There can be few spectacles less attractive than that of a man crowing, "I told you so, you idiots!" Fortunately, I am possessed of sufficient self control that I shall not be yielding to this enormous temptation. Ever since Graham Badman's report was published, excitable people have been claiming that all his recommendations would become law. There was, realistically, little chance for many of them. Badman is not a lawyer and many of his idea were hopelessly impractical, however desirable they might have been. I am surprised that others could not see this. On September 16th I posted a piece asking what changes in the law were likely. I concluded it by saying;
"To summarise, there is a long way to go before anybody needs to get het up about all this. My personal view is that some new legislation would not come at all amiss. I realise that not everyone agrees with me on that point, to say the least of it. But it does not really matter, because the chances of local authorities actually ending up with specific powers about interviewing children alone are negligible."
A number of individuals responded indignantly, telling me in effect that I did not know what I was talking about. I am saying this for a reason, not just as an act of odious and smug self-congratulation for my prescience, (although no doubt there is an element of that). Exactly the same thing is now happening again. People are reading the new guidelines and regulations and imagining that every jot and tittle will be as fixed and immutable as the laws of the Medes and Persians. It is not so.
Here is an example of the sort of thing which will provide a loophole;
Monitoring provision of home education to registered children
A local authority in England shall make arrangements with a view to
ascertaining, so far as is reasonably practicable—
whether the education provided to a child whose details are
entered on their home education register is suitable;"
At once, we focus upon those words, "so far as is reasonably practicable". In other words, there will not be an absolute duty on the local authority at all, only, "so far as is reasonably practicable". What will this mean? Perhaps families who do not co-operate fully with providing a statement of what they intend over the coming year will mean that it is not reasonably practicable to ascertain if their provision is suitable. Possibly awkward customers will not be able to be dealt with for the same reason. At the very least, we know that the local authority has a get out clause which will enable them to slacken off if they feel like it.
Here is another interesting bit;
Arrangements made by an authority under this section shall include
arrangements made with a view to their—
holding at least one meeting with the child during the
Note that the law will not state unequivocally that local authorities must meet the child. Rather, they will make arrangements "with a view to" doing so. When laws are framed in this wooly way, there is usually a reason for it. After all, there was nothing to prevent the blunt statement, "The authority will hold at least one meeting with the child".
All the signs are that these regulations have been carefully worded so as to allow the local authorities plenty of space to manoeuvre and not enforce them too rigorously. Add to that the fact that the old School Attendance Order will remain as the primary tool for getting children back to school and that this must be enforced by a court and I can see that very few, if any, home educated children will in the end be forced unwillingly to school.