You’d Better be Telling the Truth, Mr. Hinds!

What’s been said?

During Education Questions in the Commons on Monday 25th June, Mary Robinson (Conservative, Cheadle, Cheshire) asked a Topical Question about HE. She asked Damien Hinds, “Approximately 48,000 children are being home educated in England. In light of the Government’s consultation on home education, which ends next Monday, can the Minister clarify what steps his Department is taking to reassure home educators that their views will be fed into the Government’s consultation response?”

The Minister responded, “I can give my hon. Friend that reassurance. We are having this consultation, and there has been a rise in children being home educated, which of course includes some children with particular special educational needs who have had a particularly bad time in the school system and whose parents devote their lives to their education – I pay tribute to those parents. The rise includes other categories, but it is important that we listen carefully, and we will, to those parents in the consultation.”

Why does it matter?

The first thing to note, and in which the HE community can find some encouragement, is that the Minister for Education has made a parliamentary commitment to listen to home educating parents. Therefore we can hold him to account in the future. Unlike Boris Johnson’s now infamous campaign commitment to lie down in front of Heathrow bulldozers, there are precedents for Ministers being held to account and required to live up to promises made in the House. In that sense, this has to be taken at face value as much more than a political sidestep.

There is however one important condition attached to Hinds’ commitment. He qualifies his statement with, “and we will, to those parents in the consultation.” [emphasis added] Please take note, if you want the government to listen to you, then you need to respond to the consultation if you have not already done so. It doesn’t matter what else you have done, signed a petition, spoken with your MP; if you have not submitted a response to the consultation, there is no promise that you will be heard. The best way of making sure the DfE listen to your voice is to make time to respond over the next few days. It will be too late by Tuesday!

We agree that politicians can rarely be trusted, but a Ministerial answer does carry more weight than most of their promises. Do all you can to hold the government to account in this respect.

What can I do?

If you have not started, get thinking and writing. If you have started, make sure to get your response submitted as soon as possible over the next few days.

Remember, if the size and complexity of it all is too much for you, we are encouraging you simply to put all you want to say to the government in Question 26, and refer every other answer to that one. If you choose that option please avoid hysterical accusations, but do write from the heart, especially if the political manoeuvres of the last year have been causing you anxiety in any way. For more practical suggestions, take a look at our tips for Responding to Consultations and the additional resources on our English Consultations page.

Finally, if you are looking for some fresh inspiration, take time to read this reflection from a long-standing HE mother who managed to submit her own response earlier this week. She lists 9 very valid points on why the consultation is seriously flawed but is still worth responding to, as she has done. The first paragraph of her “take home lessons” sums up the consultation documents very neatly:

“Whoever drafted the 2007 EHE Guidelines understood the legislation, its purpose and the principles behind it. The current consultation documents appear to have been drafted by someone who sees legislation as being about people’s views; and whoever cites the most pieces of legislation bearing a superficial resemblance to their view, wins.”

Make sure Damien Hinds’ Whitehall mandarins hear your voice and know that you care about what domestic and international law actually says.