Freedom of Information Request – Lord Soley and Daniel Monk

What’s been said?

A previous piece considered aspects of the information to emerge from a FoIR to Lancashire County Council in regard to its staff’s contact with Lord Soley. This comment concentrates on the role of Daniel Monk in advising Soley before the Second Reading debate.

On 12 November 2017 a document was forwarded to Soley, “Comments on the Home Education Bill 2017.docx”, authored by Monk. Over 3,000 words, it constitutes around a third of the FoIR response. Early on Monk stated, “In other respects the Bill clearly does creates new duties. The most important is the duty on parents to register. But in addition placing the Guidance on a statutory basis is also new…” Monk covers 7 different areas in all, consequently they cannot be fully addressed here.

Why does it matter?

Monk’s contribution is important because according to “Sometimes It’s Peaceful” a 2009 report of his, “Regulating home education: negotiating standards, anomalies and rights”, became “the basis of the Badman Review” – presumably deliberately, as it makes several references throughout to ‘the forthcoming review’”. Ed Yourself also details his role in the EHE debate since his 2004 article “Problematising Home Education: Challenging ‘Parental Rights’ and ‘Socialisation’”. The first word in its title is interesting – it is used in academia as a method of ‘critical thinking’ which employs the approach that one has to propose problems with a view that is otherwise generally acceptable. Over the last decade we have seen many politicians and a large portion of the media move from thinking that elective home education is quirky but acceptable to a place where it is a problem awaiting a disaster!

Monk, a Professor of Law at Birkbeck School of Law, qualified as a solicitor and has been a lecturer since the mid 90’s. The one openly accessible article of his concerning home education is on the ‘Birkbeck Comments’ site, “Action on Home Education: impact challenges” Here he explains how and why he briefed Baroness Deech for an oral question in the House of Lords about the government’s failure to respond to the recommendations about EHE in the Wood review. The next Peer to question the Minister in that debate was Clive Soley. Now we know that Soley was also receiving advice from Monk before the Second Reading of his Bill.

So what is Monk’s reason for advising Peers? In the above article he stated, “home education… raises questions about the state’s role in both enforcing the right to education and in defining the content of education.” – emphasis added because this reveals that he is not simply concerned about ensuring that children are safe and educated, but he is exercised by what they are taught. In his 2009 paper he suggested “that unregulated home education implicitly condones education that conflicts with attempts to foster national cohesion and democratic values.

In his comments to Lord Soley he makes no reference to the need for the State to control the content of education, possibly because he and others are aware that the battle to establish a requirement to register in law would be even harder were the objective of “civic education” admitted openly. Instead we have seen Ofsted and others up in arms about “unregistered schools” and the dangers of radicalisation. Monk assured Soley, “If these ‘schools’ are to be regulated, for whatever reasons, home education will have to be considered too.

What can I do?

The most important thing home educating families can do is not to naively think that the political interest in EHE has resurfaced because of Lord Soley’s Bill. Monk’s ongoing involvement makes clear that there has been an underlying agenda to impose State regulation upon elective home education dating from before Badman, this not simply with regard to children’s welfare, but also what they are taught.

In schools, with Ofsted’s encouragement, teachers are having to function increasingly “ in loco civitatis” rather than “in loco parentis”. Ask yourself whether EHE is being steered towards a time when parents will be required to bring up their children to think as the élite dictate?