And so it comes round again…

Last time it was safeguarding, this time…

 

Let me start off by correcting the many errors in the article.

 

The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, has asked officials to review home schooling elective home education*** amid fears that thousand of children are having their minds “filled with poison” by radicalised parents.

Between 20,000 and 50,000 children are thought to be educated at home – but the Government has no idea of the exact number because parents are under no obligation to inform their local council. Ms Morgan has already announced a crackdown on unregistered schools and “weekend madrassas” after some were found to be promoting extremist ideology.

But senior government sources have revealed that home schooling elective home education *** is now “on the radar”. Under proposals being considered in Whitehall, parents and teachers will be given a specific point of contact at local councils in order to raise concerns about a child. Officials will also try to discover how many children are being taught at home, beyond the reach of inspectors.

 

A few points to make here:

  1. How exactly will making the haystack bigger help to find the needle?
  2. Who exactly will be targeted here? Muslims? Christians? Atheists? Those who don’t believe the school system is fit for purpose? Those who campaign and sign petitions? Where does it start and where will it end? At what point does it become wrong to discriminate against people for their choices and/or beliefs? “First they came for…”
  3. Pardon my bluntness here. So not all children are ‘known’ to be EHE, AND? Once again, unless there is a reason to believe someone is not following the law as it stands then they have no place to be ‘inspecting’ families.
  4. Was EHE ever ‘off’ the radar? This has come around in various forms over the years, hence the title of the blog post!
  5. There is already a point of contact. For welfare concerns, it’s called social services, for educational concerns, its educational welfare or children missing education (insert department name for each LA here). The two should never be conflated, they are separate issues.

 

A senior government source said: “There has always been the freedom in this country for people to educate their children at home. Many people do it very well. But we need to know where the children are and to be certain that they are safe. For every parent doing a brilliant job, there may be someone filling their child’s mind with poison. We just don’t know. We don’t have reliable figures.”

 

Who is the parent here? The State? Or the one with the actual parental responsibility for the child? I know where my child is, currently he’s at home with me, in a nice warm house after spending a lovely Christmas with family playing with his presents. And are you really going to tell me, that with all the CCTV and surveillance technology about that they really have no idea what is happening? You may not agree with how I parent, heck I may not agree with you either but it’s not your place to decide how I parent my child, just as it’s not mine to decide how you parent yours.

 

The focus on home schooling elective home education *** highlights growing concern in government over the problem of children being radicalised by religious extremists abusing positions of trust to promote hardline hard-line *** doctrine. Fears have been raised that parents are claiming their children are being home schooled electively home educated *** when in fact they are being taught at illegal religious schools. Ofsted’s chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has warned of the “serious and growing threat” to the safety of children posed by unregistered Islamic education centres.

 

So really this is a combination. 1. The child is not being de-registered from school correctly, and  2. Illegal schools are not being registered properly, nothing to do with elective home education (or as some parents call it, home-schooling) then? If parents are sending their child to a school, registered or not. Then by legal definition they are NOT electively home educating their child in any way, shape or form. This is because they are NOT educating otherwise than at school as stated in clearly in law.

They are right that there is a problem here, but it is with the rules they have in place being used properly. E.g. Schools not passing the message on to the LA that a child has been de-registered. Illegal schools not registering, which by law they have to do. Elective Home Education doesn’t come into it.

There are a couple of reasons for de-registration that particularly stand out for me, that are nothing to do with Educating otherwise than at school.

So lets take a look at the law shall we?

Deletions from Admission Register

8.—(1) The following are prescribed as the grounds on which the name of a pupil of compulsory school age shall be deleted from the admission register—

(a)where the pupil is registered at the school in accordance with the requirements of a school attendance order, that another school is substituted by the local education authority for that named in the order or the order is revoked by the local education authority on the ground that arrangements have been made for the child to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude otherwise than at school;

(b)except where it has been agreed by the proprietor that the pupil should be registered at more than one school, in a case not falling within sub-paragraph (a) or regulation 9, that he has been registered as a pupil at another school;

(c)where a pupil is registered at more than one school, and in a case not falling within sub-paragraph (j) or (m) or regulation 9, that he has ceased to attend the school and the proprietor of any other school at which he is registered has given consent to the deletion;

(d)in a case not falling within sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph, that he has ceased to attend the school and the proprietor has received written notification from the parent that the pupil is receiving education otherwise than at school; (This is used for EHE)

(e)except in the case of a boarder, that he has ceased to attend the school and no longer ordinarily resides at a place which is a reasonable distance from the school at which he is registered;

(f)in the case of a pupil granted leave of absence exceeding ten school days for the purpose of a holiday in accordance with regulation 7(3), that —

(i)the pupil has failed to attend the school within the ten school days immediately following the expiry of the period for which such leave was granted;

(ii)the proprietor does not have reasonable grounds to believe that the pupil is unable to attend the school by reason of sickness or any unavoidable cause; and

(iii)both the proprietor and the local education authority have failed, after reasonable enquiry, to ascertain where the pupil is;

(g)that he is certified by the school medical officer as unlikely to be in a fit state of health to attend school before ceasing to be of compulsory school age, and neither he nor his parent has indicated to the school the intention to continue to attend the school after ceasing to be of compulsory school age;

