Saturday, 16 January 2010
"Fewer home educated children will be deemed to be receiving an inadequate education........
In a recent letter about the revised impact assessment of the Children, Schools and Families Bill, Diana Johnson, the Schools Minister, says she expects that a year after the passage of the bill that,
"fewer home-educated children will be deemed to be receiving an inadequate education."
Now this seems to me to be a pretty good outcome, if true. Others are already getting worked up though and suspecting that this statement signals the launching of an assault upon the rights of home educating families.
I suppose that there are several possibilities to consider about the DCSF position. Firstly, let us take Ms. Johnson's statement at face value and assume it to be true. If more home educated children will actually be receiving a good education after the passage of the bill, then this can only be a good thing. It would be a good thing whether this meant that their parents were now being compelled to provide them with a good education or that the children had stopped being home educated and had been sent to schools which were providing them with a good education. I think most people would agree with this.
However, it is always possible I suppose, that Diana Johnson isn't being truthful. It could also be the case that she is mistaken. To begin with, let us consider the chances that she is being deliberately untruthful about this. I cannot for the life of me see any motive at all for this. I can't see why she should want to reduce the numbers of home educated children in this country for any other reason than that she believes that some of them are receiving an inadequate education. Nor can I offhand see any motive for anybody else deliberately to lie about this matter. I think it fair to assume that from Diana Johnson at the top, all the way down to the lowliest of local authority officers visiting homes, all have the welfare of children at heart and no other motive.
Could Diana Johnson be mistaken then in thinking that fewer home educated children will be receiving an inadequate education after the Children, Schools and Families Bill has come into force? This too seems unlikely. I think that we would all agree that it would have some effect upon the situation with regard to home education in this country. In other words the ratios and numbers are bound to change in some way as a result of the new legislation. Suppose that the numbers of home educated children were reduced more or less at random? That would certainly have the effect of meaning that fewer home educated children were receiving an inadequate education, but of course it would also have the effect that fewer were receiving an adequate education as well! I don't think this can be what Ms. Johnson has in mind. I imagine that she means that some children who are currently judged to be receiving an inadequate education at home, might be forced to go to school. This would certainly reduce the numbers of inadequately educated children taught at home. The only problem here is that they might very well end up going to schools where they would receive an inadequate education. So again, the actual number of inadequately educated children taught out of school would certainly go down, but it would not be to anybody's advantage! This is probably not what Diana Johnson has in mind either.
The only possibility which remains is that it is planned that all the home educated children in England and eventually Wales as well, will be monitored regularly and checks will be made to see whether or not they are receiving an adequate education. If they are not, then their parents will be offered advice and help, including access to examination centres and so on, until their prospects have substantially improved. Those who refuse to co-operate will ultimately face the prospect of a School Attendance Order. I am pretty sure that this is the plan at the back of the new impact assessment. It does not sound particularly sinister to me and it is almost certainly being done with the best of intentions. Without any doubt, this scheme would ensure that fewer home educated children were receiving an inadequate education.