Whilst being critical of Badman's methods and data, it nonetheless recommends that a suitable education be more strictly defined:
"We agree that there should be a more precise definition of what constitutes "suitable" education. The definition must be established prior to any registration and monitoring proposals being introduced "
and that a voluntary registration scheme be implemented. The reason given for the latter:
"In our view it is unacceptable that local authorities do not know accurately how many children of school age in their area are in school, are being home educated or are otherwise not in school. The main argument for a registration scheme, as we see it, is to help to provide this information."
Simply not having this information does not in itself seem like a strong enough reason for the state needing to know the whereabouts of all children of school age. On the same basis of just not knowing, I could argue that I should have the statutory right to know how often our next-door neighbour waters her banana plant. Of course, not knowing is simply not a good enough reason in itself, for intruding upon her privacy, (though I suspect, without any evidence whatsoever, that she doesn't water it enough).
It seems that by not providing a substantial reason for voluntary registration, the Select Committee are merely trying not to stir up the hornet's nest all over again. They are trying not to say that they actually do believe, along with Baroness Morgan, that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse.
But why, oh why, you may ask, (as indeed I was asked yesterday), if I have nothing to hide, do I resist registration?
One of my principle reasons for continued resistance is this: proving your innocence is very often not a trivial matter. It can involve a HUGE amount of work, it can take up almost all your time, it can substantially alter your life so that you cannot live it in a more positive and constructive way. If you stand accused, as any investigation by the LA in this instance would imply, you would have to go out of you way to life-altering lengths, to prove that you educate appropriately and are not abusing your children, and even when you do this, you have no guarantee that the person assessing you will agree with you that you are doing things, since there as many different versions of a suitable education, and there is a strong possibility that they may not understand your form of parenting and may take what is in fact the least abusive method for a form of neglect.
If you don't believe me that proving your innocence can be a huge distraction and vastly detrimental to normal life, let me give you a recent example of the lengths we, as in my family, should have gone to to prove our innocence in another matter entirely.
Not long ago, we received a stern letter from the council informing us of a complaint from a neighbour about our barking dogs. We were quite surprised to receive this, particularly as we actually only have one neighbour, they have approximately six dogs, all of which bark a great deal! Our two do bark occasionally, usually asking to be let in. However, we do respond pdq, so their barks are usually one-offs, though I concede that in the case of the wolf-hound cross, they are ear-shatteringly loud.
Anyhow, I went round to all the neighbours (only three altogether) within the radius of approximately 3/4 of a mile to apologise and say I thought it couldn't really be us. Rather mysteriously, they all looked duly shocked and said they weren't responsible for reporting us.
So we then rang the council and explained that we thought that the letter was over the top and that complaints really couldn't be held against us. We also said that we thought it likely that the barking was coming from elsewhere, though it didn't trouble us in the least as it was far enough away from us to make it almost inaudible in the general hubbub of life here.
The council told us that in order to clear our names, we would have to make a record of any barking that we heard, to note the times, duration and loudness of the barks.
Well we did try, but rapidly found this nigh impossible. Had we done this, all normal life in our home would have had to have ceased. We would have had to have sat still in a quietened house, pen and paper in hand, waiting for the next batch of barking to happen. Of course, the barking is not in the least predictable and is as likely to happen late in the evening and well into the night when the foxes come sniffing around, so you couldn't possibly go for a night out, practice the drums, go to bed early or watch the TV of an evening. Proving our innocence turns out to be no trivial matter and of course, in asking the neighbour to quiet her dogs, her chickens and possibly a piglet or two, or even the TV, the sound system, a lawn mower or heaven forbid, the tractor may well get taken out as collateral.
In trying to improve the quality of life on the hill here, the council has, through failing to understand local need and through the problem of unintended consequences, actually disturbed a perfectly well-functioning system and created a terrible mess.
And so it would doubtless be, should we have to register as home educators. There is so little understanding of how autonomous education works that we would have to go out of our way to prove that it does, and in so doing, we would actually destroy it entirely. This is one of the principle reasons why I resist registration, voluntary or otherwise.
Of course there are others. As Graham Stuart said:
"If enacted, the Government's proposals will for the first time in our history tear away from parents and give to the state the responsibility for a child's education."
Whilst this would *arguably* not result from system of "voluntary" registration, it would nonetheless certainly happen if the 20 day pause in off-rolling a child from a school register, as endorsed by the Select Committee, were to go ahead.
From the Select Committee report:
"We believe that a child who is de-registered from school to be home educated should be nominally kept on his or her school's roll for 20 school days. This would offer much greater scope for resolving problems where parents had any unease about the prospect of home educating their child. We ask the Department to confirm that the child's absence from school during the 20 days would be treated as authorised absence. "
To anyone from the DCSF and from LAs who happens to pass by this way: please just leave us alone. We will get on with things far better if you do. You DO have the powers to intervene if it appears that we aren't coping. Until that point, please, please just leave us alone, for the damage you cause by your ham-fisted attempts to intervene will only create havoc where there was none.
UPDATE: Goodness, Diana Johnson's response to the Select Committee report is woefully misleading in almost every regard. Take for example:
"We are confident that taken together, Graham Badman’s recommendations will make sure every child is safe and learning well."
Well, you may be confident, but you would be ridiculously wrong to be so, since your interventions will do next to nothing to ensure that children are learning well, and in most cases, you will probably damage the education of many home educated children by imposing irrelevant state-imposed "standards" for suitability. (Please see post above for analogy of why state-imposed standards do not work).
LAs will also waste a huge amount of money inspecting tens of thousands of otherwise well-functioning families when that money could have been far better spent dealing with families who are known to be at risk.
We believe the introduction of compulsory, light touch registration for home educated children is an important element of the way forward. "
Dear oh dear. What on earth is going on here? Does Ms Johnson really not realise that what the government is actually proposing is so far from LIGHT TOUCH it is hard to imagine. No minister with any sense of rightness or understanding of the situation could possibly pretend that these radical proposals which would shift responsibility for education entirely to the state are ANYTHING LIKE LIGHT TOUCH.
"It is only if all home educated children are registered that local authorities will get the information they need to make accurate assessments about the numbers of home educated children in their areas, and we agree with the Committee that this is essential."
We have yet to establish just WHY this is so essential. See post above for the essential fatuousness of such an argument which contains no actual explanation.
"Home education is a well established part of our education system and we have no plans to change that position."
Yes, you do. Don't fudge the facts. You may be allowing it to continue, insofar as children may still be educated at home, but they must now do the state's bidding and in that regard, it would be but home education in name.
"...we’ve said we want to provide better access for home educated children to facilities that enrich their experience of education, including school libraries, sports facilities and music lessons"
The government may have said this, but like plenty of other promises from the Labour party, there is actually no available evidence at all to show that they are working to implement this policy. There is nothing in the up and coming legislation as far as we are aware and is pure guff as far as we can see.
And anyway, most home educating families manage a far, far richer educational experience and environment for their children than I ever enjoyed in one of THE most expensive private schools in the country, so quite why HEors would want to come with begging bowl in hand to plead for the impoverished offerings of a bankrupted state, one can hardly imagine!
"Home educators also tell us they want more tailored support for children with special educational needs. This is something we’re working hard to address, and we will today publish our response to Brian Lamb’s review of SEN provision."
One would think this only fair as these home educators are saving the state a monstrous amount of money by not sending their children to school where special needs provision usually costs tens of thousands of pounds per child per annum. So yeah, by all means, actually do something useful with the money you haven't got!