North Shropshire Home Educators meet their MP

Posted 23/11/2018 by randalluk
Categories: Home Education UK

Home educators from North Shropshire meet with their MP, the Rt Hon Owen Paterson

Eight home educating families attended a meeting with North Shropsshire MP Owen Paterson on 23rd Nov 2018. This had been organised in order for constituents to raise questions with their MP and jointly express their concerns about negative allusions and direction of travel re home education in government and the media, and the resulting negative perception of HE in the minds of the general public.

Questions and Issues raised:

Concerns that the DfE were conflating education issues with welfare issues. There was an accompanying failure to respect the boundaries of parental responsibility for their children’s education.

LAs are very keen to identify local HE families and carry out their checks, but offer no help at all with the provision of exam centres – these are increasingly proving very difficult to access within Shropshire.

The recent Consultation and Call for Evidence had been excessively long, over-complicated, technically inaccurate in places and generally unfit for purpose for busy HE parents.

Concerns about the expanded remit of Ofsted and its perception that anything unregulated (by them) was automatically suspect.

Many HE parents see the education of their children as an extension of their parenting, hence find registration totally inappropriate.

Mr Paterson was asked for his understanding of a parliamentary written question from 15 Nov answered by Anne Milton of the DfE. Did this indicate that the DfE actually had no current evidence that HE may present increased risk to safeguarding and of radicalisation? Link to: Written question – 191969 – UK Parliament.

Mr Paterson’s response:

Mr Paterson was already aware of the huge amount of time, effort and expense demanded by HE and expressed support for what HE families are doing.

He urged HE constituents to write to him if they had concerns. (Having heard from only one family in recent years, he was under the impression that other constituents must be happy with the situation as it is.)

You can write to him at Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or via his website.

There was little he could do about negative media reporting, but he was happy to hear of any departmental or ministerial inaccuracies (e.g. instances from the recent Consultation and Call for Evidence) and would pass this on to the appropriate Dept.

He advised parents to emphasise the positive outcomes of their home education.

He urged them to take up any local issues with their local councillor and Local Authority, and was assured that this had already been done.

He was sympathetic to the problem of accessing local exam centres, and seemed willing to press for more provision in this regard.

He could see it was unfortunate that the HE community had got swept up into the general concerns about dangers of radicalisation and abuse, but advised that it was not productive just to rail at the injustice of this. In government circles, these things are perceived as real dangers. Circumstances have changed and one has to accept the situation as it is now, providing evidence of positive outcomes of HE, of wrong application of legislation etc. and also suggesting ways in which the State could come up with a regime which is benign towards home educators, but at the same time filters out the dangerous elements.

He thought the answer to the Written Question suggested that at the time of the Consultation, the DfE had no evidence of either abuse or radicalisation.

He saw some great individuals within the HE community, but urged them to work more collaboratively to defend their cause if they feel assaulted by excessive legislative pressure or negative stereotyping. If opposition is coming from official bodies or quangos, he suggested that establishing a national body could be one way of raising a positive profile for HE, defending its cause and countering some of the negative claims.

After the meeting Mr Paterson posted a picture and comment on Twitter.

Owen Paterson Tweet 231118

 

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Shropshire’s Home Educated Children, “We’re Not Invisible”

Posted 21/07/2018 by randalluk
Categories: Home Education UK

On Wednesday 18 July, home educating families from across the county joined together for a ‘visibility’ picnic. The gathering, in The Quarry at Shrewsbury, was one of many such events across the country in response to repeated accusations that home educated children are in danger because they are not seen regularly by professionals employed by the state.

In recent months the campaign to force home educating families to register with local authorities so that they can be “monitored” has been boosted by a Private Members Bill introduced by Labour peer Clive Soley. In response to these events the Department for Education recently carried out a consultation to which home educating families were invited to respond. However, the three documents published in connection with the Call for Evidence, consisted of almost twenty-five thousand words putting forward a complete and complex reinterpretation of domestic law and international Human Rights legislation.

Incensed by the tone and content of the government’s apparent take on this, families across England have submitted over three hundred constituency-based ‘Petitions to Parliament’ calling on the department to substantially rethink its plans. They warn that if the proposed changes are implemented they will affect every family, not just those who home educate. This because the long-established understanding that all parents are legally responsible for the education of their children will no longer be upheld. Instead, it will be assumed that council employees have prime responsibility for the education of every child in their area.

Alison, a mother of older children, commented, “I really wanted to come today to get together with other home educating families to show the world who we are and how normal it can be. We are all doing this because we really want the best for our kids. Many of us have sent them to school and the kids have had bad experiences like bullying or stress from all the testing. It’s not fair to put young kids through that.

“They need to be free to learn in their own time and space. My kids learn so much by getting out and experiencing real life rather than being stuck in a classroom with 30 or more other children and just one teacher in charge of them. My oldest has just done GCSEs and will be going to follow his interests at college next year. It’s not always easy, but I’m happy it was the right choice for us.”

Sue, a teacher by profession who now home educates, had travelled from Wales to show her support. She said, “The curriculum that we have at the moment is very narrow and it’s all about rote learning, and actually as home educators what we’re able to do is skill our children up with the ability to find things out for themselves in a creative and interesting way. I believe this equips them better for the wider world and society that they’re going to go into.”

Her comments were supported by Jasmine, home educating mum of one, who pointed out, “As home ed parents we strive to open up different doorways to offer our children alternative ways of learning.”

Other parents had travelled to London to picnic in St. James’s Park before delivering a letter expressing their concerns to senior politicians responsible for the Department for Education. In Darlington picnickers delivered a national petition signed by over 16,000 people to the civil servant responsible for writing the consultation.

On a lighter note, when asked if they had any comments they wanted to make, one group of parents at the Shrewsbury picnic spent some time trying to formulate a joint response. This brought about a delightful HE moment. They said, “We tried to come up with a quote to sum up our day, but we went off on a tangent talking of gears and bikes, which is quite typical of home ed conversations.”