what we now know about AEHEP

A meeting was held in Stafford on April 24th with some members of the AEHEP committee and some home education representatives including Education Otherwise and HE-Special. Official notes of the meeting can be found here and views from one of the participants can be read here.

Correspondence about the AEHEP is here To read related blog posts about AEHEP, click here.

6 weeks or so before the meeting I announced that I had received an invitation to meet the AEHEP committee and some home education representatives in Stafford. Jane Lowe from the Home Education Advisory Service confirmed that HEAS had also received an invitation. Anne Rix from Education Otherwise said she had received an invitation but it wasn’t known who would actually be going from EO. Tricia Farey from HE-Special said she had secured an invitation.

It became known that there were several home education representatives who had been invited but who didn’t want their names to be shared before the meeting.

People didn’t know what they would ever find out about who had been at the meeting or what had been discussed. It was also not really known why the meeting was being held.

I said at the end of March that I had sent apologies and couldn’t be at the meeting. I inferred that the main purpose of the meeting was a get to know you session.

A few days before the meeting it was announced that Jonathan Adams and Anne Rix would be going from Education Otherwise. Mike Fortune Wood (now Mike Wood) also confirmed at this point that he had been invited. (Incidentally, the Elective Home Education Guidelines referred to by Mike Wood in the previous link are not the 2007/2013 Government Guidelines, but earlier Guidelines which were compiled by home educators in 1999)

It was not publicly known how many LAs would be at the meeting or who the LA representatives would be – except it was taken for granted that Jenny Dodd would be there as Chair of AEHEP and because the meeting was to be held in Stafford.

When the agenda was circulated shortly before the meeting (without saying who was attending) some people had the impression that notes would not be published at all, only ‘action points’, while others thought that there would be notes, but not a lot of detail.

Shortly after the meeting Alison Sauer said on Facebook that she had attended the meeting.

It became known that the meeting had been held under the Chatham House Rule and there was some debate as to who had instigated this. It also became known that there would in fact be official notes from the meeting, not just action points. I expressed the view that CHR doesn’t mean that information can’t be shared, only that the views expressed cannot be attributed.

A few days after the meeting Tricia Farey posted some notes to HE-Special which she agreed could be shared more widely. I put these notes on my blog. The notes were CHR-compliant in that they did not say who had been at the meeting, and stated what had been said but not who said it except when reporting what the author herself had said.

6 days after the meeting I received the official notes and action points from the secretary of the AEHEP which I checked and was told that I could share. I put these on my website. I haven’t yet seen them published elsewhere.

The official notes and action points filled in a few gaps.

Irrespective of what people had guessed or assumed, this was the first official confirmation that Wendy Charles Warner had been invited to the meeting.

The official notes showed that Jane Lowe from HEAS was not at the meeting.

The official notes do not state in what capacity people were attending the meeting but it is billed as ‘AEHEP and EHE Support Groups’. It is a matter of public record that Tricia Farey is from He-Special, and that Jonathan Adams and Anne Rix are Trustees of Education Otherwise support charity.

The official notes reveal that there were only 3 members of the AEHEP committee at the meeting, namely Jenny Dodd from Staffordshire, Dave Harvey from Hampshire, and Penny Stephen from Hounslow. Dave Harvey whom we knew as Vice Chair is inferred now to be Joint Chair with Jenny Dodd since the official notes make reference to joint chairs taking items back to the committee.

(This is what we previously knew of the committee from the launch in February: “Each of the regional forums nominates 2 representatives to sit on the national committee, which was set to meet for the first time directly after the launch. Regional reps who were dispersed around the room then stood up and briefly introduced themselves. I didn’t catch all the names and will now ask for a list. The elected officers are Jenny Dodd, Chair, Dave Harvey Hampshire Vice Chair and Kevin Grant Bromley Secretary.” [Link])

Edited May 5th to add that it appears from a blog comment that Kevin Grant is no longer secretary and since the official notes were edited by Penny Stephen it may be inferred that Penny is either the new secretary or the new acting secretary.

From Tricia’s notes it seems that the next meeting of the AEHEP is in June. We can predict quite a lot of the agenda for the June meeting from the official notes:

    AEHEP’s revised Terms of Reference (constitution)
    Associate Membership for EHE support groups?
    Alternatives to Daniel Monk for training for LA EHE professionals?
    Contact details for committee members?
    Statement that it is not AEHEP’s intention to ask for a National Registration and Monitoring System?
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36 thoughts on “what we now know about AEHEP

  1. cyberjennifer

    Thank you for giving such a clear and as objective view as possible of the meeting. So often rumour abounds, but sometimes the facts can speak for themselves. It is worrying that some of the guests were not from organised EHE groups or charities, and I hope that the AEHEP will take this into consideration when debating whether to allow asocial membership for EHE support groups.

