I recently sent an email to Liberal Vision, a Liberal Democrat campaigning group and Sara Scarlett has kindly agreed to highlight our cause with a post today on their website.
My letter follows:
I recently encountered your site following your post on Ed Balls’ interview with Peter Allan. I was also struck by LIBERAL VISION’s statements looking to halt and then swiftly reverse the growth in the state bureaucracy, and your concern about the government’s assault on civil liberties and personal privacy and the belief you expressed in choice and personal freedom.
I have recently had cause to be concerned about these issues myself, as the right that my wife and I have to home-educate our children is being threatened by legislation proposed in the Children, Schools and Families Bill, which is being fast-tracked through Parliament.
This legislation was based on the seriously flawed Badman Review of Elective Home Education which was recently criticised by the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee. The legislation was drafted before the Select Committee could finish reporting and also before the conclusion of a DCSF consultation on Elective Home Education which drew an unprecedented 5000 responses from the Home Education Community.
The legislation seeks a compulsory annual licensing arrangement for Home Educators policed by an enlarged Local Authority officialdom. The arrangements include provisions for frequent monitoring and for children to be interviewed in their home by local authority officers without the presence of their parents and without the legal safeguards that are currently required in criminal or social-care cases.
The enforcement of the registration and monitoring regime is to be carried out with the threat of the issue of School Attendance Orders: for failing to register, failing to supply an educational plan, failing to cooperate with local authority officers, if for any reason the official disagreed with the chosen educational philosophy, if the child failed to demonstrate the expected progress, etc. This would mean that the child would be forced into a school environment in which many may have been bullied or not had their special educational needs met.
The cost to the taxpayer is referred to in the Bill as being up to £99 Million pounds simply to set up the bureaucracy. None of this money would go to enhance educational provisions, which Home Educators currently provide at their own expense.
The changes are also likely to include the involvement of Ofsted, which has recommended that Home Educators are CRB checked to care for their own children, presumably also at the parents’ expense.
The proposals have caused an outcry in the Home Education community, demonstrated recently by the record breaking presentation of over 120 petitions to parliament supported by over 70 MPs on the 8th of December.
We currently have support from the Conservative party to oppose the draconian measures of the Badman Review, but do not yet have the same commitment from the Liberal Democratic Party. However, we are grateful for the declared support from a number of Liberal Democrat MPs including Sir Alan Beith and Paul Burstow.
If you were able to highlight this issue on your top-ranking site, it would be a significant boost to our efforts to get Clause 26 rejected from the Children, Schools and Families Bill.