If the ability of parents in this country to educate their own children were to be under threat, then nobody would be more concerned than the present writer. Fortunately, no such threat is apparent, at least at the moment. What has happened over the last few years, as home education has become increasingly popular, is that it has grown clear that a small number of parents are using the pretext of home education as a cover for other things. Just what those "other things" are is a matter of lively debate. I believe them to be, for example, neglecting the education of a child, sometimes in order to avoid prosecution for truancy; some think that these "other things" include physical and sexual abuse. What nobody disputes, nor have ever disputed, is that such cases are a small number. Small, but perhaps significant enough to make it necessary to take some sort of action. The aim of any new action is not and never has been home educating parents per se. There is a good deal of evidence to support this thesis.
Here is Martin Ward, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College leaders, speaking about home education shortly after the Graham Badman review was launched, "However, there have been concerns about a small number of cases where this option has been exercised to the detriment of the child.". He went on to defend the right of parents to educate their children. His views were echoed by others during and after the review. On the day that Graham Badman's report was published on June 11th this year, Ed Balls said, "The review also found evidence that there are a small number of cases where home educated children have suffered harm because safeguarding concerns were not picked up, or not treated with sufficient urgency, particularly where parents were uncooperative or obstructed local authority investigations."
All along, everybody concerned in the review of elective home education conducted by Graham Badman has been at pains to emphasise that they are not against home eduction, but simply want the powers to cope with a small number of cases where the right to home educate is being abused. Here is Baroness Morgan, answering a written question about any new powers which local authorities may acquire, on June 29th, "We do not expect them to place any significant additional burdens on local authorities as most already monitor home education, and our proposals will provide additional powers that will assist local authorities in dealing more efficiently with the small number of cases where home education does not come up to scratch." Once again, a small number of cases. And finally, here is Graham Badman himself writing on September 16th., "a small but significant
proportion of home educated children are receiving no, or an inadequate,
There can be little doubt that any new law will be directed not at home educators in general, but at those who are using home education as a cover or excuse. Nobody has any idea what percentage of supposedly home educating parents this is likely to affect, not least because nobody knows to within a few score of thousands how many parents in this country are educating their children. Of course, any new regulation will cause irritation and inconvenience to a certain number of genuine home educators, although for most there will be no discernible difference. This inconvenience might however be a price worth paying if it rescues even a small number of children from neglect and possible danger.