Home Educators’ opportunity to reply
to proposed excessive state interference

 

 

What is the consultation about?

  • The Department for Education (DfE) has proposed sweeping changes to the guidance it issues to Local Authorities with regard to home education.
  • These changes were drawn up with heavy consultation with Local Authorities but without any consultation with home educating families – the people it impacts the most.
  • Consequently the proposed new guidance is weighted heavily against the rights of home educating families and poses a serious threat to civil liberties and family life.
  • Now is our opportunity to challenge this and make the views of home educators known.

What is the Libertarian Party’s stance on home education?

The Libertarian Party respects parental responsibility for the education of children, as laid down in Section 7 of the Education Act 1996, and thus supports parents choice to home educate where they deem that appropriate without interference from the state.

We are keenly aware of the potential for state influence on children to become malignant, and hold that home education provides an important alternative for parents to choose when the state school system becomes a tool for propaganda rather than enlightenment.

‘One size fits all’ does not work and inclusion isn’t working for many Special Educational Needs (SEN) children. A significant number of SEN children are home educated because the state cannot cater to their needs.

Finally, we accept that where parents break the law and do not take responsibility for their children’s education, the state may have cause to intervene, but this power should not be unfettered or held without corresponding accountability. We point out that there are already laws in place to protect children under these and other circumstances. Local Authorities already have the power to investigate fully where they suspect an inadequate or non-existent education is taking place.

In this light our researchers, who are themselves home educators, have prepared answers to key consultation questions.

 

 

 

How can I reply to defend Home Education?

  • Our researchers, who are themselves home educators, have prepared answers to key questions in the consultation.
  • You can help by sharing this page.
  • If you are a home educator you can reply to the consultation and use our prepared answers to help you form your reply.
  • Please do not copy and paste as your reply may be filtered out, instead use our reply as a guide to help you.
  • Please note, our replies start at question 8 of the consultation. If you use our response to help you please take care to ensure you refer to our reply to the same question you are answering.

Consulation Question 8: How effective are the current voluntary registration schemes run by some local authorities? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of mandatory registration of children educated at home, with duties on both local authorities and parents in this regard?

Our reply:

  • We do not accept the premise that any registration of home educating families is a valid use of public money. The state should no more collect and hold data on the educational choices of private citizens than on their shopping habits or preferred mode of transport. If the local authority needs information on the children in its area for the purposes of planning future services, it should do this via local consultation rather than routine data gathering and it should never be compulsory.
  • A mandatory register would be not only a waste of money but a serious infringement on the right of citizens to conduct their lawful business without let or hindrance. Home education is not a crime, nor a public service, but the natural progression of parenthood. Parents should no more have to register their child’s home education status than their child’s home residence status.

Consultation Question 9: What information is needed for registration purposes, and what information is actually gathered by local authorities? Would it help the efficacy of these schemes, and the sharing of information between authorities, if there were a nationally agreed dataset or if data could be shared by national agencies, such as DWP or the NHS?

Our reply:

  • We do not agree with a mandatory registration scheme. In the light of the previous question, we further note that tracking down law-abiding citizens by sharing their data without consent is a completely unjustifiable infringement on their privacy. No data about the educational choices of citizens should be kept or shared without their explicit consent.

Consultation Question 10: Does experience of flexi-schooling and similar arrangements suggest that it would be better if the scope of registration schemes included any children who do not attend a state-funded or registered independent school full-time? If so, do you think that local authorities should be able to confirm with both state-funded and independent schools whether a named child is attending that school full-time?

Our reply:

  • A child on the roll of a school is not a home educated child and should not be counted as such. Schools have a legitimate interest in registering their pupils, as they have a duty of care for all students on site. The local authority does not have a legitimate interest in knowing the identities of those pupils, nor whether they attend on a part-time basis.

Consultation Question 11: Would the sanction of issuing a school attendance order for parental non-compliance with registration be effective, or is there another sanction which would be more useful?

Our reply:

  • Noting that we still do not accept the premise of registration, mandatory or otherwise, this suggestion is despotic. The idea that the state should apply a punishment to a child for the behaviour of their parents goes against the rule of law. Nobody should be punished for someone else’s misdeed.
  • Further, a school attendance order can be revoked by the courts on the grounds that the home education provided is suitable, which relates to the child’s needs rather than the parents’ compliance with registration. It would therefore be ineffective as well as unjust.

