"The latest review will mark the third such consultation pertaining to home education over the past four years. Any action stemming from it could affect the balance of power between civil liberties and state intervention, whether one is innocent until proven guilty or guilty until proven innocent, and whether the state or parents have ultimate responsibility for their children. The ability to be free from an all-knowing, all-seeing state’s ideas of education, welfare and standards forms the fundamental appeal for many of those who choose home education for their children. Any attempt to alter what is very much a matter of balance would undermine the entire ethos of education."
The debate concluded before Ms Diana Johnson, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families could be supplied with an answer to the points she raised.
"...every child has the fundamental right to receive an education, and we need to ensure that that important human right is delivered for every child in the land,"
Ooops, stop right there. It all sounds so nice but it already appears to contain a questionable assumption for who is "we"? Shouldn't this be the parent? If you say that the state must automatically be assured that an education is taking place, then you are accepting that the state is the parent of first resort and not simply the safety net when the parents fail. Within this, you are also assuming that the state has the right to determine the nature of education, so the state must be prepared to accept responsibility when parents everywhere, schooling or otherwise, hold the state responsible should that state determined education fail their child.
Ms Johnson continues:
"even in those rare cases where their parents’ convictions conflict with their right to be educated...It would be rather extreme convictions. It would be a very small number of parents who did not want their children to be educated. It would be a very extreme belief or philosophy that made them follow that path, and the state would, rightly, have to take a view."
In those circumstances, the state would have a role, and they already have the powers they need to intervene in these cases.
She also said:"We must also ensure that children have the opportunity freely to express their views about the education that they receive, in line with the United Nations convention on the rights of the child."
Quite so. "We" the home educating parents are doing just that, though we question whether school parents are doing it quite to the same extent. Over the last few years, I have asked hundreds of HE children where they would prefer to be educated. Every single one of them chose HE. In the past few days, I have asked a much smaller number of schooled children where they would prefer to be educated. Six out of seven of these (admittedly they know my children, and see how home education works) said they would prefer to HE.
UPDATE: Dani makes the point that it would be a good idea to forward Lord Adonis's thoughts (October 2006) on the best way to enact the rights of children to an education to Diana Johnson - just by way of a reminder of what her lawyers are likely to say to her.