Reversing the Pressure on Politicians

What’s been said?

Over the last decade, various groups have lobbied politicians hard to tighten state oversight of family life. High on their list of targets has been home education. Home educators are bemused by the level of interest, not understanding why EHE causes many children’s professionals so much angst. Whilst we cannot explore all the reasons here, it is important for the HE community to recognise that we present a serious problem to those whose utopian vision is to see all children taught to think in the same way.

Several of our comments on the Welsh consultation highlighted the real dangers in the proposed guidance which, if adopted, would place a LA employee between parents and their children. In time, such measures will accumulate, draining away from parents the responsibility for the shaping of children’s understanding, committing it totally to the state. The vast majority of parents have, perhaps unwittingly, already surrendered that responsibility through opting out of their natural role as their children’s educators. Now that the number of HE families is growing, EHE is a problem for those who desire all future citizens to conform to the whims of the political classes.

It is increasingly clear that what happens in regard to HE in one part of Britain has ripple effects throughout these islands. This is why it has been encouraging to witness people expressing their concerns about the Welsh proposals in practical ways. We expect that many readers did all they could to respond to the consultation by Monday’s deadline. Please note however, that deadline has now been extended by four days to Friday 25 October.

We are thankful that the campaign by Protecting Home Education Wales to crowd-fund a legal opinion on the proposals was successful in both respects. Not only were the funds raised, but they were able to submit a consultation response on Monday which included a QC’s legal opinion. Additionally, they delivered personally addressed letters to all sixty Welsh Assembly Members enclosing a copy of the legal opinion.

David Wolfe’s legal opinion focuses on the key points, without being distracted by the raft of other issues on which most of us would want to comment. The demise of the Named Person Scheme in Scotland illustrates that a well-aimed criticism can undermine all that has been built around one illegal assumption. The QC’s opinion itself is not very long, but if you prefer to read a summary we recommend you look at the letter sent to Assembly Members.

It is important though, that having submitted responses and/or contributed to the cost of the legal opinion, we don’t let our attention drift, no matter where we live. To this end Wendy Charles-Warner has initiated an e-petition on the WAG website entitled, “Withdraw the proposed home education guidance.” Speaking on behalf of all its signatories, the petition reads:

“We call upon the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to withdraw the proposed guidance for home education.

The Welsh Assembly Government has issued prospective guidance for home education. This mandates that home educating parents must meet with their local authority and allow their children to be interviewed by the local authority. We have received specialist legal advice which claims that the guidance is unlawful and petitioners ask that the guidance be withdrawn to be reconsidered in light of that advice.”

The petition closes at noon on 31 October (Thursday next week). If it is signed by over five thousand people, the matter will automatically be considered as a topic for a debate, at a full meeting of the Assembly. At the time of writing this petition has almost reached three thousand signatories.

It has been confirmed by the Petitions Committee that this target number of signatories is not restricted to residents of Wales, which means that no matter where you live you, your family, friends and anyone else who sees responsible parenting as something to be defended can sign this petition. The petition can also be signed by children, not least because the Welsh Assembly Government argues that children’s voices are paramount, so ask your children to speak up for EHE.

Why does it matter?

In hindsight, it is regrettable that after recommendations from the Badman Review failed to be adopted into English law, the HE community was not more alert to the further inevitable threats to its freedom. Even when Michael Wilshaw used his Ofsted role to lobby against HE, few realised that the scaremongering snowball would lead to Lord Soley’s Bill in 2017. That in turn became a catalyst for further lobbying, especially through fake news reports spun by sympathetic reporters. Consequently, home educating families feel like footballs, which have been kicked about so brutally that there is little air left in them.

Wearing down those who value what is good is exactly what those with undeclared alternative agendas seek to achieve through any lobbying campaign. In such situations those who value their freedom (and that of their children and grandchildren) need to regroup and push back, calling on politicians to do what is just and right. The need is to be a strong wind blowing against the lobbyists’ hot air. This is why it was very important for HE families to have taken action in response to the Welsh proposals, and for them to continue doing so now.

What can I do?

Determine to keep standing up for EHE freedom throughout Britain.

If you have a partly completed submission to the Welsh Consultation, try to send it in before the extended deadline.

If you have not already done so, sign the above petition before you do anything else. It will only take you a couple of minutes.

Encourage others to stand with us, whether or not they HE, as we seek to protect parental responsibilities against state overreach. Explain to them why signing the petition is important – and remember, they do not have to live in Wales. It would be very encouraging to see it reach double the target figure of five thousand signatures!