Consultation Question 12: What steps might help reduce the incidence of schools reportedly pressuring parents to remove children to educate them at home?

Our Repy:

  • The incentive for such pressure is to get rid of low performing or behaviourally challenging pupils without using permanent exclusion. In the former case, the main solution would be to reduce or eliminate the current emphasis on league tables, and in the latter case to make it easier for schools to exclude pupils who misbehave without incurring penalties. Ultimately this is a school/Ofsted problem, not family problem and should not be addressed within home education guidance.

Consultation Question 13: Is there an argument for some provision which allows a child to return to the same school within a specified interval if suitable home education does not prove possible?

Our reply:

  • If parents wish to negotiate with the school their child is attending to have the place kept open for a short period after they withdraw their child, that should be between the parents and the school. There should be no obligation imposed by the state on either party to agree to such an arrangement if they do not wish it.

Consultation Question 14: How effective is local authority monitoring of provision made for children educated at home? Which current approaches by local authorities represent best practice?

Our reply:

  • Local authorities have no legal grounds for engaging in monitoring of home educating parents or children. Best practice would be represented by authorities which do not engage in any monitoring, and only engage in any way if invited or if there is evidence a parent is breaking the law in regard to their educational duties under Section 7 of the Education Act 1996.

Consultation Question 15: If monitoring of suitability is not always effective, what Changes should be made in the powers and duties of local authorities in this regard, and how could they best ensure that monitoring of suitability is proportionate?

Our reply:

  • Monitoring should not be adopted, as it infringes on the civil liberties of citizens who are going about their lawful business on the basis of their making a perfectly legal and legitimate choice. This proposal is akin to asking about ‘proportionate’ monitoring of vegan parents to check they are not starving their children. Unless and until evidence comes to light suggesting that the law has been broken, the state has no justification for intruding on the private lives of the citizens in its jurisdiction.
  • Current Local Authority powers are more than adequate and are often abused. Giving more powers would be redundant. Paragraph 5.3 causes us great concern: “…it is for each local authority to decide what is necessary proportionate…” as it is the experience of many home educating families that Local Authorities currently do not act reasonably or proportionately and regularly act ultra vires which causes distress to the families involved.

Consultation Question 16: Should there be specific duties on parents to comply with local authorities carrying out monitoring if such LA powers and duties were created, and what sanctions should attach to non-compliance?

Our reply:

  • We do not agree to routine monitoring but in the event that injustice of monitoring was to be adopted, and all home educators were to be treated as suspects, home educating parents should not be obliged to comply with their own oppression. When being investigated by the police, nobody is obliged to assist in their investigation. It would be equally unjust to punish home educating parents for failing to co-operate with an investigation into their educational provision as to punish a suspect for choosing to remain silent during questioning. We also believe that monitoring and registration of home educating families would stigmatise those families.

Consultation Question 17: Is it necessary to see the child and/or the education setting (whether that is the home or some other place), in order to assess fully the suitability of education, and if so, what level of interaction or observation is required to make this useful in assessing suitability?

Our reply:

  • It is not necessary to see a child in any setting to assess fully the suitability of their education, nor is that a legitimate activity for the authorities to undertake. In the event that a local authority receives evidence that the education of a home educated child is unsuitable, it is for them to let the parents provide evidence to the contrary of their choosing, and then decide on the balance of the probabilities whether the education appears suitable in light of the evidence provided. Full assessment of suitability is functionally impossible due to the depth of knowledge of the individual child and near omnipotent foresight necessary to make such an assessment, even if it was a legitimate thing to attempt.

Consultation Question 18: What can be done to better ensure that the child’s own views on being educated at home, and on the suitability of the education provided, are known to the local authority?

Our reply:

  • Local authorities have no right to seek the opinions of children on their education. Educational responsibility lies with parents, not the state. Additionally, children are under no obligation to express their views on anything to strangers, and should not be placed under pressure to do so by agents of the state.

Consultation Question 19: What are the advantages and disadvantages of using settings which are not registered independent or state schools, to supplement home education? How can authorities reliably obtain information on the education provided to individual children whose education ‘otherwise than at school’ includes attendance at such settings as well as, or instead of, education at home?

