Memorandum submitted by Carol Mathews and Nick Weir

 

1. Summary

We have the following concerns with the recommendations of the review:

That the registration process recommended by Badman seems to be more akin to applying for a licence to be a home educator for the year. Who and what process will be used to judge, given that, in law, education is the parents' responsibility?

That it is wrong and completely 'over the top'.to make failure to register a criminal offence    

about the precedence that these recommendations will create in taking responsibility for children away from their parents and transferring it to the state with all the implications this has for every other child in Britain.  The state itself will incur heavy costs and be legally liable for the education and welfare of all home educated children. At the present time education is the responsibility of parents. See http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/ParentsRights/DG_4002954 for the governments own definition of 'parental responsibility', one of which is "choosing and providing for the child's education".

That it includes the setting of learning objectives for home educated children and the monitoring of these objectives. Again, we would question the local authority's resources and capability to judge the abilities and needs of each child. The whole point of home education is to tailor the education to the specific character and needs of the child. We are unclear how any Local Authority officer will be able to judge the 'suitability' of an education scheme with so superficial a knowledge of the child.

That an LA officer who helps us to set learning objectives and a curriculum, will then expect us to deliver exactly this plan over the forthcoming year. This leaves no space for the flexibility and dynamic creativity that we see home educated children enjoying currently. We don't want to be tied into doing something with Matilda that is no longer is relevant to her. We want her to be able to pursue new interests and passions, as and when she is motivated to do so. Equally we want her to be able to move on from things that used to interest her but that no longer do..

That it includes the right of a LA officer to enter a family's home and to interview children in the absence of their parents. We are not aware of any other group in the population who are subjected to home visits by the state without the requirement of a search warrant (police), or a court order and presence of police officers (social services).. We seriously object to any legislation that so badly treats home educating families, who are already making great efforts on behalf of their children every day. We feel that Local Authorities have adequate powers to intervene if they have welfare concerns over a child (1989 and 2004 Children Act) and also if they have concerns over the suitability of a child's education (1996 Education Act). We feel strongly that to take away the civil liberties of a large section of the population by allowing Local Authorities free access to family homes does not seem to be warranted by the evidence on child abuse or any evidence of inadequacy in the present legislation.

DCSF also said that Graham Badman would look at improving the support offered to home educating families, but we believe that there will be no funding for support, since no extra money is being diverted to home education. Any additional resources will be swallowed up by registration and assessment procedures.

 

2. We home educate our daughter, Matilda, who is five. We are part of a network of home educating families who share educational activities and ideas. There are currently 54 families on the Stroud list and many more on the Gloucestershire Home Ed list (and more again not on any list at all!)

3. We understand the need for monitoring of Home Education in order to protect children from abuse and neglect, in the same way as school-attending children are monitored. We would suggest that the local authority simply has the duty to monitor the five 'Every Child Matters' (ECM) outcomes, in the broadest sense. That is, they should be checking that children are healthy, safe, enjoying and achieving, contributing to society and achieving economic well-being. Monitoring should not be about annual learning objectives and curriculum. It should be a dialogue with parents (and children where they are willing) about how they see their child fulfilling these ECM outcomes over the long-term. Practically every parent is going to agree with these outcomes and will be happy to explain how they see their child meeting them. Targets and specifics are unhelpful in dealing with the individualism of children and their development. This is a fundamental belief for many home educating parents and needs to be respected in any changes to the legislative framework concerning home education.

4. Our request is that, as there is now a select committee enquiry into the Review of Elective Home Education in England by Graham Badman, it would only be just and proper that the Consultation which has followed on the back of the Review be halted until the enquiry findings are made public.  Also that the "improving monitoring arrangements for children educated at home" laid down in the Improving schools and safeguarding children Bill http://www.commonsleader.gov.uk/output/Page2831.asp be removed pending the results of the enquiry and of the ensuing consultation.

5. We are concerned at the contravening of number 1 of the BRE code of practice on consultations http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/bre/consultation-guidance/page44420.html which states that consultations must be undertaken when there is time to influence the result. As a section on improving monitoring for home educators has already been incorporated in the Improving schools and safeguarding children Bill to be included in the Queen's speech for November, this would suggest that the code of practice has not been adhered to. The review recommendations have only recently been published and the consultation barely started. It remains to ask the question; what then are we being consulted on?

August 2009