24 Apr Press Release: “A Suitable Education for Every Child”
Government and Local Authorities are ignoring children’s rights, education legislation and hard evidence
- Children are all different, and there is no such thing as an effective one-size-fits-all education. The report asserts that maintaining educational diversity within society is essential if all children are to receive a suitable education.
- The report advocates for a suitable education for every child, with legitimate ‘otherwise’ provision whether in the form of elective home education or non-mainstream educational settings being afforded proper respect, without suspicion or stigma.
- Parents’ roles and responsibilities, especially in regard to education, must be acknowledged and respected. A proper balance must be maintained between state, parents and their children within the public discourse around education.
- The state’s responsibilities with regard to education and safeguarding have become conflated. It is important to distinguish clearly between the two. A lack of clarity has increased the confusion within local authorities as to the responsibilities of their staff, resulting in a lack of appropriate safeguarding.
- There is no justifiable or evidenced basis for a register of children who are educated otherwise than at school.
- Recent years have seen the development of a media narrative hostile to much non-mainstream provision, only exacerbated by measures proposed in the now defunct Schools Bill, 2022. The report seeks to rebalance this narrative in an evidenced and carefully researched way, to counter speculative comment on children educated outside school.
- The second part of the report examines the effects of state education on children and advocates for proper appraisal of the shortcomings of that system, instead of the disproportionate amount of media and political attention which has been focused on the very small proportion of children educated ‘otherwise’ than in school.
On the eve of the publication of their report “A Suitable Education for Every Child”, Dr Ian Cunningham of the Centre for Self Managed Learning and the Primacy of Parents and Children in Education Association (PPCE) has accused the Government and the Children’s Commissioner of steamrolling over children’s rights and well-being in order to deliver a one size fits nobody education.
He commented: “The law is clear that parents have the right either to send their children to school or to pursue an alternative (generally called Elective Home Education). The law is plain that these two choices have equal status – yet many educational officials are not telling the truth when they insist that children must be in school. The law also states that parents are responsible for their children having a suitable education. If school is not suitable, then parents are obeying the law in choosing an alternative to school. And they should be supported in this choice, not vilified by the educational establishment.”
Alison Sauer, member of PPCE and chair of the Centre for Personalised Education, a charity which supports alternatives to mainstream school, says that the Government, Ofsted, the Children’s Commissioner and even the Education Committee of the House of Commons are guilty of peddling rhetoric and rumour in order to get their own way on policies which have nothing to do with the needs of children and the evidence supporting alternative approaches to the current norm, but have everything to do with their own prejudices.
“The current unjustified attack on alternative education and the legitimate choices of parents just has to stop,” she says, “We have the unhappiest children in Europe, we are in the middle of a mental health crisis in the UK and children are voting with their feet. With unprecedented low levels of attendance in schools and an almost 18% increase in home educated children over the last two years*, it’s time to stop blaming parents for imagined faults, incompetency and fecklessness and follow the evidence. Government should look at the education system in the country, which is increasingly failing our children, and fix it”.
The 60 page report quotes hard evidence about education and parental choice from around the world and concludes with 3 recommendations regarding the ongoing pressure for Children Not in School registers; the responsibilities and rights of parents and the role of Local Authorities; and the importance of part-time settings.
*figures taken from 100% complete FOI returns from Local Authorities in England conducted by Education Otherwise Oct 2020 to Oct 2022
The full report may be downloaded below:
Enquiries can be made to Alison Sauer (PPCE) 07949 445165 or Ian Cunningham (Centre for Self Managed Learning) 07850 313814 or email@example.com.
2. The role of local authorities in relation to EHE (electively home educating) parents and children needs to maintain the balance which was established through the 1944 Education Act. This identified two means by which parents may fulfil their educational responsibilities towards their children – at school or otherwise. These have equal standing, and local authorities should thoroughly respect this at all times and not simply acknowledge it in policy statements whilst acting to the contrary.
Safeguarding and education are two separate issues and should not be conflated. Confusion of these two has been responsible for children ‘falling through the cracks’. Local authorities need to ensure that any genuine child safeguarding concerns are dealt with appropriately by the relevant service.
The prime responsibility for education has always rested with the parents, and indeed parents are the decision makers for all aspects of a child’s life. The state’s offer to provide free education for children contributes to the parents fulfilling their responsibilities. The state must therefore respect that parents have the best interests of children at heart, and should not step into the role of decision maker. There are already systems in place for both education and welfare should the parent fail to provide a suitable education or fail to act in the child’s best interest.
3. The responsibilities and rights of parents who choose education otherwise than at school should be recognised, including access to a wide range of learning resources including part-time settings. These settings need to be regarded as important and completely legitimate – provided they comply with normal health & safety requirements – just like other organisations which provide services independent of the state.