Education Committee Call for Evidence – Elective Home Education

Is this an opportunity for HE parents and children to make their voices heard, or just another opportunity for negative lobbying?

Subsequent Bytes in response to this Call for Evidence:

What’s been said?

On Wednesday 30 September, the Westminster Commons Education Committee published a Call for Evidence concerning home education. Though not explicitly stated in the documentation, this inquiry is about the situation in England and is not directly relevant to the devolved nations. Responses have to be submitted by 6 November, but you don’t have to be resident in England to respond.

The stated intention is:

“The inquiry will seek to understand the extent to which current arrangements provide sufficient support for home educated children to access efficient, full-time and suitable education, and establish what further measures may be necessary in order to facilitate this.

It will also explore the impact of COVID-19 on home education, and any particular needs arising from the pandemic that need to be addressed.”

Whilst the above may to the casual reader seem to be supportive of Elective Home education, the weighting of the areas listed for comment will dissipate much of that confidence. Eight are listed on the subsequent page, the first of which is:

“The duties of local authorities with regards to home education, including safeguarding and assuring the quality of home education”

Three others follow this theme, asking about the need for registration, monitoring and changes to regulations. Three more request information about “support” for HE families, with the remaining one seeking testimony in regard to:

“the benefits children gain from home education, and the potential disadvantages they may face”

Why does it matter?

First of all, it is important to note that this Call for Evidence is very different to the ones which are published as part of a government consultation. Select Committees are established under House of Commons Standing Order, No 152. Paragraph 1 reads:

“Select committees shall be appointed to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the principal government departments… and associated public bodies.”

They therefore exist not to develop policies, but to hold government departments to account. However, those lobbying for change also know that such committees can be used to put pressure on the government of the day to bring about changes in policy.

England’s Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, is someone who employs this tactic. No doubt organisations like the Local Government Association, local authorities and teachers’ unions will also take this opportunity to bad mouth hard-working parents. Other long-standing anti-HE lobbyists will put in their opinions. These may well include organisations like Humanists UK and individuals such as Prof. Daniel Monk, a self-appointed “expert” who was involved in shaping both the Badman Report and Lord Soley’s Bill.

Given the number of potential responses from critics of EHE, it is important that as many as possible from the EHE community provide submissions. Whilst we can all very easily be tempted to growl at further unwanted interference into family life by the Westminster village elites, we encourage you to demonstrate that elective home educators are well reasoned, rational and responsible citizens.

There is no need to rush your submission – but don’t let responding get buried in the demands of everyday life either. To help you, we will provide further comment over the coming weeks.

As a first step we have prepared a reordered list of the eight areas of inquiry. This is divided into three distinct groups, as indicated above. Both the original and the regrouped lists are available in this document.

We hope this will help you think in a focused way about the positive evidence you can put forward to defend EHE freedom. We also hope it will alert you to the dangers of surrendering freedom in exchange for the sugar coated pill of “support,” financial or otherwise. (Remember, whilst the HE community worked hard to support individuals, there was no official support provided for HE candidates during the recent cancelled exam season. So far, however, the Department for Education has refused to recognise that they effectively discriminated against them.)

Finally, half the topics provide opportunity for you to put forward a strong rebuttal of the growing claim that the state is responsible to safeguard every child from their parents. Even if legislation stated that – and it doesn’t – it would be an impossible task. This institutional slur needs resisting at all costs. If you have not read our Library item “Child of the parent or child of the state?”, we encourage you to do so before composing your submission.

What can I do?

See this Education Committee inquiry as an opportunity to put forward positive arguments for EHE, as well as to defend it from those who hold parents in contempt.

Make sure that every HE family you know is aware of it, and encourage them to speak up for their freedom and their family.

If your children are motivated to make their own submissions, let them to do so. Even the younger ones can make a significant impact. One HE mum noted that at a consultation meeting in June 2019, the one child present told Stephen Bishop of the DfE, “I don’t like what you’re saying in the consultation.” He was very surprised by this comment, which allowed one parent to explain, “There is a negative impact of the consultation and media campaign on HE children. They hear, read, watch others’ opinions.” This is a point worth repeating.

We know that it is not easy to meet in HE groups at present, but do discuss how you might respond with others you know. Remember too that organisations as well as individuals can submit evidence to this committee, so your HE group could respond collectively.

Finally, don’t let the situation around COVID-19 distract you from defending your family’s historic freedom and privacy! Future generations may never regain them if we allow them to be stolen now!

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