Thursday, August 06, 2009

Calling a Halt to the Consultation and the Safeguarding Bill

Following discussion mostly on a local list, it has been decided that home educators should rightfully ask MPs and the CSF Committee to call a halt to the Consultation - Home Education - Registration and Monitoring Proposals and to the writing of legislation to "improve monitoring arrangements for children educated at home".

Please do join in and write to your MP, and/or to the CSF Committee.

Below is a suggested letter to the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee (email: for Barry Sheerman: sheermanb@parliament.uk) to be adapted for MP’s etc. Please feel free to change, delete, personalise or whatever.

(If writing to the CSF Committee, please clearly state as a title that this is not a submission to the enquiry but an urgent request)

=============================================

Dear MP/Mr. Sheerman, ( Chairman of CSF Committee),

We are requesting that as there is now a CSF Select Committee Inquiry (1) into the Review of Elective Home Education in England by Graham Badman (2), that it would be just and proper that the Consultation, Home Education - Registration and Monitoring Proposals (3) which has followed on the back of the Review be halted until the inquiry findings are made public.

We also ask that the move to write the legislation for “improving monitoring arrangements for children educated at home” as mentioned in Draft Legislative Programme in the Improving Schools and Safeguarding Children Bill (4) be halted, pending the results of the inquiry and pending proper consultation.

We are concerned at the contravening of Criterion 1 of the BERR Code of Practice on consultations (5) which states that consultations must be undertaken when there is time for the consultation result to influence policy outcome.

As a section on improving monitoring for home educators has already been incorporated in the Improving Schools and Safeguarding Children Bill to be included in the Queen’s speech for November, this would strongly suggest that Criterion 1 of the BERR's Code of Practice has not been adhered to. The review recommendations have only recently been published and the current consultation has only recently started. Further, we have heard that the results of the current consultation are not due to be made public until January 2010. Given that questions that are being asked in the current consultation cover the issues that are already being legislated for, it begs the question of the purpose of the current consultation.

There have been many other issues raised regarding the legitimacy of the Review and the related consultation. For example:

- the use of incorrect statistics on the rate of child abuse in the home education community
- other questionable evidence relating child abuse to home education
- a faulty analysis of legal rights, legal duties and civil liberties.

We are not aware of any other group in the population who are subjected to home visits by the state without the requirement of a search warrant (police), or a court order and presence of police officers (social services). These recommendations would allow the child to be seen on their own or with another person who may be a stranger to the child. Many of these children have come out of school because they were being abused by other children at school (bullying) or because they have specific learning difficulties which were not or could not be dealt with in the school environment. Are schools and school children to be interrogated in the same draconian way? We sincerely hope not!

We are also very concerned about the precedent that these recommendations would create in taking responsibility for children away from their parents and transferring it to the state with all the implications this has for every other child in Britain. The state itself would incur heavy costs and be legally liable for the education and welfare of all home educated children. At the present time education is the responsibility of parents. See the DirectGov Site on Parental Responsibilities (6) for the government's own definition of ‘parental responsibility’, one of which is “choosing and providing for the child's education”.

Further, we fear that there will be conflict between different sections of legislation (both national law - s7 and s9 of the Education Act 1996 (7) and the European Human Rights legislation (8), particularly the right to privacy) and that there is a significant problem with the requirement that legislation be proportionate (9). This will only result in further confusion between Local Authorities and Home Educators.

At the present time we feel that Local Authorities have adequate powers to intervene if they have welfare concerns over a child (the 1989 (10) and 2004 Children Acts (11) ) and also if they have concerns over the suitability of a child’s education (1996 Education Act s437 (7)). Indeed Mr Badman quoted Her Majesty's Chief Inspectorate (HMCI) as saying that many LAs do manage child protection for home educators robustly whilst other LAs fail to do so. (See Section 8 on Safeguarding: (2)).

Given that some LAs do manage well with the current legislative framework, surely the question should rather be why are some LAs perceived to be failing?

This issue is all the more pertinent since the proposed changes in legislation pose such significant problems. Significant amongst these is questionable use of resources: the review's recommendations would not represent good value for money since the close monitoring of thousands of perfectly well-functioning families would not result in significant benefits, may well be harmful to families as a result of the removal of civil liberties, and will divert funds and personnel from genuinely needy families.

If the inquiry is to take seriously the questions raised about Mr Badman's report, then there must be a possibility that the present consultation will be withdrawn, since the consultation is fundamentally based on the report. Leaving the consultation open while the inquiry is conducted implies either that the result of the inquiry is a foregone conclusion, or that Government is happy to risk wasting many people's time and energy on a pointless exercise*. At this stage we believe that the focus should be move to the inquiry, and that the consultation can and should be postponed until its legitimacy has been reviewed.

In summary: we ask that the current consultation and legislative programme be halted because:

- The Review in both methods and conclusions was faulty.
- The consultation is based on a faulty Review.
- Neither the Review nor the consultation follows the Code of Practice on consultations (2.4, 3.2, 3.3, 4.3, 4.4, 5.1).
- Legislation is already scheduled based on a faulty process and conclusions.
- On the present timescale, the result of the CSF Committee's inquiry would not be published until after the consultation has finished and proposed legislation perhaps already laid before the House.

Yours sincerely

1. Children, Schools and Families Select Committee Inquiry: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/csf/csfpn220709.cfm

2. Home Education Review (Graham Badman): http://publications.everychildmatters.gov.uk/eOrderingDownload/HC-610_Home-ed.PDF

3. Consultation: Home Education - Registration and Monitoring Proposals. http://tinyurl.com/l82dxm )

4. Improving Schools and Safeguarding Children Bill: http://www.commonsleader.gov.uk/output/Page2831.asp

5. BERR Code of Practice on Consultations: http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/bre/consultation-guidance/page44420.html

6. DirectGov Site on Parental Responsibilities: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/ParentsRights/DG_4002954

7. Education Act 1996: ttp://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1996/ukpga_19960056_en_2#pt1-ch1-pb3-l1g7

8. ECHR: http://www.hri.org/docs/ECHR50.html#C.Art8

9. Better Regulation, The Five Principles of Good Regulation: http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/bre/index.html/index.html

10. Children Act 1989: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1989/ukpga_19890041_en_7

11. Children Act 2004: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2004/ukpga_20040031_en_1

2 comments:

cosmic seed said...

LOL i swear i suggested this 2 or 3 weeks ago. hey ho, i'm used to talking to myself!

Carlotta said...

Hi Cosmic...

Great minds! And this in every way, as this idea does seem to be taking off slowly on national lists. It IS getting there, I think, just needs time to sink in.