Wednesday, April 07, 2010


Home education as we know it is safe, for the time being.

However, Ed Balls has said that he "will be campaigning to ensure that this Government is returned and that these measures do make it on the statute book in the first session of the new Parliament," so we really need Labour to LOSE the General Election.

Then, we'll see what the Conservatives have in store for us. Here are Michael Gove's words in the House of Commons on the 11th January this year:

I am deeply concerned about the additional bureaucratic burden that will now potentially be placed on thousands of our fellow citizens whose only crime is to want to devote themselves as fully as possible to their children's education.

It is a basic right of parents to be able to educate their children in accordance with their own wishes, and to educate them at home if they so wish. There may be many reasons why parents take that decision: they might be dissatisfied with local provision; their child might have a specific educational need that they feel can be better supported at home; or they might have philosophical objections to the style of education on offer at the local state schools that are easily accessible.

Each of these decisions can sometimes be illuminating, in that they can tell us what is wrong with current provision-there might be a lack of diversity, for instance. Ultimately however, this is a basic human right that every parent should have, and I feel the Bill erodes that right, because, as I read it, it allows the state to terminate the right of a family to educate a child at home if the education offered is not deemed suitable according to regulations that the Secretary of State writes.


I believe that the report on which their recommendations are based was described by one member of the expert group called in to help us as one of the most rushed, flawed and populist exercises with which he had ever been involved. I know that the Secretary of State bears no malice towards home education, so I hope that in Committee he and the Minister for Schools and Learners will do their best to address the many legitimate concerns.

I do not know of any home educating parent who supports these provisions. I, like almost every Member of this House, have been inundated by correspondence, telephone calls and e-mails from, and had private meetings with, home educating parents who are deeply concerned about this legislation, because it undermines the right of a family who have broken no laws and placed no child in danger to decide what is in the interests of their child.

As the debate on home education has developed, I have become particularly worried about the way in which various issues have been conflated; I am especially worried about the conflation of safeguarding and child protection with quality of education. I deeply regret the way statistics have been used to suggest somehow that children are intrinsically at greater risk if they are being home educated; I believe I am right in saying that not a single home-educated child has had to be taken into care as a result of a child protection plan, yet there are those who have sedulously spread the myth that somehow children are at greater risk through being home educated.


Many of those who sacrifice not only earnings but time make a commitment of love towards their children in order to home educate them, and that should be celebrated and applauded, not denigrated and undermined.

One of my specific concerns is that this legislation means the state will take it upon itself to regulate what may or may not be taught in the home. Proposed new section 19C in schedule 1 provides that parents will have to produce a report in accordance with regulations laid down by the Secretary of State explaining what they propose to include in the education programme for their child. They will then have to allow an inspector in at an appropriate point, and that inspector will have to be satisfied that the education being provided is suitable, according to the regulations laid down by the Secretary of State. If that education is not considered suitable by that local authority employee, the right of that individual to be home educated can be revoked. So this is not about safeguarding or even about child protection; this is about the Secretary of State being able to say that an individual home educating parent is not providing an education that he deems appropriate and therefore they should not have the right to educate that child at home.

One of the other terrible things about this legislation is that proposed new section 19F in schedule 1 sets out that when the information provided by a parent to a local authority changes and is found to be wrong, even if it was materially right when it was given - in other words, the parent made efforts to ensure that the information was correct but the local authority finds that it has changed in some respect - the right to educate that child at home can be revoked. Even though the parent is not at fault and sought to provide the right information at the right time in the right way, they can lose the right to educate their own child. A draconian extension of state power is potentially made possible by this Bill, which is why all my hon. Friends will be working hard in Committee to ensure that we can find a consensus on this sensitive area, so that the rights of home educating parents are respected and we do not fundamentally erode their liberties.

David Laws then said, crucially:

I share some of the concerns that the hon. Gentleman has outlined. Is it his party's position that the existing regulation of home education should be left unchanged, or does he foresee the need to make some changes?

And Gove replied:

I do foresee the need to make some changes. I do not believe that the current system is perfect, but it is fundamentally important that we respect the rights of home educators first and that we ensure that any change to legislation is conducted in accordance with their wishes and interests - they have made it crystal clear that the approach that has been taken so far runs counter to those.