Children, Schools and Families Bill

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 4:18 pm on 11th January 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families 4:18 pm, 11th January 2010

I hear my hon. Friend's point, and I know that she has expertise in this matter. We have dealt with some particular cases in the past year or two. The important point to make is that there is not one rule for a child in a madrassah and another for a child in a school or in any other circumstance. The use of physical punishment against any child is wrong; it is outside the law and is not fair to children. I do not think that we should tolerate any use of physical punishment in any school or learning setting in which trusted adults are supposed to be looking after children, not abusing them.

On home education, I know that this issue will be debated in detail in Committee. The vast majority of home educating parents provide a good education for their children, and I am fully committed to the principle that parents who choose to home educate should be able to do so. It is parents, rather than the state, who are in charge of taking the ultimate decision on how their children are educated. We think that about 70,000 children are being home educated-often for a variety of reasons and often to a very high standard by committed parents. Our responsibility is to ensure that not just a large majority, but all of the children who are being home educated are safe and are learning properly. It was because of concerns that had been raised that I asked Mr. Graham Badman to do his review, which reported in the summer. Following consultation, the Bill makes some changes to his recommendations, but accepts the general core principles of his review. The first is that, as a matter of principle, parents should be allowed to home educate. The second is that they need more support, financial and otherwise, to be able to do so. That may mean catch-up, one-to-one tuition for children who need it, or support regarding the cost of exam fees.

It is important that we make sure that we know that all children are safe and are being properly educated. That is why the Bill introduces a new registration scheme for home educators, with a duty on local authorities to identify all home-educated children and to ensure that they are receiving a suitable education. That is vital to make sure that all home-educated children are safe and are making progress. It is wrong to see that as an attack on home education, and those people who try to represent it as an attack on home education in principle are wrong. On that basis, I have to say that I agree with the vast majority of the recommendations and sentiments set out in the Children, Schools and Families Committee report on home education.

Embed this video

Copy and paste this code on your website