I'm really beyond composing carefully worded and nuanced letters.
So here's a 10 minute rant for the draft legislative programme people. It doesn't have in it everything it should, but I am coming to the conclusion that as long as I say SOME of the important things, other people will cover the other bits.
“improving monitoring arrangements for children educated at home;”
I am very concerned about this clause.
The current legal position is perfectly adequate to ensure that all children receive a suitable education (as defined in case law). If you want to improve matters in this area, then a good start would be to turn the 2007 elective Home Education Guidelines for LAs into statutory Guidance. The next step would be to support families in seeking legal redress against LA employees who act ultra vires.
I understand that there are “safeguarding concerns” over home educated children in general, a concern that they may be "hidden". The recommendations of the Badman review are absolutely not the answer to the concerns of the DCSF, since his review has been widely condemned as partial, disproportionate, ill-researched, and lacking in expertise. It quotes selectively and thus misleadingly from the CofE submission to the review, as well as from a home educator's submission. It misuses statistics (where it uses them at all), perhaps because the actual figures do not help him come to his prejudged conclusions. Badman's report was supposed to be concerned with welfare, but steps WAY outside his remit (and the remit on which he consulted), and outside his expertise, conflating welfare issues with educational issues. His conclusions and recommendations are aligned neither with his stated brief nor with his findings.
As soon as the Badman review was published, a consultation was opened. Ed Balls may have accepted the review, but the primary stakeholders, Home Educating families, most certainly have not. Nor have social workers (http://www.radical.org.uk/barefoot/heducation.htm). Consultations are supposed to be held when there is the chance of affecting the outcome. But Ed Balls has already accepted the Badman recommendations, and promises to respond in more detail in September, over half way through the consultation period. And now we see ‘monitoring arrangements’ in the draft legislation before the consultation (supposed to explore whether there should be any new legislation) has closed, let alone been reported on. Is this really how the legislative process is supposed to operate?
The proposed legislation is also uncosted, not having been subjected to an impact assessment (which should have taken place before the consultation opened, surely?).
What should the government be doing instead? Rather than concentrating its efforts on disproportionate, inconsistent and uncosted legislation whose consequence (intended or unintended) will be to control the perfectly valid educational and lifestyle choices of innocent families, and to shift the primary responsibility both for the education and welfare of children from parents to the state (brace yourselves for the law suits when state employees fail to educate children or keep them safe in schools), the government should concentrate on making sure that LA staff are fully aware of and act in accordance with current welfare and education legislation, both of which are perfectly adequate if properly applied.
Whatever draconian legislation you introduce will impact negatively on law-abiding families, and on the educational freedom they currently enjoy. The hypothetical vicious child abusers hiding their children from society from birth onwards are not going to be affected at all - a £1000 fine (or whatever) for failure to register as a home educator with the LA is hardly going to be the top priority for our hypothetical sweat-shop dad or get-her-on-the-game-young mum, is it?