Thursday, 15 October 2009

Consultation Response from the Family Education Trust

Please respond to the government’s consultation on
Home Education –
registration and monitoring proposals

The Department for Children, Schools and Families
is consulting on proposals to introduce an unparalleled
level of intrusion into the family life of home
educated children which could set a dangerous
precedent for all families in Britain.

The government has accepted in full the recommendations
of a review into home education undertaken by
Graham Badman, the former Director of Children and
Educational Services at Kent County Council. The recommendations
include mandatory visits by local authority
personnel to the homes of children educated outside the
school system, with the right to speak to home educated
children alone without their parents being present, where
deemed appropriate.

The Home Education Advisory Service has described
the proposals as ‘a charter for state interference in the
private lives of law-abiding citizens to a degree hitherto
unknown in this country’. To contemplate authorising
social workers and other local authority personnel to
conduct routine visits to families where there is not the
slightest evidence that parents are failing in their duties
towards their children or that the children are at risk of any
harm runs counter to centuries of British law.

At their heart, the proposals display a fundamental
distrust and suspicion of parents. If the government
proceeds with its plans, home educated children will be
subject to a far greater degree of individual state surveillance
than children receive in school. The current legal
framework already grants local authorities sufficient power
to intervene where they have evidence that a child is at risk
of suffering significant harm whether the child in question
is in school or not.

In a recent parliamentary debate on home education,
Mark Field MP warned that a change in the current law
‘could affect the balance of power between civil liberties
and state intervention, whether one is innocent until proven
guilty or guilty until proven innocent, and whether the
state or parents have ultimate responsibility for their

 He continued:
‘[T]he authorities can intervene only when people are seen
to be breaking the law. It is for the same reason that police
do not routinely visit people’s homes to check for stolen
property. Therefore, there is an overwhelming case that
home educators should be allowed to get on with their
lives without undue state interference…Increased
intervention makes little financial sense and has the
potential to divert resources from truly vulnerable
children. It also further infringes the rights of parents to
make the best decisions for their children. Current
legislation is perfectly adequate, but poorly understood.’
This briefing is intended to offer guidance on responding
to the 11 consultation questions. The home education
consultation document will be found at:

Closing date: Monday 19 October 2009.


There are three ways to respond:

You can respond online at

You can download and complete the consultation response form from the DCSF website at:
After completion, you can email it to
Or simply send an email to this address, covering some of the issues raised by the consultation questions.

You can obtain a copy of the consultation response form from the DCSF website (see link above) and then post
your completed form to:
Consultation Unit, Area GB, Castle View House,
East Lane, Runcorn, Cheshire, WA7 2GJ
Alternatively, you can simply send a letter to this address, covering some of the issues raised by the consultation

Please respond to the questions in your own words. The following bullet points may suggest some issues that
you will wish to cover in your response.

1 Do you agree that these proposals strike the right balance between the rights of
parents to home educate and the rights of children to receive a suitable education?
• The current law is framed in terms of duties and responsibilities, not rights.
• Under education law, it is parents and not central or local government, who have the responsibility for
making sure their children receive ‘efficient full-time education’ suitable to their age, ability and aptitude
and any special needs they may have.
• Parents may fulfil this responsibility, either by ensuring that their children attend school regularly, or by
making alternative arrangements.1
• The current law has served both parents and children well for decades. It allows parents the freedom to
determine how their children will be educated, while enabling local authorities to take appropriate action
where it appears to them that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable
education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.2
• The vast majority of parents are concerned to promote the best interests of their children and will seek to
educate them with that goal in view. It is therefore a mistake to imagine that the ‘rights’ of children will be
at odds with the ‘rights’ of their parents and to legislate on that false assumption.
• In legal terms, parents do not have a right either to home educate or to send their children to school. Rather,
they have a responsibility to ensure their children receive a full-time and efficient education. Whether they
fulfil that responsibility by sending their children to school or by making alternative provision is a matter
for parents to choose.
• There is therefore no more need for legislation that ‘strikes a balance between the rights of parents to home
educate and the rights of children to receive a suitable education’ than there is a need for legislation that
‘strikes a balance between the rights of parents to send their children to school and the rights of children to
receive a suitable education’.

