Launch of the Association of Elective Home Education Professionals Part 3
Second Set of Questions
- Encouragement and validation helps families
- Philips versus Brown: discuss
- Where are our powers if there is a Child Protection Plan or a Child In Need Plan? We work with these families on a daily basis.
Lord Lucas: You have the powers already. Anyone asking for a change to the law has to put serious recommendations forward. We can all quote stories either of extreme child abuse within the family and not saved by the state or conversely of child cruelly ripped from the parent by the state.
Graham Stuart says up to group to do what they want (“it’s yours now”) but he would like them to work on issues around money and research, never mind the highbrow debate, what about practical issues and work on the ground. The association should move carefully in a considered way, thrash out the issues, and come to agreement on key points. He will back them if he thinks they are right. He tells them you have to be relentlessly persistent and thorough if you are serious about winning your campaign.
GS on Phillips versus Brown. Guidance says what the law is. P vs B mentioned in the Guidelines, but it is more than 35 years old.
Daniel Monk: P vs B is an old case heard in the lower court but nonetheless is one of the very few court cases which mentions home education and therefore is useful, especially because it deals with “if it appears”. Are you justified in having concerns if you have no information. Guidelines selectively quote it 3 times saying “sensible to do so.” You need to look at the case in its entirety, other bits could be quoted. DM says people always quote selectively to make the point they want to make, and then adds yes it might be considered suspicious if no information is given.
Stephen Bishop wonders if it’s sensible to be a lobbying group. May be able to achieve change in next parliament. Counsels the association “pick your battles”. There is no money to spare so they are unlikely to get more if they ask. Might be a better approach to go for effective use of resources instead.
SB on Philips versus Brown: if government put in all the extra quotes, it would simply reinforce the point that local authorities are able to make enquiries. But guidelines aren’t law. They are no more valid than what Daniel says.
Graham Stuart demurs: surely government guidelines are more weighty than what Daniel says?! Must support minorities. DM agrees.
Third Set of Questions
- Grace period [what used to be referred to as “cooling off period”] on deregistration (this question was mostly misunderstood and answered as a different question)
- Argument for not separating safeguarding and education
- Reasons and motives for home education very varied. Fewer making philosophical choice but more unresolved issues with school. Pressures applied by academies, earlier this week pre-prepared letters to be signed by family and school denies it. Increase in issues are Y10 and Y11. Very difficult to get that age group back into school.
Lord Lucas: Parents are unhappy, bruised. They need support and friendship. Don’t get into conflict. Help with their problems. Objective must be to approach with support not present more obstacles. Now everyone is together they can communicate weith each other and find out the real extent of the problem. Make a case by shared knowledge.
Stephen Bishop: there are concerns about actions of academies and other schools. Department knows of these issues. National body can put together a case not anecdotes, need figures. Association would need to put comprehensive case forward.
Daniel Monk interprets period of grace question as what might be called “settling in period” and says there is some leeway in the law. Parent can’t be expected to do it all straight away, that’s not realistic. Families should be allowed time to benefit from advice from the LA first he says. Tension around delay matters greatly because short time is longer in life of child than adult.
DM on safeguarding and education question: difference between conflating and cross-referencing. DM says that ALL the reports of things going wrong don’t show more law needed, but rather procedures and referrals are at fault. Must refer to proper agencies.
DM says need research about what’s going on in schools, not just anecdotes.
Graham Stuart: perverse incentives for schools to get rid of perceived difficult pupils. It’s been going on for years. Pre printed deregistration letter is scandal. Schools under pressure. Asks for survey (which he says is harder to word than you think.) Echoes points made by previous speakeres; do the research in order to gain insight as a preparation for taking action.
Fourth Set of Questions
- Parents don’t really choose, they are forced into it. Then they want child back in school but it’s hard to get them back in. Can child always go back to the school they came out of?
- Fiona: what is the influence of Ofsted on policy and practice? 2/3 Ofsted reports since start of 2014 mention home education in a safeguarding context.
- Children removed from school to attend unlisted faith school, should we treat them as home educated?
- How do we know if there’s a problem, if they don’t tell us anything?
Stephen Bishop re Ofsted: As it happens the Department has discussed very recently with Ofsted about how home education is viewed as safeguarding issue in reports. DfE has had representations from various quarters. Ofsted is now reviewing how it presents this issue to inspectors.
SB: unlisted schools aren’t home education, instead the child is attending an unregistered school. . Proprietor may be committing an offence. Parental duty to secure education but parents may well think they ARE doing so. Local authorites can draw the Department’s attention to the issue so DfE can try and do something about it.
SB on period of grace (again interpreting as “settling in period”) Support and respect parents on home education. It’s a judgement call for local authorities. DFE thinks period of grace is reasonable. 1 week clearly not reasonable! But how long is too long? No one single answer – officers should be aware that they may have to defend their decision in court if they proceed to a School Attendance order.
Daniel Monk: Not clear about what faith schools have to provide so nothing specific to add. Unregistered schools “don’t exist in law”. DM on what do you do if you know nothing? Ultimately court must decide. For officers it’s a case by case decision and you can’t generalise.
Dave Harvey: Hampshire had Ofsted in. Ofsted were interested in procedures and processes. Ofsted rated them outstanding overall. Jenny Dodd said in Staffordshire Ofsted also wanted to know what they did.
Lord Lucas: he put memo into Ofsted recently to say don’t conflate EHE and safeguarding. LL on unregulated schools: if it’s happening and common and people don’t know what to do, maybe local authorities can bring a case against unregulated school. National body can tell politicians what needs to be done.
LL: if someone isn’t communicating, the authority can ask for information but can’t assume that they aren’t educating, and should only pursue if there are concerns; use your professional judgement. This point was clarified with the author afterwards as meaning judge when to take further action if you have no information about provision, rather than “judge the provision with no information.”
Dave Harvey concluding remarks: sharing good practice. As an association we want to support parents. Some home educators are very suspicious; we want to reach out to them.
[Edited March 6th to add link to Phillips vs Brown and what Lord Donaldson said]