What’s been said?
The BBC’s World at One programme on 11 June ran a lengthy feature article on the issue of school exclusions, in advance of an Education Select Committee report due soon. It begins 18’ 15” into the broadcast and it is well worth listening to, as it provides powerful arguments to use against the DfE’s current attack on EHE. It also gives some insight into Ofsted and DfE (evasive) thinking on the issue. A significant section of the article focuses on the work of The Limes College, a registered Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) with an outstanding rating. The Head outlines the current situation very clearly, describing those young people most likely to be illegally excluded through off rolling and for whom the government makes no suitable provision. The segment ends with interviews with Amanda Spielman (30’ 45”) and Schools Minister, Nick Gibb (35’ 42”).
Why does it matter?
The interview clearly separates legal exclusions from back door exclusions and it’s important to keep emphasising that difference. It’s the latter that are of concern to home educators as this is the excuse that LAs are using to attempt to get control of EHE. It is particularly important to note that a significant number of the ‘disappeared’ are vanishing at the end of Year 10 – that is not a point at which any parent would willingly commence home ed.
Nick Gibb’s interview is a prime example of his smoke and mirrors strategy – talk about nothing but the amazing improvements that have been made under his management and completely ignore the root problems. Spielman, however, was more giving. She acknowledged the problem and the fact that they have no accurate data about the destination of many thousands of students who are removed from schools. After praising the excellent home educators who do a great job, she adds: “We are not suggesting that we should be inspecting home education, I’d like to be clear about that, but the principle that’s a step before that is having a clear picture of where children are, who is educating them, so that in the round there are not completely disappeared children”. But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security here, because earlier in the interview she stated: “any provision that a child gets most of its education, whatever form that takes, should be registered and inspected”. And while she’s insistent that Ofsted won’t be inspecting home ed, she is giving the green light to LAs to push for both registration and inspection.
She gives another nugget to home edders – she talks passionately about education being an ‘experience of studying’ not about obtaining grades. And that is exactly why home educators choose the route they do.
What can I do?
This interview provides some arguments which you could use when talking about the current situation. For example, Spielman acknowledges that there is a problem with ‘back door’ exclusions and admits that apart from some anecdotal evidence, they actually don’t know the precise figures involved. This gives you an opportunity to ask why they propose to regulate the whole EHE community simply because they aren’t in control of what schools are doing. Look for other opportunities to turn the argument back on the government, demonstrating that there are problems which they must solve without attacking you.