What’s been said?
Writing in Politics Home on 23 April 2018, Lord Soley opens a debate about the rights of the child in advance of the discussion of his Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill in Committee stage on 27 April. He describes the purpose of the Bill as being to “create a register of children receiving elective home education and for the local authority to be able to assess the child’s educational achievement”.
He acknowledges that some parents are choosing to home educate and doing it well, but he also acknowledges that there are reluctant home educators, forced into making the choice because they have no other option. So far, so good. But then the article resorts to propaganda, talking about children who disappear into abuse and trafficking, even though there is no evidence that this is the outcome for home educated children. He talks about a number of cases of abuse, “in some cases” resulting in death. Again, according to the DfE the children concerned were normally “known to relevant agencies despite being home educated.”
Apparently loading the blame for all society’s ills on the home ed sector, he validates his position by talking about the rights of the child.
Why does it matter?
This matters for a number of reasons. Lord Soley is playing the blame game here – it’s a game increasingly used against any sector of society which doesn’t conform to the liberal secular agenda. Anyone who doesn’t teach Fundamental British Values (as determined by the DfE and its faithful watchdog, Ofsted) or who doesn’t prepare their child for life in modern Britain as determined by the liberal glitterati is suspect and in need of regulation and monitoring.
Lord Soley is also manipulating the misfortune of children removed from school because a suitable education is not being provided. That may be a child with special needs, a student being bullied, or a young person who has been illegally off-rolled by the school due to behaviour issues or underachievement. Whatever the reasons for their distressing situations, to Lord Soley they are nothing more than an opportunity to get control of EHE – bargaining chips in the propaganda war. What he should be arguing for, of course, is for our education service to provide a “suitable” and “effective” education for these children, because going to school is the choice of their parents. The state is betraying them and denying parents their right, because what it offers is neither suitable nor effective.
The tone is benevolent, but patronising politicians always give themselves away. Lord Soley does so here: “society has a right and a duty to ensure a child is receiving the essentials of a good education”. No, that isn’t the duty of society, Lord Soley. The law is abundantly clear on this at every point: the duty of society is to support the right of parents to choose how to educate their children.
What can I do?
Write to Lord Soley to express your concern that his Bill places the state, not parents, as the sole arbiter of what constitutes a suitable and effective education for all children. Contact your own MP and express your concern about the Bill. And whenever you meet with the well-worn argument about reluctant home educators failing their children, make it clear that it is the education service letting them down, not their parents.