(h)that he has been continuously absent from the school for a period of not less than twenty school days and —

(i)at no time was his absence during that period authorised by the proprietor in accordance with regulation 6(2);

(ii)the proprietor does not have reasonable grounds to believe that the pupil is unable to attend the school by reason of sickness or any unavoidable cause; and

(iii)both the proprietor of the school and the local education authority have failed, after reasonable enquiry, to ascertain where the pupil is;

(i)that he is detained in pursuance of a final order made by a court or of an order of recall made by a court or the Secretary of State, that order being for a period of not less than four months, and the proprietor does not have reasonable grounds to believe that the pupil will return to the school at the end of that period;

(j)that the pupil has died;

(k)that he will cease to be of compulsory school age before the school next meets and the relevant person has indicated that he will cease to attend the school;

(l)in the case of a pupil at a school other than a maintained school, an Academy, a city technology college or a city college for the technology of the arts, that he has ceased to be a pupil of the school;

(m)that he has been permanently excluded from the school; or

(n)where the pupil has been admitted to the school to receive nursery education, that he has not on completing such education transferred to a reception, or higher, class at the school.

(2) In a case not covered by paragraph (1)(a), (j) or (m), the name of a child who has under arrangements made by a local education authority become a registered pupil at a special school shall not be removed from the admission register of that school without the consent of that authority, or if that authority refuse to give consent, without a direction of the Secretary of State.

(3) The following are prescribed as the grounds on which the name of a pupil not of compulsory school age is to be deleted from the admission register—

(a)that he has ceased to attend the school, or, in the case of a boarder, that he has ceased to be a pupil of the school;

(b)that he has been continuously absent from the school for a period of not less than twenty school days and —

(i)at no time was his absence during that period agreed by the proprietor;

(ii)the proprietor does not have reasonable grounds to believe that the pupil is unable to attend the school by reason of sickness or any unavoidable cause; and

(iii)the proprietor of the school has failed, after reasonable enquiry, to ascertain where the pupil is;

(c)that the pupil has died;

(d)where the pupil has been admitted to the school to receive nursery education, he has not on completing such education transferred to a reception, or higher, class at the school; or

(e)that he has been permanently excluded from the school.

(4) For the purposes of this regulation—

(a)a pupil shall be treated as ordinarily residing at a place where the pupil is habitually and normally resident apart from temporary or occasional absences;

(b)“reception class” means a class in which education is provided which is suitable to the requirements of pupils aged five and any pupils under or over that age whom it is expedient to educate together with pupils of that age;

(c)children are to be regarded as having been admitted to a school to receive nursery education if they were placed on admission in a nursery class;

(d)the permanent exclusion of a pupil from a maintained school does not take effect until the proprietor has discharged its duties under regulations made under section 52 of the Education Act 2002(1), and—

(i)the relevant person has stated in writing that he does not intend to bring an appeal under those regulations;

(ii)the time for bringing an appeal has expired and no appeal has been brought within that time; or

(iii)an appeal brought within that time has been determined or abandoned;

(e)the permanent exclusion of a pupil from an Academy, a city technology college or a city college for the technology of the arts does not take effect until the proprietor has discharged its duties in relation to a permanent exclusion under the agreement entered into pursuant to section 482 of the Education Act 1996(2) and

(i)the relevant person has stated in writing that he does not intend to bring an appeal;

(ii)the time for bringing an appeal has expired and no appeal has been brought within that time; or

(iii)an appeal brought within that time has been determined or abandoned.

So now the question is, in these cases are the children actually being de-registered through a formal letter by the parents – phone calls do not count legally (and if they are, is the procedure being followed properly by the school and the LA? E.g. recently a parent was told by a private school that they were responsible for informing the LA about de-registering their child, which is not the case, it is the School’s responsibility. – The school never informed the LA.) OR, are they falling under the other categories which was found to be the case in other cases that have come to the attention of the media?

A Department for Education spokesman said Ms Morgan was “determined to tackle radicalisation wherever it occurs”.He said: “We have provided Ofsted with extra inspectors to eradicate extremism in education. We are working with them to address their concerns about home education being exploited, while safeguarding the rights of parents to determine how and where to educate their children.”

 

It’s actually quite simple. Use the powers they already have in place effectively.

 

Under the last Labour Government, Ed Balls – as minister for children and families – commissioned a review into home education. However, a recommendation to set up a voluntary registration scheme for parents who chose to teach their children at home had to be abandoned because it was not supported by the Tories ahead of the election. The new Conservative chairman of the Education Select Committee, Neil Carmichael, has endorsed proposals for more safeguards for children educated at home. He told the Tory party conference in October: “I find it absolutely amazing people who are home educated are not registered as being home educated. It’s an absolute scandal that should not be allowed.”

 

I find it absolutely amazing that people with absolutely no understanding of home education can be in charge of determining what a ‘suitable education’ looks like for an individual child, when they have already made it clear that they believe school-at-home is the only way to do it ‘properly’ and penalise autonomously home educating families.

