I have several concerns about your recent Home Education piece, ‘Educators fear for standards of home schooling’. First, most in the Home Education community prefer to refer to what they do as education, not schooling. In fact, if James Meikle had read the consulation document to which the article refers, he would find that the current guidelines are very clear (see paragraph 3.11 in particular) that home education may not look like home schooling at all.
Your article opens: ‘The government has issued its first consultation into the growing practice of home schooling to find out whether rules need to be tightened over how children are taught out of the education system.’ This is simply wrong. The DfES are planning to issue new guidelines to LAs to assist with their dealings with Home Educators. There is, explicitly, no plan to change the law. In the email informing interested parties that the consultation had opened, Elaine Haste at the DfES wrote: 'it has been decided not to propose any changes to monitoring arrangements or legislation so this consultation is solely on the issuing of guidelines.' This needs clarification in your coverage; it is overly intrusive LA inspectors who are being reined in to follow the law as it stands, and the current consultation has no brief ‘to find out whether rules need to be tightened’ or decide ‘whether new laws were needed’. Again, this is very clear from reading the consultation document itself.
‘Local authorities fear the safety and well-being of "a small number of children" is being put at risk by the "minimal" regulation of standards in home schooling, the Department for Education and Skills said in a consultation document’. Not the consultation document on Home Education – I have searched for these quotations in vain. Perhaps you would clarify the source of them. It is very clear from the consultation document that LAs already have power to intervene when they have good reason to believe that children are not receiving a suitable education (see in particular paragraphs 2.7 – 2.10); the safety and well-being of this “small number of children” is instead put at risk by Local Authorities failing to do their job within the current legal framework, as the recent Eunice Spry case amply demonstrated.
And where is the evidence for the reported claims of Tony Mooney that home educating parents cannot ‘deliver seven or eight subjects entered for GCSE’, getting ‘in particular trouble with mathematics, science and languages’? It would only take a phone call to Education Otherwise to hear to what extent that misrepresents the aspirations and achievements of the home educating community. And Mooney’s anxiety over children from ‘working-class estates where parents have not been able to get their kids to school because they have been bullied or are school phobics’ demonstrates a contempt for the ability of the working class to make the best decisions for their children, and to educate them appropriately. Again, might I suggest that your journalist keeps abreast of the latest media coverage of working class home educating parents (here, for example). Is it possible that instead of having ‘twigged it is easier’, such parents have simply lost patience with a state schooling system in which bullying is endemic and, for some, fatal, and have chosen to provide an appropriate education for their children themselves? Instead of relying on the views of polemicists like Mooney, the Guardian might be better turning its critical attention to the parents whose interpretation of their legal responsibility to 'provide an efficient education suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of the child' is to let them take their chances in the failing state school system, rather than putting out misleading information about those who instead make the decision to take their legal responsibility seriously and, in the absence of adequate school provision, educate their children themselves.