I have a strong suspicion that few in the home educating community will be mourning the end of the ContactPoint system. The idea behind this database was of course that the details of every child in the country would be recorded, together with information about their education, allegations by social services and so on. The plan was that no child would be able to 'slip between the cracks' and become hidden from view. Depending upon one's point of view, this was either a very necessary tool for protecting vulnerable children from harm or a piece of the most frightful busy-bodying ever seen in this country. It has of course now been announced that ContactPoint will be going the same way as Identity Cards. I imagine that this will now leave the way open for home educating families to remain 'under the radar' as some of them call it.
I think that there is something to be said both for and against a scheme like ContactPoint. I cannot myself see any harm in various agencies knowing how many children there are in this country and where they are being educated. On the other hand, many parents feel that it is no concern at all of the state even to wonder about such a thing. I shall be curious to see what will be contained in the Education Bill which is due to be described in the Queen's Speech on Tuesday. The official Liberal view before the election was that home education needed to be looked at again via another enquiry; a kind of Graham Badman Review Mark II. Whether they feel strongly enough about this to insist on its inclusion in the new bill remains to be seen. I rather think that the Tories, having been so vociferous in their opposition to Labour's Children, Schools and Families Bill, will be a bit hesitant about tackling the subject for a little while. My guess is that there will be no mention at all of home education for at least a year or so. Unless that is, there are a few more high profile cases like the Khyra Ishaq business.
Everybody seems to have calmed down generally now that the CSF Bill has gone. This can only be a good thing. As well as being able to focus a little more on their children's education, it will give parents a chance to mull over what has happened since the publication of the Badman Report and perhaps see that there is at least some merit in a few of the suggestions which were made. On the local authority side, I think that it has been realised that home education is an area which must be approached with extreme caution. Perhaps the best that can be hoped for is that both sides will take stock and give some thought to the next stage. Because even the most optimistic of home educating parents probably realises that this is not the end of the matter; that things will be changing at some point in the future. The only real question is how will they change and what is the best possible outcome which would satisfy both parents and local authorities.