What’s been said?
Entitled “Building Integrated Communities”, with chapters on topics as varied as Education & Young People, Places & Community and Increasing Economic Opportunity, the Government’s green paper published on 14 March is certainly wide-ranging in its scope. Under the heading Listening to You, readers are assured of the government’s hope that this is the start of a national debate and that our views are sought on how best to build integrated communities. Responding to the very generalised end of chapter questions is a challenge not unlike getting hold of jelly, but one which we should put off no longer with the deadline fast approaching – Tuesday 5th June.
Why does it matter?
A quick scan through the chapter headings and introduction will confirm that this is an information-gathering exercise on a much wider canvas than the EHE Call for Evidence, but given the prevailing hostile environment regarding home education, it’s important for HE parents to take every opportunity to set the record straight and make their views known – especially since the government have specifically asked for them (page 34: “It is important that we also hear the views of parents and young people involved in home education.”)
To understand why home education features in this publication and in the wider debate, readers should recall that attempts to harmonise a multi-cultural society and integrate increasing numbers of migrants have preoccupied various governments for many years. Reviews and strategies have come and gone, with Casey’s 2016 “Review into Opportunity and Integration” being the influence behind this initiative. Conformity to whatever dogmas currently believed to foster maximum community cohesion has leapt to the top of the requirements list for compliant and forward-looking British citizens, including acceptance of fundamental British values (whatever they may be) and of course a good dose of political correctness.
Home educators, as we know, are determined, independent individuals with their own opinions and their own approach to life, coupled with a passionate concern for their children’s wellbeing. To a government desperate to get a handle on community cohesion in their own terms, home educators have been caricatured as an unknown quantity, parents requiring supervision, even reining in because others claim they pose a threat to a fully integrated community.
It comes as no surprise therefore to see home education mentioned in Chapter 3 alongside Independent Schools, Unregistered Schools and Out of School Settings, all of which pose a problem to a government of the view that orthodoxy increases the likelihood of community cohesion. According to their way of looking at things, greater collaborative working with Ofsted and local authorities will help to ensure the safety of children attending unregistered independent schools and out of school settings and guarantee the suitability of the education they are receiving.
What can I do?
Start by downloading the green paper. Look briefly at the foreword and introduction to pick up the overall flavour, read chapter 3 then answer questions 7 & 8 on the on-line response form. The Byte team have prepared some pointers to help you think through possible issues you might want to raise in your response. See also our general guidelines on responding to consultations. With such open-ended questions and such a diverse community there are no right answers, but it is important that plenty of us make our views known in our own words, especially in the light of the closing paragraph of chapter 3:
“The government will be inviting views on revised guidance on home education that will clarify local authorities’ existing powers to take action where home educating parents are not fulfilling their duties to provide their child with suitable, full time education. We want to gain wider acceptance for the proposition that greater oversight of children who are not receiving adequate education, including those attending unregistered settings and those for whom home education is not working properly, is needed.”