An Open Letter to Lord Soley

What’s been said?

Writing on the Sutton Home Education Forum (27 February 2018) Martine Cotter (Home Office accredited Independent Chair for Domestic Homicide Reviews with extensive experience in domestic abuse and sexual violence) posts an open letter to Lord Soley about his proposed Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill. Drawing on evidence from her work, the writer describes how, despite “an ocean of academic research” most abusers are free to move around “causing a trail of untold harm and devastation in their wake”. Despite repeated calls for action, there is still no national register for abusers or stalkers, so that they remain “hidden” and “missing”.

Why does it matter?

When described in these terms, the link between serial criminals and Lord Soley’s view of home educated children becomes clear. He proposes to create a register of innocent parents who simply want to exercise their right – protected by Human Rights legislation – to educate their children “otherwise” than in school. This matters a great deal, because it assumes that all EHE parents are probably guilty until proven innocent by LA inspection. The principle of presumed innocence has existed since Roman times – ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies) and has been enshrined in British law for centuries. So Lord Soley’s Bill is far from the benign offer of support which he pretends it to be.

As Martine Cotter points out, it is abusers who abuse, terrorists who terrorise and extremists who radicalise. Apart from the issue of legal rights, it makes no economic sense to use resources to look for abusers in a tiny section of society (less than 0.5 per cent of young people are educated other than in school) rather than create a national register of known abusers and radicalisers so that they can be tracked and their whereabouts known. Lord Soley proposes tracking and knowing the whereabouts of all our children instead. This also risks driving anxious parents away from help which they might otherwise access.

Which raises the question of the real purpose of this Bill. Is it about safeguarding? Or simply about the government controlling the education of every child in the country, under the guise of closing down illegal schools? One must suspect the latter – Ofsted has, of its own volition, declared the success it is having in either regulating or closing down illegal schools. Overblown media reports of indoctrination, abuse, murder and radicalisation in the home is designed to whip up public opinion against all forms of education except state-controlled schools. It is also worth noting that this campaign is laced with anti-faith rhetoric, much of it provoked by the National Secular Society of which Lord Soley is an honorary associate, and Humanists UK – Lord Soley chairs the APPG on Humanism.

What can I do?

Martine Cotter ends her letter by saying that if the government would like to discuss why so many parents are removing their children from state provision, the home education community may be willing to engage. If this opportunity comes your way, seize it.