Rights and Responsibilities: the law and education

Today it has been announced that Harrow Council (London) has dropped a Court case being brought against a mother who tried to get her child into a popular school by allegedly falsifying information (she claimed to be living at her mother’s which was in the School catchment area, rather than her family home, which wasn’t). The Council has called on the Government to amend the Fraud Act to allow such prosecutions.

If that were to happen we would have at least two ways in which parents could be taken to Court by educational authorities to enforce their responsibilities. Parents are under a legally enforceable obligation to educate their children. Now a legally enforceable obligation to be be honest in applications for school places. Neither of which I personally disagree with. But at the same time this week the Government announced new ‘entitlements’ for parents and children in their White Paper, but made it clear these would not be legally enforceable.

In short – education authorities can take you to Court to enforce responsibilities but you can’t take them to Court to enforce entitlements. Does that really sound balanced? Is this really “empowering” parents? Does it sound like a qualitative shift in power towards users of public services? It would be interesting to hear politicians – Government and Opposition – have a serious discussion on this balance rather than just indulge in the usual rhetorical flourishes.

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