There is one Conservative MP who a lot of Home Educators owe a great deal of gratitude and that is Graham Stewart MP. He has championed the Home Ed cause for a long time and kept the subject a topic within Westminster while the need arises. HE has done this again with the new Children and Families Bill that is going through at the moment. What is more worrying is the stance of the Stroud MP who seems to be flying in the face of the good work done by his predecessor (and hopefully successor) David Drew.
The applicable text from Hansard:
Mr Graham Stuart: While the Minister is on the subject of conflict between local authorities and parents, may I press him, as many of my amendments do, on home-educating parents, who all too often have been subject to misinformation and abuse of power by local authorities? Will he give serious consideration to including a provision stating that parents who home educate are not to have their children’s SEN support removed and that local authorities, despite their duty to find children with SEN, do not have their powers to demand access to children strengthened? We should reinforce the primacy of parents in deciding what should happen to their children and ensure that local authorities are the servants of families, not their master
Mr Timpson: I have a strong memory of spending a late night in the House a few years ago when my hon. Friend managed to get more than 100 of us to present petitions on behalf of many of those parents who decided to home educate their children. I know that he, as chair of the all-party group on home education, has been a great advocate on their behalf. Clearly we want to ensure that every child with SEN, however they are educated, during the period of compulsory age and beyond, from nought to 25, gets the support they require to meet their full potential. That should be no different in the circumstances he describes. I will be able to respond in more detail when we debate his amendments, and I am happy to continue that conversation with him outside the Chamber.
Mr Timpson: I am straying slightly outside my portfolio, but where it impinges on special educational needs clearly we want to ensure that those children receive the support they require. There were attempts in the last Parliament to bring about some form of registration, which was eventually put out to grass. I think we have the balance right at this stage, but of course it is something that my ministerial colleagues who are responsible for these matters will no doubt keep under review.
In essence Mr Stewart has ensured that LAs don’t automatically assume that every Home Ed child needs to be SEN assessed, but that those children who do need SEN support, will do so.
I am concerned about Mr Carmichaels intervention thought, it seems he doesn’t appreciate just how many HE families he has within his constituency or how it works. David Drew did a lot of exceptional work in breaking down the barriers between HE families and “Authority” – with uninformed outbursts like this, Mr Carmichael could go and undo all that good work.
On a side note – That “long night” that Mr Timpson refers to was the largest petition submitted to Parliament in history regarding HE registration. I was very proud to have organised the Gloucester section of that submission and it marked the point at which I entered Politics in late 2009.
Now all we need to see is all that written into the legislation properly and not just open for crass interpretation by the DfE!