Children, Schools and Families Bill

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 5:19 pm on 11th January 2010.

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Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Shadow Secretary of State (Children, Schools and Families) 5:19 pm, 11th January 2010

I entirely understand the point made by my hon. Friend; he is right to say that a host of reasons are involved, and it is not for us to second-guess the decisions made by parents. Many of those who sacrifice not only earnings but time make a commitment of love towards their children in order to home educate them, and that should be celebrated and applauded, not denigrated and undermined.

One of my specific concerns is that this legislation means the state will take it upon itself to regulate what may or may not be taught in the home. Proposed new section 19C in schedule 1 provides that parents will have to produce a report in accordance with regulations laid down by the Secretary of State explaining what they propose to include in the education programme for their child. They will then have to allow an inspector in at an appropriate point, and that inspector will have to be satisfied that the education being provided is suitable, according to the regulations laid down by the Secretary of State. If that education is not considered suitable by that local authority employee, the right of that individual to be home educated can be revoked. So this is not about safeguarding or even about child protection; this is about the Secretary of State being able to say that an individual home-educating parent is not providing an education that he deems appropriate and therefore they should not have the right to educate that child at home.

One of the other terrible things about this legislation is that proposed new section 19F in schedule 1 sets out that when the information provided by a parent to a local authority changes and is found to be wrong, even if it was materially right when it was given-in other words, the parent made efforts to ensure that the information was correct but the local authority finds that it has changed in some respect-the right to educate that child at home can be revoked. Even though the parent is not at fault and sought to provide the right information at the right time in the right way, they can lose the right to educate their own child. A draconian extension of state power is potentially made possible by this Bill, which is why all my hon. Friends will be working hard in Committee to ensure that we can find a consensus on this sensitive area, so that the rights of home educating parents are respected and we do not fundamentally erode their liberties.

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