Ibiza loophole exposed by home educators

Did they really think we wouldn’t notice? Despite attempts to conceal their actions from home educators, the coalition government has seen fit to regurgitate recommendations made by the discredited Graham Badman in relation to pupil registration regulations and attendance codes in England.

Although these changes will directly affect them, elective home educators have been deliberately excluded from preliminary enquiries about the proposals, responses to which were invited from others (all vested interests) by 21st March. What’s more, the Ibiza loophole, which will effectively permit families to take term time holidays with impunity, is already glaringly obvious to everyone except the civil servants proposing the changes.

Extract from a DfE letter dated 7 March and circulated to the Education Forum and Ofsted:

Parents deciding to Home Educate – Graham Badman’s report on his Review of Elective Home Education in England, published in June 2009, recommended that when parents are thinking of deregistering their child from school to home educate, schools should retain such pupils on roll for a period of 20 school days so that should the parents change their minds, the child could be readmitted to the school. This period would also allow for the resolution of such difficulties that may have prompted the decision to remove the child from school. This recommendation was supported by the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee Report on Home Education published in December 2009.

We propose to add a regulation so that where a parent has de-registered their child from school to home educate them, the school will retain the child on the admissions register for a period of 20 school days. To ensure that the school’s absence statistics are not affected by this we propose to change the definition of the absence code Z so that schools may use it to mark the register over the 20 day period (Code Z is currently used as an administrative tool that allows schools to put new pupils on the Admissions Register in advance of them starting at the school, rather than having the burden of putting them all on at the same time, and not have to mark them as absent in the register).

The timetable for changes is also tight and much shorter than the usual 12 weeks, allegedly “to meet our commitment to give schools a full term’s notice, in advance of the regulations coming into force.” The DfE also claims that the changes are not controversial. Aye, right!

So the proposed timetable to bring in the changes is intimated as follows:

By 7 March – letter emailed to appropriate recipients
By 21 March – responses received
W/c 28 March* – regulations to be signed
By 1 April* – regulations laid in parliament
6 April – House rises for recess
On 1 September* – regulations come into force

* these timings depend on nature and content of the comments received from this letter.

In other words, the process has been nice and neatly stitched up without a whisper to home educators who are the ones being stitched up.

As our forum members have pointed out in this thread, the original Badman proposal for a deregistration delay, ostensibly  to ensure that parents who “change their minds” do not lose their child’s school place, was ill thought out and would have inevitably fallen foul of the law of unintended consequences.

The Ibiza loophole, which was pointed out at the time, is eloquently explained by forum member llondel:

“I would like to point out that the proposed 20 day period for keeping a school place open for a home educated child is likely to be abused by families with no intention of home educating but with every intention of enjoying a cheap off-peak holiday in Ibiza or similar. All they need to do is withdraw their child from school by delivering a letter to the school on Friday, spend one or two weeks out of the country (and therefore not contactable) and on their return, have ‘second thoughts’ and put the child back into school. In this manner they will have sidestepped all the truancy regulations because the child will not have been absent from school without permission.”

Just another cock-up by the coalition, or is something more sinister afoot? You decide.


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