Monday, 17 August 2009

Follow up letter to our MP

I've just sent this, after receiving a forwarded letter, apparently from Delyth Morgan but actually containing the same wording as this blog post by Ed Balls:

Dear David,

Thank you for forwarding to us the pro forma letter you received from Baroness Morgan, dated 29th July 2009.

As we had already received an identically worded letter from a DCSF official, and had seen the same text on Ed Balls' blog, published on 27th July (http://www.edballs.co.uk/index.jsp?i=4210&s=1111), the content of the letter was no surprise to us.

We are sure you will appreciate that we are in no way reassured or satisfied by this letter. We made several very specific points in our letter to you, and we think Baroness Morgan could have at least done us (and you) the courtesy of reading and directly addressing the letter she was purporting to reply to.

We do not accept the logic of the letter's third paragraph, which outlines the government's stated reason for commissioning the Badman Review in the first place. There is no inherent conflict between the principle of parents having the right to decide how and where their children should be educated and the principle of children being safe and receiving the education they need. The two things do not therefore need to be balanced against each other.

In fact, parents do not, in English law, have a "right to decide how and where their children should be educated" except that which is conferred by Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act. The rights of parents, in this context, are entirely bound up with the parental *duty* to ensure that children receive an education suitable to their age, aptitude and ability and any special educational needs they may have.

Parents do not have a right to choose to deny their children the education they need, nor do they have a right to choose to put their children in danger. There is no conflict between the parent's duty to provide an education and the child's right to receive an education; these are both enshrined in the very same piece of statute law.

We remain extremely concerned at the prospect of hasty legislation on the basis of the flimsy logic displayed both in this letter and in the Badman Review report. The letter you have forwarded to us includes a statement of the government's intention to legislate "at the first possible opportunity this year".

This seems to us to be another clear indication that the current consultation is a sham, as the consultation results are unlikely to be published until January 2010. As we mentioned when we met at your surgery, the government has already made a commitment to "improve monitoring arrangements for home education" in the Improving Schools and Safeguarding Children Bill, which has been included in the Draft Legislative Programme for the next Parliamentary Session.

Clearly, then, the consultation contravenes Criterion 1 of the BERR Code of Practice on consultations (http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/bre/consultation-guidance/page44420.html) which states that consultations must be undertaken when there is time for the consultation result to influence policy outcome.

Similarly, we fail to see how the Parliamentary Select Committee's inquiry into the Badman Review and the associated consultation can have any meaningful outcome, if the consultation and legislation proceed on their current timescales. The Committee has called for evidence to be submitted by 22nd September, less than a month before the closing date of the consultation. By the time the evidence has been considered, and a conclusion reached by the Committee, the consultation will have finished, and the process of drafting the Bill will presumably be well advanced.

As you may be aware, Liberty are concerned about the prospect of legislation to implement Graham Badman's Recommendation 7, giving local authority officers the right of access to private homes. As they explained in letters to home educators last week, "A right of access to the home engages Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 - the right to respect for family and private life. Interference with the right to privacy will only be justified if it can be shown to be necessary and proportionate in all the circumstances."

With such serious concerns surrounding the proposals, we think the most sensible thing for the government to do would be to halt the consultation, withdraw the proposal to legislate this year, and take some time to give these issues appropriate consideration.

The Select Committee should be allowed to complete its inquiry, and there should be a full Impact Assessment carried out, before a new consultation (lasting at least 12 weeks) is started. In accordance with the BERR Code of Practice, there should be a possibility for the consultation to influence policy, so it is not acceptable for legislation to be drafted while a consultation is underway.

We would appreciate it if you would pass this letter on to the relevant ministers, and we look forward to receiving a reply which actually addresses our concerns.

Finally, we are intending to visit Parliament on 13th October, as part of a mass lobby being organised on this issue. We are planning to arrive at 2.30pm, and would greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet with you again and discuss this matter further. We expect that there will be around 6 of your constituents taking part in the lobby, accompanied by their children. Please can you let us know whether you will be able to meet us on that day?

Yours sincerely,

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As ever, feel free to link to, use or adapt this if you find it useful.

1 comment:

Mieke said...

Excellent post, thanks Dani and Allie! My daughter had written a very personal letter to Ed Balls et al, and - unsurprisingly - received the same letter you and everybody else had.
I was going to blog about it, but you've just said it all, so I'll just link to yours :).