Thursday, 12 December 2013
Driving a coach and horses through the law on education.
One of the things that readers might have noticed about local authorities who are dealing with home educators, is that they are very fond of quoting the law. Sometimes, they do this regretfully; as though they are left with no choice but to undertake this or that duty. Their letters often contain sentences beginning, ‘We have a legal duty to…’ or, 'We are required by law...'. This is all the most horrible hypocrisy, because every local authority in the entire country is regularly and flagrantly ignoring great chunks of the legislation which relates to education. Let me give a glaring example of this.
At a recent primary school assembly, the Head announced that he wanted to talk about a very great man. It’s coming up to Christmas and when he continued by saying that this person was probably the greatest man ever to live and that he changed the world; I thought that I could guess who he was talking about. ‘Nobody has ever taught us more about forgiveness’, continued the Head and by that time I was pretty sure to whom he was referring. What’s that? No you fool, he wasn’t talking about Jesus! He meant Nelson Mandela, obviously. In this primary school, as in practically every other maintained school in the country, assemblies are only held once a week and neither Jesus nor God ever get a mention. They are wholly secular occasions, where awards are given for industry or, as in the case of Nelson Mandela, some famous person might be mentioned. There is of course never any mention of the Deity; let alone prayers and hymns. This is very odd, because Section 70 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 specifically requires that;
each pupil in attendance at a community, foundation or voluntary school shall on each school day take part in an act of collective worship
What’s more, the law states that this act of collective worship should be of a wholly or mainly Christian nature. I do not suppose that there is a single school in the whole country which abides by this law. It is universally ignored and every local authority knows this very well. You might get an act of collective worship at some church schools, but even then it will in general be only once a week. At other schools, there is nothing even remotely approaching religious observance of the sort required by the law. It does not matter whether we think that such daily worship is a good thing or not; it is the law and local authorities take not the least notice of it. I can think of a dozen other example of laws relating to education which are widely flouted, but this one is common to every school in the land. It is curious that these same local authorities are able to recollect chapter and verse of the law as it touches upon home education and show such devotion to enforcing it! Hypocrisy always irritates me and this is an especially good instance. When it suits them, local authorities are perfectly willing and able to disregard the law about education and schools.