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Government Proposals to Change the Law on Home Education in England

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Committee for Children Schools and Families Bill

Thursday February 4th 2010

The Children Schools and Families Bill has over 40 clauses yet on the final day of Committee, the discussion had only just reached Clause 14. MP David Laws pointed out that the Committee had "only one and three quarter hours left to deal with 92 amendments and new clauses, and a very complex debate."

Debate on Clause 26, the home education clause took a substantial part of the afternoon session with the Labour Chair unable or unwilling to advance the committee towards scrutiny of the remaining clauses of the Bill.

Both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were in agreement over the unfairness and unworkability of the Government's proposed changes to the law on home education. Annette Brooke described it as "a pigís ear" and said that "the best thing would probably be to vote against it" and David Laws agreed it was "inevitable that we will have to vote against this aspect of the Bill and throw out all the proposals on home education" adding that he hoped this was "something that the Conservative party will support."

Nick Gibb referred to "an unworkable and deeply unpopular policy". Graham Stuart said: "the most traumatised and vulnerable children and their parents, who have been let down so badly by schools, will cut off all links with the local authority in response to the provisions. In order to escape from those who have let them down the most, they will seek to elude and escape the attention of the local authority."

Graham Stuart also added: "I thank my colleagues for making it so clear that, all the way to the wash-up, the Conservatives will ensure that this Bill will never become law."

MPS from all parties on the Committee paid tribute to home educating constituents and Graham Stuart noted that 244 constituencies had returned parliamentary petitions against the Government's proposals.

Summary of MPs' objections to the Government's home education proposals in Clause 26:
  • The actions of the Government during the past year have led to a breakdown of trust between local and national government and home educators

  • Graham Stuart: "the most traumatised and vulnerable children and their parents, who have been let down so badly by schools, will cut off all links with the local authority in response to the provisions. In order to escape from those who have let them down the most, they will seek to elude and escape the attention of the local authority. They will not seek to use its facilities. The Bill should be responding to an agenda to open up public services and support to home-educated children, particularly the most vulnerable, but its effect on those whom we care about most could be precisely the opposite."

  • Mr. Laws: "I agree strongly. The hon. Gentleman brings me to my next point, which is the Billís lack of support and positive reasons for home-educating parents to engage. I take seriously his concerns that it will drive many home educators away from dealing with local authorities. I did not particularly welcome the evidence that we took from some home educators who said that they would not adhere to the law and the regulations if the Bill were passed, because none of us likes to hear people say that they will break the law. It is a serious concern. If people feel that the laws imposed are unfair, unreasonable and inconsistent with a liberal society, we are driving them not to comply."

  • The Government's proposed legislation does not put children's interests and wellbeing first, it puts co-operation with the authority above everything

  • Parents make tremendous sacrifices in order to stay at home and educate their children

  • "A complex situation has been dealt with in a rushed and flawed process, which can only lead to bad legislation in its current form." Annette Brooke

  • The statistics from the Badman Review were deeply flawed and did not make the case for a change to the law on home education

  • The Government proposals are utterly disproportionate

  • The proposed legislation takes no account of the traumatic impact on children with special needs and the Government ignores advice and recommendations from expert witnesses in this area

  • The proposed legislation does not offer support to children with special needs and the Government ignores advice and recommendations from expert witnesses in this area

  • The proposed legislation is exclusively concerned with licensing and inspection and with no mention of support in the Bill before parliament

  • The proposed legislation contains no requirements for training

  • On top of the legislative attempts to impose a licensing and inspection regime, the Government is also threatening to prescribe what is "suitable education"

  • The Government has radically under-estimated the cost of introducing a licensing and inspection regime and has vastly over-stated the financial benefits of such a scheme

  • If the aim is to ensure that children are not "under the radar" and that Government has basic information about all children including home educated children, why not use existing Government databases such as Child Benefit records

  • Serious Case Reviews show that it is children under five who are most at risk. Is the Government planning to introduce safeguarding registration and licensing for all children under five on the basis that this is justified if it only saves one child

  • The Government is very selective in its comparisons between England and other countries with respect to home education. New Zealand has decided that its monitoring scheme is not cost effective or necessary and the North American and Canadian systems are both more liberal than the proposed scheme for England

  • The Government cannot have it both ways with research. If research about home education is biased because based on self-selected sampling, then the same must also be acknowledged of DCSF research undertaken by Graham Badman

  • The Government says the purpose of registration is to offer support to children who are not currently known to the authorities yet a/ support is not offered to those who ARE known and b/ recently published Government guidance on how to claim funding specifically directs the authority not to include home educated children

Links

Transcript of Bill Committee Thursday February 4th

Archive footage of Bill Committee Thursday February 4th

"New readers start here" page on the Children Schools and Families Bill, updated February 7th 2010


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