Going over to the other side

I’d be really interested to know your experiences of dealing with Local Authority representatives who contact you with regard to your home education.

I was wondering if the relationships between us – us as home schooling families and them being part of the system – had changed?

My interest has been aroused because a home educator I know has been asked – yes asked – to join the team at their local authority to help them monitor the increasing numbers of home educating families. His immediate reaction, he said, was to recoil in horror at ‘going over to the other side’.

But does it not seem the best solution to this whole distasteful business of home educating families being monitored? Who better to offer support – as the LA now begin to see it – than someone who’s had experience of it? I’m not saying it’s right that families are monitored, and the authorities still have no statutory duty to regularly do so, I’m just saying that if it happens wouldn’t the best person for the job be a former home educator? Anyone who isn’t, is just not qualified. But then, we’ve had education ministers with no experience of the classroom, so what’s new!

See the Ed Yourself site for full details of the law and your rights

(See the Ed Yourself site for the full details and your rights)    

It all boils down to the individual really. Like with anything, it’s the manner of the visitor and the agenda they bring to their visit that counts. I’ve heard horror stories in the past about visitors whose whole remit is to get kids back in school as if this home educating lark was a whim. Or those who are bullying, disrespectful and downright ignorant of both home schooling approaches and the rights of parents. Even ignorant of the law in some cases.

But I read increasingly of LAs wanting to – and managing to – change these stories and offer more in terms of support, rather than judgement. Now that there is continuing evidence of home educating successes, they can hardly dispute that it works. Whether it’s an enlightened individual who can accept those successes is another matter. But it would be blinkered ignorance for them not to know that and they shouldn’t be doing the job it that’s the case. So maybe it is better that former home educators take on this role? And as home educating parents the best thing you can do is to know your rights, the law surrounding home education, and what they’re not entitled to do! (The site above is a great resource for this)

What’s your view? And what experiences have you had with the LA?

Do leave a comment and share this around your groups. It’d be great to hear your thoughts.

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25 thoughts on “Going over to the other side

  1. The idea of monitoring home educators is interesting. I can see where good can come from it, though I believe caution is necessary. As with any endeavor, I think you need to expect the unexpected. As a former home school mom, I actually found it easier to home school through the state than through the Christian umbrella groups I was under. That’s the way in which I was surprised. I guess you just have to do whatever God leads you do.

  2. A difficult area. A friend who’s a social worker has seen children being ‘home schooled’ who really weren’t – some horrible situations and schools do play a role in flagging up problems when something doesn’t seem right for a child who might be under the radar without the school. I understand the concern that there are vulnerable children being missed. The problem is families who are the kind with their children’s best interests at the forefront – the kind who engage with groups and involve themselves in these kind of forums – feel targeted and sometimes with good cause. What is currently called ‘monitoring’ probably should be called ‘supporting’. The semantics matter and reflect/inform attitudes within local authorities. I think it’s a good idea to have HE experience on the ‘other side’. I find polarising attitudes to education – and anything in fact – very unhelpful. My children are educated in several different ways and one is flexi schooled – 3 days at school, 4 at home per week. Her school changed the school council meeting day so she could represent her year because they wanted the voice of a flexi child to be heard as well as the full time kids. The best way to change attitudes is to talk and be involved – not to think of a group trying to be open minded as ‘the other side’.

    • Thanks Cate – I agree and I stand corrected. Perhaps it wasn’t such a good title and I’m inadvertently perpetuating a polarising attitude in using the expression, which isn’t helpful at all. As you say the semantics matter. I much appreciate you leaving your comment and sharing your experiences of educating your children – thank you.

  3. A home ed friend recently applied for the EHE officer post in our city, having experience in primary teaching, and home education. They appointed someone (very young, no children of her own) with experience in secondary teaching and SAFEGUARDING! Which is kind of an indication of what their real concerns are…. However, our LA has been very open to finding ways of working better with home educators, so said friend and myself have met with the new officer to “educate” her on good practice. I have emphasised the need to establish a relationship of mutual trust and respect, in order to work more co-operatively and supportively. I am not registered with the LA either, but this has not been an issue (almost 20 years home educating, so they tend to not challenge me). She has been quite receptive, and the wording of letters and forms now reflects the expectations based on guidelines more accurately. Feedback from home educators is mostly positive so far. So I think it is possible, if you can get a foot in that door, to help shape the approach that LA’s take.

