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22012012 - SG Letter to KCC ELS POSC

Page history last edited by Sarita 8 years, 6 months ago

FrontPage  Individual Letters to KCC KCC Responses to SG email 22012012

 

Dear Sirs,

 

I have just listened with dismay to the webcast of the meeting of the Education, Learning and Skills Policy Overview and Scrutiny Committee of the 13th January 2012, regarding Children Educated at Home.

 

It would seem to me that before a meeting, council members should be expected to research the areas of discussion on the agenda of which they know nothing about. I find it incredible that elected council officials can be so ill-informed on a topic that directly affects the lives of the people they are allegedly serving. It is unbelievable that opinion and conjecture, without any substantiation of fact can be used as a means to change policy without a word of consultation with home educators. It is clear from your comments, misconceptions and the proposed policy changes to the Children Educated at Home policy, that ignorance of the law and of how home education works is rife within Kent County Council. There is so much wrong with what went on during that meeting that, as a taxpayer and home educator, I am appalled at the arrogance and ignorance on display.

 

1. First and foremost, school = education, but it is not true that education = school. The view that children educated at home could not possibly be as well educated as children at school is grossly uninformed, not to mention hugely offensive and disrespectful. In fact, the opposite is true. There is a wealth of research both in this country and abroad of the educational outcomes of home educated children. Why is it that top universities and employers in this country are falling over themselves to acquire home educated children!!

 

2. It is outside of any local authority's duty to register and monitor education at home. It is the duty of the parent to ensure their child receives a suitable and efficient education, whether they choose to send that child to school or otherwise. This means that it is the duty of parents, not the LA, to ensure that their child receives a suitable education. If the LA took responsibility for ensuring that education, then they would open themselves up to a whole host of negligent actions by unsatisfied parents, where currently there are none to answer to in law. Think of all those parents of children who attend failing schools - you would be opening yourselves up to litigation on a grand scale! You are not obliged to hold a "register" of home educated children. In fact the only reason you are informed of a parent's decision to deregister their child from school is so that you can cease to fund that child's place at school. There is no other duty to hold a register - statutory guidance makes this explicit.

 

3. The LA have no duty whatsoever to check that education is suitable - LAs duty is in the negative. This means that if the LA have reports that an education is not taking place, then, and only then, can they make enquiries. In the same way, LAs cannot knock on people's door demanding to see the children in case they are being abused, they have to wait for a report!!

Let me just say that you have to monitor teachers and schools, because you are accountable to parents. You are providing a service that parents choose to access and are paying for through their taxes. Therefore each teacher and head teacher must be held accountable. The only way to do that is through exams and tests. There is no need for such accountability when it comes to home education. It is the parent who is accountable to the child alone. Home education is tailored to each child individually, even within a family. This means a different set of criteria for each child. How would the LA suggest training up someone to "assess" this? I can look at my child, and by simple, everyday conversations, I know what her needs are. I don't need a test or exam to tell me. If there's something that I, or she thinks, is lacking then we both together take the necessary action. Neither do we need a curriculum - she learns what she needs to when she needs to learn it. She doesn't have to learn things because she is being taught en masse to a curriculum decided by someone at Whitehall. She learns about things she is interested in and helps her in everyday life. There are no limits to what she can learn and how deep she can take her knowledge to. That is the way she equips herself with the skills she will need in the future. It's that simple. And it is my job, as her parent, to make sure she will be.

 

4. There has been no change to the law that permits registration and monitoring of home educated  children  - the 2007 Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities details unequivocally the duties and responsibilities of the local authority with regard to children educated at home, which does not include registration and monitoring. In fact, these guidelines have been made statutory by its inclusion as instruction to LAs in dealing with Children Missing Education Statutory Guidance 2009. Since its inception in 2007, KCC has yet to adhere to these guidelines.  Why is that? Has the ELS shown clear evidence that there is a need to act outside of the law? If so, what recommendations has it made to government in this respect.

Currently, families accept visits because they do so in co-operation with the LA, and not because the law mandates them to.