2 Do you agree that a register should be kept?
• To require home educating parents to register on an annual basis is effectively to require them to apply for a
licence to do something as natural as teaching their children.
• The whole notion of requiring home educators to apply for an annual licence undermines the legal duty that
all parents have to ensure that their children receive a full-time and efficient education. It turns home
education into a special privilege that may be granted or withheld by the authorities, rather than a choice
that may be freely exercised with a view to fulfilling a legal duty.
1 Education Act 1996, section 7.
2 Education Act 1996, section 437.
• Education is one among many responsibilities that parents bear towards their children, along with feeding
them, clothing them, caring for them, protecting them, seeing to their health needs etc. Parents are not
required to apply for a licence to feed and clothe their children and provide for their other needs, and
education should be no different.

3 Do you agree with the information to be provided for registration?
• We do not agree that a register should be kept.
• The government’s proposal that parents should be required to state ‘the location where education is
conducted if not the home’ indicates a failure to understand the character of home education. Most home
educating families do not see education as an activity confined to a particular location, but rather view it as
a way of life.
• According to the consultation document, regulations will specify that parents must provide ‘a statement of
approach to education’. However, the document does not define what this would mean in practice, nor by
what criteria it would be judged.
• One of the advantages of home education is that provision can be tailored to the developing needs of an
individual child and delivered in the context of a close parent-child relationship. The requirement to provide
a statement of educational approach introduces an unnecessary element of bureaucracy.
• Most home educating parents view the education they give their children as an aspect of parenting. They
should therefore no more be required to provide ‘a statement of approach to education’ than any other
parent should be required to submit a statement of approach to parenting.

4 Do you agree that home educating parents should be required to keep the register
up to date?
• We do not agree that a register should be kept (see answer to Question 2).

5 Do you agree that it should be a criminal offence to fail to register or to provide
inadequate or false information?
• Under the current law, an offence is committed where a parent fails to cause his or her child to receive a
full-time efficient education suitable to the child’s age, ability, aptitude and any special needs. We see no
reason to lay any additional legal duty on parents in relation to the education of their children.
• If failure to register as a home educating parent were to be made a criminal offence, it would give rise to
situations where parents who were fulfilling the requirements of the law in terms of the education they were
giving their children would be prosecuted simply because they were not registered. Such an outcome would
not be in the interests of children, parents or the authorities and would involve misappropriation of public

6 a) Do you agree that home educated children should stay on the roll of their former
school for 20 days after parents notify that they intend to home educate?
• It is parents who bear the legal responsibility for the education of their children and they may discharge
their duty either by ensuring the regular attendance of their children at school or ‘otherwise’. If a parent
decides to withdraw his or her child from school, that decision must be respected. The child should be
deregistered on the date specified by the parent.

6 b) Do you agree that the school should provide the local authority with achievement
and future attainment data?
• It is parents who are responsible for the education of their children, not the local authority. The data should
therefore be given to the child’s parents.
• The school should not supply achievement or future attainment data on individual children to any third
party without the consent of the child’s parents.
• We can foresee situations where the local authority may use the school’s estimate of a child’s future
potential to try to compel the child’s parents to pursue a route they do not wish to follow. Equally, it could
lead to parents being called to account for the failure of their child to achieve in a given area when, in fact,
the school may have misjudged the child’s abilities The proposal has the potential to undermine parental
responsibility and choice and to place undue pressure on home educating families.

7 Do you agree that DCSF should take powers to issue statutory guidance in relation
to the registration and monitoring of home education?
• There is no need for intrusive registration and monitoring measures.
• The current non-statutory guidance, issued in November 2007, is adequate. It was produced following
extensive consultation and sets out the legal position clearly. Where the guidelines are properly understood
and rightly applied, they work well.

