Perhaps the most controversial recommendation of the Badman Report is No. 7, which is that designated local authority officers should have a right of access to the homes of home educating parents. Time and again on the HE-UK and EO message boards, it is this part of the report that people seem to find most threatening and unacceptable.
It is perhaps worth bearing in mind that local authorities already have the power to enter our homes for hundreds of different reasons. For instance, under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 the local authority can come into your garden to measure the height of hedges. They can come onto our property to check for the presence of rabbits (Pests Act 1954) and also enter any home if they have reason to suspect that illegal or unregulated hypnotism is taking place (Hypnotism Act 1952). And just in case you were planning to start home educating a bear in your house and think it is no business of the local authority what you do in the privacy of your own home, then you'd better think again! The Performing Animals Regulations Act 1925 confers the power on local authorities to enter any home in order to search for performing or trained animals.
Needless to say, local authorities do not actually make a habit of raiding people's homes to search for unregulated hypnotists or dancing bears. Nor, I strongly suspect, are they likely to start kicking anybody's door down in the future, while searching for poorly educated children. For one thing, all these powers of entry need to be backed up by an application to a Justice of the Peace and a similar restriction would almost certainly apply to any new legislation about home education. Governments and local authorities love to arm themselves with Draconian measures like this, even if are seldom used. I'm sure that a psychologist could explain this craving for various powers.
Every so often, governments rush to introduce laws designed to tackle some perceived menace which must be swiftly dealt with. Almost invariably such laws are hastily drafted and impossible to enforce. I'm sure we all remember the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991? It followed some highly publicised dog attacks and is now all but ignored. Where I work it is quite common to see people walking Pitbulls. Nobody, least of all the police, have any desire to take action. The Pests Act mentioned above was a similar rushed job, brought in to deal with the threat of Myxomatosis. All the signs are that the new law currently being contemplated on home education will be of the same type.
We have to remember also that local authorities already have the power to enforce thousands of laws and regulations covering every aspect of our lives. Everything from the minimum height of shop awnings to the fact that out front garden gates must open inwardly. Nobody has the time, energy or inclination to pursue most of these laws and regulations.
I believe that even if a new law is passed which requires home educators to open their homes to officers from the local authority, nothing much will change. As is currently the case, if the LA is worried about the welfare of a child they will take action. I really cannot see them applying to the courts for an order to enter the home of somebody just because they are educating their child autonomously! I can just see how well this would play with the local police, who would be required to waste their time by attending any such attempt to force entry to a home. I can also not see it looking very good in the local paper. So even if they acquire new powers, my guess is that LAs will be extremely sparing in their use of them.
Local authorities have extensive powers to enter our homes for a huge number of reasons. They never use these powers and the addition of one more to the hundreds which they already possess and do not use would probably make little difference to anybody.