Memorandum submitted by Miss Emma Whitford
· I reject this review in its entirety as I believe that it was not properly carried out and the author did not take on board the views and opinions of home educators
· The home educating community were very forth-coming with the author, but there is little evidence of this in the review findings
· In general I feel that the recommendations made in this review are heavy-handed and are giving the stick before the carrot
· This review is appears to be taking away the right to innocence before being proved guilty, a fundamental right of every British citizen (or so I thought)
This Submission includes:
· My personal comments about the recommendations made in the Review of Home Education
1. Recommendation One: Deschooling does not appear to have been taken into account, therefore will LAs accept that some children need time to adjust and restore their confidence in their abilities and also their natural ability to learn? The statement of educational approach is just too much too soon. Speaking from personal experience, my educational philosophy changed and developed over time. This was due to the changing needs/abilities of my child and also my deepening knowledge of how learning occurs through interaction with other home educators and books on the subject. I have a wide reading list, ranging from Charlotte Mason to John Holt to Ivan Illich. Something I don't think the average LA person would be able to match. I oppose any form of registration, especially if this has to happen at a school. My son, at the present time, will not set foot near a school, so this would be inappropriate in our situation. To be honest, my son's education is his own; I don't need help or guidance from my LA or from any school. I can research online/use libraries/use my own resources to help my son on his educational journey. I do not agree with yearly assessment/registration. I do not need LA/Government approval for my son's education. We have been doing this for over two years now and I can see how he is progressing as I am with him every day.
2. Recommendation Two: The five Every Child Matters outcomes are for LAs, NOT for parents. Maybe the Government should be looking at ALL families to see if their home life accommodates these outcomes. In our home, life is learning: there is no distinction. The last line in this recommendation: 'Home Educators should be engaged in this process' is quite frankly laughable given the Government's track record so far and this review demonstrates quite clearly the lack of acceptance of home educators' views.
3. Recommendation Three: Maybe this information could be used to better the relations between home educators and LAs and not as a way of getting children back to school, as this I feel is the ulterior motive of gathering the information.
4. Recommendation Four: I just cannot believe that our views would be taken into account. This Government and LAs especially, have consistently ignored our views, opinions and expertise and this latest review demonstrates this fact even more so.
5. Recommendation Five: Again, I do not agree with monitoring or supporting. I am legally responsible for my son's education, as set out in section 7 of the Education Act 1996, not the Government and not the LA.
6. Recommendation Six: See the response for recommendation five above.
7. Recommendation Seven: This is the recommendation that is particularly offensive to me. For a start, not even the police have the right of access to the home, unless there is very good reason to gain access. At this point I would like to draw attention to this clause in the Human Rights Act:
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence."
Mr Badman claims that he is putting the interests and safety of the child first, but I believe this is false. This right of access to the home is based on the assumption that every child will be happy for his/her home to be violated in this way. What if my son does not want his privacy violated? What if this intrusion adversely affects my son? Is this not abuse? What if my son does not want to speak to an LA officer, or if he has a fear of anyone official? My son is shy around people he does not know and I think the pressure he would feel about the fact that the threat of school is dangling over his head would further compound this fear. One of the tenets of my education philosophy is my child's right to not have to be tested on his abilities if he does not want to be. I do not subscribe to the culture of constant measuring of a child's attainments. My child is not in a class of 30; he has one to one attention and does not need his abilities measured. I know what he is capable of. I do not work towards any kind of national Government subscribed targets. I work towards the strengths/ability and aptitude/age of my child as set out in Section 7 of the Education Act 1996. Autonomous/Child-Led/Unschooling kinds of education cannot be pigeonholed and squeezed into a 12-month plan, that goes against the nature of the kind of education principles that I hold dear. My son's education is not coerced or forced, it comes from living life and the things that I strew into his path along the way, and it is up to him whether he pursues these. I believe that learning happens best when the child is receptive to it. Mr Badman's recommendations do not support or acknowledge this at all and this is very worrying.
8. Recommendation Eight: Again, what if my child does not want to do this exhibiting? His work is his own; he owns his learning, not me, not the Government, not the LA. What if it causes undue stress and worry for the child because of the knowledge that if he/she does not do well enough, he/she will be sent back to school, and in my son's case, this would be detrimental to him as he has school phobia. Going back to the premise by Mr Badman that they are doing this to give the children a voice, will they hear my child and comply with his wishes if this is to be left alone to get on with his life just as he has been doing for the past two years without any interference?
9. Recommendation Nine: Again, will LAs be prepared to research home education? Will they read up about the different forms that home education can take, for example, autonomous education? Will home educators really be listened to? As above, I find it difficult to believe. The author of the review is himself an ex-LA employee, so this does not instill much confidence in me that our views will be listened to.
10. Recommendation Ten: Here is a prime example of stick before the carrot: We can only have access to exam centres if we toe the line and jump through LA/Government hoops first. To be honest, I would rather save up and pay for any qualifications my son decides to take myself, rather than go cap in hand to the DCSF for any help.
11. Recommendation Eleven: Again, this will undoubtedly come with strings attached and quite honestly, I do not think there is anything offered here that could not be arranged, either by myself, or the home education group I attend. We have been doing this for the past two years without problem and cannot foresee why this would not continue.
12. Recommendation Twelve: See Recommendation eleven above for explanation.
13. Recommendation Thirteen: Ofsted was set up to inspect Government institutions to check that public funds were being spent wisely. The Government does not fund home educators, as they keep telling us repeatedly, so we are not answerable to them. I do not need Governmental approval for my son's education; my son's education does not fit the tick-box culture that education in schools seems to have become.
14. Recommendation Fifteen: I would like to point out that parents are legally responsible for a child's education, or has the Government got plans to change this right?
15. Recommendation Twenty-Two: Will the LAs also be trained as to the different educational approaches and sympathetic/ respectful of parents' individual educational philosophies or will it be the same old, same old - curriculum, school-based education only?
16. Recommendation Twenty-Three: "anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable and efficient education" is open to misinterpretation and a very worrying inclusion to me.
17. Recommendation Twenty-Four: Again this is open to misinterpretation by gung-ho LA staff who do not have a positive view of home education and feel it is their mission to get all children into school.
18. Recommendation Twenty-Five, Six and Seven: All I can say is where is the recommendation that maybe the best place to be asking is home educators themselves? And this should all be optional, perhaps for the families who feel they need safeguarding, help and validation of what they are doing.
19. Recommendation Twenty-Eight: It has already been stated by the Government that no further funding will be needed to implement these recommendations. Also in the economic climate where Mr Balls has already said that he can save the Government a few billions from the education budget, I cannot see where any extra money is going to come from to fund all this.