These are some of the outcomes achieved by home educators from talking to their MPs
- Mass presentation of petitions to parliament
- Mass lobby of MPs
- Setting up of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Home Education
- Parliamentary events on various home education topics
- Private members debate in parliament
- MP visiting local groups
- MP putting forward Early Day Motions in support of home education or against increased regulation
- MP writing to the Secretary of State for Education on your behalf (it doesn’t matter which political party your MP is, all can do this)
- Opposition MPs putting your questions to one of the party spokespeople for Education
I also wrote here about how the decision makers and those who want to influence decisions know that home educators talk to their MPs and what difference that makes.
This link explains how MPs can assist their constituents. Individuals won’t get an answer if they contact Ministers directly; it has to go through your MP who will write to the relevant department or official on your behalf.
NB Parliament will be dissolved at the end of March 2015 so your MP won’t be able to do anything at Westminster until after the election (assuming they get elected, which will be the topic of another blog post).
During the normal parliamentary term your MP might go public and raise the issue in the House of Commons, where it will be officially recorded. This can work extremely well. Graham Stuart and Lord Lucas usually manage to jump in to the debate whenever home education comes up, for example when Lord Lucas asked whether the Government was going to slip something into the Apprenticeships Bill or when Graham Stuart challenged the Minister about there being no overarching duty to investigate.
Parliamentary questions (PQs) can also put the Government on the spot,
However, questions and answers are published and form part of the official record, so you need to be a bit cautious if your MP asks a probing question about the Government’s attitude, when you aren’t sure what the answer might be since having something definitive on record might be the worse option. (Arguably this is what happened over flexischooling here)
Where home educators have already got a conversation going then MPs will be less susceptible to being swayed by any shock/horror headlines or outside pressure groups calling for things to be “tightened up.”
That’s why it’s a good idea to see your MP in the run-up to the election. Some areas always elect the same MP by a large majority so you really only need to talk to your usual MP but in other areas everything might be up for grabs, which I’ll cover in another blog post.
My advice is to think about the points you want to make and also think about what you want your MP to do. It might just be to understand a bit more about home education. It might be to establish a connection so that if there is a crisis in future, you won’t be starting from scratch. The message to get across is that you will be keeping an eye on things and your MP can expect to hear from you if there is a problem.
Find your MP here. You can do a little digging beforehand but you will only really find out what your MP thinks about home education by having a conversation. You may not be able to clear up all the misunderstandings, or extract a cast-iron guarantee of support, but it is always useful to know where politicians are coming from.
Bear in mind that your MP may know next to nothing about home education. MPs might also have their own views about safeguarding or educational standards and it is important to prepare yourself mentally for a conversation with someone who might initially appear not to be 100% on board with your views.
MPs generally offer between ten minutes and half an hour for an appointment at the local constituency surgery, so you need to focus on what you want to achieve, since you may not have much time. It’s very effective if you can get together with other home educators locally and make a group appointment, although the MPs office might be very small, so you’re looking at probably no more than 4 or 5.
Whatever you’ve decided you need to say, your MP is very likely to ask you why you home educate, so it’s worth thinking about how you can boil your answer down to a few soundbites and to get across to your MP why home education works for your family. Personal stories always make a big impression.
If your children were previously at school, you could briefly compare their experience of school with home education You might also want to consider providing some minimal facts and figures about home education (eg “Latest figures show that there are around 27,000 home educated children across the country”) Provide full postal address as MPs are only obliged to respond to their own constituents. A telephone number enables the constituency office to clarify details quickly with you.
With Labour MPs, you might want to show them what Barry Sheerman is saying and ask whether they will distance themselves in some way or whether they agree. That’s what I’m going to be saying to my Labour MP in a couple of weeks.