One of the perennial complaints on some of the home educating lists and forums is the extent to which many people are uninformed as to the correct legal position surrounding home education. I am absolutely baffled by all this. Recently, people commenting here made the same point; that some parents might send their kids to school simply because they thought that they were legally obliged to do so. This is all such a lot of nonsense.
Of course government, both local and national, try to bluff people into thinking that the law is different from what it actually is in all sorts of different ways. Nobody could deny this for a moment. Almost invariably though, this is done because those misrepresenting the law are trying to protect some vulnerable group of people. Let us look at a specific example, which is very similar to the situation with home education. My wife has a horse which I ride from time to time. Everybody who rides a horse on the public roads wears a riding hat. There are no exceptions to this and it is generally supposed that this is the law, just as motor cyclists are obliged to wear crash helmets. I always thought that this was the law until last week. Everybody at riding schools says that it is the law and no stable will allow you to take out a horse on the road without your wearing a riding hat. My wife has been riding for many years and has always insisted that this is a legal requirement. We argued recently when I went out on her horse, because I didn't wear a hat in the forest and would not put one on even when we reached the road. When I took the trouble to look into it, I discovered that this law only applies to children under fourteen. In other words, nearly every rider in the country is being misled by old wives tales, government leaflets and advice from their local authority into believing that they must wear a riding hat when on the public highway! It's just like all those parents who are told that they must send their children to school; what a scandal!
Two things strike one about this. First, it is in general a good thing that riders wear protective headgear. I am glad that the government and local authorities are misleading them about this and that there is an old wives tale which insists that one must wear a hat. It is certainly a good thing that all riders do so. Secondly of course, that I have laboured under this delusion for so many years is nobody's fault but my own. There was nothing to stop me looking into this years ago and that I have behaved like a gullible sheep is nobody else's responsibility. This is precisely the same situation with home education. In general, it is good that parents believe the old wives tale that they must send their children to school. I don't at all blame local authorities for propagating this misleading idea on their websites and hope that they will continue to do so. If parents did not believe it to be so, many would neither send their children to school nor educate them at home. It would be a bad thing. Just as in the case of me and my own following the herd without looking into the matter; there is nothing to stop any of those parents from researching home education and finding out that it is perfectly legal. It only takes a few minutes on the Internet to discover the facts.
We all of us believe things about the law which are not true. This is usually because we are too lazy to look into the business and prefer to rely upon other people's ignorant and ill-informed opinions. That's fine; I do it all the time myself. There is no point complaining about this though and objecting that this or that council website has information on it which is inconsistent with the true legal position. The onus is on individuals to delve deeper into the question themselves and find out the truth. Would I really be justified now in launching a campaign to get our local authority to change all their advice to riders and try to make them explain that there is no legal duty for riders to wear hats? Why would I do something so mischievous? I am glad that people believe this, it protects them. I almost regret having drawn attention to this, because I dare say that some of those fighting with Suffolk and Birmingham over their advice on home education, will now extend their campaign and insist that these councils also change what their are currently telling riders!