Q. How can children be safeguarded if they are not known to the LA?
A. By long tradition and common sense, it is parents and families who safeguard children, as is their legal and moral duty. One wonders how families nationally would react if social services had a duty to visit every home and inspect the family, children and home and expect every parent to prove to their satisfaction they were not abusing their children on an annual basis. In general citizens have benefited from an assumption of innocence and families are trusted to care for their children without oversight by the state. There should be no different
expectation for home educating families. Routine monitoring for
safeguarding of educational and welfare need is requiring parents, without any just cause, to continually prove that they are innocent of an offence.
It is also an attack against families to try to generate a false
dichotomy between "rights" of parents and "rights" of children, saying that the government must routinely intervene between the two to "balance" these rights, as this government have been doing. This is an argument for state intervention, control and division of the family. It is an insult and threat to the family unit.
In most cases, it is not a matter of rights but of familial and parental duty, the needs of children, and relationship. It is not the place of government to intervene in family relationships except in rare cases where there is cause for concern. This should not result in the subjection of families to a system of routine surveillance to ascertain their innocence, or to investigate ungrounded fears about families who simply choose not to receive Local Authority services. Such a policy would cause vastly more harm that it could ever hope to prevent.
Welfare. Regarding child abuse, statistics available with reference to home educated children who have been found to be involved in child abuse, neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude show that there is an apparent reduced risk to home educated children compared to the population as a whole. Please see
Education. The current proposals are not about safeguarding an education suitable to each child, but about prescription and regulation of the education provided to all children. The schedule provides wide powers to the secretary of state to make regulation without recourse to parliament to prescribe the educational provisions made in families and refuse permission to home educate to anyone who does not comply. However, research shows excellent results for electively home educated children
regardless of economic status or educational approach. Many popular and particularly effective approaches, such as child-led or autonomous education, can not fit into a system of government regulation. This does not deter the government from trying to impose set criteria and encroach on areas that involve freedom of conscience or ideology, such as ethics, morality, personal, sexual and religious education.
Education is safeguarded because parents who choose Home Education do so because they are committed to the education and developmental needs of their children, and usually endure considerable loss of time and income in order to do this. By extension they will ensure that their children's educational needs are met. They have a legal duty to do this and are
assumed in international law to have their children's best interest as their basic concern. Local authorities have the right to request information from families only in order to fulfil their duty to act where there is an appearance of failure.
There may be differences in what people consider a suitable education for each child, but diversity should be acknowledged and encouraged because we don't have a fixed and firm grasp of what the "right" way is. Our knowledge of best practice, and even "facts", changes all the time and it may be that by allowing the full range of diversity we will protect or discover ways of looking at things that could be lost in the constraints of the National Curriculum and chasing paperwork. The word
"suitable" in the context of the law is in relation to the individual, rather than in relation to prescribed minimum standards or outcomes.
Q. How can families and local authorities have a positive relationship?
A. Where families are known to their local authority, it is common for them to encounter personal prejudice from officials. Even in a "friendly" area, a change in LA personnel can immediately and dramatically change things for home educators. Problems present because of LA officials acting on poor information about the law and consequent lack of clarity about their role, and the extent of their responsibilities.
Things would be greatly improved if Local authorities would abide by the existing law in administration and the provision of services to families. Following a review of local authority involvement, AHEd produced a document:
<http://ahed.pbworks.com/BMWhatDoWeWantLAs> outlining what home
educators want from service providers.
Q. Do you want to be left alone and leave the current situation as it is?
A. AHEd members support the current law as it relates to elective home education because it provides for:
freedom of conscience
the presumption of innocence
promotes the best interest of the child
requires education suitable for the child
provides for local authority action where there is an appearance of failure
gives access to due process in the case of dispute
Please see our Parents' Declaration:
Q. What evidence is there for issues with home educated children that are not known to the social services?
A. Home educated children who are not known to social services and not known to their local authority are still likely to be widely known and involved in their community but they continue to live in the wider world as any other person does, and there is no reason to assume that there would be any other outcome than a positive one unless one is prejudiced against independent or elective home education. Research from around the world shows good outcomes for home educated young people.
There have been some high profile cases of families known to social services where there has been a reference to home education and these have been put forward to argue for regulation. However, in every case, the families have been already known to social services who failed to safeguard the children; see:
Other issues of serious concern to AHEd and home educators in general are the use of referral to social services by local authorities as a coercive measure and in place of SAOs, including using CPPs. One such case was used in evidence to the Select Committee Inquiry into the Badman Review and is in the memoranda from Mr William Wallace, on behalf of AHEd.
(1) Harrison & Harrison v Stephenson (appeal to Worcester Crown Court 1981). The term 'suitable education' was defined as one which enabled the children `to achieve their full potential', and was such as `to prepare the children for life in modern civilised society'. The term 'efficient' was defined as achieving `that which it sets out to achieve'.
"VCF Response to article appearing in The Independent Online 26 Feb: Is the Government right to be concerned about home schooling
VCF - The Victoria Climbié Foundation UK is genuinely concerned about the link being made between Victoria Climbié and home education, and Victoria as a hidden child. Victoria was neither home-educated nor hidden. The reality is that there is no such thing as a 'hidden' child, only children who are allowed to fall through the gaps. The key issue here is how statutory services interact with children that are known within the child protection system."
(3) Harrison & Harrison v Stephenson; appeal to Worcester Crown Court 1981