What’s been said?
The Education Select Committee has taken evidence on consecutive days in which EHE has been mentioned. On 6 March 2018, the committee heard from head teachers and managers of alternative provision. During that session, heads talked about the practice of off-rolling unruly, underperforming students into home education, as an alternative to expulsion or alternative provision. In Barnsley, HE registration has risen from 60 to 300 in the last three years and although the reason usually given is “dissatisfaction with school” one head suspects that this may be a front for off-rolling. Peterborough has 149 on the HE register, rather than an expected 90. (TES report.)
The following day, Amanda Spielman was called to give evidence, during which Ian Mearns MP raised the issue of EHE (10 min 17 sec). Spielman was quite clear that the burgeoning numbers are due to known issues and stated that it’s “important not to tar some of the excellent home educators with the wrong brush”. She also discussed a conversation she has had with the Department for Education relating to the use of big data (10 min 26 sec).
Why does it matter?
Spielman talked about wanting to recognise the excellence of some EHE provision (although if these children are ‘hidden’ it’s difficult to know how she can form an opinion about quality of provision) but she also said that she needs to check that children are being prepared for life in modern Britain. Although it wasn’t clear if she was talking about home educated young people, she is on record as describing home educators as doing “their slightly homespun thing”, which suggests that she has concerns about the suitability of EHE in general.
The admission that at least one discussion has been held with the DfE about using big data is an indication of the level of pressure which Ofsted is applying in order to extend its power.
Spielman mentions using birth and health records, child benefit payments and the “many government databases from which information can be taken” to track children. Her argument is that the current permissive system cannot be allowed to continue. When pressed to explain how she envisages creating a system which doesn’t harm those doing nothing wrong, she took refuge in the convenient argument that legislation is for government, not Ofsted and she has no intention of creating policy “on the hoof”.
What can I do?
All agencies involved in education are aware of the problems of off-rolling and the pressure on the system. They are also aware that HE numbers are rising because of reluctant home educators. Keep up the pressure when writing blogs or talking about EHE.
Also remember that Spielman can be held accountable for what she says in a Parliamentary committee, so keep repeating the fact that she doesn’t want to tar excellent provision with the broad brush she wants to be given to deal with unregistered settings.