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    1. Fiona Nicholson Post author

      Sorry for the delay in approving this comment, I went out for a walk to see the bluebells when the weather cleared up here. I don’t know what the basis was for the invitations. I can’t imagine LAs agreeing to home educators having any type of Associate Membership, although having said that, Education Otherwise does offer Association and Organisation membership – as does Schoolhouse the Scottish charity – but that largely seems to consist of paying a premium rate subscription, rather than being able to see how decisions are made or influencing those decisions in any way. (AEHEP is not planning to charge a membership subscription for LAs)

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    2. Jennifer Downing

      The official report was scant and published on numerous online sites that I am aware of. It was agreed that nobody would publish anything else. That is why there are no other reports. I believe that most attendees expected the notes produced to be more full and informative than they were.
      Fiona chose not to attend. Had she done so she would of course be in a better position to comment. Although it is my experience that Fiona does not usually publish notes without the permission of those present.
      During the meeting the home educators present gave clear and valuable description to the LA staff present about why home educators are unhappy with what goes wrong. Suggestions were made of how that situation can be addressed and requests made that the ‘good’ LAs try to influence those who are non compliant with legislation and guidelines.
      Actions were suggested that should be taken to the AEHEP committee. These have been published as above.
      I am sure that there will be many rumours about the meeting but nothing that occurred was anything other than constructive. Every attendee who is HE was someone who provides regular support to home educating families and runs groups that do so.

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    1. Fiona Nicholson Post author

      No problem, it’s hard to get an overview sometimes when there are little snippets scattered about & people aren’t sure where they heard about something or if it’s OK to repeat it.

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  2. Arthur Tanner

    I was thinking that the Associate Membership thing might happen. This will leave the ‘Professionals’ i.e those who do not home educate, in charge of policy and direction whilst at the same time, pehaps give a little credence to their organisation. There will no doubt be a ‘Fellowship’ offered at some point. I am also intruiged by the use of the term ‘Support Groups’. Many of us are members of groups. The groups do offer support, but their primary objective is an opportunity for Home Educators to meet ( both the children and the parents). So, who or what are the support groups mentioned? And how do we go about gaining this recognition, or are we all in fact support groups?

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    1. Fiona Nicholson Post author

      Hi. At the moment the association is for people who work in local authorities with home educators. Are you saying that if home educators were invited to be Associate Members then this would be good for the Association? I don’t know who the support groups are, beyond Education Otherwise (registered charity and limited company, with paid subscription for members, disclaimer I am a former post-holder at EO) and HE-Special which is an internet support group. Maybe Mike Wood, Alison Sauer and Wendy Charles Warner went on behalf of internet support groups? Or maybe you don’t have to be a support group. I was also invited and I’m not ‘a support group’ although maybe I’m counted as one???

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      1. Dave H

        It’s a fairly vague description. “People who offer support to other home educators” might be a better term, given that those who attended, and Fiona, are people who get involved when an LA is out of line and try to sort them out when asked to do so by home educators. As such, they are people who are in a position to tell LAs what the LAs are doing wrong, having had the argument many times (and I think generally winning most of them). How many people are at the sharp end of daily or weekly dealings with the transgressions of LAs? If you’re applying your experience to help others then you probably qualify.

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      2. Arthur Tanner

        Hi, I am intruiged ( again) As far as I can see the >>people who work in local authorities with home educators<> Are you saying that if home educators were invited to be Associate Members then this would be good for the Association? <<
        Indeed it would be wonderful for this organisation of people who do not home educate to be able to claim that they do have the support of Home Educators and Home Education Support Groups ( AKA Wendy (Jennifier Downing) Charles Warner, Mike (Fortune) Wood et al). After all, having support groups on-board would 'prove' that AHEP was representative of those of us professionals that do indeed home educate, rather than people who claim to be Home Education Professionals with no experience, or those from an out-of-date and outmoded paradigm.
        I am wondrering whether commercial interests were declared at the meeting. After all anyone and anybody can claim to be a home educator, whether they are actually engaged in the home education of thier children or not, and there is no reason that these people cannot also claim to be running support groups.
        Similarly, having "Member of AHEP" as part of your name/image/logo (in a similar way to some people use the term para-legal) would add credence to the (dubious) value of commerrcial interests.

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      3. Fiona Nicholson Post author

        Thanks, Arthur. For what it’s worth, I personally don’t think there will be Associate Members. I don’t have any information to back that up though, it’s just a hunch.

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  3. Tracey

    My understanding is that the AEHEP was initiated for, and by, LA employees, presumably to share and co-ordinate information and work practice development in the area of Elective Home Education..? The use of the term ‘Professionals’ in their title has caused a degree of rancour amongst actual home-educators. It infers that the LA employees are the experts in the field – which is highly debatable – rather than being civil servants, often with only school-based experience or social welfare backgrounds. Not the best of starts.

    The inclusion of home-educators in the AEHEP could benefit it enormously. There is a huge reservoir of knowledge and experience that could be usefully tapped into. Similarly, input from home-educating families would help keep LAs on track, avoid them going down the route of ultra vires policies, and help positive relationships develop (to mutual benefit).
    But here’s the rub. Which home-educators? And what weighting would their presence be given? There isn’t truly one consensual group who can be engaged with, in terms of representatives. So, people invited to attend the AEHEP meetings in this context immediately put themselves up to be critiqued; damned if they go, damned if they don’t.

