What’s been said?
Recently Lord Lucas has been busy proposing amendments to Lord Soley’s Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill [HL]. The first simply adds the following restriction to the requirement for annual assessments of EHE children: “An assessment under subsection (3) shall not require or imply a requirement for any particular curriculum, method of teaching or order of educational development.”
Why does this matter?
With this amendment Lord Lucas has highlighted a crucial concern in regard to educational freedom for families. On the whole the propaganda war against HE, conducted with the help of Ofsted’s present and previous Chief Inspectors, has emphasised safeguarding concerns. Headline-grabbing claims keep repeating that a significant number of parents who say they are home educating are in fact up to no good. “We need to make sure their children are safe” is the refrain from inspectors and local government employees. All the while the HE community is wondering why such a head of steam if this is all that these campaigners are seeking to achieve.
Take for instance the number of children who are affected by Parental Alcohol Misuse (PAM). A Parliamentary Research Briefing published in February estimates that around 200,000 children in England are negatively affected as a result. That puts the number of children thought to be educated at home in England in a startlingly different context. According to the report, PAM is a common feature in child protection and care proceedings and places a considerable burden on social services. EHE rarely features in the courts and takes significant pressure off educational services. If those who claim that leaving education to parents is dangerous for children are really concerned for the wellbeing of children, why are they not starting where the need is greater?
There is a suspicion within the HE community that the hidden agenda of some behind the present uproar over EHE has to do not so much with where children are taught, but with what they are taught. It is now clear that Lord Soley has been receiving advice from Daniel Monk, who also had connections with Graham Badman. In 2009 Monk wrote “that unregulated home education implicitly condones education that conflicts with attempts to foster national cohesion and democratic values.” Soley is also an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society, and last year their Education & Schools Campaigns Officer, Alastair Lichten expressed concerns that HE contradicts “Children’s independent right to freedom of religion and belief”. This mission creep is advancing, with the Liberal Democrats adopting a policy (on 10/3/18) which states that EHE children should be “educated in line with the national curriculum entitlement” as they define it.
Lord Lucas’ initial amendment cuts right across any attempt to use a registration scheme for EHE children in order to dictate how and what they are taught. This puts Lord Soley in a difficult position. If he does not intend this Bill to be a stepping-stone for the imposition of a set curriculum on HE children, then he can not oppose the amendment, for it safeguards against future misuse of the legislation. However, if he objects to the amendment, it will confirm that, like others, his intention is that the state should dictate what children are taught, even though Human Rights law declares otherwise.
What can I do?
First, be aware that the government has stated repeatedly that there will be no change of EHE legislation in this parliament. Secondly, use the upcoming Committee stage of the Bill to write to other Peers encouraging them to support Lord Lucas’ amendment. This page will help you find one who may be supportive, but also ask other people if they have had supportive responses from a Peer. Finally, you may wish to use this as an educational opportunity and ask your children if they would like to write to a Lord. They may find inspiration here.