Thank you for writing to me about the home education proposals in the Children, Schools and Families Bill. We believe these are ill-thought out and heavy handed, as our LibDem spokesperson Joan Walmsley has said in the Lords. Not only have ministers not yet properly thought out what should be expected of home educators, but they are now in danger of enforcing a “one size fits all” education through a system of registration which could well become a licensing system. LibDem MPs therefore voted against the existing Government proposals.
The LibDems support those who want to home educate, and understand that it is usually a positive choice for the children and parents involved. However, we always have in mind the right of the child to an education. We regret that the Badman Report has given the impression that home education is more likely to be related to child protection issues than school education, and we understand why this has caused concern. It is important that the policing of child protection issues is separated from the issue of whether a suitable education is being delivered.
Local authorities can’t do their present job if they don’t know which children are being home educated, so parents should tell them. A voluntary system wouldn’t address the minority of cases where home education could be of poor quality or non existent. But notification is very different from licensing or registration. Our intention is that notification would lead to more support for home educators, such as help with exam costs and access to resources. It is also reasonable to ask all home educating parents to provide information on their home education strategy annually in writing or at a meeting so that the local authority can help and support them where required.
Further detailed consultation is needed on what is reasonably required of home educators before giving local authorities or the Government the power to approve only home education that complies with defined rules. As long as the child’s rights are being fulfilled there should be scope for a great variety of approaches. However, if it is any consolation to you, it is unlikely that these provisions will survive in the Bill because when the General Election is called they will not have been properly debated in the House of Lords, and we will not support the measures as they stand.