The reason OFSTED exists is to prove to parents (not the state, as seems to commonly be believed these days) that schools are providing an education suitable for their individual child, on their behalf. This is because they have chosen to delegate their responsibility for their child’s education. 

 

But the Conservative MP Graham Stuart, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on home education, said the Government should not even consider a register of home-schooled electively home educated *** children. He said: “The home is used by parents to inculcate ideas into their children’s heads all the time. Just because there is a problem does not mean there can be a solution.“If the next step is a formal register I would resist that strongly. The legal duty to educate a child rests with the parents, not the state. That is a long-standing settlement in this country.”

Currently, only parents whose children have been offered a place in school have to inform a school’s head teacher if they then decide the educate them at home. If not, there is no obligation for a parent to inform anyone.According to Department for Education advice, if a local authority has concerns it can make an “informal enquiry” to make sure the child is getting a suitable education.

Speaking to The Independent on Sunday, Fiona Nicholson, of the Home Education Consultancy, said: “Any investigation would lead me to suspect they are going down the route of compulsory registration for parents to have to tell somebody that this is what they are doing. I’m against that – you can’t separate it from having to ask permission. You can disagree with lots of ways parents bring up their children but until a crime has been committed, or there is a substantial child-protection issue, I don’t think it’s anybody’s business. It’s more than a slippery slope, it’s off a precipice really.”

However, Labour’s shadow Education Secretary, Lucy Powell, said the inability of authorities to know how many children were being home schooled electively home educated *** was a “worrying weak spot for Government”.She said: “It is vital that action is taken to ensure that all children, whether in school or taught at home, are given the knowledge and skills to succeed, not taught a narrow curriculum of hate and bigotry. Yet, just last week it was revealed that the Government had let children remain in illegal, unregistered schools for weeks, where they were exposed to narrow curriculums, misogynist, homophobic and anti-Semitic material. This is completely unacceptable.”

Children were allowed to “drop off the radar, where they could be exposed to harm, exploitation or the influence of extremist ideologies”, she said. “We urgently need robust local oversight and accountability of all local schooling, regardless of type, so that communities can work together to improve standards and stop children from ending up in harm’s way.”

 

How and why is it a ‘weak spot’? If the powers they already have are used properly then there isn’t an issue.

Also narrow curriculums? Okay this is in reference to illegal schools, but still, the national curriculum isn’t exactly broad. In State schools children are exposed to bullying, homophobic slurs, racism etc. but apparently that’s okay because they are registered State Schools? Am I supposed to believe that this is a better alternative?

I EHE for many reasons, one of which is because I don’t believe that the school system, state, private or otherwise is suitable for my son in its present format. The option is there for him should he choose it, but I certainly will not be forcing it upon him otherwise. You cannot fit a square peg into a round hole.

Constantly watching, and testing something doesn’t make it grow any quicker. It will always go at its own pace. I would rather that learning remains a wonderful by-product of doing interesting things for my son.

Of course it’s unacceptable that illegal schools are running, they are after all, breaking the law. However that is something that needs resolving with OFSTED and DFE to ensure they are registered correctly, while making sure groups like scouts, cubs, karate etc aren’t affected. Again, making the haystack bigger does not help to find the needle, it just makes more work, is economically untenable and in the grand scheme of things is more likely to punish innocent families than find the ones they are looking for.

If you want to inspect me, simply because I have chosen not to delegate my duty to ensure my child receives an education suitable to his needs by making a sweeping generalisation about ‘radicalisation’ without any reason to believe I have broken any laws. You better make damn sure your own house is in order first.

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4 thoughts on “And so it comes round again…

  1. As with most issues emitting from the conservative mouth pieces, their focus is on hyperbolic rhetoric that tries to paint a dark and distorted picture across the board in order to blanket box the whole issue. This is the way of lies, fear and manipulation and everything to do with oppressive state control and their own fear and incompetence of isolating and challenging the real issue of dogmatic and conservative religious based schooling. As recently highlighted in a recent research paper, children from religious backgrounds are less accepting and tolerant of others than those who come from secular education. Tackle the real problem and stop bullying the easy targets. The hierarchy of the bully alive and well in the conservative party as clearly demonstrated on EVERY level. A real disturbance.

    • A blanket, across the board generalisation about those from religious backgrounds, is just as bad as generalising against those who choose to take a different path to their educational journey. In my experience both those who have a religion and those who do not are equally capable of intolerance, judgement and bullying. Both religious and secular schooling have a huge problem with bullying, racism, homophobia etc. I know some wonderful people who have religious beliefs, and I know some particularly nasty people who don’t.

      At what point does it become wrong to persecute people for their religious or philosophical beliefs? Isn’t that the point here? The Da’esh are not Muslim, they do not follow Islamic teachings as proven in an article a couple of days ago regarding a breastfeeding mother which goes against the teachings of the Koran, so to generalise against the Muslim population is wrong, just as it would be for any other creed. Religious or not.

      First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Socialist.

      Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Jew.

      Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

      ~ Pastor Martin Niemöller

  2. Great post. Found your blog on Facebook and read it as I “home-school” my son. The local authority seem to have no knowledge of this, but I have not found it necessary to enlighten them.

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