If It Appears

What’s been said?

This is a final Byte on proposals in the Isle of Man’s Department for Education, Sport and Culture’s [DESC] draft of new EHE Procedures. In it we focus on the list in Appendix 1 (p12), which seeks to prescribe how the DESC might decide that there was something to suggest that a HE child was not being properly educated. This is in response to Section 25(1) of the Education Act 2001, which states that “If it appears to the Department that a child of compulsory school age in the Island is not receiving suitable education… they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice… that the child is receiving such education.”

It is well known from discussions elsewhere that officials are perplexed as to how they might satisfy themselves that a child is receiving a suitable education, if they are not allowed to inspect and monitor their education. This list is seemingly intended to help ease their anxiety. Here it is in full:

  • The police are involved with the child and their parents;
  • There is involvement of other government agencies eg DHSC officials which gives rise to concerns around the education of a child;
  • Home Education is used as a ‘threat’;
  • Pre-existing problems eg attendance, safeguarding concerns, were followed by Home Education;
  • Family or neighbours raising concerns about home educated children;
  • Children of those Home Educating are observed behaving inappropriately in public buildings without suitable supervision or direction;
  • Organisations or groups reporting concerns around children struggling with basic educational skills.

Why does this matter?

These cannot all be discussed in detail, and some are in fact reasonable signposts to help guide responsible officials. However, other items in the list are problematic to a greater or lesser degree. One may ask whether one would want busy-body neighbours pestering officials due to mistaken concerns, but if HE parents do not believe the state should monitor what they are doing, there must be a place for the wider community to express genuine concerns should problems arise.

The first item on the list is very badly worded. What does it mean for the police to “be involved” with a family? What if a child is injured in a road accident? Or if the parent is interviewed after their home has been burgled? Silly questions you may think, but the lack of definition means they must be asked. What if a child is lost on a busy beach and the police help to find them? Badly phrased statements can cause more problems than they solve.

One important point needs to raised about this list. One of the phrases omitted above from the quote of Section 25(1) above reads, “is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise,” [our emphasis]. The criteria in this list should therefore not simply be applicable to HE children, but to every child who lives on the island! If the DESC is responsible for ensuring that all children are suitably educated, why does it seek to single out HE children in the penultimate item? Should not every child who behaves inappropriately in public buildings have the quality of their education called into question? Should not every signal listed equally call into question the education of children in school? Or do HE families have a higher bar to jump over?

What can I do?

We encourage parents on the island to emphasise to the DESC the lack of thought which has gone into this list of signposts.

For those in other locations, remember that this document was compiled with the help of the English DfE and various LAs. It is important that HE families learn how to constructively question the assumptions and prejudices that are frequently expressed by those with some power, but little understanding of our choices.