What’s been said?
As the DfE launched their EHE Call for Evidence and Consultation<link> on 10th April, an accompanying gov.uk news story reported on a “package of measures to help make sure children receive the best possible education either at home or outside of school” announced by “School Systems Minister” Lord Agnew.
After stating his aim of “supporting the families of the estimated 45,500 children that are educated at home, providing parents and local councils with strengthened guidance so both understand their rights and responsibilities”, Agnew also announced the provision of £3m “to support the joint working of …agencies in tackling the minority of out of school settings that seek to undermine British values or expose children to other harmful practices,” claiming that both the above were “building on the recently launched Integrated Communities Strategy, which had education at its core.”
Why does this matter?
Grouping these three components together is not helpful. In fact it demonstrates rather clearly that the DfE has failed to take on board the fact that parents who opt to home educate their children have declined the government’s offer to take over responsibility for their education. Confusion remains, and therefore confused messages emerge, as evidenced by two out of the three points highlighted in the synopsis being the monitoring of the quality of home education by LAs, and the effectiveness of registration schemes for EHE children.
Lord Agnew may wish to cast himself in the role of benevolent overseer, but in fact when it comes to perception of boundaries and who is responsible for what in this setting, there is a need to differentiate between strands rather than conflate them further.
“Ensuring that all children receive the best possible education” may sound laudable, but the “Schools Systems Minister” is in danger of overreaching his job title if he forgets that his responsibility is the quality of education provided for schooled children, leaving EHE parents free to concentrate on their own chosen route. EHE is not a system. It is about individualised learning facilitated by motivated parents. It does not need and will not benefit from oversight by a “Schools Systems” Department.
There may be occasion for dialogue or negotiation in circumstances where there is overlap – such as flexi-schooling, but this should be on the basis of two authorities meeting on an equal footing, not with one being perceived by the other as dubious and in greater need of surveillance.
To this end, the Byte team have produced three items which we hope will be of service to you. These can also be accessed via the “Reference” menu tab:
- a page on responding to consultations in general;
- a page listing research into home education which you may find useful for background reading or to refer to in your responses or letters;
- a table listing all questions in the English EHE call for evidence correlated with those in the on-line response form, including those on both guidance documents.
(These can now can be accessed from any page via the new “Reference” main menu drop-down tabs at the top of every page.)
We intend to publish further comments on the consultation itself, but these will take time to prepare.
What can I do?
Be aware of conflation, blurred boundaries and mission creep mentality which lie behind statements like “delivering quality education across all settings” in the thinking and pronouncements emerging from the DfE, whose staff find it really hard to “get” home education.
Whenever you see ambiguity or over-reach of responsibility, challenge it in as clear, firm and polite a way as you can.
Use the materials listed above to help you prepare informed and well-reasoned responses to both the ICS and EHE consultations.
If each one of us does what we can, we may manage to hold off the current takeover bid.