Nicky Morgan Comments on Home Education

Posted 13/02/2016 by randalluk
Categories: Home Education UK

My previous two posts, The Propaganda Machine Turns Once Again and Thank You BBC, were in response to a report in the Independent headlined, “Nicky Morgan orders review on home schooling amid fears children having minds ‘poisoned’ by radicalised parents”. This article was published on Sunday 20 December 2016. In my first post I encouraged readers to write to their MP asking them to ask the Rt. Hon. Nicky Morgan MP, Secretary of State for Education if there was any truth in the report. This is something we did ourselves at the start of January, and yesterday (12 Feb.) we received her reply which has been forwarded to us by our own MP, Owen Paterson.

A scan of her letter is below; the full text follows the image.


Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP
Secretary of State

Sanctuary Buildings Great Smith Street Westminster London SWIP 3BT
tel: 0370 000 2288

Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP
House of Commons

3 February 2016

Dear Owen

Thank you for your letter of 13 January, enclosing correspondence from your constituent Mr and Mrs Hardy, about home education.

The article in The Independent to which Mr and Mrs Hardy refer centres on the risk posed by some tuition centres and part-time settings which offer services to parents who educate their children at home. Parents who educate their children at home are free to use other providers to supplement their own efforts. There is evidence from Ofsted reports and local authorities, however, that in some cases these settings can otter poor education and pose a safeguarding risk, thus making these children vulnerable to harm or at an increased risk of radicalisation.

We are determined to ensure that this problem is addressed. My department has recently completed a call for evidence on the proposed system tor registering and inspecting out-of-school education settings and I am currently considering how to take forward the proposals for regulation of such settings. I can assure Mr and Mrs Hardy that we fully respect the right tor parents to educate their children at home, providing a suitable education is delivered full time. This proposal does not interfere with parents who choose to educate their children at home.

Thank you for writing on this important matter.

Yours ever



 What then are we to make of the Minister’s reply?

In the first place we may choose to disagree that the Independent’s report was focussed on “the risk posed by some tuition centres and part-time settings which offer services to parents who educate their children at home.” It clearly wasn’t – though it was set in the context of those concerns. I am not alone in thinking this because when others members of the media followed on with their own reports (see my earlier two posts for links) they too focussed on the “proposed review of home education”. Now it may be that Ms. Morgan does not wish to admit that one of her staff spoke out of turn, or that she does not have control over Sir Michael Wilshaw’s OFSTED and it was he who was briefing against her. Whatever the reason she failed to directly address the content of the article, the HE community can be grateful that she did not say, “Yes, I have ordered a complete review to be completed a.s.a.p.”

I believe we can also be thankful that she concludes her letter with this comment:

I can assure Mr and Mrs Hardy that we fully respect the right for parents to educate their children at home, providing a suitable education is delivered full time. This proposal does not interfere with parents who choose to educate their children at home.

I suspect that the reference to “delivered full time” is more in the context of unregistered schools than any legal definition of “full time”, for none exists especially with reference to home education. Given that clarification, it is good that the Education Secretary has restated that the present government fully respects the right of parents to educate their children themselves.

I have posted Nicky Morgan’s reply here because it is the first comment I know of from her since the Independent reported that she had ordered a review of home education. I hope that we were not the only ones to write to her over this matter, and I suspect others will receive a similar response if they have not done so already.

This does not mean however that the HE community can relax; there is plenty of work still to be done educating local authority councillors and their staff on the legal status of home education.

Thank You BBC

Posted 10/01/2016 by randalluk
Categories: Home Education UK

In my previous post I outlined the back-story behind the Independent’s article “Nicky Morgan orders review on home schooling amid fears children having minds ‘poisoned’ by radicalised parents” (19 Dec. 2015). In that article I said that I first became aware that something was afoot with regard to home education [HE] when I noticed a series of BBC News24 reports on illegal unregistered schools which repeatedly mentioned HE. I recorded this news item later that evening.

Unregistered Schools, BBC News24, 11 Dec. 2015

An Interesting Title

The reporter in the above piece is Branwen Jeffreys, the BBC’s Education Editor. That same day (11 Dec. 2015) she also published two articles on the BBC’s website. These are “Ofsted steps into debate over parents’ right to choose education” and “Illegal unregistered schools face prosecution”. On the face of it both are about the unregistered schools, which are mainly Muslim, but in hindsight there is something interesting about the title of the first one – it accuses OFSTED of interfering with parents’ rights to decide on the type of education their children receive!

In England it is not mandatory for children to attend State-run schools, and parents are free to choose where they wish their children to be educated. Parents however are legally responsible for ensuring that their own children are receiving a “suitable education”. (That of course raises the question of whether parents should be prosecuted for not ensuring such an education is being supplied when they send their children to a school which OFSTED deems to be failing in its provisions).

