As I said yesterday, to date, home education law in England & Wales has been fairly favorable to home edders. Sadly though, there remains too much abuse of power by local authorities as my story will illustrate.
If I am adamant that home ed parents know the law, there is a good reason…I did not when I began this journey. As a result, my trust that was already broken by our year in schools was completely shattered by the Local Education Authority (LEA) when their Home Education Officer visited.
To begin with, just weeks after I de-registered PanKwake I was on a bus when it collided with a parked van. As I always did, rather than bracing myself I reached out to protect my little human. As a result I suffered a whiplash injury. I was in pain.
Still this Home Ed officer insisted that he must visit our home, see my child, and approve my provision. He would not be put off. And I did not know my rights.
So he came into our home, he demanded that PanKwake write her name. He looked at all the printed worksheets that I was trying to do…school at home…back then.
And PanKwake with her wonderful Pathological Demand Avoidance was having none of it. She jumped on the bed. She did a runner and got out of the apartment/flat door but thankfully not out of the building.
With all those resources that you saw in the picture…AND following the more acceptable traditional structured approach, the man was rather impressed.
Nonetheless, three days later I receive a phone call from him saying that while he found my provision to be exemplary, he was not going to ‘approve’ me. His excuse was that he could see ‘something’ was up with my child. If he approved me then the council would be under no obligation to ‘help’ me out.
My friends, the husband of which was a policeman, and my older daughter who was a teaching assistant calmed me down. Convinced me that this was a good thing. You see the school had been completely unwilling to investigate PanKwake’s challenges. I had no diagnosis at that point.
So I made an appointment with the CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) psychologist who had seen PanKwake a couple of times about the bullying. And thus began the two plus year saga that would eventually lead to the Big A word…Autism.
Three months later though when this man called me back, that process was just beginning. I told him that at this point another meeting would be futile as I did not have the answers for him yet. He replied that he did not care what CAMHS has to say, he just wanted to see proof that education was happening.
He could not find a legitimate reason to deny me ‘approval’ so he made up one. An excuse to harass me further.
I got smart quick at that point. I learned the Law, my rights, and responsibilities. I connected with local home ed group (though at that point I could not continue to do so due to her sensory challenges and behaviors.
A couple of resources that ALL of you in England & Wales should be aware of are:
They can put you in touch with your local groups…who know who and who cannot be trusted in terms of LEAs.
The thing that I like to point out…especially in terms of our #neurodivergent and Additional Learning Needs little humans who have been failed by schools is…why should parents let the very people who failed their child into their private homes…to judge the education they are providing against the very standard that was failing their little human to begin with? Where I come from we have a saying that I think applies too aptly…
Letting the foxes guard the hen house.
That is exactly what allowing the LEAs to ‘inspect’ home educators is doing.
Oh…how did I handle it then?
After learning my rights, I wrote a three page letter quoting the law to them. I provided them with an Excel formatted twenty page report that documented what I was doing…without giving a damned bit of detail. I told them that I would never permit another in-home visit as it upset my child too much. I compromised that I would submit annual reports….though after a couple of years I simply forgot those too.
Now…I live in a different LEA…Wales not England so slightly different guidelines. I did not ‘register’ when I moved. I was determined that I was going to ‘fly under the radar’ if it could. Unfortunately, almost a year ago I got door-stopped.
Remember that word…DOOR-STOPPED. In other words, someone shows up at your door unannounced…supposedly from the LEA. NEVER, EVER, NEVER let them in! You do NOT have to. The LEAs have repeatedly been told by the Department for Education (DfE) that this is poor practice. And look at it this way, would they allow you to just pop-in unannounced to check up on the quality of education they were providing your little human in school? Then why should they expect we would.
This guy was savvy. He knew better than to ask to be let in. Mind you…our home screams money. Not mine but my partners…but he didn’t know that. I think he was a bit intimidated. But that is exactly where you want these people…UNTIL you know better…which you won’t unless you connect with other local home ed families.
