For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Saturday, March 07, 2009

A letter to Baroness Morgan

Again, I am going back to what started the current review of home education.
Although it said in the DCSF press release that the review "will assess the effectiveness of current arrangements for parents who home educate and of local authority systems for supporting children and families" it is obvious from all that is happening now that not the quality or the functioning of the local authorities is under scrutiny, but much more the whole concept of home education itself. That's weird, to say the least, because there is ample evidence of failures of local authorities - with sometimes disastrous consequences - but none concerning home education as such. Therefore I have drafted a letter to Baroness Morgan and I am still gathering relevant evidence to convince her of the fact that local authorities and other agencies involved in education and child welfare are - often - ignorant of existing law and guidance in regard to education outside the school system.
Please feel free to leave more such evidence in my comment box.

Dear Baroness Morgan,

As an elective home educator I am well aware of the weight your words carry when you choose to express your concerns about matters related to education and children's welfare.

As a responsible, caring and most of all loving parent I share your ambition to do everything possible to prevent and fight child abuse in any form. Children, I think, are entitled to a well balanced upbringing in a stable and loving environment. If I have any reason to believe children are denied this chance I will do everything possible within the law to intervene.

As a law abiding citizen of this country I feel it my duty to inform you that the information on which you commissioned the current review of home education is not only inaccurate, but could also lead to damage and/or disruption of young people's lives.

Apparently the information you were given led you to believe that "home education could be used as a ‘cover’ for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude".
Based a.o. on your first press release on this matter it appears that no distinction is being made between 'children missing education' and 'children in home education'. There is a distinctive difference between the two. In the first case children are not going to school and are not receiving any other form of education, while in the second case parents have chosen to provide their children with an education suitable to their age, aptitude and ability and to any special educational needs the child(ren) may have.

I put it to you that the existing legislation and guidance on elective home education is sufficient, but that local authorities and other agencies dealing with education and welfare have insufficient knowledge of it, and are therefore not capable of applying it in an efficient way. That to me is a concern and I genuinely feel the wellbeing of children in general and of those in home education in particular would be better served with a review into the competence and functioning of said local authorities and other agencies. Their incorrect interpretation of law and guidance, together with an insufficient and/or incorrect understanding of home education, not only causes unnecessary grief and damage to home educators, but also leads said authorities to - unnecessarily - feel inadequate and/or incompetent in cases where there might be reasons for concerns.

Rather than using assumptions and suspicions I can support my statement with ample evidence of cases where local authorities and other agencies display ignorance of existing legislation and guidance, as well as of the workings of education other than through the school system.
Furthermore, I could provide you with a list of people with ample knowledge and experience of home education and related legislation, who could efficiently and effectively conduct a review into this matter, supply you with both a relevant report and suggestions for improvement, as well as suitable training/education for LA's and other agencies working in this field.

I trust that after reading this letter and looking at the attached evidence you will share my concerns and take appropriate measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all children.

Yours sincerely,

In a next post I will list all the links I'm sending the Baroness. Up to now I have:

In this post on Carlotta's blog you'll find the Dorset LA response to the 60 questions they were asked to answer. From the frustrated tone of their answer it is quite obvious they are yet again confusing welfare issues with educational ones.

After a - very brief - item on BBC's Radio 4 programme PM a very lengthy and similarly
interesting and informative discussion came to life on the PM Blog. Very significant was comment no. 74 by someone who presented himself as a 'Children Missing Education Officer in the North of England'. The answers to his comment speak for themselves.

Another LA response to the questionnaire that caught the attention because of the apparent lack of knowledge was
this one from Birmingham LA. One home educator from that area contacted 'her' EWO about the contents of this response and he knew nothing about it, apparently. It makes me wonder how much the person filling in the questionnaire actually knew about the day-to-day reality of the situation 'on the ground'.

In Lancashire
this press release brought to light that Lancashire County Council were under the false impression that they could make local agreements about visits and providing of examples of work with some home educators about all home educators. And of course they, too, showed they were not informed about their legal rights and limitations.

With regard to the ongoing review a shocking case of ignorance and uninformed partiality was displayed by NSPCC spokesperson Mr Vijay Patel in the Independent when he implied a connection between the death of Victoria ClimbiƩ and home education. Even though DCSF and Mr Graham Badman have now said they know there is no such connection, the NSPCC has not yet officially apologized and is still involved in the so-called independent review of home education.

1 comment:

Carlotta said...

Great summary of the situation so far. Thanks M.