Monday, July 03, 2006

My thoughts on DfES reply

Dear Alex,
Thank you for your letter and the attached reply from Jim Knight, Minister of State for Schools, in reference to my recent enquiry about changes to the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations. I am afraid that I found the information contained in this letter far from reassuring, and I hasten to make a renewed request for
information on how the changes to the deregistration of pupils can be halted.

This is my personal reply to the letter: I am also soliciting views from home education support groups and mailing lists all over the country - many of whom have written to their own MPs to express concern. I will certainly make you aware of the feedback that I have from other people over the next few days.

As you know my original concern was that the two-day delay was being introduced in order to "approve" or "disapprove" the applications to home educate. While denying that this is what is happening, the reply from Mr Knight appears to confirm that suspicion:

"Whilst we accept that the majority of parents who educate their children at home do so well, there is a small minority who do not. It is important that local authorities are able to intervene as early as possible to protect these children’s education. The requirement for advance notice of the deletion ensures that the
authorities are aware of such cases and, only where necessary, are able to intervene."

Does this not sound as though the school and the LEA are going to collaborate in order to make a judgement about whether or not a parent is able to home educate? Does it seem likely that "intervene as early as possible to protect these children's education" means anything else?

It seems to me that it is common for the DfES and the LEA to take the view that a middle-class and well-educated parent IS capable of home educating their children, and that a parent of lower socio-economic class and education is not. Despite a lot of good research showing the contrary, that home educated children from all socio-economic groups, but especially those with a lower level of education do better than their schooled counterparts, the authorities seem to be dividing parents into the deserving and the undeserving of their legal right to home educate. If his letter can be read in any other way, I would be glad to hear another interpretation.

The law of England is very clear that it is parents, and not LEAs or the DfES who are responsible for the education of their children. Parents are responsible for their children's education, whether the child is schooled or educated at home, and I deplore the way that the government continually fiddles with guidance and regulations in order to make it seem that this is not the case.

I am appalled by the idea that a home education group or any other, would think it is right that a family with poor attendance should be prosecuted and jailed rather than learn of their right to home educate. If school were a universally successful education solution for the children and young people of the UK, then perhaps I
would understand the zeal with which the authorities try to prevent the people of this country from learning of their right to opt out of it. If Mr Knight requires supporting information for the efficacy and efficiency of home education, even when parents may not have a high level of education themselves, I will be pleased to
supply it.

I am seriously alarmed by the idea that the DfES thought, after several months of consultation over this legislation, that this measure would be a good idea, and that home educators would be in favour of it. It will confuse headteachers, LEAs and parents far more than the current arrangement of immediate deregistration, the potential "intervention" of the LEA will have no basis in law, and I honestly believe it will be a retrograde step for the relationship of home educators and the authorities.

If it is possible to object to this going into the statutory instrument before it is laid before parliament, I would ask you to ask Mr Knight how this can be done. I am prepared to come to Westminster to make my concerns plain in person, if necessary.
Yours sincerely
Fiona Berry
As from

1 comment:

Carlotta said...

Well said and many congrats too. At last, you have extracted an admission of intent, and how interesting that this comes couched with flat denials that this intention is indeed the case.

Will step back into the breach and pursue this with my MP once more.

Will also be linking here with interest.