A mail from Jill Fisher on one of the home HE lists has inspired me to summarize our arguments for why it would be right for the government to decide to do nothing with regard to the regulations on home education. Much of the following is lifted straight from her mail. I have just added a point or two of my own.
The government does not need to alter current legislation and policy because:
1) Local authorities already have powers to act if they are concerned. S. 437 gives them the right to insist on information about home education if there are any doubts, and SAOs give them access to the child - once they have an SAO in force and the child is in school, they can see them. If there are cases that LAs are worried about they should use existing powers not whine about needing new ones.
2) For the forced marriage issue, these are children (according to the NSPCC and others) who are being removed from school to be forced into marriage. The LA already has a responsibility to ask about the education of these children. If there are educational concerns, see point 1. If any other concerns arise in the course of asking about the education, then they should have procedures to follow.
3) Children Missing Education databases are still quite new and LAs are still implementing CME guidance. There isn't enough information yet to know how this will affect identification of unknown home educated children. They should give it some time.
4) Contact Point is just coming in. It is being trialed in 17 LAs. If Contact Point works the way they believe it should then problem cases will be picked up. They need to give it some time.
5) The state must not take over parental responsibilities as of right. It must not become responsible for ensuring that an education is suitable or that a child achieves the five outcomes of the Every Child Matters agenda. This is a parental responsibility. Should they take on this job, they will be sued when they do fail in these duties.
6) Social workers always will have a difficult job. They don't have special powers to predict they future: they don't know which child will be hurt and which won't. They are paid to use fine judgement. They shouldn't expect the job to be easy, and the public must understand that mistakes will always be made. Policing the population to the point where mistakes are not made would be to completely remove any hope of familial privacy and autonomy.
7) Lowering the level of concern at which services are meant to intervene would be extremely impractical and probably unsustainable. The social services system currently struggles to deal with children who are at high risk of severe abuse. The system will crash and die if it has to become responsible for intervening at a much lower level of concern.
You can respond to our bit of the consultation here.