Memorandum submitted by Mrs. Karen Thirlaway
I wish to make a brief submission to the select committee with regard to proposals for future monitoring of Elective Home Education.
· 'Suitable education' for children with SENs must include the acquisition of social, emotional and personal care skills
· Such learning is equally or more important than academic learning
· LA inspectors would need high levels of training, awareness and understanding of SENs to give valid judgment of 'suitable education'
· There already exists inadequate training and understanding of SENs within the school system
· Training of HE inspectors needs to be factored into costings for monitoring proposals and would appear prohibitive.
My general concerns arising from Mr Badman's recommendations have already been presented in a group submission given by local Home Education network, however I have specific concerns regarding the definition of 'suitable education', particularly within the context of Special Educational Needs.
As a parent of a child with Asperger's Syndrome I am aware of many such children whose needs go unmet because of limited understanding and awareness by those professionals who are deemed qualified to identify them. This is common in education as well as the medical profession. I have justified doubts that local authority Home Education inspectors would be sufficiently experienced in the broad spectrum of SENs to fully appreciate that they may not recognize the specific needs of such children who may be forced into more 'bookwork' that could inflict further damage on them. Many professionals I have encountered have little more than a generalized, stereotypical view of autistic children which rarely matches the individuals, which would inevitably hinder their ability to identify 'suitable education' for such children. Please bear in mind that social and emotional education is paramount for children with autism, without which their academic education can (in many cases) barely get off the ground. It concerns me greatly that time spent on academic work might be seen to take priority over essential and often time-consuming therapeutic work for SEN children. I believe that Home Education inspectors would require extensive specific training, understanding and awareness which frankly is not yet standard within local authority professionals, and does not appear to have been factored into costings for these proposals.
It should also be noted that in many cases children with SENs who have been deregistered from statutory education to be home educated have been removed from school precisely because those needs have been consistently unmet, and parents (who due to close and consistent contact with their children are frequently more knowledgeable about their specific needs) generally go to great lengths to ensure that necessary therapies are provided. I am not confident that inspectors would be able to appreciate that time spent in these areas is just as vital - if not more so - than demonstrable academic output.
Bearing in mind that the main focus of the enquiry was to ensure that children's welfare needs are met, I strongly urge the Committee to consider these valid concerns.