A SCHOOL headmaster once observed that he would regularly consult his prefects on the running of the establishment. When he agreed with them, he would allow their views to prevail. It was only when they disagreed that he had to impose his will. On October 19th the schools secretary, Ed Balls, closed a consultation, the outcome of which he seems to have decided already. Legislation will be introduced to force parents wishing to educate their children at home to register with the state and undergo regular inspections.
Mr Balls says he is worried that children who do not attend school risk being abused by those looking after them. An earlier review by Graham Badman, a former head of children’s services in Kent who is now based at London University’s Institute of Education, found that in some areas a disconcertingly high proportion of home-schooled children were known to social services–ie, cause for concern.
No one is sure how many children in Britain are taught at home. York Consulting, a management outfit, put the figure at 20,000 in 2007. It could actually be more than 50,000, reckons Mike Fortune-Wood, who runs a support service for parents educating their children at home, and the total may be rising by 10% a year.