After the fiasco of Schedule 1 of the Children, Schools and Families Act last year, I can't see any government having the appetite for a major confrontation with home educators in the near future. The game is simply not worth the candle. This does not mean that things will stay the same for ever though, or that there will not be relatively minor changes to the existing legal situation. Mind you, this hinges around what one would describe as a 'minor change'. What most rational people would view as being a minor change might very well prove to be what many home educating parents would regard as a deal breaker. Take a simple scheme of registration, for instance.
I am not the only one who has noticed a steady drip-feed of questions to the Secretary of State for Education about the numbers of home educated children in the country. These questions have come from both Labour and Conservative MPs and they are identically worded. This suggests immediately that they are 'planted' questions, rather than genuine requests for information. 'Does the Secretary for State have information about the numbers of home educated children in my constituency?'; that sort of thing. The response from the DfE is not, 'Get lost you loser and stop bothering us'. It is to the effect that the department is actively considering the situation and is working out what changes, if any, are necessary in the current arrangements for monitoring home education. A few weeks ago, we saw a new type of question, in which an MP asked the Secretary of State if he would consider introducing a mechanism for counting home educated children in the country. Anybody who has even the sketchiest knowledge of home education in this country will know that such a mechanism would be impossible without some form of compulsory registration.
As I say, I can't imagine any major new change in the law, but requiring parents to register their intention to educate their children at home would not need anything of the sort. A simple amendment to any of the existing laws around education would do the trick. Most people, by which I mean the 99.9% of people who do not educate ther children at home, would be in favour of this and it would be vastly less controversial than all the paraphernalia which the CSF Bill proposed to introduce. I shall be watching with interest to see how many more MPs beg Gove and Gibbs to bring in a 'mechanism' which will enable the numbers of home educated children to be counted.