Home Education – Round Two!

Lord Soley

An interesting aspect of my post below and the one by Baroness Deech is that they attracted few responses from many of our non committed bloggers. I would like to hear their views.

There is nothing wrong with a lobbying group of strongly committed people – they are essential to the democratic process but I do not believe that my concerns about this issue are not shared by many others in society.  I have met and know families who home educate. I remember discussing these very issues when a parent at my son’s school was taking her child out for home education. She understood the need for some method of checking and recognised that if it became very common it would inevitably attract people who might want to take their child out for other reasons.

I think part of the problem here is the distrust in institutional systems of government but what I would like is some more recognition that children have rights as well as parents and that some parents fail, for many and varied reasons, to provide protection and minimal standards for their children. This happens in all walks of life and is not special to home educating parents.

Those who want home education must surely also want to ensure that parents AND CHILDREN who need help get it. Yes, it is and always has been a difficult judgement about how government at all levels can and should intervene but look at the background to the great educational reform Act of 1870. Opposition to state education in the 19th century reflected some of the complaints being voiced now. Home education without some protection of the rights of the child risks taking us back to the pre 1870 position.

There is another point I want to emphasise here. It is that we all refer to ‘our’ children or ‘my’ child. They are our children but they are not our possessions. Some of the comments do speak about the child as though they are born dependent and will stay dependent.  All of us know how quickly children develop  and express their own personality. Society’s ability to intervene to protect is not a safeguard we should casually throw away. Children have rights and we have a duty as a society to ensure those rights are respected.

81 comments for “Home Education – Round Two!

  1. 15/02/2010 at 6:02 pm

    Assume the usual riders, since this comment will be long enough in trying to distil the main points from the four posts.

    The proposed mandatory annual inspection of the home and possible interviews with children as set out in Schedule 1 have attracted the most complaints from home educators. Concerns voiced here are a mixture of privacy and a belief that they are being accused of being incapable of delivering at least the same or better education currently on offer by state schools. This inclination is central and must be addressed from the local level upwards.

    I agree that the stick rather than the carrot approach, a common problem with this government, is writ large in the DCSF’s attitude to HEers. A couple of pertinent examples were within the consultation response on registration and monitoring:

    “If families choose not to cooperate, and as a result are not on the register, local authorities will be able to use a school attendance order to require the home educated child or children to attend school.”

    “…we are no longer proposing to make it a criminal offence to fail to register. We are instead proposing that, where parents refuse to cooperate with registration and monitoring, an amended school attendance orders system should be invoked.”

    From the comments here I suspect they would prefer to be criminalised than have their children forced into state schools; no-one should be coerced in such a heavy-handed manner.

    Another point of note is the many invitations extended to Lord Soley and Baroness Deech for them to visit and witness how HE works. To me, this indicates two things. First, that there is a great deal of pride in the welfare and achievements of children due to HE and, second, that the notion of inspection is more of a reaction than a principle.

    Now the issue has been aired HEers should not be surprised or upset that there are those who are frankly astonished that no-one knows how many children are in HE and that a register is not only desirable but essential.

    I believe the government is justified in requiring mandatory registration and HEers are justified in their outrage at how the DCSF have approached the subject. As an interim measure I suggest a voluntary register for five years followed by a review. In that time LAs and HEers should make best efforts to understand the other side.

    • Concerned Home Edder
      15/02/2010 at 7:29 pm

      Lady Tizzy, I do not have a problem proving I am educating my children, but I do not see how annual visits to my house will make my education provision better than if I didn’t have them. I don’t even mind going on a register. But what the government is trying to do is licence us.
      Regarding the whole “we don’t know how many children are HE’d” question. I just don’t get it – I mean I don’t get why everyone wants to know. Everyone seems to think the government should know. But why? What are they going to do with the stats once they have them? Give us money to help educate our kids? Nope.
      Use the stats in some way? Maybe.
      More than likely, the stats will just get buried under other stats. Politicians can sit in their committee meetings and say “we know how many children are Home Educated.”
      Meanwhile kids are being forced into school when they were getting a perfectly good education at home.

    • 15/02/2010 at 9:57 pm

      Why do you “believe the government is justified in requiring mandatory registration”?

