Home Education Workshops 2007
Between January and July 2007 I helped to arrange and deliver workshops on home education policy and practice in various different regions of England. The idea for the workshops came about because the Department for Education and Skills was talking about "light touch changes" to monitoring and registration of elective home education. In the event, these light touch change plans were dropped in favour of a public consultation on Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities.
At the time of the workshops I was Education Otherwise Local Contact for Sheffield and I was a member - and from February 2007 the Chair - of Education Otherwise Government Policy Group.
Education Otherwise paid for the hire of the room and travel costs for people delivering the workshop. EO also paid for an additional room and for something for children to do (including where applicable a person approved to work with children) whilst the meeting was going on. From memory the budget for each workshop was around £500.
All the workshops were open to members and non-members of EO, except the one in Devon which was fitted into a weekend gathering and series of formal meetings for EO members.
The workshops were arranged at relatively short notice so as far as I remember it wasn't possible to put them all in the bimonthly paper newsletter which was posted out to EO members. For some of the workshops, member families within a certain radius were notified by email but email wasn't a standard means of communication with member families at that time.
The main way to spread the news was to post on national yahoo lists and to have someone in the local area choosing a good venue, spreading the word about the benefits of attending and asking people please come along. The biggest workshops were therefore in areas which already had the most active local networking groups, both in real life and also online.
I still meet people years later who say how useful/inspirational they found the workshops. However at the time it was touch-and-go as to how many people would actually turn up on the day, and apart from Bromsgrove - and maybe London - I don't think any of the workshops had more than 30 people. This was for something that was free. And at it was at a time when we were in fear of light touch changes to monitoring being introduced at any moment. I don't know how the numbers would stack up if someone tried to do something similar now.
If the cost of the workshop had had to be recouped from people attending then the planning would have been completely different since instead of finding accessible venues and funding a creche, we would have opted for more out of-the-way church halls or maybe even just had a talk in someone's house to cut back on venue costs. (I would have been against this.)