Damian Hinds’ Plan for a Crackdown

What was said?

According to the Sunday Times (15 February 2018) Damian Hinds, Secretary of State for Education, is going to “get tough” – he plans a “crackdown” on illegal schools to overcome radicalisation, trafficking, abuse and “growing up ignorant”. According to (unnamed) insiders in the Department for Education, Hinds intends to take a much firmer line on this than his predecessor.

Why does it matter?

This is yet another article which deliberately conflates illegal and unregistered schools with home education. This time, out of school settings are also included. But, as with all of these smoke and mirrors articles, it fails to mention some key facts.

Home educated children are not “missing”, they are simply children whose parents have chosen to educate otherwise than at school. For a growing number of parents, this is the only option they have open to them, as schools are demonstrably failing to offer their children the suitable education to which they are entitled under human rights legislation.

Lord Soley claims he is making a benign offer of help to EHE parents, yet this article says he wants to register and track them. Sex offenders are registered. Criminals released on licence are tracked. Not children.

What the article helpfully reveals is the growing internal battles between the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted. Amanda Spielman is, apparently, going to resort to a TV broadcast to air her concerns about religious schools and settings – her secular feminist opposition to religion is well known – and to demand more regulation and more power because there are “weaknesses in current legislation”.

The response of the DfE? Well, it’s oddly at variance with its own Secretary of State. While his “insiders” are telling a journalist that Hinds is getting tough, another section of his Department is briefing against him, saying (as they have repeatedly over the last few weeks), “There are clear powers in place for local authorities and the police to intervene where children are being put at risk or not receiving a suitable education”. In other words (which is the stated position of Lord Agnew, Under-Secretary of State for Education) no new powers are needed. Local authorities simply need to use those they already have. Ofsted’s statement is a good case in point here – it says it has been “warned” about 82 “out of school” places which it has no powers to inspect. Well then, hand the addresses of these settings over to their local authorities, which do have the power to inspect if there is evidence of cause for concern.

What can I do?

There Is almost certainly a furious debate going on behind the scenes of government over the whole issue of EHE, so now is a very good time to make your views known. Make an appointment to see your MP and register your concern about Lord Soley’s Bill, and also the deliberate conflation of EHE with illegal and unregistered schools.