A Meeting with the LibDems and Other Interested Parties

What’s been said?

Recently, Mike Wood of Home Education UK published on his website notes of a meeting he attended in the House of Lords on 13 March 2018, with a number of LibDem politicians and others. The meeting had been arranged following contact between Lord Storey and Samia Tossio, a home educating parent.

His notes outline a discussion where many of those with concerns about home education demonstrated their unfamiliarity with the law as it presently stands. This is becoming an increasingly obvious feature in the debate stirred up by Lord Soley’s Bill.

Perhaps the most significant point in Mike’s account is that “the party was unhappy about the new policy” adopted at the recent conference. It seems that it went ahead without the support of the education spokesperson Layla Moran MP, who “firmly believes they can remove it during the next conference.” It is not clear what was meant by “the party” – was that the Parliamentary Party, both LibDem MPs and Peers, or some other body? According to their federal constitution “the Conference shall be the sovereign representative body of the Party, and shall have power to determine the policy of the Party” (8.13 page 16), so further clarification would be helpful.

Why does this matter?

Whilst it will be excellent news if this poorly thought through policy is weakened, one wonders why it was proposed in the first place. As noted, politicians are ill-informed concerning the legal status of EHE and this is partly the problem. For instance, Mike quotes Lord Storey as saying that social services have no powers to intervene in a home educated family, even where concerns exist. This is a repetition of the mistake made by Birmingham Social Services in the tragic case of Khyra Ishaq and her siblings. The unnamed representative of Humanists UK echoed this belief, and also appeared to be equally ignorant that case law has established a definition of “a suitable education”.

Several paragraphs of Mike’s notes concern the issue of “illegal” schools, or rather out-of-school settings teaching only religious material. The Ofsted director who was present spoke in favour of EHE registration, in the hope that it would enable them to trace children. It was also pointed out that if these religious institutions were not functioning as schools, LAs already have powers to inspect them on safeguarding issues, including DBS checks on adult staff/volunteers, health and safety regulations, and disciplinary procedures.

Mike left with the impression that the LibDems present very much wanted and expected EHE registration, and seemed determined to bring it about. An attempt to agree that there had been a consensus regarding registration between politicians and home educators present predictably failed. Does this suggest that the politicians were there to persuade rather than to listen?

On a slightly more positive note, Lord Addington (President of the British Dyslexia Association) stated that Lord Soley’s Bill had little chance of becoming law, adding that if necessary, he would table amendments to the bill himself to ensure that it did not get through.

What can I do?

As previously suggested, now is the time to be contacting LibDem politicians, councillors as well as MP’s and Peers, to make known to them that this policy will lose them support. Remember that their policy is relevant to every part of the UK.

Also, the date for the Committee Stage of Lord Soley’s Bill has recently been announced – Friday 27th April. This is therefore an ideal time to contact members of the House of Lords explaining why you are concerned about this Bill. Ask them to consider speaking against it in Committee and to vote against it proceeding any further. You can find a list of Peers on on the UK Parliament website.

When writing to either, you may find Mike’s own comment at the meeting helpful, “My argument is that children have the right to parents and parents can only be parents if they have the powers to act as parents enabling them to carry out their duty.”