      What is the point of “a voluntary register for five years”? That has, in fact, been suggested by MPs. However, they say “if it does not work, then we’ll make it compulsory”. What would be the measure of such a register “working”? If it is that all EHE children would be registered, in what sense would it be voluntary?

      The Badman review suggested that EHEers should get support (free exam access, music lessons, etc.). Diana Johnson has said that a register is necessary before that support is put in place. If it were necessary to register to receive support, then many people would register. It makes no sense to say all must be registered before any can get support.

    • Jill Harris
      16/02/2010 at 2:31 am

      “From the comments here I suspect they would prefer to be criminalised than have their children forced into state schools”

      The Bill specifically excludes us from using as our defence against an SAO that we are already providing an education suitable to our child, and simply exercising our choice not to register – in other words that we are completely complying with the law. This will mean that choosing to not register will inevitably lead to an un-appealable SAO, and that is what we are so outraged about regarding this part of the Bill. It pretends not to be making registration compulsory, but in effect choosing not to register rules out the possibility of continuing to home educate. The government is insulting our and your intelligence by pretending this is not compulsory registration.

      Can I ask why it is so astonishing that LAs do not know how many children are HE in their area, given that actually they don’t even know how many childen are in their area? Please also remember that education is a parental duty, and it would be a bizarre and worrying precedent to require LAs to routinely record, monitor or assess how parents intend to fulfil their duties. This assumes the state as primarily responsible for children rather than parents.

  2. Jem
    15/02/2010 at 8:43 pm

    “I think part of the problem here is the distrust in institutional systems of government…”

    You know, until this debacle began I was generally in favour of our system of government. However, I have seen with my own eyes the tricks and dishonesty that our elected representatives use to push their case, the callous indifference and wilful ignorance that they maintain towards parents, children and families, and the sham which our democracy actually is. I think there are an awful lot of other home educators from whose eyes the scales have fallen, likewise a lot of home educated children. You are inciting a generation’s worth of home educated children to ever greater dissatisfaction with government. Well done.

    “but what I would like is some more recognition that children have rights as well as parents…”

    That’s right. All living human beings have rights. Children, parents, even MPs, Lords and Ladies. But this is not about *whether* a child has rights, is it? Of course they do and your need to ask the question betrays your low opinion of those speaking here.

    Do you agree that the *responsibility* for those rights being protected until they are of an age (in the eyes of the Law) to do so themselves lies with their parents?

    “and that some parents fail, for many and varied reasons, to provide protection and minimal standards for their children…”

    Again, that you have to ask for this affirmation speaks volumes about your own attitude to us. Of course some parents fail. We are human, God help us, with all that implies!

    “This happens in all walks of life and is not special to home educating parents…”

    Correct. Parents fail in all walks of life. Home educators are not special in this regard. Children are let down all over the place. What is your point (I assume you have one)?

    “Those who want home education must surely also want to ensure that parents AND CHILDREN who need help get it.”

    Yes. But you see, this is where the common ground you have been painstakingly discovering runs out:

    You think that the only way that we can ensure that those who need help get it is to assume everyone is in need (let’s avoid the pejorative word ‘guilty’ for now), and tick them off one by one as they prove to you that they are not. And furthermore, these ticks should fade periodically so that the requirement to prove the absence of need is renewed annually. Is this not a correct summary?

    I, on the other hand, think that this prophylactic approach (we must check everybody in order to find out whether someone is in need) most certainly sacrifices certain personal liberties. The right of a human being (including children) to privacy and freedom from unwarranted state intrusion has been a fundamental right for centuries, embodied in English Law back to the Bill of RIghts and further. This has been a fundamental problem with this government’s approach to the welfare of the people of this country in all areas: safeguarding is always inhibitory, and therefore is always anti-freedom from the point of view the safeguarded. Of course, the antonym to freedom is slavery.

    I think we have to decide whether the risks that are being safeguarded against are severe enough to warrant the loss of liberty which accompanies those safeguards. To someone who values civil liberties, they are not.

    I think we have to decide whether there are other methods (including the current system) which will provide a better balance between loss of personal liberty and reduction of risk. The current system has not been shown to be insufficient where used properly.

    Finally we have to decide whether the safeguards will actually be effective in eliminating the risks, otherwise the loss of liberty will be for nought. I believe that those bent on harming children will not be put off by mere registration and an annual visit by an under-trained, over-stretched LA officer.

