How can we simply refuse monitoring?

A couple of days ago, somebody asked here for advice on frustrating the best efforts of her local authority to ensure that all the children within their area were receiving a suitable education. The question asked was, 'How can we simply refuse monitoring?' This is a common enough desire on the part of some home educating parents and although I have dealt with this question before, it will do no harm to run over the basics again for newcomers to home education.

The first rule is to make it quite clear to your local authority right from the start that they are dealing with a troublesome crank, rather than an ordinary parent. Sometimes just refusing to allow a local authority officer to visit your home will be enough to give this impression, but if this doesn't work then telling them 'We're autonomous!' will usually do the trick. It is as well that they know from the very beginning what sort of person they are dealing with. This is important, because you want the local authority to realise early on that you are the kind of person who will be complaining to her MP or getting the local paper involved if they hassle you too much by asking questions or trying to insist on visiting your home. Here's an old dodge which some have found useful. Why not simply quote chapter and verse of the relevant legislation when replying to an informal enquiry about your child's education? This will leave nobody in any doubt at all that you are a bloody minded, barrack-room lawyer type.

How can one get away with providing no evidence whatsoever to the local authority? This is not really as hard as it sounds. Begin by downloading an educational philosophy from ;

These have proved a great hit in the past. Just add your kid's name to the document and you're in business! You will end up with something along these lines;

Our approach to John's education is in the main opportunity-based,
child-led and very flexible. It is impossible to provide a timetable or to
specify in advance which activities we shall be undertaking.
We work to keep a good balance between child-led, informal learning
and a more directed approach. In general, it is our aim to facilitate
learning through John's interests rather than artificially contrived
situations to reach pre-determined outcomes. We are always vigilant for any gaps which should arise in our provision and ready, willing and able
to make the necessary adjustments to fill them.

Notice the cunning way in which you can avoid actually saying what your child is doing or learning. He could be an infant prodigy who also excels at athletics; he could equally well be blind, non-verbal, learning disabled and in a wheelchair. This is a vital gambit in your attempts to keep the local authority at bay. By keeping it completely vague in this way, you ensure that your local authority won't be able to work out what level your child should actually be working at. This is of course why it was essential to oppose vigorously the recommendation in Graham Badman's report which suggested that parents should provide a statement of educational intent for the coming year. Heavens, if once the local authority had that in their hands, they might be able to work out next year that your child hadn't learned a damned thing over the last twelve months!

Sometimes local authorities will ask for more 'evidence'. No need to panic. Why not take a photograph of your child looking at a tree or doing some baking? You can then claim that these are evidence of studying the environment in a scientific way and doing maths by measuring and calculating in a practical, life-based setting. Impossible to prove you wrong about that! The 'diary' is another popular ruse that many parents have found to pay dividends. Just get an old exercise book and write down dates. Under each date, put down some educational activities. This can be going to the library, visiting a museum, conducting experiments in the kitchen; almost anything at all really. Don't worry about being too accurate or truthful, it's not as though anybody is going to check up on all this.

Occasionally, you may get a stubborn local authority officer who is not prepared to take your word for it that your child is being educated. This can be a real pain. In such a case, try this. You should already by this stage have sent a succession of strange, oddly worded and angry letters full of long words to your local authority. (Always remember to copy these to the comments sections of Internet lists and blogs. Other home educators will get a real buzz from seeing how cleverly you have managed to portray yourself to non-home educators as somebody suffering from a massive social skills deficit combined with borderline personality disorder!) Presumably by now you will also have dazzled them with your knowledge of Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act, the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006, Education and Inspections Act 2006, Children Act 2004 and Sections 436a and 437 of the education Act 1996. You should also have demonstrated a mastery of the relevant case law. Now go in for the kill by reminding the local authority of the 2007 Guidelines for local authorities on elective home education. You can find them here;

These contain some wonderful stuff about local authorities not being able to insist on visits and so on. This ought to get them off your case; after all, this is official government advice to them.

Any reasonably inventive parent should have no difficulty at all in refusing to be monitored by their local authority by following the simple points which I have outlined above. If you really find yourself stuck, then why not join the EO and HE-UK Internet lists? There you will find groups of like minded individuals. People just like you, who are all obsessively anxious to avoid having their children's education scrutinised by those best placed to judge its efficacy; i.e. the education department of the local authority. It has only been possible to sketch out the main points of strategy in this piece, but on the EO and HE-UK lists you will find plenty of people ready to help you with more specific advice.