I know it's a dangerous thing, because invariably what seems like a good idea to some is a bad idea to others, and any hint of cooperation can be subverted by a later government, but here's a few things to kick around. It is also useful to counteract the LAs, who have definitely not been shy about telling government what they want on the home education front. This started life as a mailing list post but I thought it deserved a bit of rework and posting.
1. A better definition of LA duties towards HE. This is potentially dangerous ground, because a bit of ambiguity can make life easier all round than having to stick to rigidly-defined rules even though they're obviously not appropriate. However, the variation in interpretation of the current rules between LAs suggests that we should make some effort to get them to stick to the same interpretation, we just have to make sure it's one we like.
2. Set up a proper framework to assess and qualify inspectors so that they know what they are inspecting and understand that no, we don't always have workbooks or lesson plans and it works as least as well as school, especially for our children.
3. Keep inspectors and advisers separate, one person cannot do both jobs. There should be a lot more advisers and very little need for inspection and monitoring if it's set up right. They shouldn't be there to fail families and force children into school, they should be working to help make the home education a success if parents request guidance or help and to keep out of the way if not wanted.
4. Make available the money that would have gone to schools to allow LAs to offer services. They can start with the numbers on their books to attract initial finance. I know money is short in government at the moment, but just imagine if we did all say 'screw you' and insisted on all our children being given school places. The money would have to be found then.
5. Make said services available for free to those who have registered (on the basis that the government is paying) but also available on-the-door to anyone for a nominal charge without needing to know any details. This allows those who want no government strings to participate, and also allows schoolchildren to participate in courses offered outside school hours.
6. As part of (4) and (5), allow access to school facilities such as labs and workshops out of hours. The school gets more money, the facilities are better utilised and children have more options, including schoolchildren with a particular interest.
7. Loosen the SATs, Ofsted and National Curriculum strings. Make it possible for private schools to open their doors to home educated children for specific classes on payment of a fee and minimal bureaucracy. This helps the private school be part of the community and retain their
charitable status and gives more options for children to learn.
As a note to (7), we've had practical experience of this in California,
where my son attended half a dozen classes on immunology at a small
private school. It included classroom time and some lab time doing biology
stuff, all age-appropriate for 7yr-olds. No bureaucracy either.
Yes, it is rather one-sided, but that is as it should be - the state is
there to serve and assist us if we ask for it, and to keep out of the way
if we don't.
I can think of some other ideas, but this is a good start, even though a lot of armour-plating might be required on the enabling legislation to stop it being subverted later.