Wednesday, June 17, 2009

DCSF Review on Home Education (Prequel)

The Department for Children, Schools and Families recently published a Review containing 28 Recommendations. The full thing in PDF form is available for download from their website; I'm going to go through the recommendations and jot down my thoughts on them. The quotes I'm responding to are taken from Section 12, Summary of Recommendations.

My response is broken into ten posts, but they refer to each other a little, which is why I'm posting them all at once.

In general, I found the review internally consistent (the points followed each other logically, without direct internal contradictions), but vague and full of unsupported assumptions - some of which I agreed with, but that's not the point. In particular, I don't see how even one child would be made safer by the proposed registration and monitoring. I can think of several ways which might work better, though I don't see why they are necessary.
It is a cause of concern that although approximately 20,000 home educated children and young people are known to local authorities, estimates vary as to the real number which could be in excess of 80,000. [Section 1.3]

Our own data concurred with the DfES (2007) report, that there
are around 20,000 children and young people currently registered with local authorities. We know that to be an underestimate and agree it is likely to be double that figure, if not more, possibly up to 80,000 children.[Section 6.1]
That is, in a country of about 60 million people, there might be 60 thousand children wholly unknown to the authorities. Hidden. Given that these children are not registered for child benefit, NHS services, family tax credit, passports, or anything else, how on earth will a register of home educators help? And how did the authorities lose track of 60,000 children between their birth and their reaching age 5 (school age)? This seems to me like tabloid scaremongering.
6.2 ContactPoint will record the place where a child is being educated, where that is known, including where a child is being educated at home.

6.3 Registration proposed within this report should complete the picture and offer further evidence of their wellbeing and educational progress.
Why is Contact Point so inadequate? Can't they cross-reference anything? and if they can't, why are they proposing so many different committees, departments, boards and bodies to deal with this? Either inter-departmental communication is something they are good at, in which case most of this new stuff isn't necessary, or it isn't, in which case most of this new stuff will have the same problems the old stuff has.

I find it very hard to believe that the most effective way of spending whatever money is allocated to education, or ensuring children are not being abused at home, or both, is to create an entirely new system based on unavailable evidence, assumptions, unsupported conclusions, and carefully making sure to link home educators and child abusers together in the minds of the general public.

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