Saturday, May 12, 2007

A letter to the Telegraph

Dear Sir,

The first thing to surprise me about your recent Home Education piece was the title: 'New rules to cover rise in home schooling'

Please could you tell me the origin of this headline claim?

First, most in the Home Education community prefer to refer to what they do as education, not schooling. In fact, if your headline writer had read the consulation document to which the article refers, (s)he would find that the current guidelines are very clear (see paragraph 3.11 in particular) that home education may not look like home schooling at all.

Most importantly, what are these 'new rules'? The DfES are planning to issue new guidelines to LAs to assist with their dealings with Home Educators. There is, explicitly, no plan to change the law. In the email informing interested parties that the consultation had opened, Elaine Haste at the DfES wrote: 'it has been decided not to propose any changes to monitoring arrangements or legislation so this consultation is solely on the issuing of guidelines.' This needs clarification in your coverage; it is overly intrusive LA inspectors who are being reined in to follow the law as it stands - it would take very few phone calls for your journalist to establish that many LA inspectors have a shaky grasp of the law in this area, and rely on equal ignorance on the part of home educators.

'officials fear that many do little or no work as parents use home education as a front for truancy'. Which officials? DfES officials? Or perhaps LA officials, like those notorious in HE circles for their campaign against home education. Might I suggest that you contact Ann Newstead at Education Otherwise once again, ask to make contact with some media-friendly HE families, and send a journalist to collect some information about the real activities of home educating families and the learning outcomes? 'a front for truancy' may be attention grabbing, but it is painfully far off the mark.

The Telegraph might be better turning its attention to the parents whose interpretation of their legal responsibility to 'provide an efficient education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child' is to put them in the failing state school system, rather than putting out misleading information about those who instead make the decision to take their legal responsibility seriously and, in the absence of adequate school provision, educate their children themselves.

Yours faithfully,

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