At this point I would like to remind you of the attempt in 2009 of Graham Badman and Ed Balls to bring about a change in legislation to implement a registration and monitoring scheme for children educated at home. The Bill was defeated - they failed to prove a case for a change in the law. In other words there was no evidence whatsoever to conclude that local authorities needed more powers to deal with children educated at home. In fact, it showed two things: 1) that the law was sufficient to the task at hand 2) the local authorities had no knowledge of the law, did not know how to use its existing powers effectively and had indeed been acting outside of the law. Incidentally, the reason for his review was to find evidence that home education was being used as a cover for abuse, needless to say he found no evidence, in fact we scrutinised his data and found that home educated children were less likely to be abused than those children who went to school. It is worth reading the submissions to the Education Select Committee (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmchilsch/memo/elehomed/contents.htm)

 

5. The reason why figures around the country, not just Kent, of children educated at home are increasing is because the school system is failing children in a massive way. Government own figures state than 1 in 5 children leave primary school functionally illiterate and innumerate. Secondary schools are failing their pupils as the CBI states that school leavers entering work don't have the required skills and knowledge base. Universities are complaining that students lack the skills to meaningfully undertake a degree. School is a one size fits all, factory model. It is not child-centred, indeed it is not even (as required by law) suitable according to age, ability and aptitude of the child. Then added to that are the 450,000 children bullied each week, not to mention the levels of exclusions. Local authorities should be hounding and harassing schools to find out why they aren't engaging their pupils and instilling a love for learning rather than branding children as trouble-makers and pushing them out into the streets. Schools should be addressing the issue of bullying in a zero tolerance way, making school a safe and secure place for all students, and lastly, local authorities should be realising that SEN is an extremely worrying issue and instead of trying to include children who need additional attention in classes that are already full and demand a lot of the teachers' time, they should be creating specialist schools, with staff with specialist training to provide these children with an education suitable to their needs, as the law requires them to do. Council expenditure should be placed where there is proven need, not where it is not wanted or needed!

 

6. As for children who are 'unknown', these are children who are unknown to the education department at KCC. They are not unknown to the NHS - GPs, health visitors, dentists, opticians, child benefit office, library staff, leisure centre staff, other home educating families and so on. As the duty of a child's education rests solely with the parent, it is only important for the parent to register with the LA to obtain a school place, if they wish to access state provision. Other than that there is no duty to notify or register.

 

7. The home education community in this county and country is extremely well networked. We provide support to each other in all areas. There are national and local groups for those with special needs, for those who wish to take exams, for those wanting to access Duke of Edinburgh awards or work experience, amongst a ton of other groups. In fact, because we receive not a penny and very little support from the LAs we have had to find solutions to meet the ever growing needs of our children and we do it very well. The education for our children comes from love, not a pay cheque, therefore we always seek out what is best for our children. The council might want to approach home educators and ask the questions you feel are pertinent - we will probably find the answer much quicker and alot cheaper. For instance, we have someone in the community who logs exam results and ages (many home educated children are doing GCSEs at 12 or 13 and getting fantastic results), we have someone else who keeps a record of what home educated adults are doing now. We are setting the best example to our children - not to rely on the state for things we can do for ourselves. We should be applauded, not hounded and harassed as we are continually experiencing.

 

8. As a taxpayer I am furious that money (that is being taken from other areas) is being spent on employing three people whose job will be to perform tasks that is outside of what is required of the LA to do by law. I wonder how other Kent taxpayers would feel about this expenditure for only 0.3% of the population?

 

9. Patrick Leeson, as you know, formerly worked for Ofsted where, no doubt, he participated in the 2010 report - Local Authorities and Home Education. This report, and its recommendations, has been condemned for showing a complete lack of understanding of the law and of home education not only by home educators but, more importantly, by the Education Select Committee! I have attached Graham Stuart MP's response. How is it that an unelected  council officer is allowed to construct council policy without involving stakeholders? It is the legal duty of the council to involve all stakeholders in the formulation of policy. Instead of seeking duties it does not have, maybe KCC should concentrate on fulfilling the duties it does have.

 

In order that you may be better informed when you receive the flood of correspondence from outraged home educators, local councillors and MPs, I have attached the following documents for your review and would be happy, along with other home educators, to meet with you to explain why we home educate and what we want from our public servants - namely and solely to adhere to the law.

 

Home educators welcome the opportunity to foster good relationships with the local authority. It is only through good relationships, trust and the provision of services that we do want that those families not known to the LA will feel comfortable to approach the LA. After listening to that meeting and reading the proposals, it would not surprise me if Kent home educators, known to the LA, decided to withdraw their co-operation with Kent County Council.If you really want to help children educated at home, you need to find out what our needs are before you try and offer services at the expense of our freedoms. Instead of asking yourselves how you can control us, you might be better off asking how, as our public servants, you can support us. I would urge you to convene a meeting with home educators here in Kent as soon as possible so that we can avert any further deterioration in relations.

 

KCC Responses to SG email 22012012

 

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