Thursday, June 29, 2017

Home Ed Bill: HL11 2017: FAQ

The Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill [HL] 2017-19 was given its first reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday. Here's an FAQ about the bill.

What is the home ed bill?

It's a Private Members' Bill originating in the House of Lords "to make provision for local authorities to monitor the educational, physical and emotional development of children receiving elective home education, and for connected purposes". It seeks to add a section to the Education Act, after section 436A [scroll down to find it, or Ctrl+f then enter '436A' in the search box] enshrining local authorities' duty to monitor home educators' provision including annual assessments into statute.

How would the proposed new section of the law be different from the current legal position for home educators?

There is currently no duty for local authorities to monitor the provision of home educators set out in law, a fact the government Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities makes clear in section 2.7:

"Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis."

Why do home educators work so hard to resist the routine monitoring of their provision by local authorities?

Because the monitoring can often change the provision for the worse, as I set out in this post 8 years ago.

Who is behind the bill to make this change to the Education Act?

Labour peers Estelle Morris, who was Education Secretary briefly from 2001-02 and Clive Soley, who has been campaigning against our freedom to home educate without routine local authority intervention for a long time. I also suspect other long time agitators (whose names come up repeatedly in past posts here) to have contributed to this latest move against us.

Why have they chosen this time to take this action?

From the explanation on this page: "Private Members' Bills in the Lords are usually introduced through a ballot held on the day after State Opening of a new session of a parliament." This explains the date, but in terms of the wider picture I would speculate that the current lack of a workable Conservative majority was deemed the best opportunity for the move. Reading past posts here dating back 12 years it's clear that for all of their perceived faults, the Conservatives generally support freedom in home education whereas Labour generally opposes it. There are well-established ideological reasons for this, which are set out below.

How does the process of Private Members Bills from the House of Lords work?

The stages of the bill are set out in the graphic here: first reading in the House of Lords took place on 27th June, and the date of the 2nd reading is to be announced where the bill will be debated in the Lords. If the second reading is voted through in the House of Lords, the bill then goes to committee stage "where detailed line by line examination and discussion of amendments takes place". The committee's recommendations are then reported back to the Lords and then voted on again in after a third reading. The same process must then take place through the House of Commons and Royal Assent for it received before the bill can become law - if it gets so far. This pdf makes interesting reading on the history and processing of Private Members' Bills.

What are the chances of this bill succeeding?

It's generally thought the chances of this bill succeeding are pretty slim because of lack of parliamentary debating time in the House of Commons BUT there is still a chance that if it is heard there, it might succeed in being voted through especially now there is no Conservative majority that we can safely rely on to vote against it. It's possible the bill might not be deemed important enough for the Tory whips to prioritise whereas many Labour and other progressive members might feel passionate enough to attend and vote in favour of it, for reasons set out below. Obviously home educators and their friends will oppose the bill at every stage, which will help to slow and hopefully curtail its progress.

Why is the bill phrased in the way it is?

The first draft phrasing seems to be based on the 8 year old Badman recommendations, which were campaigned for long and hard by activists who oppose our current freedoms. The recommendations were incorporated into an Education Bill in 2010 but this was fortunately thrown out in the 'wash up' between governments at the time of the General Election of that year. Conservative politicians motivated by the frantic campaigning of home educators throughout the Labour-commissioned Badman Review were at the root of this decision.

What are the implications for home education if it passes and becomes law?

The nature of what we do will significantly change, because Local Authority officers will become increasingly involved in parental decisions and (most home educators think) their children's individual educational needs will be less prioritised. Home educators will have to impose local authority approved provision, whatever that may be, and will have to regularly demonstrate that they are successfully doing so.

What are the implications for home education if it doesn't pass and doesn't become law?

Home educators can continue to prioritise their children's educational needs and not worry so much about the opinion of local authority officers or those of other governmental officials or advisors - for now. There will always be a threat that this will change though, because some influential people are very much against this freedom and are determined to keep trying to prevent it.

What is the best way for home educators to oppose the bill?

Raising awareness amongst some MPs is a good idea in many cases. Everyone in the country has a Member of Parliament whose job it is to represent them in Parliament whether or not they voted for them, although different MPs interpret this according to their personal views and position. I would recommend caution in approaching a Labour MP about this bill in case their interest is galvanised in the opposite direction to the one we want it to be. Most Conservative MPs can be brought onside successfully, especially when they are encouraged to see it as a party political issue.

