Monday, July 03, 2006

Reply from Jim Knight on Education (pupil registration) regulations

Covering letter from my MP:
Further to our previous correspondence, I now enclose a letter I have received from Jim Knight, the Minister of state for Schools, about the proposed revisions to the Education (pupil registration) regulations.

The attached will be self-explanatory and I trust you will find it of interest. However, if there are any further points you would like me to raise with the minister, I hope you will not hesitate to get in touch with me again.

Letter to my MP from Jim Knight:
Thank you for your letter of 12 June 2006 enclosing correspondence from Fiona Berry of (my address) about the proposed revisions to the Education (Pupil Registration) regulations. She is concerned about the possible impact of the changes on parents who would to educate (sic) their child otherwise than at school.

First, it may be helpful if I explain that we are planning to revise the Regulations, which have been in place since 1985 (with subsequent amendments) to make them easier for local authorities and schools to use; to clarify one or two ambiguities in them; and to bring them up-to-date. We therefore carried out a full public consultation on the review of the Regulations which ran between September and December 2005. Responses were received from a range of organisations and individuals including those with an interest in home education.

Mrs Berry expresses concern that we “appear” to be introducing two-day delay in deleting children who are to be educated at home from the school registers. What we are planning is to introduce a requirement that schools give local authorities advance notice of when a child is to be deleted for this reason. I do not believe that this will in practice cause a delay between the child leaving school and being deleted from the register. In most cases schools will be aware that the children are leaving before they do so; either because a school is waiting for parents to confirm verbal notification in writing or because they have given their school advance warning of the withdrawal. This will give schools ample opportunity to advise their local authority of the deletion before a child leaves and the deletion becomes necessary.

On those occasions where the parents do not give the school advance notice that they are withdrawing their child there will be a short delay. This is simply to allow time for the school’s notice to reach the local authority and the length of the delay will depend on the method used to give it. The guidance that will accompany the regulations reminds schools that they must send the notice immediately and allow reasonable time for it to arrive. The example in the guidance is that they should allow two days for a letter to arrive by post. This will not affect the parent’s ability to educate their child at home: the requirement is solely concerned with the school notifying the authority of the child’s withdrawal and deletion from the register. Nor is their (sic) any intention that the authority will have to “approve” the parent’s wish to educate their child at home or the school’s deletion of that pupil from the register.

I should explain that one of the reasons that we have introduced the requirement for schools to notify their local authority of deletions in these circumstances is the concerns raised by home educators’ groups and others about parents being persuaded to withdraw their child in order to avoid either exclusion or prosecution for poor attendance. We believe that the requirement for advance notice will discourage the practice and allow local authorities the opportunity to offer support to those parents who want it.

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.

Another reason is our belief that some decisions, such as those made in the circumstances that I outlined above and disputes between parents and school, are made in the heat of the moment. A gap between the parents advising the school of the withdrawal and the deletion, whether before the child leaves or after, will allow parents to re-consider their decision and, if they wish, change their minds before the child loses their school place.

Mrs Berry also expresses concern that we are changing the regulations in relation to the deletion of children with special needs. I can confirm that we are not changing the regulations in relation to children with special needs.

We have no intention to change the right of parents to educate their children outside the school system. Nor do we intend introducing further requirements for English local authorities to approve parents’ decisions to withdraw their children from school in order to educate them at home. The proposed regulations are explicit that it is mandatory for the school to delete the child from the registers in these circumstances and place no requirements on the local authority to acknowledge the advance notice. Indeed, the accompanying guidance makes it clear that schools should not wait for an acknowledgement.

Mrs Berry asks about the Parliamentary procedure associated with making the new Regulations. Our intention is to present them to the House in the normal way in July and subject to the wishes of parliament for them to come into force on September 1, 2006.

I hope this is helpful and reassures Mrs Berry on her points of concern.


4 comments:

concerned home educator said...

Hello,

this answer confirms some of the concerns expressed to the DfEs about the proposed regulations.

Jim knight says, "On those occasions where the parents do not give the school advance notice that they are withdrawing their child there will be a short delay. This is simply to allow time for the school’s notice to reach the local authority and the length of the delay will depend on the method used to give it."

There are three points I would like to make about this. The first is that there is no requirement in law that notice to the LEA should occur before deregistration can be permitted. The law places this decision with the parent and not the school or LEA and it is not therefore the place of the LEA, nor is it fair or fitting for the LEA to use their public office to rule out the possibility of deregistration for home education for any period to suit their administrative reasons.

Secondly, the introduction of a delay undermines and interferes with the primary and lawful duty of a parent to make what provision they think is suitable 'either by regular attendance at school or otherwise' by keeping the child's name on the register in opposition to the parent's lawful decision concerning the provision of education to the child according to the law.

