‘We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to remind his government that parents must remain responsible in law for ensuring the welfare and education of their children and that the state should not seek to appropriate these responsibilities.’
The petition has its roots in the Home Education community, but it involves a far bigger principle about responsibility for bringing children up. I’ll declare an interest straight away as a retired home educator (our sons are now at university and 6th form college).
Local authorities have always been responsible for assessing education provision but the government now wants all children to be evaluated against the Every Child Matters ‘five outcomes’ welfare framework. This follows LA complaints that they had no way of meeting their targets where home educated children are concerned because they don’t have the data. Government has initiated yet another consultation on home education – the 5th in 3 years – in order to establish an inspection regime for the five outcomes.
Although the previous consultations have concluded that the present regime offers sufficient protection to children, the government has turned it into a child protection issue, saying that home education is being used as a cover for abuse and forced marriage, and they have garnered the support of the NSPCC. Government has been put under pressure to supply the evidence to support their claims, but none has been forthcoming.
At stake is the far wider issue of whether parents can by default be assumed capable of raising children without state oversight. Government and LAs have become increasingly edgy about home education because they can’t see what’s going on from day to day. Are they really saying that parents can’t be trusted to promote their children’s wellbeing unless they are monitored?