All he wanted was for me to send a letter or email to his boss confirming that we were in deed home educating PanKwake. I did that. Three paragraphs this time. Basically, I am in deed home educating my little human in accordance with the law and guidelines. I do not need, want, or will tolerate your intrusion. And I’ll let you know if and when I do.
I asked my home ed friends and discovered that while this man was nice…and seemed knowledgeable about my rights as a home educator, his boss is NOT. The woman has openly said that she would not be ‘comfortable’ ‘approving’ any unschooling provision. I won’t commit on that…because I cannot without cussing.
That was almost a year ago (nine or ten months to be exact). I have heard nothing more. BUT I am loading my double barrel shot gun. Not a real one, of course. (Oh, for the good ole’ days in Texas when home education families could…for trespassing…unless the education people brought the sheriff that is.) I am though already preparing my strategy for handling this person.
You see, I am a realist. I put my face and PanKwake’s all over the internet. That was a joint decision as we feel an obligation to educate other families about the benefits of #RadiCoolUnschooling Your Neurodivergent Little Human.
But it would be naive of me to believe that by doing so I am engendering animosity with the LEA. Basically, I am openly saying that they are failures. That their methods don’t work and aren’t good for our little humans. If people listen to me then school enrolment declines. Funding drops…especially the Additional Learning Needs larger budgets. And ultimately, jobs are lost. No one wants to lose their livelihood.
I laugh, of course…I am not that big a threat. Most people will never find the strength to take this route. I realize that I am speaking to a niche. Less than 1%. Probably much less than that who would find the courage, strength, and fortitude to pursue #RadiCoolUnschooling. But PanKwake, Cookie Monster, and I agree…if this message helps one family…one #neurodivergent little human…to become #HappilyAutistic or #ProudlyPDA then it is worth it.
Yes, worth the fact that I know one day there will be another knock at the door or a letter through the mail slot demanding they ‘inspect’ and ‘approve’ my provision.
Oh boy, am I ready! And it all goes back to those four things…
- consistent involvement of parents or other significant carers – it is expected that parents or significant carers would play a substantial role, although not necessarily constantly or actively involved in providing education
- recognition of the child’s needs, attitudes and aspirations
- opportunities for the child to be stimulated by their learning experiences
- access to resources/materials required to provide home education for the child – such as paper and pens, books and libraries, arts and crafts materials, physical activity, ICT and the opportunity for appropriate interaction with other children and other adults.
After another three page cover letter outlining in detail the laws and guidance, I will bury them under reports detailing how our #RadiCoolUnschooling meets all those standards. Including an Educational Philosophy with quotes from Socrates, Jean Jacques Rousseau, John Holt, Sugata Mitre, and many others…it will read like my dissertation. I shall likely also provide a detailed report on PanKwake’s progress in terms of Jean Piaget’s stages of development.
And if I am feeling mean I may even allow a supervised (by someone of my choosing) meeting with PanKwake. Of course, only after I have provided them with a copy of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child with Articles 3, 5, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, and 16 with instructions that this is PanKwake’s opportunity to express her views..and their obligation is to listen. I almost feel sorry for the poor person.
I will also demand that any visit be video recorded. Or not at all.
I will make it plain that should they wish to pursue further action I would deem any provision that did not meet OUR standards as unsufficient.
Because the kicker here, folks, is that IF they did seek a School Attendance Order…absolute worst case scenario…the standard by which we are judged is…every man. In other words, if you can show to the ‘common’ man that you are meeting those four things, it don’t matter whether they like what you are doing or not.
I kinda think with all that ‘evidence’ they would not have much of a chance. Especially once PanKwake took the stand. That Article 3…best interest of the child…is pretty powerful.
Yeah, I don’t play nice with these people. But then again, they taught me that playing nicety nice don’t work with them.
Learn this one from my dime, folks. Know your rights…and RESPONSIBILITIES. And like the Scout motto says…Be prepared.