The HE Byte

Integrated Communities Strategy – Green Paper: Question 8

The Green Paper sets out proposals to support parents with their choice of out-of-school education settings. Do you agree with this approach?

Given the issues raised by Q7, it is likely that most HE parents will want to state very clearly that they are perfectly capable of making their own choices regarding any out of school education settings without government support. They could develop that theme by emphasising that the Government should concentrate on fulfilling its responsibilities to those children whose parents have opted to delegate their educational responsibilities to the state, rather than intervening in an unwarranted way into family homes and decisions taken there in the context of parental authority. Further comment on mission creep might be in order here.

The concluding paragraph really says it all – there is a great need to get the government to take responsibility for those who are in home education because they were coerced to try that route due to lack of satisfactory provision by schools, as opposed to trying to dominate the lives of those who elected to follow that path. A clear distinction needs to be made here, and the point emphasised frequently.

Points to Ponder

There is also a pressing need for different terminology to describe that category of children said to be being ‘home educated’, but who in reality attend unregistered settings for the majority of the time. Parents who have genuinely not delegated responsibility for their children’s education should be free to devise a balanced schedule of study and activities which can grow and flex according to their developing needs. Such is the freedom of being outside the system. They should not be penalised for attending groups with other home educated families, nor patronised by the idea that they may need “support” in selecting these.

Conflating the almost full-time unregistered settings scenario with genuinely elective home education has negatively affected the public perception of HE and has to be corrected continually. In fact it has contributed to the breakdown of trust that exists in many places between the HE community and LA staff – the hostile environment which now seems to dominate even at Westminster. Ofsted have the powers to visit unregistered settings, and therefore have access to any children about whom there may be concerns.

The section entitled “School ethos, curriculum and fundamental British values” contains some very contradictory material, given that the active promotion of fundamental British values [FBV] is inevitably going to clash with the right of parents to teach according to their religion or belief. You might want to discuss the conflict of interests here and point out potential clashes with human rights. Even those who do not have any religious convictions should question whether the inclusion of a requirement to teach according to the prevailing definition of FBV is not a first step towards preventing parents from teaching “in conformity with their own… philosophical convictions.” Where you foresee problems with the implementation of this policy, point out where and how it would be unworkable in real situations.

You could ask why the home educating community is regarded with suspicion by a government which says it is bending over backwards to accommodate every religion, culture and opinion. If the government really wanted inclusion, they would relate on an equal footing with those who opt to fulfil the responsibility for their children’s education themselves, rather than marking them out as a community in need of particular surveillance.

You might wish to comment on the role of Ofsted mentioned on p.33 in connection with reviewing the promotion of fundamental British values. Have a look at their website if you need to remind yourself of their remit, and consider whether these statements are in line with that, or excessive.

Multi-agency or collaborative working between the government, Ofsted and LAs is mentioned several times in the latter part of this chapter. You might want to consider and comment on the tone of pages 32-34, starting from “School ethos, curriculum and FBV”, pointing out the mismatch between the desired tolerance and accommodation and the imposition of an ideology which seems to underlie the agenda. Again, you could use this as a springboard for emphasising the freedom so valued by home educators to determine their own curriculum content, manner of delivery and choice of activities.

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