A Friend in High Places

What’s been said?

The Local Government Association [LGA] published an article in edition 623 of their magazine First (May 2018, page 7) entitled ‘Register home-schooled children’, says LGA. It refers to the DfE Call for Evidence and calls for registration of HE children, along with powers and funding for councils to enter homes to check that children receive “the expected standard of education”.

Though Cllr Roy Perry, Vice-Chair of the Children & Young People’s Board, credits the vast majority of HE parents with “doing a fantastic job” and says that councils “fully support the rights of parents to educate their children in the best way that they see fit”, as usual the need to safeguard the minority and “prevent children from disappearing from the oversight of services designed to keep them safe” is used to justify the need for registration and greater monitoring powers for local authorities.

Edition 625 (July) then carried a response on the letters page (8) expressing grave concern that the draft EHE guidance for local authorities and parents “makes it the local authority’s duty to determine suitable education, rather than the parents’”

The writer states their belief that “the parent is better placed to identify the child’s education needs” and points out that heavy-handed guidance would only make everyone’s job harder, by putting parents and local authorities at loggerheads. They assert that the “debate should start with the needs of the child” and remind local authorities of the “huge resource implications for their overstretched budgets” if they seek to assume further responsibility for home educated children.

Why does it matter?

The respondent, Jenny Jones, happens to hold two positions of influence. Her full title is Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb. She has sat in the House of Lords since 2013 as an Independent, representing the Green Party. She is also one of many Vice Presidents of the LGA.

Here is a person with significant influence who is clearly sympathetic towards home education. Baroness Jones’ letter states that she has “family who educated their children at home”, and points out the need to ask why it is that “increasing numbers of children are either rejecting, or being rejected by, the school-based educational system”. She appears to have her eye on the situation.

What can I do?

Read these two short items, then write to thank Baroness Jones for her clear and timely support for EHE. Ask her to continue asking the difficult questions in her LGA role, and advocating for continued freedom for parents to EHE without unwarranted intervention from the state.

Lilian Hardy helpfully reminded us all that “we need to educate people about home education”. Lords Lucas, Bird and others voiced their support in the Committee Stage of Soley’s Bill. Prior to that debate we reminded readers that politicians “need to be informed about the benefits of HE, rather than panicked by rumours of its dangers.

So when you speak to your MP about the hostile environment which has been created around EHE, make sure that they too are aware of this member of the Upper House who is both well-versed in and enthusiastic about the benefits of home education. Take heart from Baroness Jones, and keep up her good work in your own sphere of influence.