My Lords, the comprehensive introduction by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, to the wide-ranging amendments in this group has once again set the tone for many of us with concerns about this part of the Bill as originally drafted. I think that everyone, including the Minister, has said that they want to see the relationship between home-educating parents and their local authority start from a position of trust and support, while ensuring that there is a system that protects children too.
I am pleased that at the end of his speech the noble Lord mentioned that there should be some money for local authorities to help support home educators. That was one of the points I mentioned about the northern California home educators I saw at Sierra College, just outside Sacramento. That was exactly what had happened. The school board here understood that it could help parents without changing parents’ way of educating their children. As a result of that trust, the entire tone changed between the home educators and the school board.
I have signed the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans’s Amendments 115, 117 and 119, which extend from 15 to 30 days the period in which parents must register their child and provide the information. Other amendments in this group do the same. The amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, talks about “school days”, not just “days”, and that is very helpful and supportive as well. Amendment 129 from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, will ensure that children or teachers get the support for any special educational need or disability that they would have already got.
In previous groups I have talked about the problem that many parents have had of not getting the support they need for their child, even though they may be entitled to it. If they have had some support, it has not been enough to provide the specific support that the child needs, whether for special educational needs, disability or a mental or physical health problem. I have given examples of that before. As a result, some parents have been forced to withdraw their children from school, often because they felt that their child was literally not safe—perhaps a medical procedure requires a school nurse to do it but there is no longer a school nurse available. Sometimes parents have been threatened with off-rolling by the school. Sometimes the promised special educational needs support has not happened.
In the last group the noble Lord, Lord Soley, gave a further good example of children being withdrawn from school because of their challenging behaviour. It is important to recognise that children with this challenging behaviour should also get support. If they end up out of school with their parents trying to cope, that is a very big burden for parents. The behaviour of parents, when accused by the local authority of not doing things, often causes friction. Local authorities should always come from the approach that the noble Lord, Lord Storey, outlined: that of teachers always wanting to help, understand and get to the root of the problem and provide the support that will change the child’s behaviour.
I believe the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is vital. A child with SEN, a disability or a health problem who is out of school should have the support that they would have got in school. They need it wherever they receive their education. His amendment needs to succeed.