So here it is: the Education and Inspections Bill, first published 28th of Feb, second reading done and dusted on 15th March and now going before committee. There is probably very little that we can do about it now, so what will it mean for Home Educators?
The bit that concerns us arises in Section 4.
(1) Duty to make arrangements to identify children not receiving education.
A local education authority must make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age but—
(a) are not registered pupils at a school, and
(b) are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school.
(3) In this Chapter, “suitable education”, in relation to a child, means efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have.
First, (1a) here seems to suggest that there is no way out for HEors. De facto registration will now be required by law (so far as it is possible to achieve), as opposed to it being merely a guideline, as has been the situation following the 2004 Children Bill. Some in the HE community think the "so far is it is possible to achieve", is there to prevent the bill from an obvious conflict with Data Protection legislation, but that in practice, dirty tactics like pressuring new home owner/occupiers to provide new addresses of previous inhabitants will be used. Seeing as this has already happened, you can't call these claims outlandish.
Worse, (1b) seems to imply a shift of emphasis. We shall no longer be investigated merely in the situation that it appears that a suitable education is not being provided. Instead, in order to meet the requirements of the new law, we will have to prove, in all cases, that a suitable education is being provided. Given that in effect, we have been required to provide preliminary evidence that we are providing a suitable education, in order that LEAs may determine that we are doing so, this may mean very little. On the other hand, it could mean that we are required to provide much more extensive evidence for LEAs to form their opinions.
At this point, we must refer to the definition of a suitable education: it must meet the needs of the child according to his age, ability and aptitude, and in order to render him capable of living within the community in which he is raised. We could add in a bit from European Human Rights legislation, about suitability being determined by parental wishes, but this is cold comfort in the face of the increasing requirement to provide evidence of suitability, particularly when you throw in the LEAs' previously notoriously unreliable interpretation of suitability of education.
Ho hum. Various sensible redrafts have been suggested, but I'm not getting my hopes up.
The only hope that remains, is that LEAs will realise that there are so many HEors out there with unique and tricky learning styles, that the ptb would be mad to insist on a single criteria of suitability, since this would mean that all these kids could end up back in school, needing loads of expensive specialist help, or else requiring the imprisonment of hundreds of hardworking and successfully educating HE parents.