I heard that Graham Badman had promised to read any individual submissions that were no longer than one side of A4. As it seems he will not, personally, see each completed questionnaire, I though it was worth sending something. I sent the following to the team:
I should like to submit the following to the team conducting the review into home education.
My partner and I have been home educating our two children since September 2004. Our children are now aged eleven and nine.
Our children’s education is autonomous and we do not differentiate between learning and life. This is, as I am sure you are aware, the case for a great many home educators in this country. We are lucky enough to live in Brighton, which has a large and thriving community of home educators and much of our children’s time is spent outside of the home. We are confident that our children are being educated in accordance with the law.
The role of the local authority in our children’s lives is primarily that of a service provider and this is the way we would like it to remain. Our children make extensive use of public parks, swimming pools, libraries and museums. These things are invaluable to us as a home educating family. However, it would be fair to say that the local authority’s EOTAS (education otherwise than at school) department is largely irrelevant to our lives – except as an occasional irritant. Our daughter chose to come out of school at the age of seven (after three years of schooling) and we accepted one visit from the local authority. It was clear to us that this visit was not being conducted as a service to our child or our family. While I do not mean this as a criticism of the individual employed by the local authority to conduct such visits, it was clear that the visit was essentially an inspection and a test. Since that time we have chosen to send written reports to our local authority and have declined any further visits.
We have been fortunate in the fact that our local authority has not questioned our right to decline a visit by a member of their staff. This is not always the case in this city – or across the country. The guidelines published by the DCSF in 2007 are not being followed by many local authorities, who prefer to create their own interpretations of the law. I am sure that many other home educators have been able to give you examples of this. I think it is high time that the current situation was changed. I would suggest that the guidelines issued in 2007 be re-issued as statutory guidance. These guidelines were largely positively received by home educators and contain valuable advice to local authorities on their role.
I understand that part of the concern that has led to this review has related to safeguarding. I do not assume that all home educated children are necessarily always thriving. Support services may be needed by home educating families as much as by any other. However, ignorance of the legality of home education and the way it works in practice is widespread in many of these services. If home educating families could believe that they would not be met with suspicion and ignorance when they access support services, more may well do so. At the moment, there is often woeful ignorance, which I have heard reported by many friends and on national email lists. Training for social services, health services and, of course, education staff should include information about home education. If local authorities run services that offer support to families and children then they should be marketed to home educating families as well as to families whose children attend school. I would be more than happy to see home educated children considered in the publicity for everything from summer sports courses to help lines and advice services. I must admit that I find it frustrating that local authorities are usually more than ready to assume the role of inspector (a role they do not have in law) and simultaneously reluctant to fulfil their role as service provider to all sections of the local population, including home educators.
It is probably not as good as it could have been was I less pre-occupied with our roof and other things. But I got a very polite response assuring me it would be read by Graham Badman, so I'm glad I sent something. It is what I would genuinely like to see, which I think we should be putting to the review team. You can bet that the LAs who are pushing for change are not hesitating to present their wish-list.