Saturday, 13 February 2010

Last ditch letter to MP

We sent this to our MP today. There's still time to write to MPs before the Third Reading of the CSF Bill on 23rd Feb. Hope someone might find this useful/inspiring when composing their own letter - sorry it's so long!

Dear David,

Thank you for sending the DCSF response to the Parliamentary Petition you presented on behalf of your constituents in December, and for your letter dated 9th February.

Unfortunately, you are mistaken about the process of the Bill; there have been no successful amendments to Schedule 1 or to any other parts of the Bill which affect home educators. The effect on our lives would still be just as we described in our previous correspondence.

For the DCSF simply to repeat their assertion that the proposed monitoring would be "light touch" and that guidance would provide for it to be "proportionate and focused on support and encouragement for home educating families" does not alter the wording of the Bill, which contains no such guarantees.

It is very poor legislative practice for laws to be passed which rely so heavily on guidance for their implementation. Once the law is passed, there is no need for the guidance to be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny. There is nothing in the proposed Bill that protects home educating families from local authorities or future national governments who may choose to implement the provisions in a much more draconian and intrusive way than the DCSF's pronouncements would suggest.

It was pointed out to the Public Bill Committee in a submission from Canadian home educator Kelly Green, that Graham Badman's review of the legal position in other countries was highly selective. There is evidence from North America that the degree of regulation of home education in different jurisdictions makes no difference to the outcomes for home educated children. Ms Green's short submission can be seen at

The DCSF response to the Parliamentary Petition is simply the latest in a series of misleading statments made by DCSF representatives over the last year. We attach a short document outlining some of the others we have identified, and would be grateful if you would take a few minutes to read it.

You will be asked to vote again on the Children, Schools and Families Bill at its Third Reading on February 23rd. Following a truncated Committee stage, the Bill is almost unchanged. The Committee did make time to discuss a large number of amendments to Schedule 1 and other amendments regarding home education at its final session on February 4th. Although the session ran out of time before most of the amendments could be voted on, the debate was very interesting, and we would urge you to read the transcript. You can find it at

In particular, the contribution of Caroline Flint MP (beginning at Col. 493 in the Hansard record) was thoughtful and striking.

Ms Flint described the Government's proposals as "bureaucratic and overburdening to families and local authorities".

Having listened to her constituents and other home educating families who made submissions to the Public Bill Committee, she expressed her concern that the information required of parents would be excessive; that the provisions of the Bill would be applied inconsistently across the country; and that the Bill, as currently worded, could leave the government open to legal challenge.

She concluded by calling on the Government to step back from the proposals in the Bill:

"There must be a way forward that can bring the relevant communities together, whether they are parents, local government or the Department. I hope that we can find a way forward, because I am concerned that we will otherwise end up with something that cannot be delivered on the ground and that will create division when people
should be coming together, and I am sure that that is not what this Committee or the House want to achieve"

During the whole debate, no MP other than Diana Johnson made a substantive speech in support of the provisions outlined in Schedule 1.

There is one last opportunity for the House of Commons to remove these ill-considered proposals from the Bill. Amendments 63, 64 and 66 would remove Clauses 26 and 27, and Schedule 1, giving everyone an opportunity to step back and consider the best way forward. As Caroline Flint said, "for a number of different reasons, there has been a breakdown in confidence and trust on the issue." The first step in rebuilding trust with the home educating community would be for these amendments to be carried at the Third Reading.

We believe there is widespread agreement, even among Labour MPs, that Schedule 1 is now an obstacle to the Government's stated objective of working in cooperation with home educating parents, in the best interests of children.

We urge you to represent our views on this once again to ministers, in the hope that they will agree to accept the amendments. If the government refuses to be swayed, even by the arguments of its own loyal backbenchers, we would urge you to vote for the amendments when they come before the House.