I personally agree with primary schools being able to become academies. I am not saying that I speak for my colleagues on the Back Benches. I probably do not speak for some of them, but I would like to see that. I want to see a Bill-the present Bill may not contain such provision-that gives powers that make it easier for the vision of state schools such as Durand to become a reality. Much of that involves making sure that local authorities do not become a barrier to progress.
A number of Members feel strongly about home education, and I have listened keenly to the debate between those on the two Front Benches. For an inner-city area, I have a substantial number of home-educated children, for all sorts of reasons, as Members know. Although it is important that the local authority knows who those children are, that should not impose a straitjacket on home educators.
It is rather sad that we seem to have put the cart before the horse. I was pleased to hear what the Secretary of State said about educating and providing training for local authority staff to give them a better understanding of home education, but I am not quite as trusting. I would like that education and training for local authority staff to be in place before I allowed them to be let loose on home providers in my constituency. When the Department talked about registration, it said:
"Home Education registration involves more than just providing a name and address. In particular, it will require home educating families to provide information about their approach to home education".
That is very dangerous, because we are now saying that we actually want to interfere in how children are educated at home. If we believe that families have first responsibility for such education, we have to allow them it. However, that is totally separate from anything to do with safeguarding children in their homes, and that is why I feel that ContactPoint, which will come on stream in September throughout the country, will give local authorities the information that they need. A good local authority, which works with such parents positively and is not seen as going in and telling them what to do, will then be able to find ways of supporting home educating parents. They want to be supported, but they need support, not the regulation that is seen as coming in from above.
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