What’s been said?
The second reading of the Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Private Member’s Bill took place on 24 November 2017. Its sponsor, Lord Soley, opened proceedings. Several members of the Lords then contributed, with the Under-Secretary of State for Education, Lord Agnew of Oulton speaking on behalf of the Government prior to Lord Soley’s concluding remarks. This post focuses on Lord Lucas’ speech, which stood out from the rest in terms of its understanding and wisdom regarding home education.
Why does this matter?
Lucas took a totally different and refreshing approach to the “problem” of home education. He began by stating the need for evidence to see whether or not there really was a problem. He advocated finding a way of “getting the data we think we want … using the data we already have without putting additional pressures on people who want to live their own lives.”
Regarding Dylan Seabridge, Lucas stated that the authorities knew a year before his death that there was a problem, but had done nothing. He urged members to take a “reasonable, inclusive and welcoming” approach to home educators, seeking to understand them better rather than trying to legislate for them out of fear.
He was unequivocal in his view that the Bill as it stands is “set the wrong way round”. If the Government lived up to its obligations under existing legislation, much of the cause for concern would be reduced.
As a Conservative, he was quite comfortable with the idea of parents being responsible for their children’s education. Significantly though, he can also see that the State is no match for parents when it comes to taking good decisions regarding their children.
He demonstrated a perceptive understanding that some people home educate on principle, adding that the Government “should not require such people to conform to a state methodology” – a mechanism required by schools for driving large numbers of pupils through pre-determined hoops. He could see that “doing and experiencing real things” is a valid modus operandi, and suggested that money earmarked for inspection would be better spent on measures for support and help.
He was also willing to take responsibility for the failure of the State on several counts – not meeting SEN needs, not dealing with bullying issues, countenancing off-rolling children into home education, not dealing decisively with unregulated schools. He closed by citing positive outcomes in Birmingham following a more conciliatory approach by the LA, and spoke of a need to help with accessing qualifications.
Not all home educators will be easy with suggestions of this type, considering them a “back door” way of getting children known to the authorities without coercion, but generally speaking there is a lot to be thankful for with the one speaker who closed by saying “We would be much better off with a Bill that concentrated on support rather than one that focuses on punishment.”
What can I do?
Make time to read or watch his ten minute speech [begin at 1.51pm] – you will be encouraged.
Thank Lord Lucas for his contribution to the debate. [WriteToThem]
Consider the points he made and reiterate those you agree with to your MP, or to those you encounter who have misgivings about EHE or who favour registration.