Thursday, 29 June 2017

Open letter to my MP: regards control of home education

It has been brought to my attention that two members of the House of Lords are starting to try propose a private members bill to control home education (again!). 

This is my open letter to my MP. The first half is written by another HE mum who is good with words. The second half is personal to me. I am happy for other HE parents to plagiarise this letter. 

Dear MP,

I am a mother who has electively home educated my two sons for the last 19 years. I have noticed with alarm a new Bill which was introduced and had its first reading in the House of Lords yesterday 27.06.17.

Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill [HL] 2017-19 (Lord Soley, labour.)

This bill threatens innocent families with a compulsory state registration and monitoring system over and above the current arrangements including compulsory interview of parents by council workers, children also subjected to compulsory interview and assessment of themselves, their work, their health and their emotional and personal life by a council worker. The bill mentions annual assessment but provides demand for parental compliance by law upon request of the council.

This is worse than a permanent investigation under section 47 of the Children Act and amounts to a scandalous and terrifying attempt to impose a tyrannical regime of state overview upon families which, at the very least, contravenes their human rights under section 8 of the human rights act and threatens the health and well being of electively home educated children, many of whom have already been failed by the very system that would be subjecting them to these abuses.

It is also an implicit slur on the character and integrity of families who have chosen a lawful and valid parenting option, usually after serious consideration, for deeply held philosophical and conscientious reasons, or after their child has been seriously let down or harmed by the state system.

I should like to know your stance on elective home education and on the provisions proposed in this disgraceful bill that would put our country to shame in the eyes of any decent onlooker in my opinion.

Will you tell me please, what position you intend to take on this bill?

If this bill had been in place when my boys were young, I would have found it extremely intrusive and stressful to have assessments and interviews, invading our private home life. When I was already doing the most demanding job a mother can do in taking on the serious role of home educating my sons. I took their education very seriously because I see it as a parental role, not a government role. That society is my son's protection socially and emotionally, as 7 years ago I worked out that they both were seen weekly and known by a minimum of 70 adults a week, through activities, doctors, friends, group activities etc. This is 70 adults that would notice if my children were under stress or abused. This is probably more than many school children, as home educated children tend to be involved in many more wide ranging activities with a higher ratio of adults per children than in school. 

Both of my boys without government monitoring or interviews have grown into productive members of our community and are well advanced in their education. This is not the exception, I have met many many other home educating parents and hear of successes all the time. My eldest son is studying law at Nottingham University now,  having achieved A,A,A*,A* at A levels. He is also in the process of application to be a pilot in the RAF; he would tell you how confident and capable he has become from youth without national curriculum, excessive GCSE's and government monitoring. My other son has just taken his GCSE's from home and has accepted a place at Harrogate Army College starting in September. Both of my boys had a carefree, joyful childhood where they learnt by experiencing life alongside us and out of interest-driven learning, which is not something most council officials understand. 

Also I am very concerned that if councils are given power of entry into homes of educators with out any crime being committed that some will intrude in a way that will  harm the most vulnerable children, especially those on the autistic spectrum whose parents have chosen home education to provide a calm routine environment that is low stress for them. 

This bill would be extremely costly in a time of austerity when every public service is struggling to provide already. This is a mallet to crack a nut! The current system of dealing with suspected child abuse is already effective to help those children most vulnerable and in need, without becoming a police state monitoring every family because they choose a different educational style. In Hertfordshire where I used to live the local LEA is currently struggling to assess the home educated children now; if it became compulsory it would be an officious, money-wasting extreme measure.

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