  4. I decided to allow a yearly visit from the LA because I thought that it was better to be in control of it rather than always wondering if I was going to get a letter. The chap that came every year was also a HEer and he was extremely understanding. in fact, my son started having piano lessons with him. I think that we were extremely lucky in that we got someone that HEed and had a very open mind. I would much rather that than have someone that knew nothing about the actual practicalities of it. We are on the other side of HE now and even though the visits were comfortable, I wouldn’t like to go back to them.

  5. We home educated for 8 years. In all of that time we had no contact at all from the LEA and that is how I liked it. One time I phoned them to complain about a notice that went up in our local shopping mall with regards to the public phoning in to them should they see a school aged child out and about in school hours. I was fuming at the notice but when I phoned to put them straight about not being ‘dobbed in’ or approached while going about our normal business they asked me for my details. I refused to comply.
    This was roughly 15 years ago. The notice was removed.
    I would not trust the LEA to oversee my child’s education then and I would not trust them now. My child was a square peg in their round holes, I fought with them for them to provide a suitable education and they failed .
    The best thing we did was to remove her from the system and the system does not belong in the individualised and often diverse Home Educating world.
    By the way my Daughter is now doing a PHd in Cognitive Neuroscience for all of her ‘lack’ of a ‘proper education’ for 8 years and being invisible to those who would have taken note of her completely informal and unstructured own way of self directed learning, which has allowed her the research skills and discipline that a PHd involves.

  6. Home ed has been monitored over here in Jersey for quite a number of years now, much to our dislike. It causes a lot of distress for families even though they all know that their children are fine. My son is 16 and is no longer on their ‘books’ even though he’s still studying for more qualifications. I’d love to discuss this more if you like, maybe by email?

  7. A couple of years ago Peterborough authority was looking for someone to visit/monitor HEers. They insisted on a qualified teacher, which excludes most HEers. When I was HEing (2004ish) the man who visited us couldn’t spell the Importance of Being Earnest which DD was studying for IGCSE, I lost all respect for them then. I also think they made a lot of their judgements before they got in the door, if you have a nice house then you’ll not have any problems with them.

  8. In our area, a few years ago, a former home educator went to work for the LA as a home ed officer. I believe that it changed her views somewhat as most of the people she visited were not involved with home ed networks and she was seeing a very different picture from that seen within our groups.

  9. My LA turned up uninvited and told me she had a legal right to come into my home and see my child, she was soon sent away. I was then sent a leaflet which informed me they had a legal right to monitor termly, they prefer to see the child, what hours children in school have, the subjects they study so the child can fit back into school and for exams contact the exam board.. and she still couldn’t understand why I refused to see her when everyone else in the county did. She was pressured by her boss, so even having a HE in the role they would still have a job description and objectives that they have to achieve be this see x% of children in the Borough, report on work seen etc. If the LA just provided support and had a HE parent in role that was there to provide information that would be far more beneficial. Our LA provided no support she gave out a list of websites that other parents had given her, she would not give me this resource since I would not see her!

    • Thank you very much for this – a very interesting story and unfortunately too common. You’re right; HE families need support not harrassment! But you can imagine what kind of ‘targets’ these officers have to meet!! Doesn’t go with a HE ethos does it! 😉

    • Thanks very much for joining in Fiona. Yes – this was a paid post as they’d worked in education previously! Like you say below it’s the ‘monitoring’ that’s the problem. ‘Support’ would be more welcome! 😉

  10. Also if someone is being “asked to join the team” then this sounds like a paid post which surely would have to be advertised with interviews etc, not just a quiet word and you’re in?

  11. Ross, I’m not clear what the parent was being asked. I think it WOULD be good if someone monitored the increase in numbers eg in terms of looking which schools children come out of, or a spike at a particular age. Because that would indicate something was up. And I still think that despite the fact that LAs generally lack the power to intervene and sort those issues or to provide funding for any alternative provision, but at least they’d have some data. What I obviously wouldn’t support though is “monitoring” home educators. Having said that, I have seen LAs use some very unfortunate wording (evidence, monitoring etc) and on closer questioning it turns out they’re not actually wedded to those words, ie they didn’t choose them on purpose to express a particularly malignant intrusive overbearing approach, they were just the first words that sprang to mind that they’d borrowed from other areas of their work. So it can be helpful to ask questions about intentionality, rather than to assume the worst. Having said THAT though, if someone isn’t wedded to those words but still hasn’t got the energy or motivation to change them and just says “it’s not really up to me, so can’t you tell them I’m nice” then … forget it, they’ve had their chance!

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