Bills can be petitioned against in either of the Houses of Parliament, as Graham Stuart spectacularly demonstrated in helping us to oppose the Badman recommendations in 2009. This is an approach that home educators will be looking to repeat if the current bill makes any worrying progress.

The campaign led by home educators against the Badman Recommendations included picnics and other public gatherings to raise awareness, protests outside Parliament, appeals and advice given to the Select Committee on Education, letters and visits to MPs, petitions, Facebook groups, blogs, letters to newspapers and comments and articles on websites, a song, various spoofs and so on. Any and all of these methods of campaigning will be adopted again if the current bill makes any worrying progress. Many will be being planned and undertaken already.

What are the best arguments against the bill?

This list is not exhaustive. Please post in the comments below if you can add to it:

  1. Home is not school, and parents are not teachers. Just because schools and local authorities now have wide-ranging duties and responsibilities towards those children who attend school does not mean they should also be given the extra duty of routinely checking what families do in their private homes.
  2. Local authorities already have sufficient powers to take action if there are specific problems with specific home educating families. These exist in Section 437 of the Education Act and in Sections 17 and 47 of the Children Act. Further powers will therefore be excessive which will cause problems for officials and families.
  3. Where the NSPCC set out the seven serious case reviews pertaining to elective home education from recent decades, we showed that in every single case, the authorities failed to take the action they were required in law to take and new regulations would not have helped made the children safer.
  4. Home education provision is often damaged by routine monitoring. Personal, real life examples of this help to make the argument.

What motivates some people to want to regulate what we do?

Some people think children belong to the state, not to parents. They often mistrust parents and the family unit and see it as the enemy to what they want to achieve i.e. changing the world in the way they think it should be changed.

They worry that if they fail to get every child into a state school being taught a government-approved curriculum, they won't be able to effect the social and political changes to society that they want to effect. They seem to want to close all the loopholes, and home education is a gaping escape route from that ideology so making it more difficult for parents to educate their children as they see fit and therefore discouraging home education is their short term goal.

I think we have aptly demonstrated over the years that safety and wellbeing concerns for home educated children are spurious, though local authority officials often struggle to change hats effectively between that of Education Welfare [i.e. Truancy] Officer and their other role of taking action when appropriate regarding home educating families. The remedy for this is a better understanding of the current position though, not increased regulation.


Blogger Jessica Mwanzia said...

My son was failed by school and when I took him out in 1999, at age 5, he was extremely anxious and would not have cooperated with a stranger coming into the house to "assess" him. We were lucky to have fallen through the cracks for all those years and not to have had the tail wagging the dog. Just a short amount of time in school had turned him off being taught and an autonomous route was inevitable. His sister is dyslexic and didn't read until age 12 but didn't suffer the routine humiliation many in school do for not being able to do what is demanded of them. Being pre-literate didn't hamper learning in a home environment, but having someone coming in annually to label her and me as failures would have undermined her sense of self. Both now well functioning adults, with intact sense of humour and ability to bull-shit detect.

8:28 am, June 30, 2017  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Bill has now received its second reading. Notwithstanding Lord Soley’s apparent lack of familiarity with the case (he introduced the Bill) the genesis of the bill is likely to derive from the Dylan Seabridge case in Wales. This led to the first Serious Case Review which said clearly "the child was invisible and we need legislation". The problem is that the Seabridge report is a whitewash. The truth is that Dylan was as usual failed by a system which was aware of his existence and had the power to act but simply failed to do so. This was buried to give a nice clean result and the Children's Commissioner (who was aware of what had been done) refused to intervene because she supported the outcome ie compulsory registration. The Welsh government is Labour (sometimes with “add ons” but always Labour) and it seems reasonable to suppose that this led to the introduction of the Bill by a Labour Peer. Certainly the BBC program which aired on the 4th of October (Radio 4 Out of School Out of Sight) was according to the producer "prompted by the coverage of Dylan's death". The program interviewed both Lord Soley and the Children's Commissioner for Wales. The reasons given for supporting the bill on the second reading make no sense when measured against what the Act would actually do. How does an annual visit in any way prevent "radicalisation"?

4:08 pm, November 28, 2017  
Blogger Gill said...

Apologies for the delay in processing your comment! I get so many spam ones that the genuine ones sometimes get lost.

12:37 pm, November 30, 2017  

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