Lord Alton of Liverpool was ace, (and if you are watching rather than reading, the beard next to him was rather fine too! (go to about 5:28) ;0)) he expressed 'a general anxiety about the lack of scrutiny which this Bill received in another place and the danger that a truncated process in [the Lords leading] to a defective and flawed piece of legislation reaching the statute book.' and went on to register his 'strongest possible objection to Clause 26' stating that 'We should celebrate the diversity of this position and learn from it; not seek to crush it.' and going on to quote from 'a letter I received about the home-education provision from Professor and Mrs Bruce Stafford,' and concluding 'that the Badman review on which the relevant clauses in the Bill are based was poorly conducted. Fair and reasonable legislation cannot emerge from a flawed evidential review. There are already laws in place to protect a child where there is a suspicion that children are at risk of harm or that insufficient education is taking place. The Bill's proposals are opposed by the majority of home educators.'
Lord Lucas lived up to expectations! Beginning by likening the Bill to a nobbly potato which was rotten inside and full of slugs, and that he would like to cut out the part about home education. He said that while he sees legislation in this area as inevitable, there 'seems to be something in the DCSF, which I have not identified in any of the people I have met, that is malevolent to home education and wishes to destroy it.' He questioned why none of the 'good things in the Badman review, about training and support, appear in the Bill?' and pointed out the obvious flaws in expecting autonomous educators to produce a syllabus in advance. He made a number of points about support, bullying, and evidence from other countries, and then went on to make my favourite quote of the evening, when he dismissed the statistics used in the impact assessment as 'frankly duffy' - from the mouths of peers eh! Bless him!
Baroness Walmsley was scathing of the 'lack of debate on some parts of the Bill in another place and the last-minute amendments introduced by the Government' She pointed out the confusion of the child's right to an education with a child's right to safeguarding. and the ignorance of the fact that social workers already have powers with regard to the latter, and added that 'The death of Khyra Ishaq was nothing to do with home education, despite what has been suggested in the press.' She described the government proposals as rushed, ill thought out and heavy-handed, and in danger of enforcing a one-size-fits-all education. but did support a light touch scheme of notification.
Lord Bates didn't spend much time on home education, but what he did say was spot on...
'Faced with this staggering record of failure, what do we find is the target in the legislation that is needed to reverse this terrible record, particularly among the poorest in our society? The answer, of course, is to attack home schooling, when these are parents who are making huge sacrifices for the benefit of their children. Home schoolers are not failing children in this country; the state is. It is not the parents who take an interest in their children that we should be worried about; it is the parents who do not take any interest in their children that we should be worried about. When will the Government wake up to the problems that they face in their own state system? When will they stop obsessing over the spelk in the eyes of others, namely the home schoolers, and start addressing the plank in their own eye in terms of failing standards?'
Baroness Verma referred to the letters stacked high on her desk about this bill, mostly about Clause 26 ;0) and went on to speak of how Clause 26 'infringes the basic right of parents to decide what is in the best interests of their child' and concluded that 'This is a largely bad Bill.'.
Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone despite having 'reservations about home education as a course of action', was damning of the way Government had handled things, raising the doubts borne by the Select Committee, giving mention to having been 'bombarded with mail' from home educating families, and concluding that 'There seems to be maximum alienation, especially when the Government say that this is about supporting people involved in home education when it is blatantly obvious that they are getting no more financial or practical support in any way.'
Lord Soley sadly lived up to expectations, speaking about his entries on Lords of the Blog and how he had been surprised by the amount of interest and comments they attracted! He spoke of the need for regulation and in comparing it to other countries, implied that it needed to be more rigorous, 'Indeed, some countries such as Germany do not even allow home education to take place.' He talked about the rights of the child, yet managed to overlook the child's right to be home educated, brought up Khyra Ishaq, managing to say that even though her case might not have had anything to do with home education, it still had something to do with home education (???)
He was dismissive of bullying as something that 'has always been around and is always a problem; you cannot avoid it altogether' and that removing your children from such a situation was 'overprotective'. He was puzzled by peoples 'hostility to Graham Badman' so decided to re-read the report having not read it properly the first time - (clearly in a good, well informed position to comment on it when he wrote his blogs then!)
