Michael Gove still undecided about Home Education

Following the publication of OFSTED’s report into Home Education on 17 June, (see here) we wrote to our MP, Owen Paterson, asking him to inquire with Michael Gove if there was any timetable in place as to when, as he had put it, “ministers will shortly be considering if changes need to be made to the existing arrangements” in regard to HE.

We had hoped for a reply before the summer recess, but in the end did not get a full response until last week. Here is the text of his letter:

Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State
Sanctuary Buildings Great Smith Street
Westminster London SW1 P 3BT
tel: 0870 0012345 ministers@education.gsLgov.uk

Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP
House of Commons
London
SW1A OAA

31st August 2010

Dear Owen

Thank you for your letter of 8 July enclosing correspondence from your constituents, Mr and Mrs R Hardy, about Home Education, in particular the Ofsted report dated 17 June 2010.

I am grateful that your constituents recognise the work we undertook in opposition to ensure that home educators were able to continue to teach their children without unwarranted interference by local authorities. Thank you for bringing their concerns to my attention. Ofsted conducted a survey of home education arrangements in 15 local authorities in Autumn 2009 and published its report on 17th June. The report examined how well a sample of local authorities discharged their duties towards young people educated at home and noted that there were strong arguments for central government to adopt an approach that would make it easier for local authorities to identify and monitor home educating families in their area.

The Ofsted report confirms that most home educating parents do a very good job, some of them picking up the pieces where children have had problems at school. We strongly encourage local authorities to develop a positive relationship with their home educating community, and the Ofsted report confirmed that this approach was productive for both home educating families and local authorities. The key recommendations for the Department in the Ofsted report are that there should be a registration system and an annual monitoring visit which included meeting the child in private as well as with the parents present. The report also recommended defining what a ‘suitable’ education is, and that we should consider funding an entitlement for home educated children to take public examinations at recognised examination centres.

I am keenly aware of the deep concerns that Mr and Mrs Hardy have towards proposals such as those in the Ofsted report which recommend making changes to the arrangement for home education. Whilst we have not had the opportunity to consider in detail our policy on home education in any detail. I would like to reassure them and other home educating families that we will continue to support the right of parents to educate their children at home, free from unwarranted state intervention.

With every good wishes

Michael

MICHAEL GOVE

Typically, another politician who does not answer the question asked, but there is some important information in the final paragraph (the previous two are just padding).

1. The coalition government has not yet had the time to discuss what to do with HE.

That is no surprise given all the priorities/problems they face at the moment both inside and outside the Department of Education. It does mean though that they have paid very little attention to the question, so nothing will be happening for a while.

2. He commits the government to helping HE parents to remain free from unwarranted state intervention.

That sounds encouraging, but it does not remove the need for the HE community to keep in touch with their MPs. Now is the time to continue talking to their MPs and help shape the changes which will happen. What do we need them to do? I am not going to prescribe what others should argue for, but I do want to encourage all HE Families to realise that ‘No Change’ is not a workable option and that the long term objective needs to be changes which ensure that no future government will be able to revert easily to the policy of the last one.

If they are still to make up their minds about the future of HE, then I am in no doubt that Directors of Children’s Services, etc. will be asking for more and more powers in regard to HE. This is why we need to be putting our case for a removal of the conflict between the HE guidelines and those concerning safeguarding children.

This government provides an opportunity to improve protection for HE families. If you and I squander it, then the future may not be as rosy as it looked to some when the CSF Bill 2010 was killed off in the ‘wash-up’.

Remember that what he means by unwarranted and what you mean may be very different indeed!

[P.S. Shortly after publishing this post I was informed by another HE family that they had received the same letter from Michael Gove, via their MP. Not surprising in many ways, but it does go some way to helping explain why politicians don’t answer specific questions in their replies.]

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