And third, in the extracts from guidance drafts that I have read from David Fletcher of the DfES schools are told that they should not unreasonably delay notifying the LEA, and that they are also not allowed to delete the child from the school roll until they have notified the LEA and allowed a time for the notification to be received. This is not a two day delay, but permission from the DfES to introduce longer delay in deregistration for the purpose of home education as long as it is considered reasonable. This is an interference of the state in the lawful responsiblility of the parent as written into the primary legislation, and puts parents into a dubious legal position with reference to the child being a registered pupil in a school. The DfES has also been offered evidence of LEAs already illegally introducing delays and using this time to misinform, harrass and abuse families; some of whom have already suffered at the hands of the state school system.

Jim Knight also writes that there is no intention that the authority will have to “approve” the parent’s wish to educate their child at home, however, he goes on to say that there is a minority of parents who do not home educate well and, in the context of advance warning of deregistration for home education says, "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."

How is the intention to intervene in the provision of home education by some families on the grounds that the education might be prejudged to be unsuitable not an intention to deny the right to home education to some parents and interfere in their potential home education provision? The LEA has a duty to intervene *only* where they already have cause to believe that the educational provision for a child who is already being home educated is not suitable; and not by a pre-emptive judgement about educational provision before it takes place. In fact, case law allows for a suitable time for an education to be put into practice before an LEA should expect to make informal enquiries. These comments from Mr Knight can only be seen as reflecting an attempt of officials of the state in the DfES, LEAs and schools to limit and deny the right to home educate to some parents who are deemed unacceptable, and doing this by the misuse of the powers of public office.

The final issue I would like to take up with this mail from Jim Knight is his disgusting admission that the authorities would rather see a family where the children are already in trouble with their schooling for truanting prosecuted, with the possible fining or imprisonment of the parent, than to allow the family to exercise their right to home educate their child! Given that these children are not benefitting from their schooling and are voting with their feet to get away from it, and taking into account the increasing reports of children desperately trying to escape bullying in schools or otherwise suffering even to the point of committing suicide in order to escape, it is horrifying that the state will collude in denying these children a remedy that could literally save their lives.

It is my belief that this introduction of a delay in the deregistration of a child for home education is against the interests of children and families, not in line with primary education legislation and a misuse of government against the rights of the people.

Yours sincerely
Mrs. Stark

fionna pilgrim said...

When JK says, they want to make the regulations easier for schools and LEAs I wonder what they think they could find that is easier that syaing deregister from when you receive notification and inform the authorities.

I would also be interested to know which are the one or two ambiguities he refers to in the current legislation and what is not "up-to-date" about them. Unnecessary updating is just busywork--they do that all the time in school.

Then he is wriggling about voicing weasel words when he talks about in practice there won't be any delay because parents will have given advance notive verbally and this advance notice will be given to the LA when the parents verbally inform and will be dealtwith by the time the letter of confirmation from the parent arrives.

So he's saying that, instead of deregistering the child and then notifying the LA, it has to be done the other way round, except that not everyone is going to subject their child to being in school once the school has been informed they are educating otherwise, so formal notification and removal of the child will leave them still on the register but absent until the LA has been informed? But that comes very close to implying that we need permission; despite the "Nor is their (sic) any intention that the authority will have to “approve” the parent’s wish to educate their child at home or the school’s deletion of that pupil from the register".

I can see that the LA might wish to address the possibility that a school with a child they find difficult or who might potentially damage their SATs scores could push a parent into taking the HE option against their will to avoid prosecution, that is not the issue of home educators and, if the parent takes this up with the LA, even if they have been bullied into removing their child and the place has been reallocated, we all know that the LA has the power at its disposal to find a child a place in a full school should they think it necessary, and the fact that it happened is their issue to prevent in future, rather than upskittling a system that works already.

He talks about HE groups being involved in their consultation period as if that is all that is required to give those most closely affected a voice in the matter. We are now voicing our opinions on the outcome of that consutation, and we don't agree with it. Just because they spoke to HEors in that period does not mean they took their ideas on board.

Fionna Pilgrim 11.09

Clare Murton said...

I have today learned that Jim Knight is the Minister who signed (made) the new Statutory Instrument.

With opinions such as those he has expressed to Fee's MP, it is no surprise that the delay IS to be included DESPITE Mr Peter Baldwinson of DfES, Manager of Mr David Fletcher, today writing to me that there is definitely not to be a delay (and contradicting himself in the same letter).

I am exasperated by the stubborn refusal of these men to trust the reasoned opinion of experienced home educators about the dangers inherent in a legally sanctioned delay in deregistration.

Clare Murton

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