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HomeNewsWhy parent educators need to respond to the government's 'missing children' consultation

Why parent educators need to respond to the government’s ‘missing children’ consultation

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IN MAY the Department for Education released a consultation document and call for evidence somewhat speciously titled ‘Improving support for children missing education’. It is accompanied by a questionnaire in which one of the questions is: ‘Once you are aware that a child of compulsory school age is being electively home educated, what checks do you undertake to determine that this child is being suitably educated and isn’t missing education?’

The conflation between ‘home education’ and ‘missing education’ appears quite deliberate and makes the government’s objective evident. Although the Education Act 1996 in the UK establishes parents’ legal responsibility to ensure a ‘suitable education’ for their children, and the European Convention on Human Rights recognises the right of parents to ensure education aligns with their religious and philosophical beliefs, the state seeks to limit parental choice in education by asserting their authority and control over our children. They do so under the guise of safeguarding the ‘best interests of the children’. If their concern was with truancy (the official absentee rate is 7.5 per cent of registered schoolchildren, of whom a quarter are persistent absentees) they would surely state that. But they don’t.

In fact, the consultation description makes no mention of this at all. Nor does it mention what’s usually understood by ‘missing children’ – the alarming numbers who tragically go missing from the State’s care system who they should be worrying about. Its wording focuses exclusively on ‘non-registered children’ (the majority of whom are electively home educated):

‘We want to empower local authorities, schools and others to identify and support children missing education more effectively. This is to ensure every child gets an education, wherever they live and whatever their background.

In this call for evidence, we are seeking views on:

·       how children missing education are identified and supported;

·       the challenges in identifying and supporting children missing education;

·       how to address those challenges.

Children missing education are children of compulsory school age who are not registered pupils at a school and are not receiving suitable education otherwise.’ [My bold].

Why local education authorities need to be further empowered to do this is not clear. Their rights of intervention are already well established. 

However, it is the case that more parents than ever are turning their back on state education for a variety of reasons and it is this, not truancy, or the problem of genuinely missing children, that the state determines to address. The worry is that this foreshadows an attempt to revive the controversial (scrapped) Schools Bill that proposed a national register for children not in school.

That is why it is crucial for every parent who wishes to educate their children at home according to their own principles, beliefs, and traditions to take proactive measures by completing the questionnaire. This is our chance to defend our rights as parents, who have specific traditions and beliefs and who are deeply disturbed by those ‘values’ that the state is not just imparting, but enforcing on children, contrary to their wishes. Likewise, those parents who may not be overtly religious but whose very basic understanding of life and truth is being trampled over. It is also the chance emphatically to affirm that our home education system is exceptional, that it prepares our children for success in all aspects of life, both for themselves and in contributing positively to society.

I have included below a partial copy of the questionnaire along with some guidance on how to respond. Please note that the suggested answers are provided for reference only. Respondents should formulate their own responses based on their personal preferences and judgment. The final date to reply to the consultation is Thursday, July 20, 2023.

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About you

  1. What is your name?

Name: [enter full name]

  1. Do you consent for the Department for Education (DfE) to contact you via email about your response?

√ Yes

Please enter your email address: [enter email address]

Defining children missing education

  1. Do you believe that the statutory duty relating to children missing education applies to the right children (any children of compulsory school age who are not registered pupils at a school and are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at school)?

√ No

  1. Are there any children currently excluded from the statutory duty relating to children missing education that you think should be included?

√ No, the current scope is suitable

Please enter your explanation here:

Including additional children in the statutory duty for Children Missing Education is impractical, strains resources, and potentially infringes on parental rights. Such expansion could result in overlooking children in greatest need of support within the system. The current emphasis on high-risk cases allows for targeted support. It is important to respect alternative educational pathways and consider individual circumstances. Balancing the need for privacy and supporting collaboration between parents and their own communities proves to be a more effective approach. Maintaining this delicate balance is crucial.

  1. The next section is for schools and local authorities only. Are you responding on behalf of a school or local authority?

√ No

Supporting children missing education into education (Schools and other respondents)

  1. Once a school place has been secured, what works well to integrate a former CME into full-time education?

√ Other – please specify below

If ‘other’ selected, please explain what else works well (max. 100 words):

Parents’ role in supporting the education of their children is commonly undervalued by children’s professionals. When motivated, their involvement builds trust and maintains motivation. Parents understand their child’s unique needs and are therefore best placed to provide individualised support. Respecting family dynamics, and parental responsibilities and rights is crucial. Parental accountability ensures a committed approach to the child’s education. Respecting parents empowers them to make choices in the best interest of their child. Fines, which are a form of bullying, support no one and the idea of using criminal law in this way should be abandoned.

