By Barbara

When it comes to the practice of elective home education, many people have had the wool pulled over their eyes by so called independent expert Graham Badman, whose task earlier this year was to produce policy based evidence so that his paymaster Ed Balls could continue his crusade against families in England under false pretences.

Home educators are sometimes asked about their objection to providing a forward plan of their home-based education provision to the state, from which it is clear that most people, including elected Members of Parliament, have only a sketchy understanding of the relationship between citizen and state when it comes to the compulsory education of children.

I object in the strongest terms to being required to give an account of myself to the state before being ‘permitted’ to exercise a legally valid option while fulfilling my parental responsibilities.

The requirement for a forward plan is in conflict with the current legal framework whereby parents are responsible for educational provision, which duty they may fulfil according to conscience and in the interests of what is best for their child – either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, without prejudice and with no let or hindrance from government or predetermining tests or administrative procedures to test their worth.

The requirement is bureaucratic, petty and irrelevant, and is based on ignorance and prejudice about how home education works from those whose vested interest is to promote a different form of provision, namely state schooling.

The extent to which a child can be harmed by inappropriate, poor or dangerous educational settings and provisions should not be underestimated. Sometimes children are withdrawn from school as an emergency measure because of damage done by the system – the issue is to gain safety and recovery first so that education can then continue. It is not possible, under these circumstances, to predict progress; although those who have gone through such a process often report relief, restitution and recovery that they had despaired of ever seeing.

A child damaged by the system will often need a period of recovery before they can continue with their education. They may have been systematically alienated and disaffected from their learning; pressure to meet externally produced targets of any kind will hamper recovery of some children. Parents must, therefore, be allowed to make the decisions that are required to meet the need of the child and not the expectations or rules of the man from the council.

Schools sometimes misrepresent the achievements of children to parents. Parents and children need a reasonable time to find out where they really are and to adjust to a new way of doing things.

A forward plan will be used under the recommendations as a means of withholding a licence to home educate where it does not meet the approval of the man from the council.

A forward plan will be held over home educators as a rigid and inflexible weapon in cases where the education has veered from the plan for legitimate reasons, such as the child discovering a special area of interest that replaces the previous plan, or other adjustments resulting from the family finding their feet with a different way of doing things.

The idea of a forward plan is based on the traditional methods of education used in schools and does not take account of the variety of proven alternative education methods; most particularly, it ignores those that do not involve a forward plan but might be based, for example, on following the interests and needs of the child rather than the requirements of the man from the council.

To require people to produce a forward plan where it conflicts with the beliefs or methods of the family is to deny freedom of conscience and undermine parental responsibility.

Local authorities are required to ensure that education is provided in accordance with the wishes of parents. This should be respected where parents wish to make educational provisions themselves and do not agree with the requirement for a forward plan because they have other ideas or envisage a different way of doing things.

The forward planning requirement is an attempt to influence the form and content of educational provision. It is not the place of government to decide the form or content of educational provision for children educated at home by their parents, or to set up a system of pre-approval and licensing for parents before they can execute their valid legal options.

Families must be permitted to adapt to the needs of the child in the course of events and not held to account for a twelve month forward plan brandished by a man from the council like some sort of commandment.

The man from the council knows nothing about my children’s learning needs and his interference will neither be required nor permitted.

I will Just Say No to a forward plan. And I know I won’t be alone.