Just say no

Rt. Hon. Ed Balls
Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

Dear Mr Balls

You have stated repeatedly that the government has no plans to change the right to home educate in England. This is very far from the truth. The recommendations on home education that you commissioned from Graham Badman include removing the right to home educate and replacing it with an annual licensing scheme where LAs have the right to refuse a licence to anyone who does not tick the right boxes. They also include appalling invasions of privacy in the right of access for LA officials to people’s private homes, and the right of access to the person of the child outside the presence of his or her parents, all in the absence of any reason to suspect wrongdoing.

A legitimate government derives its powers from the consent of the governed. I am writing to inform you that I do not consent to these measures.

• I WILL NOT apply for a licence to continue to home educate. Home education is a lifestyle choice for me and my children, and no one has the right to force us to adopt a different lifestyle.

• I WILL NOT invent annual “learning goals” and impose them upon my children. They will continue to learn, at their own pace and in their own way, whatever they and I choose from day to day.

• I WILL NOT force my children to “exhibit” their learning at the pleasure of LA officials. Cutting open their brains and shining a light on the contents to satisfy the desire to meddle on the part of complete strangers is not only a violation of their privacy, it is as harmful to the process of education as digging up a seed at regular intervals is to the process of growth.

• I WILL NOT permit LA officials to pronounce on whether or not our education meets some external criteria for suitability. The duty to ensure that a child is suitably educated rests, legally as morally, on parents, not on the state. The parents are in the best possible position to know what suits their child, and I do not recognise that complete strangers to my children, especially those who are ignorant of education (as opposed to schooling), are in any position to pronounce on what is suitable for my children. If you change the law to remove this duty from parents and place it on the state, the immediate collapse of the school system under the burden of litigation will be an interesting spectacle for those of us outside it.

• I WILL NOT permit LA officials to violate the sanctity of our family home. The ECHR and UNCRC guarantee the right to privacy in the home, free from the interference of the state, unless there is cause to believe that there is a problem which requires intervention. Home education is not a problem.

• I WILL NOT permit LA officials to interview my children alone. The UNCRC provides even child offenders with the right to be accompanied by their parents under interrogation by officials, and forbids the state to separate a child from his parents unless to prevent harm to the child – yet you would calmly strip these rights from children as young as four. This is child abuse, pure and simple, and I will not permit my children to be abused.

How would it be if you were to apply measures like these to all children – for example, if you mandated that all school children would be interviewed annually, outside the presence of parents or teachers, to ask them whether they really wanted to be educated at school, and to force them to exhibit their learning and check that they were meeting the school’s annual targets? Of course, this would have to be backed up by a School Deregistration Order to force the parents to home educate if that was the child’s wish, or if the child were found to be inadequately educated (1 in 6 children in the school system, Mr Balls). Your measures would still be an intolerable abuse of power and privacy, but it would be possible to believe you were motivated by genuine care for children.

Whatever your real motives, I SAY NO. I am a middle-aged, middle-class, middle-of-the-road housewife, and you have gone too far. If you make the lifestyle my family has followed for the past seven years illegal, I will be an outlaw. This is my line in the sand, and I will not permit the state to cross it.

Yours sincerely,

Heidi de Wet
Home educator

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