Yesterday was quite a grey day, in more ways than one. The brilliant blue, or snow-laden white, skies that we have become accustomed to seeing, were replaced with drizzly grey ones, and what with the consultation sham, and all the analysis of the second reading of the CSF Bill in parliament on Monday, things took on a less than rosy hue whatever coloured glasses you choose to wear. But it is not all doom and gloom, and I think it is important to recognise some the many positive statements made both in defence of home education, and in criticism of the Bill, in parliament on Monday. So here are a few I picked out from the transcript of proceedings.
Please note though, that just because I have quoted from a particular MP, doesn't mean that I agree with everything they had to say on the subject!
Nor am I under any illusions that we don't still have difficult and worrying times ahead, but I am pleased that some of them are 'getting it', and that some others are at least trying to.
"... 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." Michael Gove MP
"Before attending to home education, the Government must first deal with those already in the system who do not achieve as they should...The Bill is directed at the wrong children in the wrong fashion." Andrew Turner MP
"I am sure that changes will be made to the current proposals in Committee-I sincerely hope so, as there is no grave concern about the standard of home education: quite the reverse." Elfyn Llwyd MP (Plaid Cymru)
"he [Balls] made it absolutely clear that home educators provide education at home for a variety of reasons. Does he not see that the Badman report effectively takes a one-size-fits-all approach, which is directly opposed to the fact that there is a whole variety of different reasons why home educators keep their children at home and educate them there?" Mark Field MP
"...the level at which the Government aim to monitor parent-child relationships is tantamount to saying that a parent willing to spend time with their child is somehow in the wrong. Such intrusiveness into parents' lives is bad enough, but the detrimental effects on children's education and well-being are even more dangerous." Andrew Turner MP
"The rights of families should be respected, and I am not convinced that they are being respected by the proposals being introduced." Michael Gove MP
"It has always been the duty of parents, not the state, to educate their children, and they may choose to do so through school or otherwise. That historic settlement will be turned on its head by the Bill, which tears from parents and gives to the state the decision as to how a child is to be educated." Graham Stuart MP
"..it is very regrettable that education and safeguarding have become so mixed up in the Badman report. An assumption that local authority inspectors should have to check whether all home educators meet safeguarding requirements is inappropriate...The intrusiveness in that part of the Bill is quite extraordinary." David Laws MP
"There has been a lot of concern about the fact that the consultation on the Badman proposals was not published before the Bill was published...the response to that consultation was [only] published yesterday. That hardly helps to inform our deliberations too well today, except for those who are particularly astute." Graham Stuart MP
"The numbers were 230 in favour, 4,497 against and 106 unsure, yet Ministers keep making out that it is a minority of people who are opposed. It is not a minority" Graham Stuart MP
"I am disappointed by the fact that we seem to be rushing through the legislation. The Badman report was rushed, too...[The Committee] recognised that the Badman report had not been handled in quite the same way as many other Government reports. We are rushing through this legislation, and we need to stop and look again" Kate Hoey MP
"A system is being set up, supposedly for the benefit of home-educated children and their families, to create, according to Ministers, a co-operative atmosphere, yet that system is being forced on to families, practically none of whom wants it. Ministers should ask themselves whether they want to bring such help to fam...ilies who are so adamant that they do not want to receive it." Graham Stuart MP
"The Bill is full of guarantees, but anyone who searches through it for such guarantees will find that there are none." Graham Stuart MP
"...the administrative convenience of the local authority is to be put ahead of the interests of the child. That is what is in the Bill." Graham Stuart MP
"[I] find it bizarre that this Bill, unlike any piece of legislation to deal with children going back to 1989, fails to make the interests of the child paramount in any consideration. Instead, the Bill considers any administrative failures on the part of parents as being an open and shut case for the revocation of home... education, regardless of the interests of the child, and that is simply wrong." Graham Stuart MP
"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." Michael Gove MP
"... there are often positive reasons for parents choosing to educate their children at home? These decisions are not necessarily a reflection on the schools or the local education authority, so the notion that simply improving the LEA or the schools will dissipate the demand for home education is entirely wrong. Some parents home educate for very positive reasons." Mark Field MP
"I deeply regret the way statistics have been used to suggest somehow that children are intrinsically at greater risk if they are being home educated; I believe I am right in saying that not a single home-educated child has [been] taken into care as a result of a child protection plan, yet there are those who have sedu...lously spread the myth that somehow children are at greater risk through being home educated." Michael Gove MP
"this [home education] is a basic human right that every parent should have, and I feel the Bill erodes that right," Michael Gove MP
"I am deeply concerned about the additional bureaucratic burden that will now potentially be placed on thousands of our fellow citizens whose only crime is to want to devote themselves as fully as possible to their children's education" Michael Gove MP
"He cannot be surprised if the Liberal Democrats indicate that we do not want many of those proposals to go through in a half-baked or half-scrutinised way before the general election that we know the Government are having to rush this Bill through before." David Laws MP
"[We]have serious concerns about the amount of time that will be available to debate the Bill. When one picks the Bill up, it does not look to be of the size and scale of the last education Act... but it deals with extraordinarily important and sensitive issues, and the debate that we will need to have on some of those... issues will be considerable, but we will be trying to do that in only two weeks." David Laws MP
"That [registration requirements in particular regarding 'approach to education'] 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." Kate Hoey MP
"I hope that the Government will still look and listen and, in Committee, change the legislation to make it much more acceptable to all those home educators who do a very fine job." Kate Hoey MP
"In reality, what starts out as light-touch, particularly when a local authority does not necessarily operate in the best possible way, can easily turn into something more than that-something that becomes another burden and is about controlling and changing what home educating parents do." Kate Hoey MP
"As many Members on both sides of the House have acknowledged, education is primarily a parent's responsibility, not that of the Government...I argue that home educators understand the responsibility placed on them. They understand that the responsibility for a child's schooling falls on nobody but the parents." Andrew Turner MP
"There are a number of reasons for home education, and it clearly is not one homogenous entity, which makes a heavy-handed and rushed approach to legislating seem singularly inappropriate." Annette Brooke MP
"Nothing should be done to prevent children from flourishing and learning in the environment best suited to them, in school or out." Andrew Turner MP
"I must confess that I find the Bill, and particularly the provisions for the regulation of home schooling, deeply troubling." Andrew Turner MP
"I was asked recently what plans the Welsh Assembly might have to use the new powers granted in the Bill. They will relate to England only... I believe that there will be an in-depth consultation and that Badman will not be put into effect, at least in that manner, in Wales." Elfyn Llwyd MP
"Any Government must guard the sacred right of parents to educate their children, while vigorously tightening the current system when it comes to child welfare... the Government should look to their own ability to fulfil the Every Child Matters objectives, rather than continue to pursue those who put their faith, time ...and passion into home education. I believe that these proposals should be firmly rejected." Mark Field MP
"Increased intervention makes little financial sense and has the potential to divert resources from truly vulnerable children. It also further infringes the rights of parents to make what they believe are the right decisions for their children. Current legislation is perfectly adequate but all too often poorly understood." Mark Field MP
"Home educators vigorously reject the attempts by the Government to mix concerns about child welfare into any review of home education, and I believe that they are right...we must be clear: local authorities already have powers to get involved in a family when there are concerns about abuse." Mark Field MP
You can read the transcript for yourself here - some of the speeches I could have quoted from much more, Those of Mark Field, Andrew Turner and Graham Stuart, I feel are particularly worthy of note.
Educational freedom also under threat on the Isle of Man - I visited the Isle of Man last year and was struck by both its beauty and its strong sense of identity as a self-governing British Crown dependency in th...