Memorandum submitted by Peter Treveylan
Among the questions the Committee could well investigate are the following:
1. Will families be actively discouraged / prevented from home educating by the intrusive and over-bearing administrative requirements?
2. Would the intrusive inspection requirements be contrary to Human Rights legislation, or the reasonable expectation of family life?
3. What might be the full financial implications of the recommendations?
4. In the light of the answer to previous question, whether 'support' for HE is ever likely to materialise?
My answers are:
5. YES - a significant proportion of families will be actively discouraged / prevented from home educating by the intrusive and over-bearing administrative requirements.
6. YES - the intrusive inspection requirements are beyond the reasonable expectation of family life.
7. THE COSTS WILL BE SIGNIFICANT - the additional monitoring requirements, and the demand for additional places at school would place a major burden on the educational budget.
8. NO - given the current and forseeable restraints on public expenditure, the promised 'support' for HE is never likely to materialise.
The Terms of Reference
1. The principal thrust of the ToR was evidently directed at setting in place procedures for finding child abuse and abusers among the HE community. The nature of the education provided is identified as a secondary issue.
Nature of the consultation documents
2. In responding to the consultation document, I prepared a considered 4-page statement. This involved some time trying to understand the questions, and the thinking that lay behind them.
3. At the time, I wrote saying that I found the questions on the review to be ambiguous and confusing. It was difficult to give yes/no answers which accurately reflected my experience and opinions. I suggested that the panel should consider the actual content of the responses, and not attempt to draw general inferences from the statistics.
4. Take the first question as an example:
Question 1: Do you think the current system for safeguarding
children who are educated at home is adequate? Please let us know why you think
My comment started as follows:
5. Overall, I found many of the questions inappropriate, mis-directed, or simply irrelevant to our family circumstances, or experience within the HE community. Some of the questions demonstrated an inaccurate appreciation of the legal position with HE, and of what LA's actually can or do for HE. It was a discouraging precedent.
Comment on the recommendations
6. The comments below are not directed at specific recommendations but, rather, at the four questions outlined at the start of this note.
Discouragement of Home Educators
7. To start with, some of the recommendations will clearly discourage, or even frighten away quite a number of families from choosing HE. It is quite conceivable that they were designed with that in mind.
8. Many parents, when they start home educating, have only an sketchy idea of how they are likely to proceed or what course the child's learning adventure would follow. As time passes, they generally find their activities become increasingly focussed, and are able to plan the forthcoming year's projects with ever greater confidence.
9. Many families would approach an inspection with considerable apprehension. I say this because we ourselves have had the experience and, despite the fact that both of us are well versed in dealing with bureaucracy, it was not a process we found at all pleasurable. I am also well aware that many others share our apprehension.
10. It will be appreciated that, for many, the production (R1) of a "clear statement of educational approach, intent and desired outcomes" would be a daunting task in early years. In later years, it presents an unwarranted and wasteful diversion of family resources and time which serve little or no useful purpose.
11. R7 and R8 propose that children should make an 'exhibition' of themselves, to demonstrate their educational attainment. Setting aside the appalling choice of the word 'exhibition', this requirement will be seen as a further impost, or barrier
12. R2 sees the DCSF as being the arbiter of the curriculum. Many in the HE community would reject this outright, and will fight to retain control over all aspects of the education of their children, including the curriculum.
13. If the recommendations lead to a material expansion in the number of school places required for those who abandon or do not take up HE as an option, considerable financial resources would be required.
14. These appear to onerous, both for the inspector (hence concerns about the financial implications) and the inspected. The whole question of rights of access to the home, and the right to speak to children alone, raises serious questions. I am no expert on the Human Rights Act, but on the face of it, these seem to run counter to the spirit and intent of the Act.
15. Speaking personally, I find this aspect of the report repugnant and wholly unacceptable. Consider, for example, smoking and diet - both of which have a serious adverse impact on the health of children. Despite this, it is inconceivable that any administration would take steps to inspect families in the privacy of their own homes in order to exercise control over either smoking or diet. I suggest the same should apply to education.
Government / Local authority support for HE
16. On the occasion of the most recent visit by our 'education adviser' I specifically asked about this. I was told, as expected, that no support was available. So I found consultation Q4 rather bizarre - there is no current system for supporting home educating families as I understand it (although I am aware of specific trials supported by the DCSF, such as in Bedford).
17. In the light of the above, R8, R9 and R10 are most surprising. If they were implemented in full, these would add significantly to the public education expenditure. In the light of impending public sector cutbacks, and recent statements from Ministers indicating that no further financial resources will be provided for HE, it would seem these recommendations are worthless window-dressing.
18. On the other hand, if there is to be real 'support' for HE, then it would be reasonable to have some sort of monitoring (exactly as has happened in the Bedford example). The Government have approached this whole issue from this direction. They should have asked if there was adequate support for HE and, if not, then set about seeing how it could be provided. That could perhaps have engendered a degree of sympathy from the HE community, in contrast to almost complete condemnation.
No material impact on the abuse agenda
19. It is hard to see how the very limited 'official' contact would make any material contribution towards identifying HE children at risk. This is a complete non-starter as a procedure. It will give rise to conflict and opposition from those families opposed to the intrusive inspection. It has the potential to produce a significant number of "false positives". As and when this happens, mistaken appraisals will be made, which could will result in court cases and litigation.
20. I have a science degree, and now work as a self-employed consultant town planner. My wife has a degree in music and French, and is a professional musician / music teacher.
21. We have a 11-year old son who has never attended school. His interests have developed over the years and (not surprisingly!) are now focussed on music and science. He is a chorister in the local Cathedral Choir, has appeared on the stage with English National Opera, and has personally been invited by the Mayor to contribute 20 minutes of solo piano music in a charity fund-raising evening. He has won awards from Awards for Young Musicians and Musicians Benevolent Fund.
22. For some years, I acted as a co-organiser of an informal local HE group, which drew families from a wide area. As a family, we have attended international HE gatherings in France, Norway, and Sweden, and have had a number of HE children from both Sweden and France to stay for varying periods (up to 7 months, in one case). I am a trustee of a national educational charity (not connected with home education).
23. My wife and I both work at home. Our child is highly self-motivated and his ever-expanding capabilities and interests demand a considerable amount of our time, which we integrate with all the other demands on our time.
24. As it happens, we are 'inspected' by our local authority (because a performing licence had to be obtained from the Local Authority for the opera). We tolerate the inspection procedure, and are willing to assist the 'education adviser' in fulfilling the allotted quota of inspections. However, it is of limited assistance to us or the education of our child, and diverts a material amount of time and resources that could otherwise be used more productively.