  1. What, if anything, would make it easier to integrate CME into full-time education?

Please explain what would make it easier here:

There are many children for whom the mainstream classroom isn’t a good place. For such children home education (or some alternative settings) provides the individualised learning, tailored attention, diverse resources, autonomy which result in successful outcomes for many children. In contrast, full-time education in an average classroom has many disadvantages for an increasing number of children. These include a lack of personal attention, rigid and increasingly ideological curriculum, peer pressures, and standardised teaching methods and assessments which do not cater to diverse learning styles. Home education in particular addresses these drawbacks, allowing for a more personalised, supportive, often safer and effective learning experience for children missing education.

  1. How effective do you think the use of School Attendance Orders are in supporting CME into education?

√ Ineffective

Please enter your explanation here:

School attendance orders are ineffective for bringing back children missing education. They overlook individual circumstances, impede parental engagement, and fail to address underlying issues. Relying excessively on fear undermines alternative education approaches and personalised learning. Enforcement efforts divert resources from identifying the root causes and can stigmatise children. A proper supportive approach acknowledges individual circumstances, upholds parental rights, explores alternative options, and appropriately allocates diverse resources. Such an approach ensures meaningful and inclusive education for all children.

  1. What preventative measures do you take to stop children from becoming CME?

√ Other – please specify below

If ‘other’ selected, please explain what other preventative measures you take (max. 50 words):

Promoting parental responsibility instead of imposing penalties. Emphasising targeted support, including recognising and respecting home education, to foster inclusivity and empower parents in making educational choices, without any intrusion into their private lives. Valuing diverse learning paths, upholding privacy rights, considering individual circumstances, and respecting legal considerations.

Conclusion

  1. What are the top five issues that you face in identifying and supporting CME?

√ Other – please specify below

If ‘other’ selected, please explain what other issues you face (max, 100 words):

I strongly oppose local authorities proactively identifying all children missing education due to impracticality. Parents bear primary responsibility. Diverse educational approaches exist beyond mainstream schooling. Mandatory identification infringes on privacy and personal freedom. Labelling children engaged in individualised learning as ‘missing education’ is unjust. Limited resources and community support argue against identification efforts. Prioritising high-risk cases and recognising diverse pathways to academic achievement is essential. Respecting parental rights and optimising resource allocation foster inclusivity. Torah-based home education cultivates analytical thinking, language appreciation, moral principles, and practical skills for real-world challenges, providing superior education.

  1. How, if at all, do you believe the processes of identifying children missing education could be improved?

√ Other – please specify below

If ‘other’ selected, please explain how else the process could be improved (max. 50 words):

Improving processes for ‘searching out’ Children Missing Education is inefficient and infringes on parental rights. Limited impact, resource allocation, diverse learning pathways, individual circumstances, collaborative approach, and legal considerations argue against improvement efforts. Respecting privacy rights and complete freedom to home educate is crucial. Recognising the value of alternative education pathways and individual circumstances is essential for effectively addressing CME.

  1. Please include any further comments you have regarding identification or support for children missing education.

Please enter your comments here :

The attempts made by local authorities to identify all children missing education are impractical, infringing on privacy, and constrained by limited resources and community support networks. It is crucial to respect parental autonomy and legal rights to foster an inclusive educational landscape and ensure the protection of children. The proposed regulations, which include terms like ’ethnicity’, ’demographic information’, ’reasons for EHE’, and ’information about the child`s welfare and general circumstances’, grant the government excessive control based on unfounded assumptions. It erroneously assumes that the primary authority to determine what constitutes a ‘suitable education’ rest with the state when it should rest with parents. The introduction of ‘Registers,’ disguised as mere databases, may transform as oppressive tools that dictate personal beliefs, restrict human rights, and interfere with methods how to bring up children. Stripping decision-making authority from parents undermines the core principles of democracy and poses a threat to personal freedoms. The replacement of parental choice with a state-driven ideology that only allows home education under strict regulations and enforcement opens the door to unauthorised intrusion into the private lives of citizens and represents a profound infringement to their legal rights, which not only undermines parental rights and fundamental freedoms but also puts at risk the faith, culture, and cherished traditional way of life of religious or home educating families. Furthermore, parents have the right to provide religious and moral education to their children without interference from the state, respecting their beliefs and safeguarding religious freedom. In addition, the government should focus its attention on the pressing issue of child exploitation and trafficking, which is the primary concern when it comes to missing children, rather than the cases that do not fall under the typical understanding of ‘missing children’ such as those who go missing from care. (See the following link):

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Asher Gratt
Asher Gratt
Rabbi Gratt was born in Israel in 1954. He established a successful telecoms business and later became principal of the largest Haredi school in the UK. He has written and published educational textbooks which are used to teach Jewish students worldwide in Hebrew, Yiddish, English and French.

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