I have written before about the so-called ‘Tasmanian Model’. In that Australian state, home educators work with the government to inspect and monitor home education. It seems to work well enough and I think that it would be a good scheme in this country. There are problems though and the appointment of two home educators in Wigan has underlined that a good deal would need to change before this notion would be universally applauded by other home educators here. For one thing, there is the fact that these people will inherit a framework which is already immensely irritating to many home educating parents. Take this bit from Wigan’s policy on Children Missing from Education:
'The Children Act 2004, places a duty on all agencies to work
together to promote the welfare of children and to share
information. This principle underpins this policy and there is an
expectation that all agencies will work together to ensure children
are safely on school rolls.
1.4 There is now considerable research available which identifies the
reason for children and young people being ‘missing from school’.
The most common reasons include:
· failing to be registered at a school at age 5'
We observe the phrase ‘children are safely on school rolls’. Does that mean that children not on school rolls are automatically in danger? As for the idea that a reason for children missing school is that their parents do not send them to school at five, well this is so but blindingly obvious. Children miss school because they are not sent to school!
When we were stopped by a truancy patrol when my daughter was eight and had never been to school, I was fairly OK with the business. This was because the people asking the questions were what I would regard as professional busybodies. Imagine though that after not having sent my daughter to school at the age of five, there was a knock on the door and a home educator stood there. He tells me that it has been noticed that I am not sending my child to school and wants to know why. I might give a home educator shorter shrift than I would a run of the mill local authority officer. Why? Because he ought to know better.
Now consider the following passage, also from Wigan’s CME policy.
'4.6 If a school learns of a school aged pupil without a school place
(e.g. a sibling or friend of a current pupil etc) the school must
inform the LA of the child / young person. This can be done via
the dedicated e mail address www. firstname.lastname@example.org, by
telephone or in writing to the EWS Admin Team located at Wigan
Investment Centre, Waterside Drive, Wigan WN3 5BA. Tel:
01942 705405 Fax: 01942 705408'
Some of this home educating parent's work will entail knocking on doors following reports of this sort from teachers who have noticed that one of their pupils has a friend who does not appear to be attending school. Would this not make some home educators feel a little uneasy, to find themselves acting on information of this sort from schools?
I think that this whole thing could work and is definitely an improvement, but will need a sea-change in thinking. If home educators are going to be checking up on other home educators in this way, then all policies will need to be revised accordingly. I find this quite an exciting development and will be interested to see if other local authorities try it out.