Memorandum submitted by Action for Home Education (AHEd) (CS 42)

 

 

AHEd calls for the withdrawal of sections 26 (Schedule One) and 27 of the CSF Bill currently under scrutiny.

 

1. Civil Liberties:

The issues addressed in the Children Schools and Families Bill, sections 26 (Schedule One) and section 27 are serious issues of civil liberty. We urge all MPs to oppose these sections of the bill The grossly disproportionate proposals hold serious implications for the civil liberties of all parents, children and families in this country. They have potentially fatal implications for all parental responsibility for education as enshrined by s7 of the 1996 Education Act and, furthermore, violate human rights instruments:

 

1.1 Articles 8, Human Rights Act 1998

 

Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

 

1.2 Protocol 1. ARTICLE 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights

 

No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.

 

1.3 Article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

 

1. No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.

2. The child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

 

1.4 The proposals of sections 26 and 27 represent attempts to remove a fundamental freedom and make it into the provisional gift of government. 

 

1.5 By long tradition and common sense, it is parents and families who safeguard children, as is their legal and moral duty. In general citizens have benefited from an assumption of innocence and families are trusted to care for their children without routine oversight by the state. 

 

2. Regulation:

Rule by regulation represents arbitrary authority and interference that should not be imposed upon the people.

 

2.1 Sections 26 and 27 allow for the making of regulations relating to the registration and monitoring of home education provisions in England and Wales. These sections ask parliament to agree to a skeleton provision for the regulation and monitoring of a section of the electorate, the content of which regulation parliament does not know.

 

2.2 Parliament is asked to grant power to vary regulation without rigorous parliamentary scrutiny.

 

3. Registration:

Registration is permission, since it can be withheld; the recommendations specifically intend it to be withheld where education proposals do not meet with prior state approval. 

 

3.1 The proposed registration scheme is about complying with a licensing scheme in order to gain permission to carry out parental responsibilities. Education is a parental responsibility. Families who choose to educate their own children outside the state school system are not required to register their decision with the local authority as they do not require LA services. Local authorities are responsible to provide school places for those children whose parents require a place for them - not to inform themselves of the education provision of all children

 

4. Monitoring Education and Welfare:

The proposals are disproportionate and unnecessary. The current system allows for parental choice and responsibility which is balanced with strong local authority powers where there is an appearance of failure or risk. This is proportionate and effective where properly enacted.  In cases of dispute, courts can decide if a suitable and efficient education is in place. These terms have been defined in case law.

 

4.1 Some LAs do not believe the current system is strong enough. Mr Badman told the scrutiny committee that LAs have been frustrated at not being able to do the job they "think" they should do. The position is that current legislation IS strong enough but it does NOT provide for the LAs to do the job their preferences and prejudices cause them to THINK they should do. Many LAs find it hard to accept that home education is a private issue not a public issue - unless and until a parental failure to comply with their duties occurs, which does not require routine monitoring, just as other private family provision does not.

 

4.2 It is an attack against families to try to replace the current balance with intrusive family interventions by attempting to generate a false dichotomy between "rights" of parents and "rights" of children, saying that the government must routinely intervene between the two to "balance" these rights. This is an argument for state intervention, control and division of the family.

 

4.3 In exhaustive and repeated consultations over the past five years all results have favoured supporting existing freedoms unchanged and to ask local authorities to abide by existing law. DCSF are now attempting to detract from the overwhelming vote against their proposals, denying many home educators a voice by labelling them "part of a campaign".

 

4.4 The underlying issue is that local authorities have failed to understand their duties. LAs believe that they must ensure the welfare, education, and "Every Child Matters" (ECM) outcomes of every child in their area; but do not have the legal powers to do so. They do not have the power because they do not have these duties. Parents are responsible to ensure the welfare and education of their own children. ECM outcomes are a guide in the provision of public services to children. Home Education is not a public service provided to children.

 

4.5 Home educated children and their families are subject to the same laws as every other family. These laws already provide for Local Authority intervention where there is evidence of concerns for the education or welfare of a child. Routine checking and monitoring of all home educating parents and children would undermine fundamental civil liberties, contravene the Human Rights Act and send the very divisive and dangerous message to children, that their parents are not to be trusted and that strangers from the LA over-ride parental authority.

 

4.6 Routine checking and monitoring of all home educating families would be unnecessarily costly. This is particularly controversial at a time when there are limited resources available for Children's Services, which should be properly directed towards genuine need. Therefore, the government should trust parents to do a good job and measures for intervention should be on the basis of reasonable concern only as currently provided for.

 

4.7 After extensive consultation, the DCSF did produce guidelines to local authorities on elective home education in 2007. The guidelines have not satisfied home educators or local authorities because of inconsistencies where the department has tried to support the assertion that local authorities are responsible to ensure the educational provision and welfare of all children in their area. The assertion angers parents, who are responsible for their own children and should be left alone to do their job with the confidence of their government. The assertion pressurises local authority officials to carry out duties for which they do not have any corresponding legal powers with the intention of carrying out intervention in families to prescribe, legislate and inspect all educational provision and ensure its compliance with state requirements regardless of logic, need, benefit, or resource implications

 

4.8 Families should not be subjected to a system of routine surveillance to ascertain their innocence, or to investigate ungrounded fears about families who simply choose not to receive Local Authority services. Such a policy would cause vastly more harm that it could ever hope to prevent.

 

5. Summary:

AHEd members call for the removal of sections 26 (Schedule One) and 27 from the CSF Bill. Current law as it relates to elective home education already provides for:

 

parental responsibility

freedom of conscience

the presumption of innocence

promotes the best interest of the child

requires education suitable for the child

provides for local authority action where there is an appearance of failure

gives access to due process in the case of dispute

 

Please see our Parents' Declaration: http://ahed.pbworks.com/ParentsDeclaration

 

AHEd statement

 

We declare that:

 

We refuse to cooperate with any recommendations made or any actions taken by any government unless they support our existing freedoms.

 

Following a history of being sidelined, persecuted and harassed, having had to resist years of repeated and vexatious consultations designed to regulate, control or remove our parental options, we will not tolerate any further persecution or erosion of our freedoms.

 

There can be no compromise or negotiation between totalitarian intentions and our agency over our own lives. 

 

We are opposed to registration.

 

We are opposed to monitoring.

 

We are opposed to government interventions in how we educate our children in the home.

 

We are opposed to compulsory home visits.

 

We are opposed to compulsory interviews with our children.

 

We will not co-operate with the oppression of our children.

 

We demand a presumption of innocence

 

We want our representatives in parliament to say:

 

 NO to the nationalisation of children 

 

 NO to the licensing of parents

 

 NO to any new legislation restricting home education

 

 

February 2010