So, what can the review do for you?
Since we ran the poll on Tuesday (current results: 3 for; 313 against) we've had another piece of good news (thank you Tracy for passing it on): Dr Alan Thomas and Professor James Conroy ("The danger of undermining parents through a culture of suspicion is politically and socially injurious, It’s bizarre to pathologise others purely because they are other.") will be meeting Graham Badman as part of the Home Education Review. So now three members of the panel of 'experts' (many more and I shall have to drop the inverted commas) know something about elective home education, which does slightly beg the question: what are the other five who don't going to talk about? But let's not look a gift horse in the mouth. I will run another poll on our confidence in the review system when there are at least two more real experts in Elective Home Education on board to see whether our views have changed. (I'm ignoring the involvement of Mr Arthur Ivatts [opens pdf] as I think, sadly, that's the only thing you can do with someone who could put his name to such a document.)
But in formulating the précis on our specific problems with the five outcomes on Wednesday, and then my own answers to the six questions yesterday, it occurred to me that in the context of the encroaching ECM framework [opens pdf], this review could actually do us some good.
I think we need to look at it from the point of view of the average Local Authority employee. (And by this I don't mean the Tony Mooneys of this world, who seem unable to believe that learning could possibly be an enjoyable - let alone a voluntary - experience and who want to make it their mission to prevent us from proving them wrong.) I mean the majority of workers who are just trying to do their job without getting into trouble. Their lives have suddenly become profoundly more difficult due to the extra burdens of apparent responsibility being placed on them by DCSF. They are now being held responsible for not only the health and safety, but the enjoyment, achievement, positivity, contribution and economic wellbeing of every single child in their catchment area! I can't think how any of them are managing to sleep at night. And it's not even as simple as the imposition of a few abstract concepts, because there is nothing abstract about these five outcomes. Each one is but the tip of a honeycomb of intricate and sometimes legally binding pdf documents and a swarm of statistical indicators and I imagine that financial inducements and penalties will be attached to performance measured by these.
When you look at it that way, it's quite easy to see why some Local Authorities are calling for the position regarding Elective Home Education to be further clarified. Many of the ECM documents and parts of the framework itself rely on school attendance to allow aims to be met, which is in direct conflict with Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act, in which our right to EHE is enshrined, as well as national and international human rights legislation. These should be changed to reflect the lawful existence of other kinds of education: the 'enjoy and achieve' outcome is a particular case in point.
PSA 14 [opens pdf] about the 'Path to Success' contains the following phrase:
8. ensuring there are robust systems in place for the identification of, and interventions for, young people who do not attend school.
Perhaps the authors of this document had truants and other troubled youngsters in mind rather than children in receipt of elective home education, but the use of the word 'interventions' here regarding young people who do not attend school appears to create a confusing conflict with the Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities [opens pdf] which state:
2.7 Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis.
(I plan to write again tomorrow about the negative effects of Local Authority monitoring on our children's education.) This confusion could and should be alleviated by changing the word 'school' in PSA 14 to 'full-time education' and the same remedy could be employed to every other similar problematic reference to school throughout the framework and associated documents, all of which I haven't yet read.
The other difficulty with the ECM framework and associated documents is the repeated use of the terms 'all children' and 'every child'. Yes, every child does matter of course (especially, in most cases, to his or her parents) but all children do not legally have to be obtaining qualifications - some might be quite gainfully employed in other equally valid educational activities. And not all children have to attend Extended Schools and Children's Centres between 8am and 6pm every day - some might have alternative activities planned at home or elsewhere with their parents, or just be safely engaged in free play or study somewhere. It might perhaps be a relatively easy matter to alter all of these references (and again, there will be many I haven't seen yet) to 'all schoolchildren' and 'every schoolchild'. The whole concept is deeply flawed for every child and family in my opinion, but there should at least be an opt-out written into this very one-sided framework of contracts to protect Local Authorities as much as children and parents.
If the review really is a genuine attempt to provide clarity and to resolve the concerns of Local Authorities whilst also being of help to home educating families, then recommendations along these lines would be a good start.