A drift towards standardisation - Draft Policy by the back door?

Drinking Straw Stick Men, and why not.

Home educators are waiting for the outcome of the recent consultation and the merger of the five Boards into one by April '15.  

A recent exchange with the North Eastern Board has highlighted to us the danger that the Single Board, when created, will simply take the most common of the five Boards' current habits and apply them in the absence of a properly scrutinised Policy.

The NEELB had recently (and probably innocently) borrowed a form from the BELB for use as a prompt for parents to write a report about their educational provision.  Apparently in the aftermath of the active phase of the consultation, an increasing number of families are opting to keep their contact with the Board in writing.  The greater awareness amongst home educating families of their legal options in this regard as a side effect of the consultation can only be positive.

The form in question gave the impression that parents were required to follow a curriculum (possibly even the Northern Ireland Curriculum), have a timetable, meet a certain quota of working hours and provide the child's opinion - though the NEELB indicated that the accompanying letter would describe it as non-statutory and a guide only.  The form has been modified after discussions with HEdNI, but would have passed unopposed into practice if we had not been alerted to its existence.

The document was effectively identical to the HEP1 (pages 13 and 14) used in Belfast, which itself was strikingly similar to the EHE1 (pages 12-14) that appeared in the first draft of the Policy, and was removed but still referenced in the final draft.  If this form was informing practice in three out of five Boards at the point of merger, and therefore adopted by the Single Board, then the essential features of the contentious Draft Policy would have been implemented without due scrutiny and process.  Much of the Draft Policy would effectively have been put into practice.

A drift towards a common policy, based on the misinformed assumptions that staff make about their powers and duties must not be allowed.  The very fact that policy and practice is shifting without due process is a concern.  It might not be that the Boards have all got together and decided to bring in the discredited consultation policy by the back door, but the nett result would be the same as if they had deliberately planned to do exactly that. 

Home educators are well networked and one by one, families are objecting to these practices. They know they are not alone and that they will receive support from the home education community.