I know I've had a break, but....
Sources close to the review have confirmed that its author, the former director of children's services at Kent county council, Graham Badman, is looking "favourably" at proposals that would require parents to register their children with their council when they are born or when they move to a different local authority.
Don't we already all have to register our children at birth? And won't Contactpoint join all the dots anyway, making the above idea tautological?
The part that interested me a bit more was this:
The review, which is due to be published in the next week, is also expected to recommend new guidelines on minimum standards for educating children at home. This would clarify the circumstances under which a local authority can order a child back into school, if it believed the provision at home was not up to scratch.
This is likely to mean - for example - that if I think my child is ready to read at ten years old, and the Local Authority officials, who don't know her at all, thought that she should have been ready to read at six years old, my child would be 'ordered back into school'. Actually, that's also the same as the present situation, isn't it? A school attendance order if the information supplied doesn't satisfy the LA that the provision is efficient, full-time and suitable etc., in the Local Authority's opinion? Then the parent gets to defend her provision in court.
I suppose the worry is, as Carlotta sets out here:
Since home education for many families is integral to the whole of their private as well as public lives, the state will now have access to and power over the most intimate parts of their existence. It isn't just a question of the state deciding the form and content of an education. It is about families having no autonomy or freedom whatsoever.
but I don't know, personally, whether I would make that leap based on the content of the Guardian piece. It doesn't say anything about home visits or the state having access and power. Being registered as a home educator with a Local Authority doesn't presently give LAs automatic access to the home and I can't really see any reason why it should.
Jacqui Newvell, a principal officer of the children's charity the National Children's Bureau (NCB), which took part in the review, said: "We need to put children's interests at the heart of this and embed a children's rights agenda instead of a parents' rights agenda. This is a very, very sensitive issue, We know a lot of home educators are doing a great job but our concern is the minority who slip thought the net."
Yes you're right Jacqui. It is a very, very sensitive issue. We've been having a lot of discussion about parents' and children's rights and which 'agenda should be embedded'. It comes down to this: who knows best the exact needs of each individual child on a daily basis - officials who don't know the children at all, or parents in the vast majority of cases? Parents, of course. Parents are in the very best position to protect their children's right to a suitable education, good health and happiness. Many of us see unwarranted official intervention as a threat to this, meaning: it's a threat to our children's rights and to our parental responsibility to protect those rights.
And don't muddy it all with the Khyra Ishaq case. Lisa talks about that very powerfully here. The child died because she allegedly had cruel parents: not because of home education. If we need full-time school attendance to spot cases of serious abuse or neglect in children nowadays then there's something seriously wrong with our society, isn't there?
I'd like to see a review looking into that please, and leaving well-functioning home educating families in peace to do what they do best for their children.
I needed some time off, but it's good to be back :-)