Here are the opening paragraphs from the first of Jeffreys’ articles:

The chief inspector of schools has never been afraid of controversy, and with this latest intervention against unregistered schools he is firmly stepping into the debate about how and where people can choose to educate their children.

It is perfectly legal to choose to educate your children at home, and if you do make that choice there is no obligation to follow a particular curriculum.

It is also perfectly legal to run a part-time tuition centre to offer additional teaching and support to children who are home-educated.

And if your part-time education centre teaches children for fewer than 20 hours a week there are remarkably few obligations.

There is no further mention of HE in this article which focusses on these unregistered schools. Towards the end Jeffreys raised this question:

So where does this debate leave the right to educate your child as you see fit?

Sir Michael Wilshaw [OFSTED’s Chief Inspector] told me that “of course” parents have got a right to bring up a child with a different view and a focus on their religion, “but they’ve got to bring up their child with awareness of other faiths and beliefs, other ways of living”.

Make of his words what you will, but be thankful that at least one national reporter has asked him the question and in so doing, highlighted his Office’s agenda. That is an agenda which has been in place since it published a report on Local Authorities and HE back in June 2010. At the time I commented on the report here. I also noted that the freshly elected coalition Government of the day had dismissed OFSTED’s call for registration and monitoring of HE families. Perhaps Michael Wilshaw sees the situation with unregistered schools as an opportunity for his own Trojan Horse to further his ambitions.

Home Education Gets Further Attention.

The Monday after the Independent’s weekend claim that Nicky Morgan had agreed to a review of HE law, the words “home education” leaped out of the airwaves once again, whilst we were listening to Radio 4’s PM programme. We feared the worst, as a follow-up to the weekend’s headlines. We were therefore very relieved to hear this report on the 6 o’clock news:

Home Education in England, BBC Radio 4 6.00pm News, Mon. 21 Dec. 2015

The emphasis in this item was on the estimated growth in the number of HE children in England. There was no mention of unregistered schools, just a passing comment at the end where Jeffreys stated:

“Home education by its nature exists outside the system, and every few years there are calls for it to be better recorded.”

Later that evening the following item was broadcast on BBC News 24:

Home Education in England, BBC News24, 21 Dec. 2015

Again a very positive report on how many children benefit from HE. It includes a remarkable comment from the headmaster of a primary school which accepts pupils on a flexi-school basis: i.e. educated part time at home and part time in school.

These two articles prompted me to look through the BBC’s ‘Education’ web pages for any new posts on HE. I was not surprised to find a report entitled, “Home education rises by 65% in UK in last six years”. It is not really an article, just a page to hold the video segment which was prepared for television news. Here is all the text which appears below the clip:

There has been a 65% increase in children recorded as home educated in the UK over six years.

Parents gave reasons including their lifestyle, dissatisfaction or disagreements with local schools, special needs, bullying and religion.

The government says it will continue to “respect the rights of parents to home educate their children”.

Branwen Jeffreys reports

One of the most remarkable things in my mind is that recent years, not just the last six, have seen a steady growth in the number of parents choosing HE for their families. It is not an easy option, but one which costs parents a lot in time, effort and emotion. It is far easier to let the State make all the effort, but it seems that increasing numbers of parents realise that passing over their responsibilities in that way is not proving helpful to their children. Three of the five reasons listed by Jeffreys highlight problems with the State’s provision – dissatisfaction, special needs and bullying. Could it be that the seeming rise in HE is because more parents are realising that schools are not the best place for children to learn the skills they need for life?

The last sentence would be encouraging if it was the words of a named minister spoken after the Independent’s article was published. I fear however that it is simply a quotation from the call for evidence to a consultation on Out-of-school education settings. This was launched on 26 Nov. 2015 and closed on 11 Jan. 2016. In the call for evidence, s2.4 states:

This proposal is not about regulating the education that parents provide their children in their homes. The government continues to respect the rights of parents to home educate their children, whether at home or in a combination of other settings, provided a suitable full-time education is being arranged. It is also not about regulating religion or infringing people’s freedom to follow a particular faith or hold particular beliefs. [Highlighting mine]

It seems to me that Branwen Jeffreys has quoted from this document rather than actually questioned an Education minister in person. The danger is that this statement is primarily about the out-of-school education settings consultation, and not a policy statement in general. Secondly, it was made before Sir Michael Wilshaw’s OFSTED began to publicly lobby for a review of HE. Has he been successful? Or could it be precisely because s2.4 committed the Government to continue to respect the rights of parents to home educate their children, that OFSTED has been trying since mid December to pressurise the DfE to bow to its desires to police parents as well as teachers?

My default position these days is normally one of scepticism when it comes to the motives of the British media, and the BBC in particular. However, although we still do not know what really lies behind recent rumours of a review into HE, I for one would like to thank the BBC and Branwen Jeffreys in particular for some positive reporting about HE. It makes a real change from the scaremongering of bureaucrats like Badman and Wilshaw.