What Most MPs Know about Home Education

What Most MPs Know about Home Education

What’s been said?

The House of Commons Library published a Briefing Paper on Home Education in England on 23 April 2019. The Summary is available here and the full report may also be downloaded.

As previously observed, such briefings provide information on home education in England and outline current and past proposals for reform. This new Briefing Paper states: “Updated guidance on home education was published in April 2019, following a consultation launched in April 2018. Two guidance documents were published, one for local authorities and one for parents. Among other things, the guidance reflects legal advice received by the Government indicating that local authorities’ powers in relation to home education often go further than was previously thought.” Such legal advice has not been published and is seemingly exempt from release under Freedom of Information Act.

The paper reports the “consultation on proposed legislation concerning children not in school” and sets out that it “seeks views on proposals to create four new duties in primary legislation” – including maintaining a register.

The tone of this briefing paper is largely neutral, but does include such statements as: “Depending on the results of the enquiries (referring to the suitability of the education provided), the guidance states that the law may require further action …, and the DfE ‘believes this is the case for an increasing number of children.'” Such “beliefs” however are not supported by evidence.

Why does it matter?

This briefing may be an MP’s primary source of information on home education. Its contents could be the basis on which their opinion is formed, so it is vital to understand what it says.

For those unfamiliar with the background to the Briefing, Section 2 of the full report provides some useful history from the Badman Review in 2009, through to more recent parliamentary activity on Lord Soley’s Bill.

The following statement may also be relevant to the current consultation on registration: “In response to parliamentary questions in January 2018, Lord Agnew highlighted evidence that 80-90% of home educated children had previously been in school and so were known to local authorities”. This could imply that registration is therefore not needed, but could also be twisted to argue that if such a number is already known, then registration offers little threat to home educators.

What can I do?

Read the document to understand the kind of perspective that might be gained by an MP who has little or no experience of home education.

Referring to the Summary, you can highlight that the responsibility for education remains with parents, and not the Government Also that, aside from DfE beliefs drawn from undocumented discussions with Local Authorities, little evidence exists that there is an increasing or significant risk to children in home education.