I don't intend to comment directly on the case of Khyra Ishaq, although I suspect my conclusions are somewhat different from those of many home educators. I was simply wondering what effect this case would have upon the progress of the Children, Schools and Families Bill. At a guess, I would say that it makes it almost certain that this bill will whizz through the Lords practically unopposed. I wouldn't be surprised if it does not even get entangled now in the wash-up, but passes on a tide of popular indignation with the shortcomings of the present arrangements for monitoring home education. Public opinion will be fiercely against unregulated home education and I can't see many politicians wishing to stand up and claim that there is no need for any change in the current law. The home education angle of the Khyra Ishaq case is likely to be in many people's minds and after a horrible murder like this, a lot of us want some sort of scapegoat. What could provide a better scapegoat than unregulated home education?
I have been watching the Conservative position with a little suspicion. Gove, the Shadow Education Spokesman seemed to be promising one home educator that the bill would not pass while containing the section on home education. The following day though, in the Times, he had varied this to stating that the Tories would not introduce legislation on the home education. Now, according to Mike Fortune-Wood, he has promised that even if the CSF bill is passed, the next Conservative government would repeal it. I find this unlikely. Following the outcry over Khyra Ishaq, I am guessing that most Conservatives will be running for cover, not wanting to appear soft on safeguarding. All this is irrelevant to the facts in the case; the existing powers of social services for example. I am thinking of what will happen, not whether it will be good that it happens, or whether it should happen.
I have said before that I think that the Conservatives will be pleased if this bill goes through, because then they will be relieved of the need to pass a similar bill of their own when they next form a government. This has been a great situation for them. They have been able to curry favour with a section of the electorate and it will not have any practical consequences for them, they know perfectly well that this government can force the bill through regardless. As I say, I think that it will be rather harder to find a Tory MP or Lord after today who is prepared to stand up and be counted on this issue. They will be wanting to appear concerned about vulnerable children, this always plays well with the man in the street. I am expecting most of them to claim that this case has changed things and that they can no longer side with home educators against new regulations.
My own view is quite simple. Wicked people will always find a way to harm children. Everybody, both militant home educators and those opposing unregulated home education, seem intent upon blaming "the system". The home educators are saying that this is a failure by social services to use their existing powers and the professionals are saying that the child died because they lacked the necessary powers. The responsibility for Khyra Ishaq's death actually rests firmly with those who killed her. The guilty party is not Birmingham social services, it is Angela Gordon.