ConDem Government sneaking in Badman's proposals

In last year's article about each political party's policy on home education we stated that "the Conservative Party appears to support home education but the question is can they be trusted after the general election?". Now it looks like the the ConDem coalition Government is trying to sneak in a proposal by the discredited Graham Badman behind the backs of home educators by interfering with their rights to deregister their children from school on demand.

A letter dated 7th March 2011 from the Department For Education that was circulated to the Education Forum and Ofsted contained the following text:

Parents deciding to Home Educate - Graham Badman's report on his Review of Elective Home Education in England, published in June 2009, recommended that when parents are thinking of deregistering their child from school to home educate, schools should retain such pupils on roll for a period of 20 school days so that should the parents change their minds, the child could be readmitted to the school. This period would also allow for the resolution of such difficulties that may have prompted the decision to remove the child from school. This recommendation was supported by the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee Report on Home Education published in December 2009.

We propose to add a regulation so that where a parent has de-registered their child from school to home educate them, the school will retain the child on the admissions register for a period of 20 school days. To ensure that the school's absence statistics are not affected by this we propose to change the definition of the absence code Z so that schools may use it to mark the register over the 20 day period (Code Z is currently used as an administrative tool that allows schools to put new pupils on the Admissions Register in advance of them starting at the school, rather than having the burden of putting them all on at the same time, and not have to mark them as absent in the register).

Attempting to resurrect Badman's discredited proposals is bad enough, but what is worse, is that the government has the cheek to do it so discreetly over a very short space of time and implement the changes via a Statutory Instrument. The government has failed to consult or inform home educators or prominent home education organisations about this change in legislation, which we at Asperger Home Education regard as a sinister and undemocratic act.

For those who are unaware of how Statutory Instruments work, they are controlled by a 'negative resolution procedure'. This means that once a Statutory Instrument is signed by a Government Minister and laid before Parliament, it is approved unless a motion to annul is passed by either the House of Commons or the House of Lords within 40 days.

This change in legislation is of concern to parents of children with Asperger Syndrome because the majority of such children attend state schools and only become home educated as a result of problems at school such as bullying or failure to meet their SEN. If the change in legislation is passed then it is highly likely that children with SEN will endure more harassment from LA officials than children without SEN. The situation will be more acute for children with Statements of SEN because the school will lose money once the child is deregistered. Experience has revealed that LA officials have a disliking of families who opt for home education whenever state schools do not meet their children's needs as it highlights the Government's own failure in providing for the needs of all children.

The timetable to implement the changes is as follows:

By 7 March - letter emailed to appropriate recipients
By 21 March - responses received
Week commencing 28 March* - regulations to be signed
By 1 April* - regulations laid in parliament
6 April - House rises for recess
On 1 September* - regulations come into force

*these timings depend on nature and content of the comments received from this letter.

A serious consequence of the change in legislation (pointed out by a number of home educators but probably overlooked by the establishment) is a potential for parents with no intention of starting home education to abuse the 20 day period reserving their child's place at school by taking a holiday. All parents have to do is withdraw their child from school by submitting a letter to the head teacher saying that their child is now home educated; take the holiday; then return their child to the same school by saying that home education is not working out right and their child would like to attend school again. It will be a legal way to evade truancy regulations because the child will not have been absent from school without good reason.

Our advice

Contact your MP as soon as possible requesting them to repeal this change in legislation, clearly stating the fact that the Government has not consulted or informed home educators beforehand.

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