    I think the problem is that the government, like Lord Soley, sees the loss of personal liberty as being unimportant, however large or small the risk which is being safeguarded against. I think that they know that the public does not share this perception of the unimportance of their liberty so government inflates and exaggerates the risks to distort the cost:benefit ratio in favour of safeguarding. Hence the persistent repetition of the fallacy that I, as a home educator, am twice as likely to be abusing my children as my neighbour who sends his children to school. Even the statement in the Badman Report that he could find no evidence of home education covering forced marriage or domestic slavery does not stop people like Baroness Deech regurgitating it as ‘fact’ that Muslim home educators prevent their daughters from learning. I think that this is probably intentional as it biases opinion towards safeguarding, and a few more people will support the sacrifice of liberty on the basis of such misinformation.

  3. Dave H
    17/02/2010 at 8:16 am

    OK, as an example of what we’re up against with this government, DCSF has published this:


    Note carefully the contents of paragraph 12, where they state explicitly that if they can’t meet the child (regardless of whether the child wants to or not), a School Attendance Order must be served. Compare and contrast with what ministers have been saying in Parliament on the subject of access. Note also that this document deals with SEN children, who may indeed have a real phobia regarding strangers and disruption of routine.

    So here we have DCSF attempting to implement what is in the Bill before it has even cleared the Commons. I would be interested to know what in existing law gives them the powers to implement what is described in this document.

    Now perhaps it is becoming clearer to those in the Lords and other observing bystanders why home educators DO NOT TRUST THIS GOVERNMENT and why we are fighting this legislation to the death. As written, it would give the Secretary of State the powers to do exactly the sort of thing he’s put into writing here, with no oversight from Parliament on powers that have the potential to ruin children’s lives.

  4. Clover
    23/02/2010 at 10:06 am

    May I say something, as one of the home educated children you wish to protect? You have made an asinine assumption that I cannot speak for myself, and that my parents cannot be trusted to speak for me. So I will lay it out to you straight, from the horse’s mouth.


    I reserve the right to associate with whom I wish – and that means NO Local Authority officials. I reserve the right to my own property – and that means NO displays of my work. I reserve my right to free action within law – and that means I will NOT be producing a plan for the coming year. I reserve the right NOT to contract – and I will NOT be contracting with my LA via registration or any other means.

    You use the term ‘children’s rights’ but it is disingenuous. I, and all my rights, belong to nobody but myself; my rights are not a tool for the state or society to use to influence me, they are given by nature and they cannot be adulterated by government policy.

    Yours Outragedly,


    P.S. No, this is not the view my parents take. They are ambivalent about the Bill, this is MY decision. Being decent people though, they respect my right to express views that are not theirs.

  5. Merry
    08/03/2010 at 9:54 pm


    Please take the time to read my blog, one of many, many similar ones on the interest.

    My children, for example, attend gymnastics, ballet, tap dancing, musical theatre, drama, jazz, taekwondo and rugby on a weekly basis.

    My children are learning the violin, the cello, the guitar, the flute, the recorder and the piano – paid for happily and willingly by me – and have wonderful lessons doing so.

    My children have not only theory science lessons with me but practical science lessons fortnightly with a Doctor. And they visit museums all over the country and experiment in many, many way. They don’t have to watch only a dvd of an experiment, for health and safety reasons, or have one trip out a year.

    My children have a real joy for life and learning.

    When you say things like “in a few small cases it is done badly” can you marry that up with the 1 in 6 who leave school functionally illiterate or without basic maths? Can we possibly do worse? It is FRIGHTENING that we can do it as well as professionals.

    When you speak of the “rights of the child” i think you need to remember the thousands of erudite, able, talented and happy home educated children who feel profoundly aggrieved at the attack on their parents and their life style that parliament has begun and carried out. My children think the Labour Party has inflicted a CONSIDERABLE attack on their rights.

  6. Vanessa
    08/03/2010 at 10:20 pm

    Can you please point me to the part of the Bill where it will benefit home educated children ?

    There is no part that is why, we respect our children and there rights that is why we home educate them as the schools have let them down in so many ways!

    I think we have to decide whether the risks that are being safeguarded against are severe enough to warrant the loss of liberty which accompanies those safeguards. To someone who values civil liberties, they are not.

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