What’s been said?
Who reads the small print? Who reads the T&Cs when buying on-line? Very few of us can be bothered, but there are times when it is wise to do so. The current Children Not in School consultation is one such instance. The HE Byte Team have been working on two items to help families respond to this, and in the process we have come across some surprises in the supporting documents. (Both pieces are linked from our English Consultation page. More details below.)
There are three supporting documents attached to the current consultation and comments on them are requested in the penultimate question, “34. Do you have any comments on the conclusions set out in the published equalities log, UNCRC assessment and family impact test document?”
Aspects of all three are of great concern. For example, the above headline is prompted by the answer to Q4 in the UNCRC assessment, “Do you need to engage with children and young people and/or their advocates and other stakeholders to seek their views?” Acknowledging that they do need to do this, the DfE states, “The department will be attempting to encourage home educating families to involve children in the consultation process.” This is followed by the prejudiced remark, “However, some home educators believe that the views of children on home education are not significant compared with parental rights to determine the mode of education,” thereby suggesting that if children do not respond to the consultation it will be the fault of their parents, not the Department.
Why does it matter?
This matters because it is important that government departments are truthful, especially when they are proposing legislation which has the potential for significant impact on family life. If the DfE has not been “attempting to encourage home educating families to involve children in the consultation process,” then their response to this question is nothing but window dressing to make the Department look good. None of the HE Byte Team are aware of any such material (printed or electronic) being circulated by the DfE. Given that most people will not read these three “small print” documents, it appears that it’s not the general public nor LAs that civil servants are trying to impress. Busy politicians have to have a high level of trust in their staff so it’s possible that as long as these documents are in existence, Ministers can tick the relevant box without ever studying them for themselves.
There will be little point in the DfE amending this statement now or after the close of the consultation, if they have not been actively doing what they said they would do from the outset. If they have done nothing, it appears that by including this statement they have misled Ministers. If that proves to be the case, then they need to be held to account.
The UNCRC assessment is not the only flawed document in the “small print” of the consultation. Despite its name, the equalities log demonstrates a significant amount of prejudice against parents “with varying faith or belief.” In response to one question the author(s) go as far as to state, “The outcome of registration is expected to be a greater likelihood of a suitable education being provided (whether in accord with the parents’ wishes or not).” This general tone is present throughout this document, seeing a register in terms of protecting children from their parents. It repeatedly implies that parents from a faith background are more liable to provide an unsuitable education to their children than other parents.
The Department acknowledges several times in the equalities log that it has “no quantitative evidence available” to support the benefits which it suggests will result from the legislation. The document also lacks any substantial discussion of the negative impacts that registration will have on the families concerned. A further important omission is any reference to the effect of registration on Gypsy, Roma & Traveller communities, many of whom have historically favoured family-based education. This is significant, given that the Equality and Human Rights Commission states on its website that these communities are protected from discrimination by Race Relations and Human Rights Legislation.
The family impact test document contains a similar bias against HE. Whilst highlighting the benefits of children not being educated at home, it makes no reference to the problems experienced by many families when their children receive unsuitable education in schools.
What can I do?
First, we encourage you to respond to the consultation, which closes in five weeks’ time on 24 June. In doing so you may find our Responding to the Children not in School Consultation and Comparison between questions on the published Consultation Document and On-line Response Form helpful. We realise that doing this will take up valuable time, but there are important areas where input from HE families and their children will hopefully prove vital.
Secondly, we encourage you to read the three appendices for yourself. They are considered in more detail on pages 5-7 in the first of our new publications above.
Finally, we would very much like to know if any HE families have seen material from the DfE asking them to encourage their children to respond to the consultation. You can let us know via our contact form or by completing this short survey. It is completely anonymous and will take only a few minutes to complete, but we would be very grateful for details of any relevant information you have seen or received.
Please remember that our two new documents and other relevant links are also available from our English Consultations page.