It looks like the English may have a few lessons to teach the Welsh and the Scots when it comes to law abiding minorities and elective home education.
Oh how we yawned when they announced an inquiry by Westminster’s Education Select Committee into ‘support for home education’, leading one home educator to remark wryly: “I don’t know of any other group that had to fend off ‘support’ with such monotonous regularity!”
They went ahead anyway (as they do) and asked home educators (for the umpteenth time) to submit their views . These hadn’t much changed since the last time, but they were still asked yet again to spend their time (unpaid) reminding the committee that the only problem requiring a definitive solution was that of persistent ultra vires behaviour by rogue LAs.
The usual suspects (some more suspect than others) were lined up in September for the home ed community ‘side’, who effortlessly delivered ‘evidence’ for retention of the status quo and lessons for the LAs in the true meaning of the term ‘support’ (hint: it does not involve compulsion). Today it was the turn of the LAs who, predictably, bleated about ‘safeguarding’ and the need to define ‘suitable’ education, despite their own serial struggle to provide anything resembling ‘suitable’ education in most of their schools.
So you could have struck most of us down with a feather when it didn’t go according to the usual stitch-up storyline, and today’s grilling session saw a few public servants cut down to size, especially on the twin non-issues of ‘safeguarding’ and ‘suitability’.
One home educator summed up the session thus:
“The session was a complete breath of fresh air. The Committee probed the Safeguarding’ question and it appeared to me that no one was prepared to say that was an issue with Home Ed. The newly appointed Elizabeth Truss MP, (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education) came down firmly on the side of Home Educators being solely responsible for their children’s education, i.e. no change in either the law or the LA guidelines. As for LA conduct, if anyone had a complaint about ultra vires operations the the Department for Education would like to hear about it. There was no hint at any kind of registration or databasing of Home Education. Elizabeth Truss MP has a view that over legislating has unintended consequences on the ground. Also, her view seemed to be that there is no evidence that Home Educated children are disadvantaged. Any future policy changes would have to be evidence based.”
Meanwhile, over in Wales, politicians are prepared to fly in the face of reason (and evidence) with their misguided proposals for compulsory registration, which have been condemned by the home education community and roundly criticised by a respected child protection social worker. Describing Welsh Assembly Members as “deluded” and calling for the devolved government to be cut down to size, Hilary Searing lambasted the proposals as “insulting to home educators” in a strongly worded letter to the Western Mail . Reminding Welsh politicians that the biggest problem facing Wales was that of child neglect, which had already plummeted down the priority list due to resource constraints, she questioned their judgement and suggested that squandering money on a non-problem was nothing short of irresponsible.
And then there is Scotland, where Schoolhouse has been following sustained attempts by government (following on from the former executive) to steamroller through an even more irresponsible and deeply unpalatable policy. While the Scottish Government claims that it has no plans to amend the home education guidance significantly or introduce compulsory registration and monitoring for a law abiding minority, what it omits to mention is that it won’t need to. It is already bounding ahead of the rest of the UK by registering and monitoring every citizen as part of its universal surveillance agenda (wet-dreamed up elsewhere and currently being lab tested on the Scots just as the poll tax was, but with far more sinister motives).
Despite the state-trumpeted GIRFEC (Getting Information Recorded For Every Citizen) having no statutory foundation, public employees across the land and across the ‘services’ have been nonchalantly breaching data protection and human rights legislation in the expectation that the legislation will catch up before the public cottons on. Not that any Scottish Parliament legislation which doesn’t comply with the ECHR can ever be lawful, but perhaps there is one law for ‘them’ and another for ordinary ‘citizens’ who will be monitored from womb to tomb by a Named Person imposed by the state.
The moral of this story is that Wales and Scotland should pay more attention to English lessons if they want to avoid the naughty step. They should also try harder at arithmetic and history, or risk inheriting the dunce’s cap from Graham Badman and the uniform from Ed Balls.