Saturday, 25 September 2010

Machinations and Networking

This dropped into my inbox a short while ago:

"We are having a meeting at the Department of Education at their request with significant civil servants next week on the subject of home education.
If you have reports from your local education authority advisers or inspectors which you would be willing to make available to us to give to the Department of Education if they ask us could you send us copies? Scanned versions and email might be the only way we could do this at this stage. (Our meeting is on Wednesday 29th, next week.) But if you are able to help we would be grateful to receive."

It is apparently a communication from Teach, sent to those who use their ACE programme.

I suppose this meeting could be a good thing. Perhaps the new department is planning on pulling all those misbehaving LAs into line. LAs like Lancashire who were very disappointed not to see Badman implemented:

"In June 2009, Badman's report on the Review of Elective Home Education in
England was published. An overview of the Badman report was included at
Appendix B to the report now presented. Twenty Eight recommendations had
been made and accepted by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and
Families. Many of the recommendations in the task group's report were mirrored
in the Badman report. The Badman recommendations were far reaching for local
authorities and strengthened the right of local authority officers to have "right of
access to the home" and "speak to the child alone if appropriate.

"The Children, Schools and Families Bill, had been progressing through
parliamentary procedures and it had been expected to become law in the ‘washup’
period (the last few days of a Parliament, after the election had been
announced but before dissolution). However, it was now reported to the
committee that not everything in the Bill had been enacted as expected and that
the elective home education element had been dropped."

"Mike Hart, Director of Children's Strategy and Resources came to the table and
explained that whilst the passage of the Bill in its entirety would have provided a
clear legislative basis to progress the recommendations of the EHE Task Group,
it was important to now look at the issues raised by the task group within the
existing framework.

"It was emphasised that the county council had a legal responsibility to safeguard
children and that it would do all that it could within the current framework to fulfil
that responsibility. One member urged that the county council should press the
next government to ensure that Badman's recommendations were enacted as
soon as possible

"It was suggested that a further report be brought to the Children and Young
People Overview and Scrutiny Committee in the summer to set out how the
recommendations of the EHE Task Group would be addressed in light of the
EHE elements of the Children, Schools and Families Bill not being passed into

Lancashire LA already run CRB checks on all the adults in a HE household:

"TM asked if there are any checks made on the family and home circumstances. AR advised that there were, home visit are made within the first month and parents are engaged to work through any difficulties. A CRB check is also made as well as a check of agency records with regard to any adults in the home; this information is covered in a parent's questionnaire."

I've been told that the EHE advisor is quite vehement that parents fill in and sign these questionnaires on the spot. One can only presume that they are using these forms as de facto permission to carry out the CRB check, without informing the parents that this is what is going to happen. Naughty.

Quite clearly these people are not going to let it lie just because a little thing like the law isn't currently on their side.

Going back to the email about the up and coming meeting, the bit about *significant civil servants* concerns me. I made some enquiries last week to see if Penny Jones was still *in charge* of HE over at the new department, and I was sent confirmation back that it is indeed part of her portfolio. I find this somewhat of a worry not least because PJ has been in this role for the past several years with the pinnacle of her career being her role as Badman's right hand woman during the review last year. Information released under the FOI Act show that much of what the CSF Bill wanted to implement was already in the pipeline for us as far back as 2006, with Badman just being the latest in a long line of attempts to bring in the extra powers that many LAs have sought for years. Will the civil servants who have plotted and schemed for all these years suddenly have had a moment of enlightenment with the change of government I wonder? I find this rather unlikely, especially when their colleagues on the ground are pushing for more power. Old habits die hard, and people with power who are defeated often become all the more determined to win.

So we have a situation, once again, where our children's futures are being discussed without their knowledge or ours. Unless you're a member of Teach that is, an organisation who have at least had the decency to inform their members what is going on, albeit with rather limited information. What other HE orgs will be present at this meeting? Have they informed their members? If so, why is this not general knowledge? Why is this meeting and the implications not being widely discussed? Something stinks.

Thank goodness the HE networks that proved so successful at disseminating information during the Badman review are still alive and kicking. Is it time to roll out the Just Say No campaign again?

ETA: I've been reminded about the HEYC meeting with Penny Jones back in 2009, which they've helpfully transcribed here after being refused permission to share the video of the meeting. I know it's naughty to take just one line out of a whole conversation but I'm going to do it anyway because I think this one line says all we need to know ;)

PENNY JONES: Well, want or not, I am a government official, and these five outcomes are government policy. [loud crosstalk from all sides]


  1. Is it not a prosecutable offence to obtain crb information under these circumstances? Maybe we should all start making these LAs accountable for this conduct. Why are they still in these positions?

  2. Very worried about this because it looks suspiciously like they're trying to 'pick off' an HE organisation. Fair or not there's a perception that Christian HEers are more inclined to do school at home and cooperate with their LA and if the anti-HE forces within the DfE have that perception ... well, divide and conquer.

  3. Interestingly a poster on the BRAG list says she's heard that the govt are in fact trying to close Teach down. Having a hard time working out on what grounds ... of course a vague threat along those lines might just be a bargaining piece ... just saying.

  4. I think the word authority in the label Local Authority is to be blamed for a fundamental problem in the tone and ideology behind the approach taken by council employees and their communication with the tax payer they serve so I am avoiding it.

    They make documents saying they do appropriate and good things while actually doing nothing of the sort.

    They know this and hate us because by doing this they are actually harming us both by confusing and by not actually providing the services they are paid to provide.

    I we can prove this we can harm them.

    So we are a dangerous enemy and when they should be serving and protecting us they actually have no intention of giving our actual needs any consideration.

    We will prove it!

    So JennyK you are spot on, dou you have the time?

    And Firebird and Tech keep on as you are fellow warriers.

  5. Had a look on BRAG

    I think my comment was the one reinterpreted above.
    I have no idea if the Gov are really wanting to "close them down" just the the British Humanist Association have deep, deep concerns about them, hence the negetive response from them to the Badman review last year. If you are not on there I don't mind if someone posts you my comment just leave out personal details/email please.

    I wondered if their discussion might be more protective than anything else.

    I would also like to talk about the Lancs issue, no time now but if you know of someone who really has had a CRB check done it'd be helpful to know.


  6. much as this is all very alarming (I really could do without yet another round of "home educators are child eating sadists") I fail to see how it is possible to legally covertly do a CRB check. There have to be numerous evidences of identity provided during the check process which the person initiating the check has to sign to say they have seen. Surely (she says with toungue slightly in cheek) no government agency would ever dream of saying they have seen evidence of identity without actually having clapped eyes on it????

  7. There is a school of thought that thinks that the EHE team in lancs is telling fibs to the councillors. I'm not entirely au fait with how the CRB system works - I had one one several years ago by the Guiding Association, and ISTR that I had to show my district commissioner my passport so she could tick that she'd seen it on a box. Re the form this is what I was told happens:

    "the officers like to bring it to the meeting, have a chat, fill it in for you and push for a signature."

    Can a local authority run a check without the person having the check done being aware? I received paperwork to my house, is this something that could be bypassed if the council were running the check?

    Hmm, having had a quick google, I suspect that it would be entirely possible for the council to run a basic disclosure check without generating any paper work to the parent.

  8. Check out

    This group have been trying to engage with the Authority.

  9. Did this meeting take place and if not why?