Monday, 11 January 2010

Open Letter to the Guardian

An open letter to the Guardian about Schedule 1 of the Children Schools and Families Bill which if accepted in full will change the relationship between the state and the family.

We believe that schedule 1 of the children, schools and families bill represents an unacceptable imposition of state control over families. Although it is aimed at children educated outside the school system, it has implications for all families.

Most parents would not make home-based education their first choice; but any family might need it if school seriously failed their child. Currently, this choice is lawfully available to all parents. If enacted, the bill would – for the first time – transfer responsibility for a child's education from the parents to the state. We believe this is a matter which should be of great concern to everyone.

A change in the law is unnecessary. Parents are already required by law to provide an education suitable to the age, aptitude and ability of their children, and to any special educational needs they may have. Local authorities already have the power to take action if parents do not do this.

Evidence indicates that home education is highly effective. Many home educating families use child-led educational methods which lie outside the prevailing educational paradigm. Diversity in education is precious in a democracy, and we need the law to protect it, and to protect the best interests of each individual child.

The interests of children are strikingly absent from schedule 1, which is concerned mainly with setting up a bureaucratic system administered by local authorities. They would be given the power to deny parents permission to home-educate, at any time, unless parents adapt their educational approach to fit in with the requirements of the system. The resulting insecurity would be damaging to many children, especially those with special educational needs.

Schedule 1 contravenes two principles of the government's own children's plan: that families bring up children, not governments; and that services need to be shaped by and responsive to children, young people and families, not designed around professional boundaries. Given the controversy surrounding this section of the bill, and the serious criticisms made of it by the children, schools and families select committee, we call on the government to withdraw schedule 1 of the bill, and the accompanying clauses.

Ralph Lucas House of Lords, Oliver James, Child clinical psychologist, Anne Fine, Dr Frank Furedi Professor of sociology, Professor Anna Craft University of Exeter, Michele Elliott Founder of Kidscape, Professor Roger Scruton, Graham Stuart MP Chair, all-party parliamentary group on home education, Michael A Peters Professor, educational policy studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,Professor Brian Thorne Fellow, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Professor Emeritus Janet Moyles Early years and play consultant, Tricia David Emeritus professor of education, Canterbury Christ Church University,Professor Andrew Samuels University of Essex, Professor Tony Kouzarides Cancer research scientist at Cambridge University, Professor Ian Cunningham Chair of educational charity, Dr Sacha Powell Acting director, Centre for Research into Children, Families and Communities, Canterbury Christ Church University, Dr Felicity de Zulueta Consultant psychiatrist in psychotherapy and honorary senior lecturer at King's College London, Fiona Carnie Vice-president, European Forum for Freedom in Education, Dr Alan Thomas Visiting fellow at University of London Institute of Education, Harriet Pattison Research Associate, School of Education, University of London, Dr Richard House Senior lecturer in therapeutic education, Roehampton University, Peter Humphreys Chair, trustee, director, The Centre for Personalised Education and Personalised Education Now, Veronika Robinson Editor, The Mother magazine, Sue Palmer Literacy specialist and author of Toxic Childhood, Dani Ahrens Open letter co-ordinator, Badman Review Action Group, Roland Meighan The Centre for Personalised Education Trust, Dr Teresa Belton Educational researcher, Dr Ben Anderson Department of sociology, University of Essex, Melanie Gill Forensic psychologist, Claire Fox Director, Institute of Ideas, Vincent Nolan Trustee, Synectics Education Initiative, Dr Marilyn Fryer, Director, The Creativity Centre, John Harris Professional storyteller/children's author, Norman Wells Director, Family Education Trust, Derry Hannam Researcher/adviser/trainer in education for democratic citizenship to Council of Europe, UK government and NGOs, Liz Steinthal Educare Small School, Dr L Safran Educationist, Chloe Watson Chair, Home Educated Youth Council, Cathy Koetsier Media officer, Home Education Advisory Service, Kathleen Thompson Committee member of Education Everywhere helpline, Annette Taberner Trustee of Education Otherwise, Kelly L Green Founding member of Freedom and Choice in Education, British Columbia, Wendy Priesnitz Founder of Canadian Alliance of Home Schoolers, editor of Life Learning magazine, Beverley Paine Editor Home Education Association Australia publications, Deborah Markus Editor, Secular Homeschooling Magazine and more than 1,000 other signatories (for a full list see

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