Petitions and Politicians

What’s been said?

Most home educators in the UK are all too painfully aware of the Call for Evidence on Elective Home Education and consultation on revised guidance documents which we had been expecting, and which was run by the Department for Education from 10 April 2018 to 2 July 2018.  As home educators began to work through the survey, it became clear that this was no simple consultation designed to gather the views of ordinary citizens. It was also very evident that no home educators had been consulted in drafting the guidance documents, even though they would be the people most impacted by the proposed changes. Conflation of issues, mission creep, leading and/or badly-worded questions, blurred boundaries, negative bias and discrimination were found consistently throughout the consultation documents, resulting in the balance of power weighted heavily in favour of Local Authorities.

Through the power of social media, home educators began mobilising to protest against the obvious lack of consultation with them on the revised guidance documents. A petition was set up on change.org (currently at over 15,000 signatures, closes Fri. 13 July), and parliamentary petitions prepared for MPs to present, requesting the withdrawal of the draft guidance and the consultation until an accessible and workable complaints procedure is put in place, and home educating parents consulted on the contents. Over 300 constituencies submitted petitions to MPs, a significant increase on the 120 that petitioned the HOC in 2009. John Howell, MP for Henley, attempted to co-ordinate with other MPs for presentation of as many petitions as possible in the House of Commons on 4 July 2018 [text / video].

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, most of the petitions did not make it into the HOC on that date. However, with more petitions to follow, there is no doubt that awareness of home educators’ concerns will be raised significantly, and may yet bring the desired result. A further five MPs subsequently presented petitions from six constituencies on 9 July [text / video].

Why does it matter?

The Draft EHE Guidance displays a significant lack of understanding about the true nature and potential of home education, and does not clarify in any meaningful way what comprises a “suitable” education. Comments like “every week in which a child is not being educated properly is a week lost” (6.2 of the guidance for LA’s) demonstrate a breathtaking ignorance about how children learn, as well as a lack of understanding of the challenges of helping a child recover from a negative school experience before deregistering.

The unequal balance of power puts home educators at a distinct disadvantage, and the presumption of monitoring and intervention would create a far heavier burden on parents than is reasonable. Contradictions (not helped by the separation of Guidance for Local Authorities and Parents) are likely to lead to continued mistrust and suspicion between EHE families and LAs. Regardless of the track record of LAs who are known to overstep their remit, the Draft Guidance offers a “blank cheque” for LAs to write their own policy and to impose draconian measures on EHE families.

What can I do?

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

These documents are badly thought-out, poorly written, and reflect a negative bias towards home educating families. They need to be withdrawn, and only rewritten if home educators are consulted extensively as part of that process.

Please sign the change.org petition, and share with friends and family, if you haven’t already.

Write to your MP and express your concerns about this consultation and its implications. If possible, set up an appointment to discuss the issues with them in more detail. Read this helpful article for some tips on this.

This is not a time to be quiet! Please raise awareness of how these documents show a serious disregard for the civil liberties of law-abiding citizens, and target families for no other reason than because they home educate.

If you are part of any home education groups, please share this information with them, and find ways that you can work together to inform and educate others about this issue.