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article imagePetition Rejecting State as Parent of First Resort Proves Popular

By A Newstead     Mar 9, 2009 in World
Following the British government’s announcement of an independent review into Home Education, a petition has reached number 47 in the top 50 most popular petitions on the Number10.gov.uk website.
The petition calls upon the Prime Minister to remind his government that parents must remain responsible in law for ensuring the welfare and education of their children and that the state should not seek to appropriate these responsibilities.
The author of the petition Roxane Featherstone said today "The essence of totalitarianism is that the state maintains that it has all the answers to life and that virtually every sphere of human activity: education, the family, child welfare as well as every other area of existence needs the controlling and guiding hand of the state. All parents everywhere should be alert to this problem and resist this outcome."
During the national Time to Talk deliberative event held simultaneously across the UK in 2007 as part of the public consultation behind the development of its Children’s Plan parents argued that they felt the Government would rather police parents instead of helping them. The number of signatories to the petition to date shows just how many parents agree and are against the increasing approach of Government to regulate rather than support.
In her petition, Ms Featherstone also calls for the end of the Review which when it was first announced led to an outcry from amongst the home education community with Education Otherwise calling it "offensive". Outrage focused not just on the implication that some home educators could be using it as a cover for abuse, but also on the fact that the results from the previous four consultations affecting home educators consistently supported the view that existing laws were sufficient to the task of protecting home educated children and that, should parents fail in their duties, the law in its present form represented a satisfactory balance between protecting children and the need for privacy and autonomy in family life.
Some commentators have warned that prescribing the suitability of education amongst home educating families could lead to much wider implications for all parents. Ms Featherstone says "If this were to be legislated for, there would be a huge constitutional change in everyone's relationship with the state, for by this it would be established that it is now the government which determines the limits and the nature of educational provision."
Referring to calls for the Government to allow Local Authorities to assess home educating families to see that they meet the five ambitions as outlined in the Children Act, Ms Featherstone said "If the state were to insist upon assessing families for their success in meeting these ambitions, every family everywhere, schooling or otherwise, will no longer be able to determine their own ambitions for themselves. "
The online questionnaire that was open to home educators to submit their views to Graham Badman, charged with heading up the Review, received 2109 responses and it is understood that 48 local authorities completed the questionnaire sent by Mr Badman to all local authorities. Should the Government fail to respond to the call for the Review to be abandoned, it is anticipated that a Report on the Review will be issued some time during May.
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