Our reply:

  • Home education necessarily occurs in settings other than state or independent schools, that is what the term refers to – not only education provided literally in the residence of the child in question and nowhere else. The state has no just cause to “reliably obtain information on the education provided to individual children whose education ‘otherwise than at school’ includes attendance at such settings as well as, or instead of, education at home” since educational provision is the responsibility of each individual child’s parents.
  • Different settings will have different advantages and disadvantages, and the variety of places education can take place are too numerous to list, but the state has no business seeking information about the education provided in any of them, as it has no business monitoring home education in the first place. If and only if there is evidence that the education provided is unsuitable in some way may the local authority be presented, at the parents’ discretion, with information about the settings in which the education of their children takes place.

Consultation Question 20: What are the advantages and disadvantages of using private tutors to supplement home education? How can authorities best obtain information on the education provided to individual children whose education at home includes private tuition, or whom attend tuition away from home?

Our reply:

  • See the response to question 19 (repeated below for convenience)
  • Home education necessarily occurs in settings other than state or independent schools, that is what the term refers to – not only education provided literally in the residence of the child in question and nowhere else. The state has no just cause to “reliably obtain information on the education provided to individual children whose education ‘otherwise than at school’ includes attendance at such settings as well as, or instead of, education at home” since educational provision is the responsibility of each individual child’s parents.
  • Different settings will have different advantages and disadvantages, and the variety of places education can take place are too numerous to list, but the state has no business seeking information about the education provided in any of them, as it has no business monitoring home education in the first place. If and only if there is evidence that the education provided is unsuitable in some way may the local authority be presented, at the parents’ discretion, with information about the settings in which the education of their children takes place.

Consultation Question 21: Are there other matters which stakeholders would wish to see taken into account in this area?

Our reply:

  • Yes
  • Our home educating members have raised concerns about the lack of appropriate redress when local authorities overstep their legal powers. This appears to happen often, with local authority employees routinely misrepresenting their duties and powers to home educating parents with the aim of intimidating them into giving access to their homes and children.
  • There are also frequent attempts to mislead parents as to the legal limits of their duties, such as demanding that home education follow the National Curriculum, make plans a year in advance, or that an educational psychologist be hired to assess the child’s ability. Parents have no recourse beyond refusing to cooperate, but such misuse of their position of authority should make local authority employees liable to disciplinary action at the very least.
  • Parents who have suffered a loss of time or resources, or had their civil liberties infringed upon via deception (such as allowing a home visit they would not have freely consented to) should be able to claim compensation from the local authority in question. The lack of questions in this consultation about accountability measures along these lines is concerning, and indicates that the Department for Education is not taking the interests of home educators into consideration, since the lack of local authority accountability appears to be the primary concern of the home educating community at present.
  • Secondarily, but still important, is the lack of training for local authority officers, who we hear are usually ignorant of common home education methodologies, and often come from a school background. Home educators would like to see requirements for experience or training in home education methods put in place for all local authority employees who deal with home educating families. Many would also like to see a requirement for at least one team member to have personal experience of home education, either as a child or parent, and preferably from the local community, to better foster good relations and help combat the atmosphere of authoritarian top-down control and intimidation which pervades relations in many local authorities currently.

Consultation Question 22: What might be done to improve access to public examinations for children educated at home?

Our reply:

  • To make access to examinations easier for home educated children, the government could encourage the Joint Council for Qualifications to relax unnecessary requirements for the registration of exam centres (such as the requirement for all exam centres to have a reception open during school hours during term time), or to develop a separate set of requirements for exam centres operated specifically for home educated students. This would allow more centres to open outside school and college premises, improving access for home educated children and potentially other private candidates as well.

Consultation Question 23: What good practice is there currently in local authority arrangements for supporting home-educating families? Should there be a duty on local authorities to provide advice and support and if so how should such a duty be framed?

Our reply:

  • Local authorities should not be spending taxpayer money unnecessarily, and therefore should not provide any support or advice to home educating families which would prove expensive.
  • There should, however, be a requirement on local authorities to accurately present information on the law around home education to any parents who express an interest.
  • It would also be good practice for local authorities to provide information about potentially useful educational events and activities in the local area, home education groups and exam facilities where this information is already known to the Local Authority and easy to convey.

