I have been following closely the arguments on various forums and lists against the new pupil registration regulations. These would allow schools to keep on roll for twenty days a child whom the parents had deregistered in order to home educate. There is of course no suggestion that the child will be compelled to attend school during this time; just that he will be listed on the register as Code Z, on roll but not attending. This code is currently used for children whose parents have registered their children at the school but whose kids have not actually started attending yet. Somebody on one list said something very curious. She said that this move would deprive a parent of legal responsibility for the child's education for this period and she regarded this as being a bad thing. There is a problem with this perspective.
When a parent signs over responsibility for educating her child to a third party, she is saying in effect, 'I can't cope. I need somebody else to look after my child's needs as I am not up to it'. It is rather like those parents who turn up at social services from time to time and dump their kids there, saying, 'I've had enough. I can't do this any more and I want the local authority to take over the job of looking after my kids'. Imagine if a parent did this when the child was five and then turned up seven or eight years later, saying, 'It's OK, I can cope now. Just hand the child back, I want him right now, this very day'. After all those years of taking over the mother's duties, I think that the local authority might be wise to ask a few questions and not just ring up the foster carers and tell them to bring the kid round to the office that very moment! They might reasonably ask the mother, 'What has changed, why do you now feel able to look after your own child when for the last eight years you have not been able to? Why did you give us the job in the first place?'
The situation with a parent who offloads the job of her child's education onto the council is in much the same. She has surrendered her duty to educate her child and asked the local authority to undertake it on her behalf. This is usually because she is too busy, poor or ill-educated to do it herself. Then, typically years down the line, she changes her mind and decides that she can do it herself. I think it only reasonable that the local authority should be able to ask her if she is sure that this is what she wants. After all, she has tacitly admitted that she doesn't feel up to the job by enrolling her child at school in the first place. Why the sudden mad hurry after all that time; why does she feel it necessary to assume this duty again at once, that very day? In other words, it is not that she is being deprived of the legal responsibility for her child's education by this new regulation. She has already deprived herself of this responsibility by asking the local authority to carry out her duties, instead of doing the job herself. All that will happen under the new regulations is that the local authority might just double check that this is what she now wants and that circumstances have changed and that she can really do this. I cannot personally see anything wrong with this, although I dare say that this will be portrayed as the local authority bullying parents and trying to force them to change their mind about home edcuating their child.