I found him to be a very unconvincing speaker, he clearly felt he needed to have something to say on the matter, but none of it (to me) came across as particularly well thought out, a lot of opinions, but not a lot of substance. His closing comments were that he did not have 'the right answer, but home education is here to stay; it might well grow, but at the edges there will be very real problems, so we need a regulatory system that picks that up and responds to it. I hope that the Government will not lose sight of that. I think that they are addressing it quite well at the moment, but it is still very early days.' , but, if anyone was listening to him, then a couple of time during his speech, he did do something that may actually work in our favour with regard to other peers - he asked them to go back to his blog posts and look at the comments. Hopefully some of them will do just that, because there are some excellent comments there :0)
Baroness Morgan barely gave the measures for the registration and monitoring of home educated children mention in her opening speech, and little more in her closing one, except for the expected dismissal of them as not being 'onerous where home educators are doing a good job' - But who decides IF we are doing a good job, or on the definition of what a 'good job' is, we come back to that unanswered question of 'What is a suitable education?' and 'Who should decide that?'
Baroness Blackstone thought that the 'registration scheme for home education, following Graham Badman's report' seemed 'eminently sensible', going so far as to describe Badman as an 'eminent expert' and expressing her surprise at Baroness Verma's comments 'given that so much of what lies behind the Bill comes from independent experts who have studied many of the issues in great depth.' ???
The Lord Bishop of Bradford was disappointing, concentrating mostly on how the Bill would affect his son-in-law's career. Home Education got a brief mention at the end as being a 'potentially controversial issue' - 'potentially'? Hmmm, someone clearly hasn't been paying attention!
And then there was Deech. :-( I had expected this to be bad, but was still not quite prepared for the stream of poison that poured forth from her.
She began by talking about those who had commented on her blogposts not painting a good picture of home education because of 'the rage and resentment they express, their mishmash of ideological views, their rejection of state interference, their indifference to the rights of the child, their accusations of totalitarianism and their superiority over those who would like to help the child' - please take the time to go and read some of those comments to see how ridiculous that statement is - She then declared that having hardly taken any notice of home education before, she had now immersed [herself] in the topic - two points here, firstly if she had hardly taken any notice of it before, why did she consider herself to be in a fit position to make the comments she did about it on her blog in the first place? and secondly, 'Oh joy!'
She went on to say that 'registration is to be welcomed, together with the parent's statement of plans for the child's education' but that she didn't think the Bill went far enough in ensuring those things would happen (!) and that the Bill must 'permit the child to be seen alone by an inspector.', and then came out with this, which I found quite disturbing
'Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights also grants the right to education while respecting the rights of parents to have their children educated in accordance with their views. The European Court has held that this, of necessity, implies state regulation of the education that the child receives. The court held that Germany was entitled to ban home education. It is the duty of home-educating parents to secure for their children the education pledged in international treaties; the parents do not have stand-alone rights to determine that education in any way that they wish without state regulation.'
(Incidentally this is not the only time she refers to Germany's policy on home education.) Then came her concerns about the lack of guarantees for home educated children to receive a suitable education, her concerns about 'migrant children' not being given the opportunity to learn English, her concerns that some people have 'a belief that children can just learn autonomously without being taught' and her wonder at 'how this worked with, say, physics, and fear that those children are being experimented on in a way that may blight their only chance in a lifetime to be presented with the knowledge and life skills that they will need.'
She claimed that none of the home educators who had commented on her blog had mentioned the welfare of the child, and quite bizarrely (I thought) that 'they seemed overwhelmingly middle class' (still not sure what that was about??) And that she was worried by the level of resentment shown in the comments (hmm...I wonder why that would be?)
She then managed to squeeze in a completely irrelevant comment about forced marriage, before going on to say that she did not think that the Bill went far enough in some of it's recommendations (and I have to reproduce this bit in it's entirety because it is so unbelievable)...
'It is inadequate that the local authority will be able to see the child only once a year. I should have thought that it would be better-albeit expensive, I appreciate-to produce the child every quarter or six months. The child should have the right to talk alone to the inspector. Fear of strangers is no excuse; or rather that is the very excuse that has been used when there have been failures to meet a child's needs which could have been avoided, had that child been produced. A child cannot go through youth without meeting doctors, dentists, repair men and so on. Two weeks' notice of a visit by the inspectors in the Bill is possibly too long; one week should be adequate, and in cases of concern there ought to be the right to visit without warning. Where a parent appeals against refusal to register, the child should be sent to school at once and not allowed to continue at home, pending appeal.
In sum, our registration system will be weaker than that of most countries. Most US states have a more structured system, and opting out is forbidden in Germany. Your Lordships should not be deterred by the strong wording of the home education lobbyists. There needs to be a way for the home-educated child to be seen and heard, for samples of his or her work to be produced and for rigorous tracking of existence and outcome. I therefore strongly support this part of the Bill.'
There is an excellent blogpost from Lou here on Deech, and Dave's response to what she had to say is here.