Thank you for your email to Michael Gove regarding Home education and
the Badman report. He is away visiting schools at the moment, but he has
asked me to forward you this reply.
Parental choice is a driving principle of Conservative education policy.
I can assure you that this includes the choice to educate your children
at home, and that a future Conservative government would fully respect
your rights in this area.
We want children to enjoy the highest possible level of protection, and
recognise there need to be safeguards. But we do not want to grant
Government intrusive or unnecessarily authoritarian powers.
We will aim to keep this balance at the forefront of our thinking as we
develop policy in this area.
Thank you again for taking the time to email.
Office of Michael Gove MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families
0207 219 4829
Thank you for this. Please would you pass my response on to Michael Gove? I'm sure that as this issue hots up, he's receiving all kinds of representations (and my goodness me, there are opportunities to distance yourselves from the Ed Balls approach every five minutes at the moment!), so I'll be brief.
When the Conservatives are developing policy in this area, please bear in mind:
HE children are NOT hidden. They need no more safeguarding than any other child - in fact, perhaps less, since many HE children spend a considerable amount of time out and about during the school day - learning in the community rather than in a classroom - they are conspicuously visible and, not being in school when most children are, are subjected to much more watchful (and kindly) scrutiny by the general public. Social services and LA education departments absolutely do not need extra powers - they need to learn to use competently the ones they have. Please remember that this whole thing stems from a smear campaign, using government funded "charities" such as the NSPCC to invent a fake concern (over which they apologised in an obscure specialist magazine, although the smears had been all over the national press), and then an "expert" labour crony to cobble together the (just embarrassingly badly researched and argued) report.
If you want to demonstrate your concern for HEed children, you could take a stance along the lines of "trusting communities: respecting family life" (if slogans appeal). We are the experts on our children. We are the experts on their education. We are the experts on their welfare needs. If there is reason to believe that we are not caring parents, determined to give our children the best chances in life, then there are already procedures in place to investigate and prosecute us.
"trusting communities: respecting family life" in HE terms could go along with undoing the centralisation and standardisation of state schools, devolving decisions about curricula and budgets back to governing bodies, parents, teachers and the children themselves. The whole thing could be an unclasping of the NuLabour centralising grasp on our children's educations. If communities want grammar schools, let 'em have them... (or is that a bridge too far?!)
There can be no "balance" about whether families are presumed innocent or not. Either agents of the state are not permitted to detain (=interview) civilians or enter their houses without probable cause or they are. If they are, we live in a police state.
As far as NuLabour are concerned, making the unconventional decision that our children will be happier, better socialised and better educated with us, their parents, ourselves explicitly shouldering our legal responsibility for their welfare and education, seems to be "probable cause" for concern that we are, or might be, abusing our children. Please distance yourselves from this - I find it hard to imagine why anyone wouldn't want to.
I am sure you are swamped by offers of this kind, but if it would be helpful for me to come to London to meet with you and discuss how the Conservatives might be able to protect the wellbeing, diversity and richness of the HE community by leaving us alone as far as possible (very cheap...) I would be delighted to travel up from Little Wittering.