The HE Byte

Why Action is Needed

This page is the first of three sections looking at why action is needed, what is being said about home education and suggesting a variety of possible responses. All three sections can be accessed directly from the drop down Action menu above, or by following the link at the bottom of this page.

If you’ve been involved in elective home education for some years, you’ll remember events of 2009 following the publication of the Badman Report, when Ed Balls of the Department for Children, Schools & Families (now DfE) included recommendations from this in the CSF Bill 2010. In the event, that section of the bill was abandoned in the hasty trade-off negotiations prior to the 2010 general election.

The EHE community of that time were concerned about several contentious issues – pressure for registration, more powers to inspect, demands to know exactly how many HE children there were in each local authority. Conflation of education & safeguarding issues was a big problem too, with the authorities seemingly unable (or unwilling) to see these as separate issues with different solutions.

But whilst home educating parents were very happy to resume their normal lives with a huge sigh of relief once the offensive clauses were taken out of the Bill, opponents of EHE continued their lobbying and propaganda war, with recent coverage showing what good headway they have made.

Given the current focus on safeguarding children and increasing State oversight of parenting, it’s important for today’s HE community to keep abreast of events and understand the general direction of travel, especially in the area of freedom of the individual vis a vis State intervention. Political developments of recent years have introduced extra factors and new players onto the scene, and we need to understand the implications.

Legislation such as Every Child Matters (2003) and developments like the appointment of a Children’s Commissioner (2005) have fostered a new mentality amongst children’s services, social workers and teachers, with a multi-agency approach and information-sharing being the order of the day. In Scotland this gave rise to the Named Person Scheme, which was intended to provide every child with a State-appointed ‘guardian’ from birth to the age of 18. The mission of Ofsted has also expanded over the years, with greater emphasis on safeguarding and child protection.

Increased fears of extremism and counter-terrorism measures such as Prevent have all contributed to a more monitoring, inspection-minded culture, and the Trojan Horse affair of 2014 brought such issues to the forefront of the political agenda. More recently illegal schools have featured in the news, again increasing the demand for more inspection and greater powers for the authorities. The Association of Directors of Children’s Services also weighed in to the debate recently, with their own Elective Home Education Survey (Oct 2017).

One development which could be seen as welcome is the recognition that off-rolling – the involuntary removal of students from a school’s roll – is widespread. This affects the debate in that home education is sometimes suggested as a possible alternative to parents of children who don’t fit in to a school. This results in a new type of reluctant and often ill-equipped parents who find themselves home educating without the necessary motivation.

The next section considers some of the arguments used in favour of greater regulation of EHE, urging readers to think through whether or not these would actually solve the so-called “problem” of home educators.