Distance learning in the UK falls into two main categories, adults who are returning to learning and children of school age who are being educated at home. But these two groups share many of the same perspectives.
Home educators supporting their children breathed a sigh of relief this week when it was announced that the compulsory registration of children being educated at home, proposed by the Badman Report, is to be dropped because of the imminent General Election.
The Statement on the Children, Schools and Families Bill from the DCSF says that the clause covering the registration and monitoring of home schooling was taken out “because no agreement could be reached between the Government and opposition parties”.
While this is no doubt true, it is probably also fair to say that the government had become increasingly aware of the overwhelming unpopularity of this clause. Apart from Badman himself, it is not easy to find a single interested party who felt that such registration would do more good than harm.
The Christian Institute is one of many organisations which has welcomed this decision. Mike Judge, its Head of Communications, writes: “This is good news for all of us who care about protecting our children from sexualisation and protecting the freedom of families. Let children be children, let parents be parents and let Whitehall bureaucrats stop meddling from on high.”
At Oxford Open Learning, we very much endorse this view. Virtually all the home educators we support are passionate about the educational opportunities and progress of their children, but they do not want to be constrained by the narrowness of the National Curriculum and the politically-driven modes of delivery that they have found in schools. They do no not want to have to “prove” that their children are receiving a sound education or have their decisions judged according to the latest criteria of what is acceptable and what is not.
Local authorities and other services are already obliged and empowered to act upon any abuses and omissions detected within the home environment. They do not need yet more powers to enable them to execute that role effectively. There will always be instances of dysfunctional family life – compiling a register is unlikely to have any effect on the frequency with which this occurs or the rate of detection. It represents an unnecessary and token response to a small number of high profile domestic disasters.