February 27, 2004

In Loco Parentis

From today parents can be issued fixed penalty notices, much like parking tickets, for up to 100 if their children are truant from school. Who has been given policing powers to issue these fines? Educational welfare officers and head teachers. Under the new act, magistrates also have the power to order parents into counselling.

This legislation has been brought about because, in the words of Education Minister Ivan Lewis, "Children have a fundamental right to an education." And if they aren't going to exercise that right, by golly, they are going to pay. Lewis emphasised that in local truacy sweeps, often half of the children caught out of school without permission are with their parents. What business parents have being with their children without the permission of the school, we can only imagine.

"Where parents are unable to fulfil their responsibilities, parenting contracts will provide them with the professional support they need and focus on what needs to be done to improve their child's attendance or behaviour.

"However, where parents are simply unwilling to fulfil their responsibilities, it must be right that society demands legal sanctions, and penalty notices for truancy will provide due accountability."

Bad enough? Ah, but there's more...

The Association for Education Welfare Management has asked the Children's Minister, Margaret Hodge, for the power to check up on home educators. Currently the local education authorities have no responsibility to make enquiries about homeschooling families. The forthcoming Children Bill may have something to say about that.

Jenny Price, the Association's general secretary, said, "We believe that the forthcoming Children Bill, together with the new education service arrangements for safeguarding children, offer a most useful opportunity to develop and implement effective practice in this area."

The Children Bill, which promises to be the most far reaching reform of children's services for 30 years, will use the excuse of protecting children to remove as many educational rights from parents as possible and insure that children are purely creatures of the State.

Proponents of the Bill are even using non sequitur scare tactics to support their position. Ms Price supported her views by saying, "Let's not mince words: there are paedophiles who know how to make contact with children and parents." That's right, unless your children are safe at school, they are likely to be abused by paedophiles, even if they are with you.

Homeschoolers realise that the plan is to play on the ignorance of educators and the general public. The spokesperson for Education Otherwise, the biggest UK organisation representing home educators, commented, "Currently many professionals who come into contact with children are unaware that home education is equal in statute with school education and that home educated children are at no greater risk of educational failure, social exclusion, neglect or abuse than those who go to school."

If this Government gets its way with the Children Bill, you can be sure who will be the big losers: parents, and of course, children.

Posted by david at February 27, 2004 03:46 PM | TrackBack

Homeschooling, if the parents have the ability and inclination, I'm wayyyy in favour of. I never had to go to a state school but I can still remember being frightened of the idea. What I want is a 1000 fine for mums who let their little darlings stand on the seats on the bus because I might get on and ruin my cream suede skirt. Sheeeeeesh, when will Tony get his priorities in order?

Posted by: Havdala at February 27, 2004 07:50 PM