8 Do you agree that children about whom there are substantial safeguarding concerns
should not be home educated?
• The question does not define what it means by ‘substantial safeguarding concerns’. In the absence of a clear
definition, under the government’s proposals it would be open to local authorities to arbitrarily refuse or
revoke registration as home educators on safeguarding grounds. We note that the consultation document
omits the word ‘substantial’ and merely states that: ‘[L]ocal authorities should have a discretion to refuse
registration where there are safeguarding concerns. In addition, if safeguarding concerns are identified after
home education has begun, the LA would have powers to revoke registration.’ Clearer definition is
• Registration at school merely raises the expectation that the child will be out of the home from 9.00am to
3.00pm on weekdays for 39 weeks of the year. Registered pupils at school spend far more time in the care
of their parents than they do at school. If it is safe for them to be at home in the evenings, at weekends and
during the school holidays, it is difficult to see why the situation should be any different during normal
school hours.
• Either it is safe for a child to be with his or her parents, or it is not. If parents can be trusted to feed, clothe
and otherwise care for their children, then they can be trusted to educate them.

9 Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises where home
education is taking place provided 2 weeks notice is given?
• This proposal represents a serious breach of family privacy. No other section of society is subject to routine
visits to ensure that children are being properly looked after or educated. Local authority officers should not
have any statutory right of entry to the home unless they have grounds for believing that some form of
abuse or neglect is occurring.
• The proposal to grant the local authority a statutory right of access to the homes of home educated children
is in effect reversing the presumption of innocence in British law and treating parents with suspicion until
they have proven themselves innocent.
• If ‘home education’ is understood in more general terms as the impartation of knowledge and instruction to
a child, then it takes place in every home in the land, to a greater or lesser degree. On what basis is the
government proposing to single out children who are not at school for six hours a day, five days a week 39
weeks a year for home visits

10 Do you agree that the local authority should have the power to interview the child,
alone if this is judged appropriate, or if not in the presence of a trusted person who is
not the parent/carer?
• If there is evidence to suggest that a home educated child is at risk, social services should investigate,
following their usual procedures. There is no justification for singling home educated children out for any
different treatment.
• The question does not define when it might be ‘judged appropriate’ for such an interview to take place.
There is the potential for local authority officials to gain access to children alone for quite arbitrary reasons.
Children would be very vulnerable in this position and it would be possible for a local authority officer who
had little understanding of or sympathy for home education to manipulate the situation.
• Many parents would rightly be very uncomfortable about allowing their child to be interviewed by a
stranger alone and find it difficult to believe that the government is proposing such an intrusive measure in
relation to home educated children. It runs contrary to the protective instincts of almost every parent.
• Many children would also find it a frightening and intimidating experience to be questioned alone about
aspects of their family life.

11 Do you agree that the local authority should visit the premises and interview the
child within four weeks of home education starting, after 6 months has elapsed, at the
anniversary of home education starting, and thereafter at least on an annual basis?
This would not preclude more frequent monitoring if the local authority thought that
was necessary.
• For reasons given in response to questions 9 and 10, the local authority should not have statutory powers to
routinely visit the home of every home educated child or powers to interview the child.
• The measures proposed demonstrate a considerable degree of suspicion and distrust towards parents.
• Education is one of many responsibilities that parents bear towards their children. Parents are not routinely
monitored for how they feed their children, clothe them, or generally care for them. They are trusted to
carry out their responsibilities in a conscientious way, unless anything gives rise to concerns in which case
those concerns are investigated. There is no basis for considering home education a cause for concern.
Parents should therefore be trusted to make provision for the education of their children unless and until
there is a cause for concern.
• The intrusive measures proposed represent a misuse of scarce public resources. They would involve local
authority personnel visiting homes which neither wanted nor needed monitoring, diverting resources away
from vulnerable children in need of support and protection.

This briefing has been prepared by:
Family Education Trust
Jubilee House, 19-21 High Street,
Whitton, Twickenham TW2 7LB
Tel: 020 8894 2525

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