Shared with permission from Caroline, of Home Education Freedom Charter
The Government is consulting on changes to the way local authorities deal with home education, and is considering bringing in draconian policies to control and oversee what we do. Needless to say this would be a disaster for our families and our children, many of whom have been failed by the education system. The three documents they are consulting can be found at the bottom of this government page. Brace yourself and have a read.
You can have your say on what they are proposing – but you have to tell them your views before 2nd July. The more people who respond demanding they shelve these proposals and think again, the more likely it is we will keep our existing freedoms. If you really cannot face answering the online survey which you can find here, another option would be to send the consultation team an e-mail, using the address supplied on the government page: HomeEducation.firstname.lastname@example.org
Use this guide to help you make it clear what you think. I’ve just picked out the key issues to make it as simple as possible, in order to make sense of this already confused consultation. This guide tries to focus on the key messages the Government needs to hear LOUD and CLEAR. If the Government goes ahead with the revised guidelines for local authorities this would have a massive impact on your life and your freedom to decide how best to educate your child. If the Government does not hear an overwhelming ‘NO’ to compulsory registration and monitoring in response to their ‘Call for Evidence’ things could get even worse still. We have to try and prevent this from happening! Please, before the 2nd July, email HomeEducation.Consultation@education.gov.uk
GUIDE TO RESPONDING
You can say who you are and that you are responding as an individual. Tell them whether you want your response to be confidential or not. Say you have read the documents they are consulting on but you have looked at the online form and find it too difficult and time consuming to use that to respond, therefore you are writing your response to the consultation to them in this email.
VERY IMPORTANT: Ask for an acknowledgment that they have received your response to the consultation and that it will be considered alongside the responses to the online survey.
Suggested points to make (use the headings below)
CALL FOR EVIDENCE
Make it clear that you:
- Do not agree that there needs to be ‘greater oversight’ of home educated children. Research on home education to date shows positive outcomes for home educated children. There is no evidence of a need to change the existing system.
- Strongly disagree that home educators should be forced to ‘register’ with their local authority, because it would be discriminatory, and many won’t do it on principle no matter what you threaten them with because they do not trust the authorities to care about the best interests of their children.
- State that if the government want people who are not known to their EHE team at the council to make themselves known, stronger controls would not be the right way to go about it. A better way would be to treat EHE families with respect, and provide actual benefits to making home educators making themselves known.
- Strongly disagree with the proposal that failure to register could result in a school attendance order. This would be contrary to the principle that any infringements of human rights must be both necessary and proportionate.
- Are strongly opposed to sharing data between different agencies to identify home educators, as sharing data without people’s consent, when there is no risk to a child, is against data protection and human rights law
- Do not agree there should be blanket monitoring of home educated children when there is no evidence of problems with their education. Again, this would be contrary to children’s fundamental human rights. Say you think the current law and best practice should be retained. The current system respects parents’ rights and responsibilities to raise and educate our children and act in their best interests, with checks and balances to protect children when things go wrong. You could say parents home educate when it is in the BEST INTERESTS of a particular child and say something about how home education benefits your child. If you have deregistered after a bad experience at a school do feel free to submit this as evidence. Say you are aware bad experiences like this are widespread and therefore feel the focus should be on tackling failures in the education system. Suggest the Department of Education starts a proper dialogue with home educators instead of springing hostile consultations on us.
SUPPORT FOR HOME EDUCATION
There are also questions about what support should be available to home educators.
I would say: The best thing the Government can do for home educating families is respect and trust us to do what is best for our children. Of course local authorities should provide clear information to us and there should be a guarantee that our children can access exams easily. If Government ever decide to provide funding for groups to be able to meet, or for resources for our children, these would be welcomed, but should not come with strings attached. The thing we most value is our freedom to do what we believe is best for our children.
REVISED GUIDELINES FOR LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Make it clear that you do not support the revised guidelines and believe they should be shelved as they would:
- erode the fundamental entitlements of our children to a personalised education by encouraging local authorities to take an overly prescriptive approach, enabling them to dictate how we should educate our children in a way that is inflexible and inappropriate;
- lead to a lot more conflict and antagonism between local authorities and home educators;
- cost a huge amount to implement – money that could be better spent on closing the schools funding gap, and putting in place proper support for children with SEN or medical needs, whether they are in school or home educated.
Request that the Department of Education retain the existing guidelines, and simply ensure that local authorities use them correctly. Changes could be discussed by setting up a working group including home educators, home education support groups, human rights lawyers like David Wolfe QC , experts in personalised education and those local authorities who have a good relationship with their local home education community. If a consensus from a broad group could be reached, on positive improvements that do not infringe human rights, then a consultation could be considered once more.
PROPOSED GUIDELINES FOR PARENTS
You could say something like: At present, there are no separate guidelines for parents. The proposed guidelines for parents are not really acceptable, because they are based on proposed changes to local authority practices that erode the rights of families, and children.
Feel free to copy and paste bits of this post into your email – make some changes to personalise it, and add in thoughts of your own if possible, so that it doesn’t look like a standard response.