Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Thoughts on oversight

When we started to home educate we had no idea how we would make it work.  I had a vague idea about workbooks, sticking to the national curriculum in case L wanted to go to school, but we learnt on the job - as we went along.  In a lot of ways we are learning still.

About once a year our Local Authority (LA) write to us asking to visit us.  Often they over step their powers and say they will be visiting on X date, or they want to see samples of work, or they want to meet the children.  Some years I have let them visit - when I wanted to talk to someone about specific things - most years I write back saying that no, they won't be visiting, or seeing work, or meeting the children. 

It is important to remember that the responsibility for my children's education rests with my husband and I, not the LA.  They don't get to inspect what we do, nor dictate to us how we should do it and we certainly don't need their approval.  All they are needed for is a quick check that we are still providing an education.

Lots of people get confused because LA's and the government / OFSTED are responsible for making sure schools are doing an OK job.  The reason that outside agencies (LA / OFSTED) are involved there is three fold :

  •  because schools are acting "in loco parentis" - legally in place of the parents - parents need to  know it is all going well on a general level.

  • because schools spend government money, raised by taxes, taxpayers have a right to know the money is being spent well.

  • because teachers are government employees they need to be accountable to the government.

At no point in our home education journey have any of those applied to us, thus we do not need that oversight and in fact it is intrusive.  As we get no funding or support, the oversight takes our time and energy away from our children.  We get nothing back, but are being asked to present our family and our ways for judgement.

As we've been at this for ten years now, we have refined our way of dealing with the intrusion.  The Human rights act 1998 says" the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions." With that in mind we set out our Educational Philosophy - after all the LA cannot respect our right to follow our convictions if they don't know what they are!  Our Ed Phil (as they are often called in home ed circles) has evolved a bit over the years, but really hasn't changed all that much.  So, when we get the letter, I write a covering letter refusing the visit and anything else they asked for, and enclose our Ed Phil and a very brief run down on what the children have achieved over the year.  We make a point of saying that we do not plan ahead very far, so a retrospective view is all they can have :) We do, however, include any imminent plans - such as trips or courses in the next month.  This year the statement for each child was about 2/3 of a page, and we've had the grudging "that looks OK, see you in 12 months" letter.

So, just in case it helps anyone the next post is our Ed Phil - feel free to use it as inspiration :) But if you're in Northampton be a bit creative about rewording it ;)

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