Private Members Bills, which allow MPs and Lords to propose new legislation very rarely become law, however they are interesting clues about current thought inside government.
Two Bills caught our attention.
The first Bill, The Home Education (Duty of Local Authorities) Bill, proposed by Labour Peer Lord Soley, asks for measures that would allow home schooled children to be monitored by local authorities so that they could assess their educational, physical and emotional development. The measures would be inserted into the Education Act 1996, the go-to piece of legislation on education provision.
Home schooling is a growing trend in the UK. It makes sense that home schooling should be addressed in this Act, as all other forms of education are detailed there, however this Bill concerns us a great deal. Local authorities already have powers to investigate home schooled children. Many parents also choose home schooling for their children because they wish to be free from the limited curriculum currently doing the rounds in our generic school system. This Bill could have a profound effect on that freedom.
The Bill sets out a list of requirements on parents who elect to educate their children at home. They include an annual review by social workers on each home schooled child, which includes not only an educational assessment, but emotional and physical assessments as well. In order to do this, social workers would be allowed to visit the child’s home, see their work, and interview parents as well as any children involved. This could lead to social workers querying the content and style in which parents are choosing to educate their children, without having proper training in this area, and profoundly distorting the potential benefits of this kind of schooling.
Researching Reform has also assisted on cases where home schooled children were being targeted by at least one local authority through the production of policy documents which invited social workers to treat home schooling as a form of neglect and gave them permission to remove home schooled children from their families and place them in care.
It’s also likely that the requirements in the Bill would place an enormous amount of strain on already stretched local authorities, and would lead to a clumsy doubling up of services, especially as many home schooled children will be attending doctor’s surgeries for vaccinations or medical conditions where GPs would already be assessing their welfare, for example.
The Bill had its first reading on 27 June. The next reading has yet to be announced.
The second Bill we spotted aims to do something really rather wonderful. The Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill, sponsored by Lib Dem peer Baroness Hamwee, aims to reunite refugee families and provide them with legal aid where needed. The Bill would do this by:
“[Making] provision for leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom to be granted to the family members of refugees and to refugees who are family members of British citizens and settled persons, to provide for legal aid to be made available for refugee family reunion cases.”
The first reading of this Bill was also on the 27 June. A date for the second reading hasn’t yet been set.