Notes on the transcripts (6) - 'registration' (licensing)
Andrew Pelling (Independent, Croydon) then asked:
Q29: Could the flexibility go so far as to drop the idea of registration and just have the approach that there should be an obligation to receive advice? Could you go that far in terms of flexibility?
An obligation to receive advice? I appreciate the well-meaning attempt at conciliation, but it's a nonsense. The only advice worth having or giving is that which is freely sought. Ditto: 'support' - and 'education', come to think of it. Anything else is just manipulative and will probably be met with resistance.
Ms Diana R. Johnson (Minister for schools): I would say on that point that the reason why local authorities need to have numbers on how many children are being home educated in their local authority area is so that they can plan services and make resources available. That would be very difficult if you did not actually know how many children were being home educated. That is part of the problem that local authorities are describing to us at the moment - they do not actually know.
This can't be the true reason, because if it was they'd be happy to just advertise their services, count the numbers of people responding and plan accordingly. Not all home educators will want or need LA services and/or resources, so counting the total numbers of home educators in the area won't give them the information they need to plan delivery.
Q30 Mr. Pelling: But there is a sanction, is there not, in terms of the local authority having gone through its registration process?
I don't really understand this question.
Ms Diana R. Johnson: Are you asking if there will be a sanction?
Seems I'm not the only one.
Mr. Pelling: Yes.
Ms Diana R. Johnson: Again, this is the consultation period, so I cannot say what will come out at the end of the consultation. Certainly, a lot of people have been writing in about the registration requirements, but it closes on 19 October and then the Government will have to look at it.
Oh, they're going to take into account our 5,200-strong opinion? Good news indeed.
Q31 Mr. Pelling: So, in terms of the open-minded approach that is being taken to the consultation, it will still be a possibility not to have registration with sanctioning.
Ms Diana R. Johnson: I don't want to pre-judge things. Clearly, in having a registration process, you would think that if you didn't register, that would have to be thought through. It seems to me silly not to be registering everyone.
"That would have to be thought through"? Ever so slightly ambiguous.
Graham Badman: I don't want to fall foul of the trap of forgetting that hard cases make bad law. It is nevertheless the case that registration is a relatively simple process. You are talking about it happening only annually. It is not a great intrusion into families that are conducting a normal process of elective home education. But there are hard cases. There are some tragedies in our country that we need to try to prevent as far as we can. Let me cite something said by Daniel Monk, an expert in the legalities of home education, in the Child and Family Law Quarterly of 2009: "Parents who home educate are not simply performing a private duty, but also a public function. For all these reasons the case for compulsory registration is logical, legitimate and compelling."
It's not registration - it's a process of licensing, because permission to register can be refused. Working for weeks with the local authority to agree next year's plan of education and being questioned on one's compliance with last year's plan - these are not relatively simple processes. I mean, relative to what? I think I'm beginning to understand Mr Pelling's question a bit better now.
Q32 Mr. Pelling: Is it not the philosophy of this approach that it is important for the state to intervene in the life of the family to ensure that the rights of the child are protected? Is that not the backbone behind this approach?
Yes! Giving the lie to Badman's "It is not a great intrusion into families that are conducting a normal process of elective home education."
Graham Badman: I interpret it in a slightly different way.
The UN convention represents the wishes of this country for all the children in it. All I am saying is that there need to be some changes to guarantee absolutely that the rights of children to an education and freedom of speech, so that they are able to give a view about their lot in life, are met. I agree with you, but I argue the case from the point of view of the rights of the child.
Same argument. Same motivation. Greater chance of success. Please ask all school children whether they would prefer to be home educated, and act on their replies. (Enabling their parents to draw down the AWPU would help from a practical point of view.) Only then will the rights of children to an education and freedom of speech, so that they are able to give a view about their lot in life be absolutely guaranteed.