Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Winning Battles, Fighting the War

Well, today we have had notification of some battles won in the struggle to protect our freedom to educate our children.

Firstly, this morning we were told:

Dear X

The Department has recently decided not to pursue any changes to monitoring arrangements. Instead we are consulting on draft guidelines for LAs prior to their publication. This consultation launches today and will run for three months. The consultation document can be found at http://www.dfes.gov.uk/consultations/conDetails.cfm?consultationId=1479.

If you wish to participate you can respond by email to homeeducationconsultation@dfes.gsi.gov.uk.

Best wishes

Elaine Haste
Elective Home Education
Department for Education and Skills

With further clarification coming in another version of the above from a different DfES representative:

On 8th May the Department for Education and Skills published a consultation on guidelines for local authorities on elective home education. The publication of this consultation follows discussions with several groups representing home educators and with local authorities. Following these discussions it has been decided not to propose any changes to monitoring arrangements or legislation so this consultation is solely on the issuing of guidelines.

The guidelines set out our view on the best approach to balancing the rights of parents and the obligations of local authorities. The consultation will run until 31st July, and the document can be found at www.dfes.gov.uk/consultations or you can reply by email to homeeducation.consultation@dfes.gsi.gov.uk. I look forward to your response.

In an effort to clear up an apparent anomoly - where the Disability Impact Assessment document shown on the website this morning talked about legislative changes to allow for compulsory registration - we were able to extract this gem:

Apologies for that – I’ve just removed the reference from the DIA. This related to a previous proposal that we are now not consulting on or taking forward as an option following discussions with home educators and local authorities.

So we have in writing that they are going to leave legislation alone at this time, and that they are not planning to introduce compulsory registration.

Having only been offered a limit input over the previous two years into the drafting of the LA Guidelines, this option of making them the subject of a full Public Consultation - thereby enabling the whole home education community, as well as all Local Authorities, to have an input - is a further step forward. Thanks to the Childrens Act, they are obliged to consult with "stakeholders".

It is positive that the DfES is now talking openly with our community.

The language of the Guidelines, on first reading, appears to be constructive, and a welcome change to the kind of documents that home educators have seen used in the past by local authorities. I can think of a number of LAs off the top of my head who, if they exchange these guidelines for their existing policies/website documents, would overnight change the lives (for the better) of hundreds of families currently suffering from LAs acting outside the law (both the spirit and the letter of the law).

Education Otherwise, along with other support organisations, individual home educators, and local authorities, will now be working through the Guidelines in detail to ensure that they are workable for all concerned. I'm sure there are parts to challenge, and improve.

However, there are many positives of these Guidelines. My biggest, personal worry so far is the bit buried in one of the accompanying documents that says that they are not to be enforced...

Further, detailed analysis of the Guidelines will become available later, from EO's Government Policy Group, so keep checking out the campaign website - which is being frantically worked on to bring it up to date for the benefit of home educators everywhere.


dottyspots said...

Yes, my concern is that LAs may chose to completely ignore them (and odds on that the local one will). There were a couple of other points to pick up on (comment on ICT, etc.) but on the whole it is really positive and I'm looking forward to using such guidelines when dealing with our *difficult* LA.

IndigoShirl said...

Yes, on the surface it looks good - ultimately despite the assurances I reckon it will result in no change at all - which for the families currently being harrassed means just more of the same.

Or am I just turning into a hard-nosed cynic?