What’s been said?
In the days immediately before the English consultation deadline, it seems that some organisations realised the importance of encouraging their supporters and friends to stand up for home educators by responding to it. The HE Byte team probably did not hear of all such expressions of support, but we were encouraged by the varied background of those we have seen.
Groups as diverse as The National Association Of Catholic Families and Islam21c were amongst those posting information over the final weekend. There was diversity too amongst the political parties who spoke up for the HE community. The Libertarian Party recently posted its own response to the consultation and encouraged its supporters to follow their example. UKIP’s Education Spokesperson, David Kurten, in a hard-hitting article on The Conservative Woman website entitled Fight the Left´s home education power grab before it´s too late, highlighted the Human Rights issues with the proposed guidance changes and reminded readers that “This guidance will come into effect if no one speaks up…”
Why does it matter?
The Libertarian Party headlined their item, “Home Educators’ opportunity to reply to proposed excessive state interference”. One of their key concerns is, “We are keenly aware of the potential for state influence on children to become malignant, and hold that home education provides an important alternative for parents to choose when the state school system becomes a tool for propaganda rather than enlightenment.” This is one of the most important issues in the present debate. Defending parental choice to home educate “without interference from the state” should be a priority of every member of the HE community, not just for ourselves, but for subsequent generations.
Kurten’s uncompromising article is equally libertarian. He describes the draft guidance for LAs in highly critical tones. For example, “This re-interprets the law in the spirit of a witch hunt: ‘The law says you don’t have to tell us anything, but if you exercise your right not to tell us anything, we will assume you are guilty.'” He later describes the government’s attitude to Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, cited in sections 9:2 & 3 of the draft guidance, as “a remarkable piece of doublespeak”, adding “This is the heart of the government’s power grab and places the state as the final arbiter of what is a suitable education for children, not parents. If this guidance is enacted, parents will no longer be the primary educators of their children.”
For some time now those in the EHE community have felt under sustained attack, based on what appears to be nothing more than “fake news” put about by a coalition of lobbyists, politicians and parts of the media, all aided and abetted by successive Ofsted Chief Inspectors and many LA officers. There can be little doubt that the recent English consultation was a direct result of this pressure, but no one seemingly understands why there has been such an intense campaign to bring all education under the state’s thumb.
The Libertarian Party is right to warn of the possibility of any state’s influence on children becoming malignant. Some would argue that in Britain state education has shifted significantly in recent years from enlightening children, to squeezing them into its mould by limiting their opportunities to think for themselves. What is perhaps most alarming is that this is being done in the name of safeguarding them from irresponsible parents!
What can I do?
Don’t become complacent. Remember that politicians of all parties are coming under pressure from those who want supervisory rights over home education. Earlier this year the LibDems gave in to that pressure and adopted a policy requiring six monthly visits. Labour does not mention HE in its present consultation, but two of its members, Ed Balls and Lord Soley, played key roles in initiating and recently reviving attempts to place the state over and above parents. The Conservatives appear to be in danger of significantly shifting on home education, therefore we must do all we can to keep Damien Hinds to his promise to listen to HE parents.
All is not completely bleak, though. The Green Party’s manifesto supports the rights of parents to decide where their children are educated (§ ED150-152). We also have declared friends in both Houses of Parliament, such as Baroness Jones. It’s therefore very encouraging to know that other less popular parties are supporting the rights of parents against a state power grab, even if we personally might not like all their policies.
Similarly with diverse faith groups, we should remember that your freedom to educate our children according to our “own religious and philosophical convictions” is dependent on every HE parent being allowed to exercise that same responsibility.