Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper & EHE

What’s been said?

Anyone listening to Dame Louise Casey on this morning’s (14/3/18) Today Programme, would have noticed that she mentioned home education repeatedly. This was in connection with the Integrated Communities Strategy green paper which was due to be published shortly. Perhaps she had been reading, or more probably briefing, Greg Hurst of the Times. In the first of two articles he claimed that “parents who home-school their children” will have to register with their local authority. This was then repeated in the headline of the second “Home-schooling register to stop children going ‘missing’“.

When she finally sat down to read the green paper Casey, once the government’s Integration Tsar, must have been gutted! Not a word about the EHE Register for which she had argued strongly in her Review (published December 2016) and about which this consultation is seemingly the official response. Whilst home education features several times, those sections speak of supporting parents’ rights to home educate and “warmly welcome those who do it well”. Now these may in part be weasel words, but they are not the crackdown Hurst announced in what must now be regarded as “fake news”.

Why does it matter?

“Not again!” must almost certainly have been the cry in many HE parents’ minds as news of this interview and two more negative reports in the Times circulated round our community. Without the internet it would have taken weeks for most parents to verify whether they were accurate claims or nothing more than scaremongering by the usual culprits and their allies. Thankfully, not long after reading the propaganda those who were not busy teaching their children could download the green paper and read it for themselves. Home education is covered in Chapter 3: Education and Young People. It features in a passing reference on page 11, and is covered more fully on pages 27 & 34. It is listed alongside the now familiar topics of out-of-school settings and unregistered schools.

Concerns listed around the compliments include: worries about segregation; HE used as cover for attending “unregistered settings”; identifying children who are missing education, neglected, taught to hate and be intolerant; and children not receiving a suitable education. Anyone reading such a list may wonder if the authors have focussed overly on EHE and insufficiently on schools where all these problems, apart from being unregistered, are well known.

Despite the negative headlines, there are some things in this document which clearly signal that the government is sticking to the policy it has previously announced. Comments are invited on two questions at the end of this section, neither of which specify HE. The second, which refers to “proposals to support parents with their choice of out-of-school education settings” from the context seemingly includes HE.

The first part of the paragraph immediately before these questions is highlighted and states “The government will be inviting views on revised guidance on home education…” This indicates no movement from what Lord Agnew announced in the Second Reading debate of Lord Soley’s Bill. This is followed by the remark of perhaps the greatest concern in connection with home education, “We want to gain wider acceptance for the proposition that greater oversight of children who are not receiving adequate education… is needed.” Is this signalling that this government are being swayed by the argument that states are the ultimate authority in the life of every child? If so, it is a worrying direction of travel.

What can I do?

Resist the temptation to panic every time you read a sensational anti-HE headline, look for the facts and ignore the fiction. Secondly, download your copy of the green paper, read section 3 and respond to the consultation. Finally, keep watching for the promised EHE-specific consultation, and respond when it is published. It is helpful to remember that in responding to any government consultation, civil servants are looking not so much for opinions but for any unintended consequences they have overlooked.