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SG Response to Mike Whiting - 220212

Page history last edited by Sarita 8 years, 5 months ago

FrontPage Individual Letters to and from KCC Response to SG from Mike Whiting - 130212

 

This is my response to Mike Whiting's letter - the one that was standardised.

 

 

Dear Mr. Whiting,

 

Thank you for response to my email, dated 22nd January, unfortunately it fails to address any of the serious concerns and questions I raised in my original email. However, I am more interested in three things:

 

My first question is:

 

How does the ELS POSC and the ELS justify expenditure and implementation of a policy that goes beyond their legal remit? KCC has no powers to implement a registration and monitoring scheme for home education and home educators are under no duty to comply. There has been no legislative changes to suggest that KCC powers have changed in this regard. KCC and the ELS team have been informed on many occasions - even by Tim Fox - that there is no statutory duty for registration and monitoring home education. Patrick Leeson's proposal document even states so in the introduction so why is he continuing to pursue this? Please could you provide all evidence you have that justifies such extension of powers.

 

Second question:

 

How is it that an unelected member of KCC, on an annual salary of £153,000, is able to get approval for a policy (and the resultant expenditure) that is so far out of KCC's legal jurisdiction, without properly educating the councillors whom he serves. He was fully aware of the proposal's legal implications - after all, the same recommendations were rejected in 2010 by government as not being within LA legal remit and a breach of civil liberties. This is an important question and needs to be answered.

 

In terms of availing yourselves of the right information before any meeting where you are supposed to scrutinise policy before endorsing it, you have no excuses. Children Educated at Home was on the agenda and supposed to be discussed in November, but this was put back until January. Surely this gives councillors, whose duty it is to scrutinise and make the right decisions, sufficient time to do some background reading, especially on what statutory duties you have and those you do not have. If council members do not have an educational background, then surely it is more important that they are up to speed on the subject matter as they are making decisions that affects people lives! Or maybe they should step down from the committee if they cannot find the time to avail themselves of the right information. 

 

You state that you take your responsibilities seriously and therefore make sure you "...gain a detailed understanding of the policies put to us...", so what happened this time? This appears to be more than a case of incompetent briefing. I would put it to you that your professional officers not only failed to inform you of the facts but it appears that they have sought to misinform the committee on what KCC's actual legal remit is, given their views. It also seems to me that on failing to understand the law around home education and in the absence of any experience with home educators, they are not qualified to draw up policy on elective home education.

 

It is unacceptable that elected councillors can conduct business in this way and there is a case to be answered here, in terms of acknowledging correspondence and replying properly to concerns posed. It speaks volumes that it takes one home educator to launch a formal complaint in order to get a response. Furthermore, your facile response is the same as, not only what you have sent to other home educators, but also identical to a response received by one home educator from Patrick Leeson. This is insulting!! Yet nothing either of you have to say answers our questions or our call to be involved in policy formulation.

 

This leads me on to my third question:

 

Section 138 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 imposes such a duty on all local authorities to inform, consult and involve the people they serve in order to meet the needs and expectations of the citizens who use their services.

 

When is Patrick Leeson and the ELS team going to meet with home educators to draw up a new elective home education policy that adheres to primary legislation and government guidelines? Allowing us to comment on a finalised version is not good enough and patronising. We are directly affected by the policy that council members endorse and at this point in time home educators have very little trust in the council to adhere to the law.

 

With regard to the rest of your response, I feel you and the rest of the council have misjudged the situation. We are more than merely displeased - council members and Patrick Leeson have hugely underestimated the depth of ill-feeling that you have caused amongst the home education community.  The committee members have shown a lack of understanding of the issues at hand and have continued to feed this ill-feeling by not responding to our correspondence or by sending inappropriate and irrelevant responses and, more importantly, not responding to our call to be consulted. 

 

As far as the requests from some home educators for advice and support from KCC, well, that is what the council is there for. For those that wish to access council services, you are obliged to offer these. Tim Fox is required to do the things you state. No pat on the back for doing the job he's paid to do. I would be interested to know what the nature of those '20' requests were, whether they were from newly home ed parents or parents requesting information with a view to home educating  and what the actual daily rate of requests is. Once new home educating parents find other home educators they soon come to realise that we all support each other and share resources and planning without the help of the council. In reality, the council offers nothing of any true value to the vast majority of home educators, since you are not funded to do so. In fact, our experience from parents is that they would rather not deal with the council, that they manage just fine without visits, but feel like they have to have them in order to keep the peace or out of fear. 