Consultation Question 24: Should there be a financial consequence for schools if a parent withdraws a child from the school roll to educate at home?

Our reply:

  • No
  • The only financial consequence for a school when a pupil is withdrawn should be that they no longer receive funding for that pupil.

Consultation Question 25: Should there be any Changes to the provision in Regulation 8(2) of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 requiring local authority consent to the removal of a child’s name from the roll of a maintained special school if placed there under arrangements made by the local authority?

Our reply:

  • Parents of children with special needs should not have to seek permission from the state to home educate, the current state of affairs is discriminatory.

Consultation Question 26: Are there any other comments you wish to make relating to the effectiveness of current arrangements for elective home education and potential Changes?

Our reply:

  • The current arrangements for home education would be entirely appropriate, if there were meaningful mechanisms for holding local authority staff accountable for overstepping and misrepresenting their legal powers.
  • One possible improvement would be to create a dedicated ombudsman for home education, to handle disputes between parents and local authorities. This would avoid the conflict of interest that occurs currently if parents complain to the local authority about the conduct of a local authority staff member.

Consultation Question 27: What data are currently available on the numbers of children being educated at home in your local authority area?

Our reply:

  • N/A

Consultation Question 28: Do you have any comments on any of the contents of the call for evidence document in relation to equality issues?

Our reply:

  • Home educating parents should not be treated as second-class citizens and have their presumption of innocence removed, nor their privacy trespassed upon. Similar suggestions of monitoring of any other minority group would rightly be viewed as outrageously discriminatory.
  • The Draft EHE Guidance for Parents is often misleading, confusing, and takes a very different tone from the current Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities, with words like “trust” and “respect” conspicuous by their absence.
  • There is a presumption of monitoring and intervention running through the document which is not present in the current guidelines, and at times the guidance becomes frankly draconian – for example in 5.13 where the draft guidance states “Your local authority’s published policy on elective home education may explain the circumstances in which the authority may decide that use of the Children Act powers is justified. The Secretary of State has no power to intervene in relation to unjustified use of these powers. In any event, parents should not be using home education as a way of preventing proper oversight of children”. This is an open invitation to local authorities to abuse their powers with impunity, and a terribly unjust situation for parents who find themselves targeted in this manner.
  • The absence of a category for Home Educators when filling in the consultation form makes it difficult or impossible for those collating and analysing the results of this consultation to separate out feedback from what ought to be the most important segment, the home educators themselves.
  • The Libertarian Party wholeheartedly opposes the draft guidance for parents as going beyond the law, encouraging bullying, harassment, and the erosion of the civil liberties of home educating families.
    The Draft EHE Guidance for Local Authorities is, if anything, worse. There is a consistent assumption that intrusion, information gathering, and monitoring are appropriate activities for a government body to be imposing upon law abiding citizens, and an attitude of distrust appears to be actively fostered.
  • Most egregious is the advice in 6.19 encouraging local authorities to attempt to seek costs from parents who successfully prove their educational provision to be suitable in court, which is entirely within their rights as they have no duty to co-operate with any enquiries a local authority may make prior to prosecuting a school attendance order. The advice in 6.17 encouraging local authorities to discriminate against families depending on their socio-economic status to better force them into compliance is also unjust in the extreme.
  • The Libertarian Party opposes the draft guidance for local authorities on the same basis as it does the draft guidance for parents. Both documents demonstrate breathtaking arrogance on the part of the state, which does not appear to have considered or care about the potential for local authorities to abuse their powers, and a serious disregard for the civil liberties of home educating families. The current guidelines should stand and these documents should be scrapped, with any future guidance being written from a position of respect for the civil liberties of parents and families.

 

 

 

Send your reply to the consultation

  • Those involved in home education can send a pro-liberty response to the DfE consultation by using our prepared points to help you write your reply.
  • Please respond to the consultation in a professional manner.
  • Please do not copy and paste as your reply may be filtered out, instead use our reply as a guide to help you.
  • Please note, our replies start at question 8 of the consultation. If you use our response to help you please take care to ensure you refer to our reply to the same question you are answering.
Go to the Consultation reply form