Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Dear MP

Here it is! I have sent this letter to my MP, at least it will go in the post tomorrow. I have also sent a copy to many of my friends, slightly altered so it's not from the point of view of the a Home Ed parent, and asked them to send it on to their MP. There is so much more I could have said but I wanted to keep to the main points and for the letter not to be more than one side. If you feel strongly about this issue, please feel free to cut and paste, alter to suit you and send on.

I wish to seek your support in opposing the reforms to current practice proposed by Graham Badman in his “Report to the Secretary of State on the Review of Elective Home Education in England”.

The Review fails to make any case for its recommendations. The Secretary of State says it contains strong arguments but no evidence is presented either of the outcome of Home Educated children relative to their schooled counterparts or of any link between Home Education and child abuse. Yet the assertion that “Home Education could be used as a ‘cover’ for child abuse” (Terms of Reference for the Review) stands unrefuted. As a Home Educating parent, I find this insulting and offensive.
I strongly object to Recommendation 7: ‘that designated local authority officers should have the right of access to the home.’ No other authority has right of access to the home: were I to be suspected of a crime the police would need a search warrant to enter my house. Parents, who make the choice to Home Educate, should be entitled to the same presumption of innocence and competence that school going children's parents receive.

Also, it recommends that local authority officers should ‘have the right to speak with each child alone’ ... so that ‘officers will be able to satisfy themselves that the child is safe and well.’ I cannot imagine how a stranger, meeting my child for the first time, with the implied threat of being able to force the child to go to school, could hope to have a relationship of trust that would enable a child to confide fears or concerns. In contrast, numerous adults with whom my children have relationships and who come into contact with on a regular basis have every opportunity to report any concern they may have to the appropriate authorities.

Although a further recommendation (Number 9) is that ‘all local authority officers and others engaged in the monitoring and support of elective home education must be suitably trained’, in section 11.3 Graham Badman urges the DCSF to ‘respond to recommendation ... 7 at the next available opportunity’ with the inherent implication that officers will have the right to enter my home and interview my children without me present, before suitable training has been undertaken.

Mr Badman has been also quoted as saying, with reference to recommendation 1, (“...parents must provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child over the following twelve months,”) and “they will be judged on their plans. These statements should contain some milestones for children to achieve ... for example by the age of eight, I think they should be autonomous learners, able to read. ( However, he demonstrates no evidence of the value of such a goal, only that it is his personal opinion. Why should what appears to be no more than personal opinion be imposed upon the Home Education community?

In his introduction to the Review, Badman states, ‘there has to be a balance between the rights of the parents and the rights of the child.’ I feel very strongly that this is not about my right as a parent to Home Educate my children, as if it was just another career option, but about their right to be Home Educated, to receive all that is on offer in a personalised and individual education free from interference which is not evidence-based but wholly subjective. I believe that these recommendations threaten my civil liberties, my human right for respect to private and family life and my children’s right to the education which I believe to be right for them.

I look forward to hearing from you.

While I am furious with our government and this appalling review, I am grateful to live in a country where I can express this opinion, argue with those in power and ultimately vote them out. I am grateful for my freedom of speech and am mindful of those who are fighting for that basic right.

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