Memorandum submitted by David Hough (CS 41)
Elective Home Education - Training of Inspectors
1. A significant part of Clause 26/Schedule 1 of the Children, Schools and Families (CSF) Bill relates to the inspection and monitoring of home educating families.
2. The quality of inspections performed in different local authorities in England varies widely, not only between authorities, but between individual inspectors within an authority in some cases. This can result in a family being given a good report or a bad report depending solely on where they are and whether the inspector understands the educational philosophy of the family.
3. Many authorities use the same inspectors to inspect schools and home educators, despite there being a significant difference in the nature of the inspection to be carried out. This tends to bias inspectors to expect a school-like approach in home education when this is often not the case, and so an unsatisfactory experience is recorded.
4. In a discussion with my local inspector, he acknowledges that, given several years experience of inspecting home educators, he is now far more comfortable with autonomous education than he was when he first started the job, and that educational methods with which is happy now, would have worried him at the start.
5. In the Debate on Second Reading of the Bill, the need for proper training of inspectors was raised several times, and yet there is no provision in the Bill to require inspectors to be properly trained to do the job. This is despite the massive increase in powers being given to these inspectors to impose School Attendance Orders (SAO) based on their own judgement, which may not always be impartial. If this is not the intention of the Bill, it should clearly define the limits on inspectors' powers and be clearer on the circumstances under which an SAO can be imposed.
6. The number of inspections required is likely to more than double, given that some authorities do not currently even inspect known home educators as often as once per year and it is considered that the number of known home educated children is probably less than half the total number. Therefore, it is likely that there will be a national shortage of inspectors once the provisions of the Bill come into effect. Staff hired to fill these shortages are likely to be even less suited to the role unless they are given adequate training.
7. In order to provide consistency across the country, all inspectors should themselves be evaluated regularly against a variety of educational approaches so that home educators will know what to expect regardless of where they live.
8. From the above, it is clear that any implementation of the monitoring provisions should be delayed until such time as the necessary training of inspectors can be defined, implemented and completed in order that they can provide a fair and efficient service to those on whom their attentions have been imposed.
9. In the absence of funding for the service, the monitoring provisions in the Bill should be scaled back to an advisory service as laid out in the existing DCSF guidance on home education.