference on p.3 of the Initial Equality Impact Assessment ] Given that the aim is 90% participation in education AND training by 2013 it seems likely that much of the difference could be made up by increased vocational training opportunities without resorting to compulsory attendance at educational institutions.

With ref. to p.10 point 41, the projected figure in 2020 of 4 million people in the country lacking functional literacy skills and over 6 million lacking functional numeracy skills is an indictment of the history of compulsory schooling. More attention should be paid to education and training opportunities for 25 to 64 year olds in order to raise the skills base of the workforce, rather than hyperfocussing on 17 and 18 year olds.

Point 55 p.12 Education Otherwise believes that these proposals discriminate against entrepreneurial young people. Self-employment and freelance work is a valuable learning experience in itself for young people without further distracting requirement to attend college. It is completely impractical and discriminatory for the Government to say that unwanted education or training must be undertaken "working around their business commitments as necessary". Think tanks such as Demos and innovations specialists such as NESTA are constantly reporting that this country does not do enough to encourage creativity and innovation. Education Otherwise wonders why the Government only has statistics from 2001 on youthful entrepreneurs and why there is not a more up-to-date study.

P.13 point 56 EO is not surprised that the Government is now proposing to use ContactPoint to identify young people in education or training. We would remind Ministers that home-based education is a legal option under Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act and that therefore if a young person is categorised as receiving full time education at home then this is as valid in law as attendance at an educational institution. We would raise strenuous objections to these personal details being released to potential employers by Local Authorities since we have been assured that only registered users will have access to this confidential data. Such requests for information could also be purely speculative or "fishing expeditions" since it is proposed that they be undertaken even before the young person is taken into employment. The fact that it might save businesses money does not outweigh the breach of confidentiality on the part of the Local Authority. Moreover , both employers and the LA might not be aware without specific Guidance from the DfES that home education is to be treated as legal full-time education.

EO takes exception to the issuing of Attendance Orders since we disagree in principle with the proposals to make attendance at an institution compulsory. As with home-based education pre-16 there are other equally valid and effective ways for children and young people to learn outside institutions. Similarly we object to the threat of prosecution for non-compliance.

Point 64 p. 14 EO notes that "raising the statutory participation age will remove the need for an incentive payment to encourage participation" . Should we assume that the pilot Learning Agreement schemes will be quietly dropped?

Education Otherwise believes that the Government has made virtually no provision for SEN young people and has not consulted interest groups such as the families of SEN youngsters to see what would work. The recent LSC review Delivering World Class Skills in a Demand-Led System did not address SEN issues. EO made the following response to the DfES Consultation on the Skills Equality Impact Assessments in April :

"The definition of disability appears to be a vast and when trying to define a disability it is like asking how long is a piece of string because some disabilities will impact on the person to a greater of lesser degree depending on that disability. It is therefore not easy to see how this consultation can effectively make sure that everyone who comes under the umbrella of the word disability can all be equally included. There is no mention of Autistic Spectrum Disorder when this disorder is the most diagnosed disorder now given to children. That means that we have and are going to have a huge number of people with this disorder but they are not included even by name in the assessment. At the moment 11% of adults with Aspergers Syndrome are in some kind of employment with 4% of adults with autism.

Many parents who have children with autism are finding that home education is the best way of meeting the needs of these complex children and they are finding that they can teach and eqip their children with the skills that they require to take their place either in formal education or in the workplace. Parents who have children with many other disabilities are also finding that home education is the best choice as they can personalise the learning to the suit the style and needs of these childen.

QUOTE BEGINS
3.5.1 The White Paper Skills: Getting on in business, getting on at work identified six cross-cutting ways in which the Government can promote greater equality of opportunity for groups of adults who currently face disadvantage. These were

(a) a strong legislative framework;
(b) the development by the LSC of equality and diversity impact measures (EDIMS) and of the Council's Equality and Diversity Strategy;
(c) the role of union learning representatives;
(d) Employer Training Pilots;
(e) getting employers to appreciate the recruitment and productivity gains that result from providing more equal opportunities in training and work; and
(f) work by the Investors in People UK on a research programme which would provide the basis for reviewing the positioning of equality of opportunity within the core Investors in People Standard at its next review in 2007.

This would build on existing Investors in People Standard Indicators which seek evidence on how employers promote equality of opportunity in the development of their organisations' people. In particular the research programme would focus on recruitment and selection processes.
QUOTE ENDS

Parents who home educate are investors in people and as such we feel should be recognised and included in the above group of people who play an important role in promoting equality.

Colleges working with Employers should be asked to include parents who are home educating older children. The assumption here is that the next generation of the workforce will always come from a College environment and that is excluding anyone who has chosen or been forced to home educate because the needs of their child was not being met. Otherwise the system is excluding these children and young people. Many of whom have a great deal to offer because of the type of education that they have been accessing, which is personalised to meet their needs.

When talking about collecting good practice from a range of sources one of those sources should be home educated children.

When specialist networks are being set up again home educators should be included.

Parents who home educate older children and young people are teaching life skills and effective communication skills, both of which will be required in a mainstream workplace. We would like this to be acknowledged. But we would like to see a link between parents and colleges and employers, so that our children are given the opportunity to make use of these skills. "

P.15 point 71 Education Otherwise agrees that small and medium sized businesses ( SME ) will be adversely affected by these inflexible proposals for mandatory training. We have also made this point in our Consultation response.


Food for Thought:
Home Education for Teenagers

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