I have received a number of letters and emails expressing concern about Schedule 1 of Clause 26 of the Children, Schools and Families Bill which sets out the Government’s scheme for compulsory registration and monitoring of all home educated children in England.
The Home Education Advisory Service believes that the proposed powers of local authorities to check on children being educated at home are excessive.
I am not convinced by their argument. Of course we want to allow parents to educate at home but there are risks attached to that and in one of the letters to me they hint at that difficulty. They say: “It is unacceptable for public servants to undertake routine intervention on this scale in the lives of private individuals when it is acknowledged that the majority of parents are providing satisfactory educational arrangements”. The five words that worry me here are ‘the vast majority of parents’ . Of course the majority are good but by implication they accept there maybe a problem with a minority. Many of our laws would be unnecessary if it wasn’t for a minority. Only a minority of parents abuse their children and only a minority of home educating parents won’t teach their children necessary basic skills but they are the problem.
Problems can arise in a number of ways. It maybe extreme battering or cruelty where the parents are anxious to keep the child out of site of any authority figure. Or it maybe parents who believe that a girl should not receive education because in their view the role of a girl is to be trained as a mother and housewife. Or it maybe because the parents are providing a level of education that fails to enable the child to learn basic skills like reading and writing. So if we are to protect the minority we will need some power of intervention. I’m not sure if the Bill has the right safeguards in it but that is why we have Parliamentary scrutiny. To claim it is excessive for the state to have a checking role here is I think wrong.
Imagine the headlines when a case first appears of a child grossly abused and hidden from authority by the home educating parents. I don’t think the Home Education Advisory Service knows what will hit it if that should happen.