My consult response - on deadline day, as usual!
Right, down to it. (I haven't read anyone else's response by the way, so I don't know whether mine is typical, but I suspect it will be.)
1. Question 1. Do you agree that these proposals strike the right balance between the rights of parents to home educate and the rights of children to receive a suitable education?
Absolutely not. Providing one's children with a suitable education is a duty under Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act anyway, not a right. And there's no reason why the rights - or duties - of parents should clash with those of their children, the nature of families being that they're both on the same side, so they both amount to the same thing and there is therefore no balance to be struck. Home education is not a right under British law that can be allowed or not by Government - it's a parental duty, unless the parents opt to delegate this to a school. Even then, the onus is on them to ensure the provision is suitable, not on Government. In the light of this, these proposals strike quite the wrong balance, giving far more powers to local authorities than either the law allows or than is necessary.
Question 2. Do you agree that a register should be kept?
Not at all. I might not mind it so much if it meant just that, but the Badman report conflates the meaning of 'register' with the word 'licence', so I think it's a terrible idea. The education of their children is a natural function of parents and if we follow the trajectory suggested in this report, all parents will soon have to ask for permission on an annual basis to continue looking after their children, as this blog post hypothesises. The oft-repeated simplistic argument from Government that "We need to know who these people are," doesn't ring true on its own and the Badman report belies it also. The truth is that you want to know who we are so that you can claim the power to withhold permission for us to do what we do. This is nothing but another power grab on the part of government, inflicted on families.
Question 3. Do you agree with the information to be provided for registration?
No. If you only wanted to know who we were, without the intention of grabbing more power over us, you'd only need our names and addresses wouldn't you?
Question 4. Do you agree that home educating parents should be required to keep the register up to date?
No! It's your register - you keep it up to date!
Question 5. Do you agree that it should be a criminal offence to fail to register or to provide inadequate or false information?
No. What are you going to do, send parents to prison as per the Truancy Act? That's not very helpful to their children, is it?
Question 6a. Do you agree that home educated children should stay on the roll of their former school for 20 days after parents notify that they intend to home educate?
No of course not. A parent's decision to deregister should be taken seriously, not as something that they could and should be persuaded against, given enough time. According to Ahed's Anomaly figures, more than 360,000 children are injured in schools each year and at least 16 children commit suicide each year as a result of school bullying. Sometimes children need removing from school straight away, for that and many other reasons. It's obvious that this should be entirely at the parent's discretion.
Question 6b. Do you agree that the school should provide the local authority with achievement and future attainment data?
No. Once a local authority has stopped being the education provider - i.e. on deregistration - achievement and future attainment data is no longer its business. What on earth is 'future attainment data' anyway? I didn't realise crystal ball reading featured on the National Curriculum nowadays.
Question 7. Do you agree that DCSF should take powers to issue statutory guidance in relation to the registration and monitoring of home education?
Do I agree that Government should 'take powers'?! Well, at least you're honest enough to call it what it is! NO, of course I don't agree with this. Government has more than enough powers already - far more than is good for it and the British people. The 2007 EHE Guidance sets out very well the only powers necessary, in keeping with the current legal position, which already allows for concerns to be properly acted upon. There is absolutely no reason for any change, and such change will be damaging to families and to home educating children - both their wellbeing and their education. Children learn best when they're allowed to be curious, not led by the nose and put under pressure to comply with someone else's expectations. The Badman report does not understand this or take it into account. Its recommendations will render the 'autonomous' learning method almost impossible to practice in most circumstances, even though it calls for more research into this method. If the report's recommendations are enacted, the method will cease to exist and there will be nothing left to research.
Question 8. Do you agree that children about whom there are substantial safeguarding concerns should not be home educated?
No. If the concerns are so substantial that the parents are seriously not deemed safe to be with the children, then this situation still applies to evenings, weekends and school holidays. School should be a place of learning, not a substitute child welfare centre.
Question 9. Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises where home education is taking place provided 2 weeks notice is given?
No. Why would they want to? Many home educated children are rarely at home anyway: they're usually out and about enjoying group activities and learning opportunities elsewhere. Also, we know from our collective experience that LA officers are often prejudiced about things like the addresses and appearances of home educators' houses. A lack of books on show doesn't necessarily mean that a child doesn't read, for example. And home visits are very stressful for the whole family: there is a feeling of being invaded and of one's whole life being unduly judged on the basis of one relatively short visit. The giving of two weeks' notice doesn't ameliorate this. The current freedom for parents to choose how to supply information to satisfy local authorities' concerns, as set out in the 2007 EHE Guidance should be retained.
Question 10. Do you agree that the local authority should have the power to interview the child, alone if this is judged appropriate, or if not in the presence of a trusted person who is not the parent/carer?
No. This is to conflate education with welfare, to disastrous effect. The current checks and measures regarding interviewing children alone, observed by the Police and Social Services, should be applied across the board. I can't see any reason why this would ever need to happen just because of home education, because if there were concerns about an individual child that were sufficiently serious to mandate it, then Police and/or Social Services would already be involved and be driving procedure. The only other motivation for proposing such a measure would be to attempt to find out whether parents were lying about the child's educational provision and this would be to overturn the presumption of innocence, as well as having a negative effect on the essential parent/child relationship of trust. This whole idea smacks of government wanting to insert a crowbar into healthy family life to jemmy it apart. It's barbaric and it goes against all our natural protective parental instincts.
Question 11. Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises and interview the child within four weeks of home education starting, after 6 months has elapsed, at the anniversary of home education starting, and thereafter at least on an annual basis? This would not preclude more frequent monitoring if the local authority thought that was necessary.
No, no and no. See above re: the problems with visits and also to have so many, so soon after deregistration completely negates the possibility of any kind of a deschooling phase, which is necessary to the restoration of curiosity and the will to learn in traumatised, over-schooled children. I'm speaking from bitter experience here: my three older children (now 17, 19 and 20 and in no danger of ever becoming NEET, for your information!) all needed at least a year of absolutely no educational pressure to regain their interest in learning after deregistration 11 years ago. This is often a very important, key process of home education and I'm surprised you are as unaware of it as you seem, unless your true intent really is to destroy it as a realistic, workable alternative to school provision.
I think that's it. Hmm. I lost patience with the long answers around questions 4 and 5, maybe - not that any of my answers were very long. There's only so many times you can keep saying the same thing, isn't there? And.. I might have let some sarcasm creep into my answer on 6b! Just couldn't resist that - I used to answer these things very earnestly, but nowadays I like to just say what I think and not pull my punches. I was downright weary of the questions, though, by the time I got to the last one, which made me glad I hadn't read them in advance or brooded over them for longer than five minutes. Talk about consultation fatigue! I can almost sympathise with the Irish on their EU referenda.
Anyway, this response of mine is neither literary nor political genius, but I think that the effort I've put in adequately reflects the length of time they'll spend reading it. It will be interesting to see how the responses are aggregated this time, because I think the reasons for our unanimous NO will vary somewhat more than they have on previous occasions.