Many people have been asking what the Labour Party’s stance on Home Education is, and are we just going to implement the Badman review. I can categorically say that the Labour Party is not going to implement Badman and is now very open to developing useful policy for us. As it was one of the reasons for me engaging with the Political System, then I’m really pleased with the result and proves that we as individuals can make a difference.
There was two drivers that got me involved politics, firstly the desire to help my community develop and be better represented, and secondly to try to rectify what was going on with the government’s stance with the way Home Educators were being treated by the then Labour Government. There had been a review, called the Badman Review which led to the largest nationwide petition being presented to Parliament, and I led the Gloucester part of that. Whilst I got lots of signatures, I had to meet and convince the Labour MP for Gloucester at the time, Parmjit Dhanda, and to be honest, I didn’t really fancy my chances. I blogged about it at the time on a previous incarnation of my blog and I wrote this:
To be honest, I went to the meeting not quite knowing what to expect. Parmjit Dhanda is a Labour MP and asking him to present this could be considered a bit much.
As soon as I walked in the room, it was apparent that he had done his homework. He had read my blog and other comments through Twitter and Facebook. He had read the report and could discuss it easily. Considering the reception some others have got from their MPs, this was a really good start. It meant we could have a proper discussion about it, rather than me acting like a campaigner. It also meant that we were talking about the report itself and not all the hype around it.
Main issue was child safety and the associated registration. As a previous education minister, he could cite experiences of having received reports of children having fallen through the system. I think we both agreed that the idea of registration is not a bad thing in Gloucester as the Gloucester LA is actually very good towards Home Educators. The main problem in the UK is that not every LA takes the same approach.
He raised very good points around the fact that the people campaigning were generally responsible etc, it’s the ones that hide, that are not known about that are the problem. I did put forward the argument that the issue of child abuse is much less of a problem in the HE community that it is in the community of “schooled children”. But I couldn’t argue with the point that any child that can be saved from abuse is a good thing. He was very receptive to the fact that a lot of HE families, while concerned about the issues within this report, are also very concerned that this is the thin end of a wedge that could get a lot thicker in future.
He accepted the petition and agreed to submit it to the house. He also said he wished to join the Cross Parliamentary group which Graham Stuart MP has organised and currently Chairs. I thought this was a really proactive role to take.
It was a shame in many ways that we only had a 15 minute session as there was a more I wanted to put forward, such as incentivising registration and how to use the Gloucester Model to the advantage of other HE communities in the UK. But the outcome was much better than expected, so I hope that others within the UK have had a similar result. It seems that Graham Stuart will be coordinating the petition submissions for the 8th December, so we will see what happens!
Well, fast forward 5 years, and I have continued to campaign for EHE families, and with the election on our doorstep, I was keen to ensure that we as a party had learned from experience and would not repeat history. More specifically, I wanted to get an agreement that we would not be reviving the Badman review. Therefore after some emails, discussions and meetings, I was very pleased to receive the letter below from Tristram Hunt MP.
The Text reads:
From Tristram Hunt MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, to Councillor Barry Kirby:
“Thank you for taking the time to contact me surrounding the issue of home education. I am happy to clarify The Labour Party’s policy on the matter.
First and foremost, The Labour Party is respectful of parent choice on this issue. We do not consider the Badman Review to be a document which reflects the current party view and we harbour no intention to change the existing regulations on home education.
Of course we are always keen to hear new ideas about how we can make government regulations and processes more effective. We do not want to make the registration process for home educating parents more bureaucratic. However, similarly we are also keen to provide better data for local and national agencies in terms to identify how many children are home educated in each local authority area.
Ultimately, we believe that better processes could help to foster a more beneficial relationship of trust and collaboration between local authorities and home educators. It is with this in mind that The Labour Party is willing to explore new ideas in this area.
I once again thank you for taking the time to contact me. I value your input and will take it on board when establishing my policies. Please do not hesitate to get in touch or write to me again if you have any other comments or ideas for education policy. I passionately believe it is the most important issue for the future of our country and I am always happy to hear from people who feel the same.”