Nick Herbert delivers petition on home schooling to Parliament

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has presented a petition to Parliament on behalf of constituents opposed to measures that will make it harder for parents to educate their children at home.

The Badman Report, published in June and accepted in full by the Government, recommends the closer monitoring of home educators, including a compulsory annual registration scheme and a right of access to people's homes for local authority officials.

The petition, presented in Parliament on Tuesday (8 December), is calling on the Government to withdraw the recommendations, saying that they were based on a review that was rushed and which failed to consider the evidence carefully or take account of existing legislation.

Campaigners have criticised what they describe as "sinister" elements in the new arrangements that would allow council officials to enter people's homes and interview children without the presence of their parents.

Parents will also be subject to Ofsted inspections and will have to submit a formal statement each year setting out how they intend to educate their child.

The recommendations of Graham Badman, a former Director of Children's Services at Kent County Council, will be included in a Children, Schools and Families Bill that will be subject to scrutiny by MPs in early 2010.

Nick Herbert commented: "There are many parents who decide to educate their children at home, and I believe that they should have that choice.  And whilst it's important for us to ensure that children are taught in a safe environment and are receiving a good education, we have to strike a sensible balance and I don't think we should introduce a system that acts as a barrier to home education or damages the relationship between parents and local authorities. 

"So I was delighted to join around 120 of my parliamentary colleagues in presenting a petition in the Commons.  I hope the Government will now listen to what parents in my constituency and across the country have been saying."

Mr Herbert gained a fresh insight into the benefits of home education with a visit in October to the Amberley home of Simon and Cathy Briggs.  Mr and Mrs Briggs have relied on home education for their children Alex and Molly for several years and, in September, took their commitment to parent-run education one step further by founding the South Downs Small School.

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Notes for Editors

1. For a copy of Graham Badman's ‘Review of Elective Home Education in England', and the Secretary of State's response, visit http://publications.everychildmatters.gov.uk/default.aspx?PageFunction=productdetails&PageMode=publications&ProductId=HC+610&.

2. The full text of the petition is as follows: [The Petition persons resident in Arundel and South Downs, Declares that they are concerned about the recommendations of the Badman Report, which suggests closer monitoring of home educators, including a compulsory annual registration scheme and right of access to people's homes for local authority officials; further declares that the Petitioners believe the recommendations are based on a review that was extremely rushed, failed to give due consideration to the evidence, failed to ensure that the data it collected were sufficiently robust, and failed to take proper account of the existing legislative framework. The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families either not to bring forward, or to withdraw, proposed legislative measures providing for tighter registration and monitoring of children educated at home in the absence of a thorough independent inquiry into the condition and future of elective home education in England; but instead to take the steps necessary to ensure that the existing Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities are properly implemented, learning from current best practice, in all local authorities in England. And the Petitioners remain, etc.]. To view the official record in Hansard, visit http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmhansrd/cm091208/debtext/91208-0034.htm#09120923001125.

3. For more information on the South Downs Small School, visit http://www.southdownssmallschool.org/.

Ed Barker