The department has drawn the Information Commissioner's attention to an apparent campaign to vilify and harass Mr Graham Badman and others. It released a letter sent by the department to the Information Commissioner explaining the nature of the campaign in response to an FOI request. This is available on the department's freedom of information disclosure log at http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/foischeme/subPage.cfm?action=disclosures.display&i_subcategorvyID =31&i_collectionID=345. The department recently reviewed the position and noted that the apparent campaign is continuing and that the scope has been extended to cover both Ministers and officials in both DCSF and local authorities. It will review the position again in the new year.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, under the Children, Schools and Families Bill, a local authority will have the right to refuse permission to home educate if a parent refuses to allow the local authority unaccompanied access to his or her child. [HL432]
The Children, Schools and Families Bill will give local authorities the power to make arrangements for monitoring the education being provided to home educated children in their area. These arrangements can only include seeing the child unaccompanied if the parents and child agree.
The Bill also sets out the circumstances in which a local authority can remove a child from the register and so, in effect, prevent them from being home educated. One of the circumstances is where parents refuse to co-operate with the arrangements made by the LA. LAs may be able to satisfy themselves that a child's education is adequate without seeing the child alone, but in some cases an interview with the child may be needed.
The Bill provides for regulations to make provision for the steps to be taken by an authority when they are considering removing a child from the register and about the matters that are or are not to be taken into account when making that decision. One of the purposes of these regulations will be to set out to local authorities how they can be satisfied that a child is receiving a suitable education, which may be achieved in many cases without seeing the child with no parent present. Parents will have the right of appeal against any decision by a local authority to remove a child from the register.
The detailed evidence collected from Birmingham City Council will not be made available in the Library of the House as responses by local authorities contain information which might lead to individual children being identified if the data released were combined with other data that are publicly available, or which could be obtained by other means, including Freedom of Information Act requests. We are also concerned that release of the questionnaire could make local authorities reluctant to co-operate with departmental surveys in the future. In the context of the review of elective home education the department takes the view that release of such information could lead to harassment and vilification of individuals in the authority who were known to, or suspected to, have contributed to completion of the questionnaire.