 

Most newly home educating parents are not well informed about the law relating to home education, KCC does nothing to inform them of its true legal obligations and what its duties do not include (other than the point about financial support, which KCC is very quick to tell parents!!). Does ELS send the 2007 EHE Guidelines for LA to parents seeking more information on home education? Rather, it preys on the ignorance of newly home educating parents and takes advantage by wedging the proverbial foot in the door. It takes meeting up with other home educators for parents to realise that they are not beholden to the LA.

 

You state that "Mr Fox informs me that he receives positive feedback from parental surveys and that offering home visits is a long established practice in Kent and many other local authorities."  Just because a practice is long established, or that other local authorities do it,  does not mean that it is right, or legal, to do so. KCCs home education policy has always been ultra vires - my complaints go back to 2008! There are local authorities who actively engage the home education community in formulating policy, holding joint support meetings for those wishing to access services and only offer visits for those who want them, all without strings attached. Why aren't you following their example, instead of following those LAs who are acting outside of their legal remit and trampling on people's civil liberties in the process?

 

Whilst on the subject of your established practice, are you aware of KCC's current policy? Did you know that EWO's carry out illegal, unannounced visits? Did you know that if people refuse the EWO visits, families have felt intimidated and forced to meet with Tim Fox? In other words, KCC requests 2 visits of home educating parents even before they have had a chance to settle in. This doesn't appear to be 'voluntary' to me or even in line with current government guidelines! And  that does not even cover the awful problems with KCC that parents with SEN children encounter.

 

There has been a failure to understand that what Mr. Leeson is proposing goes far beyond the 'offer' of services. There are many, many more home educators who home educate because they do not want, or need, any involvement from the state whatsoever. As it is our responsibility to cause our children to receive an education according to the principles laid out in S7 of the 1996 Education Act, KCC has no jurisdiction to actively seek out home educators, nor do you have any duties to ask that we register with you. We are not beholden to the State, in fact it is the other way around!  Please do tell me what statutory duties allow you to hold our information as home educators (a legal act), to share confidential information about children and their families who have done nothing wrong with other agencies without our consent? Who is sharing the information? Are they CRB checked? Are the people receiving the information CRB checked? Is consent requested from the parents prior to sharing the information? The existing behaviour of KCC with regard to EHE has to be called into question as should any further proposals to policy.

 

Referring us to Tim Fox for our queries and meetings also contributes to your misunderstanding of the situation - as I have shown before it is futile. Tim Fox does not formulate the policy. We want to meet and talk with Patrick Leeson and the team responsible for formulating elective home education policy in Kent.

 

Home educators in Kent are now growing very angry at all of this - our time is just as precious as yours. A lack of response to emails, a lack of engagement in the formulation of policy, response emails that fail to address our concerns and answer our questions are beginning to show us that KCC are unwilling to foster a positive relationship with home educators. A basic failure to understand that the local authority has no duty to "provide the best outcomes to the young people of this county", that it is solely the responsibility of parents to do so, is fuelling a lack of confidence in the council. I would like to remind you and other councillors that there is no duty placed upon home educators to comply with local authority policy. So far, "long established practice" has been enabled by home educators through co-operation and a certain willingness to forge positive relationships. However, since there is no duty to comply, and given that the council offers very little, if any, added value to the home education experience of our children, I would imagine that home educators will now be considering whether to continue to co-operate with the council given that we are being treated with such disrespect. 

 

My point about Graham Badman was to raise council members' awareness of government's reluctance to introduce any registration and monitoring scheme for EHE, given that it is not the duty of the State and LAs possess sufficient powers to act if it appears that suitable education is not taking place. His recommendations were never endorsed by the previous or the current governments. We know he was not employed by KCC during the review, yet KCC interim EHE policy reflected his recommendations even before they were put in a legislative Bill! 

 

Mike, I would hope that you will now answer my pressing questions and I expect to hear from Patrick Leeson, within the week, regarding a range of dates that he could meet with home educators to formulate the new policy with us.

 

Yours sincerely,

Comments (1)

Maire Stafford said

at 1:45 pm on Feb 23, 2012

Julie Bunker has posted a questionnaire sent to Worcester Home edders in order to disabuse the council of its delusions about the feelings of home edders to its intrusions and visits. I will put it on Kent group.

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