Goodness, I do seem to be attracting conflict these days. Came home this afternoon to find (finally) a response from a county councillor, Councillor Steve Williams of Spalding, in fact, Chairman of the scrutiny committee that passed this intrusive, ultra vires, yearly evidence policy in the first place. Those of a sensitive disposition may like to look away now. Councillor Williams, bless him, does not wish to stray far from the tory line, likes to insult minority groups and clearly doesn’t have the time to research issues he makes pronouncements about. Surprise! He said:
Thank you for your communications regarding Home Education. I think the letter of reply from the Director of Children’s Services fully describes the situation and the Law.
I support the existing County Policy both on Educational and Safeguarding grounds. Please remember that ‘every child matters in Lincolnshire’, and no child will be disadvantaged on my watch.
If you require any other advice I shall be pleased to help
Cllr Steve Williams
I did not, in my current mood, take too kindly to this. I really am sick and tired of these people and their ignorant arrogance, and I will not be spoken to like that. So I said:
Thank you for your response. I do indeed require further advice:
Would you mind explaining precisely what you intend by “Please remember that ‘every child matters in Lincolnshire’, and no child will be disadvantaged on my watch.”? It appears to imply that you believe my child is at risk, educationally or otherwise, because of my lawful decision to home educate. Home educators may be a minority in this country, but I assume you would be careful to avoid making a similar insulting, offensive insinuation about any other minority group exercising a perfectly legal choice. Do you intend to apologise for that remark?
Meanwhile, if you will permit me an observation as opposed to a question: it appears that you did not read either the barrister’s opinion or the government’s own guidelines on EHE, both of which were included in the correspondence you were sent, and both of which make it clear that home education is not a safeguarding issue and is not to be considered as such. It is not particularly reassuring to know that prejudice against home education spreads not only through the authority itself but into the realm of councillors too. I imagine that such bias would inevitably affect the correct scrutiny of policies in committees such as the one you chair, which is something the LGO may be interested in should my complaint reach that stage.
Finally, I did ask that – in the event that you were not interested in this issue yourself – you point me in the direction of a councillor who might be able to assist me. As in, a councillor who is prepared to read the documents and consider the situation in order to form a reasoned response, as opposed to a councillor who will allow their own knee-jerk prejudices and rudeness to influence their reply. If you believe there are no such councillors in Lincolnshire County Council, please do say so, so that I don’t waste any further time.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I don’t expect he will apologise. In my experience, people like him rarely do. Still, at least he replied, even if he clearly doesn’t have a clue and likes to be offensive into the bargain. My own councillor, dear Mr Chris Underwood-Frost, couldn’t even be bothered to send a terse, insulting email. I shall sleep easy knowing that my interests are fully represented by my elected public servants.
Back to the actual “decision makers”, such as they are. Following Debbie Barnes’ last “I have no idea what I’m on about and nor does our legal department but we’re going to try to sound authoritative” reply, I pointed out to the PA who sent the reply that I had not been given the Chief Exec’s email address, and that I needed it in order to progress the complaint. She apparently interpreted that as me asking her to escalate the complaint herself. So she did. So I received a standard letter from David O’Connor, Executive Director Performance and Governance, informing me that he had tasked a member of the legal team to begin preliminary enquiries to see if there was evidence of potential maladministration which would warrant a level 3 inquiry. Not quite what I had in mind, nor indeed what I had asked for.
Am I alone in finding it faintly ridiculous that the legal department, which have already proven themselves a) biased against home education and b) fairly ignorant of the relevant law, are the very people who are going to see whether the complaint warrants investigation? Well, of course they won’t think it does, since they don’t understand the law and don’t want to land themselves in the doo-doo. My parrot could have worked this out, faster and certainly with more aplomb.
Sigh. So, since Mr O’Connor did not provide contact details in his letter, I had to write back to the PA to say no, this is not what I asked for, I’m not happy with DB’s response, they’re quoting case law which has zilch to do with home ed, I therefore have no confidence in the legal dept investigating itself, I wish to deal directly with the Chief Exec, I’m not going to wait 8 weeks to be told there’s nothing doing and why didn’t you read the email properly in the first place you daft woman and just give me the damn email address. Well, I may have said it much more concisely and considerably more politely than that, since I have a good deal of sympathy with most PAs, but that was the gist of it.
Meanwhile, I have finally got my head around the fact that judicial review can apply to LA policies in their own right, as in one doesn’t have to wait for the LA to make a wrongful decision against you personally because of that policy; in other words, I don’t have to wait for them to issue a school attendance order and all of that nonsense. Potentially, their policy in itself can be challenged. I gather this would be exorbitantly expensive, but I also gather that it would probably be funded, as a public interest case. I’ve spoken with a local solicitor about it, and will probably make an appointment next week for an initial discussion about what would be involved and whether it would indeed be funded.