Graham Stuart: Councils must stop treating home educators with suspicion


Graham Stuart: Councils must stop treating home educators with suspicion

Educating a child at home is a parent’s preferred choice in a minority of cases. Mostly, they do so because their child is struggling to thrive or cope in mainstream schooling. They want the best for their child, yet too often they are made to feel under suspicion by the local authority that should be there to support them.

Parents, not the state, have the statutory duty to educate their children, yet when parents do so directly, officials often think parents are obliged to prove to them that the child is receiving a suitable education. Worse, councils often conflate home education with a child safeguarding risk and seek to impose routine monitoring and inspections. These actions are at odds with government guidelines and can be accompanied by misrepresentation of the legal situation both on parents’ doorsteps and in local authority literature.
Cambridgeshire will pay a contribution towards home educated children’s year 11 exam fees and is looking to purchase careers advice for home educators and information sessions from the educational psychology service. The council is also approaching local colleges to see if home educators can use science laboratories.

Regular information drop-in sessions will be set up throughout the county. Also, the home education service has briefed children’s services and there will be engagement with health services to increase awareness about the law on home education.

The changes in Cambridgeshire are a model of good practice. It takes political courage to view home education as good rather than as a risk but, if councillors in Cambridgeshire can do it, others can too.
As long as 'support' remains optional and suitably long barge poles can be employed by families without the 'non engagement' label being used against them. You just need to look at Scotland to see how quickly the universal surveillance disguised as support rot sets in by stealth.

What is the remit of the 'home education service', and who will be providing the 'information'?

Have local home educators been consulted?