The Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield this week stated that she believes that ultimately there had to be a register of home educated children who would then be monitored, assessed and have their well being checked. I have to put my cards on the table here and say this statement sends a chill down my spine, not because I am hiding anything but because my highly anxious Autistic son would never cope with being peered at and judged by another professional after all he has suffered along the way.
However let’s move on from that thought for a while and look at how this would work practically in terms of children with SEND if her crusade was successful and you were the person having to implement it;
- Firstly you would need to recruit and train specialist inspectors who understand home ed, they would have to be insured to enter peoples houses, for safety reasons they might need to go in two at a time. Sounds expensive but it’s not like the education system is stretched to breaking already or anything is it?
- Next you would need to work out how to measure progress. Would home educated family’s be required to follow the national curriculum? If so I guess the education authority would want to be providing the learning materials to make sure it is consistent. Sounds expensive.
- So now the newly appointed and trained inspector goes into the house, inspects the government provided material and deems it to be not up to scratch, what now? Presumably there would be some sort of action perhaps a stern telling off and advice to improve. So what if at the next inspection it still isn’t up to scratch? Perhaps a compliance order? Perhaps the parents feel they are complying? Oh then you would need the right to appeal to accommodate that and a team of lawyers. My, now that would be expensive.
- Now this darn family can’t seem to get the hang of the work still now they are claiming it is because the child has special education needs. Ah well you will have to look at that. Hmm seems they could use some extra support so you’d have to create or update their EHCP. Very expensive providing a private specialist TA or tutor to work at their home so why not instead just send them back to school, I mean what were they thinking home Educating in the first place right?
- Now maybe the family oppose this or there is no place because, oh, that’s right we closed down the specialist school and mainstream can’t meet their needs. So you would build more schools, sounds budget busting on top of all this monitoring.
- Or you could just forget all that and force the family to work harder at bringing their child up to national standards at the government set pace, yes let’s do that, sounds much cheaper. What’s this though? They still haven’t managed it, so you will need to take them to court and fine them. Still nothing oh well you will just have to take away the child and put them in an ATU or residential placement or maybe imprison the parents and put the child in care. Hang on though does that cost the tax payer a huge amount of money and have really bad outcomes…….
- Meanwhile all this money is coming out of the education budget and so even more unsupported children are leaving school to be educated at home. What a vicious circle.
Alternatively of course you could just say;
“Hey parents, why are your SEND children no longer in school? Is there anything we can do to improve things so you return or others don’t leave? What do you need? Oh and it has come to our attention that by home educating your child you have been saving us a great deal of money and school places so if you need a small budget for your SEND child’s educational support just let us know the rest we will spend on making the improvements you have brought to our attention.”
Then you could use all the money you saved by not monitoring home ed children to improve schools and if you were really concerned about home ed children’s health simply extend the health visitor service to include yearly health checks for all children up to 16. With schools improved and more support and specialist provision many home educators of SEND children would return their children to school, a lot are just waiting for a suitable place.
Now wouldn’t it look good for the children’s Commissioner and government if a record number of children were attending and thriving in school? And wouldn’t this be far more in the interests of all children under her stewardship?
The third option of course is just to leave everything as it is and cope with the embarrassment the growing number of families in home education is causing the government and local authorities by showing how underfunded and broken the education system is.
Oh and if you think monitoring is essential as you are still worried about the children apparently lost or invisible this might help;
So I guess my message to the children’s commissioner is that the choice of whether to hound or support home education families including those with SEND children is yours….