Possible changes in the way that local authorities behave towards home educators

The day after Graham Badman's report was published last year, a time when many home educating parents were very worked up and angry about the recommendations which it contained, somebody wrote the following opinion on the Badman report for Walsall local authority in the West Midlands;

'Having read the Home Education Review written by Graham Badman and published by the DCSF yesterday it appears that the proposed legislative changes adopted by the DCSF and now in consultation until late October will involve changes in primary legislation. There are two basic changes 1. Compulsory registration and 2. Compulsory home visits, including the right of the authority to speak to the child alone.

The first is expected and except for roughly doubling your workload, it will not change the way the system operates. I expect this change will take 12-24 months to enact'

Thank goodness that at least one person was able to keep her head about this while all those around her were losing theirs! Who was this calm and sensible person who looked forward to the implementation of compulsory registration so phlegmatically? Was it a civil servant? A member of the the legal department at Walsall Council? No, it was none of these people. It was in fact a home educator called Alison Sauer. As soon as the Badman report came out, she saw a business opportunity and began touting her services to local authorities with renewed vigour. Increased regulation meant increased training, which in turn meant more business for the company which she and her husband run.

We are currently all waiting to see the new guidelines for local authorities which Alison Sauer and her chums are producing. It is interesting to note that the White Paper due to published soon might well be encouraging local authorities to adopt a more gung-ho approach towards children outside mainstream education. I was not at all opposed to the provisions of Schedule 1 of the CSF Bill, as readers will no doubt recollect! This is however something else entirely. By giving vague encouragement to local authorities to be 'strong champions' and use their 'wider children's services' with regard to those children outside mainstream education, Michael Gove could actually effect a change in the way that local authorities operate without all the bother of changing primary legislation or allowing a select committee to scrutinise what is proposed. If this were to be combined with new guidelines for local authorities which were vaguer and less clear than the 2007 ones currently in use, there could be a great change in no time at all for home educating families who wish to have no contact with their local authority.

Supporting a public enquiry which was scrutinised by a select committee is one thing. I certainly was part of that process and when it was defeated, I was happy to accept that the democratic system had worked, even if I did not agree with the outcome. I am very dubious about what now seems to be happening, which could prove to be a change in the way things operate being made by the back door.