    I think, on balance, some home-educating presence is better than no presence. However the worth and credibility of that presence is absolutely dependent upon complete transparency. Otherwise it starts to give off an aroma of poacher turned gamekeeper (whatever the truth of the matter) which is of no benefit to anybody.

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    1. Fiona Nicholson Post author

      Hi Tracey, Yes I’m the only person I know who doesn’t have a problem with their using the word ‘professional’. To me it just means someone who gets paid, like a professional athlete. I can see that the committee might vote to invite home educators to some of their meetings, just as home education groups might invite members of the committee to some of THEIR meetings. (Of course we still don’t know who is on the committee and we won’t know till after June)

      I haven’t seen any reports from anyone else who was at the meeting except Tricia. I haven’t even seen the official report anywhere except where I shared it. Maybe I’m not going to the right places to find it, or maybe it’s not there.

      If I’m not going to the right places, does that mean it’s not ‘completely transparent’ or is it up to me to join the right groups (whatever they are)?

      I was also – perhaps naively – really shocked that all the home education reps got to see the draft Terms of Reference for the Association before the wider committee discussed them and possibly before any of the regional LA forums have seen them.

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      1. Phoenix

        I should think so. He didn’t say it was confidential. I can’t, however, divulge his reasons for resigning as that will be up to him to put out there.

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  4. Tracey

    Anything reported for the ‘information of membership groups only’ is not, in my opinion, transparent. It feeds both in-group cohesion and out-group paranoia at the cost of the greater good of all, and inevitably back-fires. Moreover, in this case we are talking about dealings with the public sector, so whatever is discussed will at some point be subject to scrutiny.

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    1. Dave H

      I get the impression that those who attended were expecting a much better report to be produced at the end than what actually appeared. Hopefully this will made much clearer by anyone from the home education community who attends future meetings.

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  5. Fiona Nicholson Post author

    Thanks. That’s sad about Kevin. Tracey, I don’t know if things ARE being reported to closed groups. I’m just trying to make sense of the apparent dearth of public information.

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  6. Mike Wood

    As i understand it the reason there are no alternative notes is that people didnt keep any because that was what we were asked prior to the meetng. I had expected official notes to be produced. What was prodced were a little short of detail but not having kept notes, it was something of a done deal. I know i didnt keep any, but then being dysslexic, i tend not to in any detail. On the other hand ive answered any questons asked. Indeed im happy to continue to answer questions.

    I dont know why there might be a concern over who asked for CHB rules, it came from the chair. At no point did i ask for it and i was party to no conversation regarding it prior to the meeting. At the time i assumed it was from AHEP, at least in part because they were expecting to discuss a draft of their constitution although in the end that discussion was at best cursory.

    One thing i am curious about is why neither Fiona or HEAS found temselves able to send any representatives to the meeting especially when they have been so close to the formation of the group and the cross party commitee from which it was born. I was surprised to see no one there, it was very unfortunate not to have more experienced representatives present, especially when they might have insights on AHEP that might have proved useful to us all.

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  7. Phoenix

    Has anyone actually seen any published minutes from the other side? It’ll be good to know that notes from all sides tie up.

    I still don’t understand the shroud of secrecy or the need for CHR. Are attendees that worried to publicly state their opinions and convictions? In my view, the meeting should have been an open session with as many interested home edders as possible and findings should have been published immediately. I am completely baffled at what is going on and/or allowed to go on.

    I asked KG about the REAL objective and purpose of the AEHEP and he said he would pass the request on and get back to me.

    Just to mention that he has also stepped down as chairman of the LHEO.

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    1. Fiona Nicholson Post author

      Hi Phoenix, possibly the LA people present will give verbal feedback to the wider committee at their next meeting in June, and also to their regional forums? Jenny Dodd is part of the Midlands forum and Penny Stephen is part of the LHEO. (More information about both here http://edyourself.org/articles/LAletters.php) I’m afraid I don’t know which regional forum Dave Harvey is from. As for the secrecy, the home education reps – with the exception of Tricia – seem to believe that their hands were tied?

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    1. Fiona Nicholson Post author

      Thanks! My comment “I think what you’re going to get a reaction to is the reference to “the proposed review of EHE guidance”. As far as I am aware this isn’t on the cards. Perhaps the impression was given when Stephen Bishop from DfE was asking for comments on the safeguarding aspects of the guidelines towards the end of last year?”

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      1. Phoenix

        This ‘proposed review’ hint was raised within earshot last year but then seemed to go away. I then couldn’t find any additional reference to the changes and my lea didn’t offer further clues. I’m surprised it still appears to be on the cards.

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    1. Phoenix

      In a response I received, it seems that some LEAs feel that Steven Bishop’s survey (following NSPCC’s concerns) necessitates “…clarifications of existing guidance and corrections to inaccuracies, updating, rewording in detail…” They’re obviously choosing to ignore the research that shows that home ed kids are relatively safer than schooled kids.

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  8. Pingback: pros and cons of ways to write up a meeting | edyourself

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