Parents of Matilda star Were prepared to go to jail in home

first_imgThe parents of a child actress who starred as Matilda in the award-winning musical have warned they are prepared to go to jail in an escalating row over her home schooling.Edward Hardy and his wife Eileen Tracy have been ordered by their local council to send their 12-year-old daughter Lilian to school by March 7 – or else face prosecution.Mr Hardy and Ms Tracy are refusing to comply with Westminster Council’s ultimatum and have vowed to go to jail if needs be. If convicted the couple would be liable for a fine, but they would refuse to pay it as a point of principle and are ready to go to prison to stand up for the right to home school Lilian.Writing in the Telegraph, Ms Tracy, 50, says: “We have no intention whatsoever of complying with Westminster’s order. We are exercising our rights under the law to ask them to rescind it, and we will appeal to the Secretary of State if they refuse. “If that fails, we would oppose the council in court – and if necessary, though it doesn’t bear thinking about, we would go to jail.”Mr Hardy, 51, who works full-time in a primary school in London, said: “We would both be prepared to go to jail. However absurd a situation that appears to be.” Ms Tracy writes: “But Lilian’s success seems not to be enough for our local authority, Westminster City Council. Shortly after it issued her performing licence, which put her on their radar, it requested to meet her. We declined this unwarranted inspection, offering instead a range of samples of her work and activities which we felt spoke for themselves. The Department of Education’s guidelines for local authorities ask councils not to ascertain the suitability of the child’s work or routinely inspect, so this should have been enough.  Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. “Westminster responded that it operates its own policy, and demanded we either permit an inspection or provide some endorsement by an educator who knows the child. Now the council has ordered us to send Lilian to school by March 7; if we do not, we could be prosecuted, convicted and fined.”Ms Tracy goes on: “Perhaps we could end this easily by letting a qualified tutor sign off on her work. But there is a crucial principle at stake. Right now, home education is under sustained attack. The magnificent work of parents who dedicate their lives to their children is being maligned with insinuations of neglect and abuse.”A Westminster Council spokesman: “The council respect the rights of parents to home educate and are committed to supporting parents who make that choice. Local authorities had a statutory obligation to ensure that resident children receive a suitable education.“In Westminster, the majority of families meet with the home education adviser to discuss their education. Alternatively, parents have the option to provide endorsements from an education professional involved in the delivery of child’s education.“We have explained to Mr Hardy and Ms Tracy that we cannot solely rely on samples of their child’s work to form a view about the suitability of their education.” In her Telegraph article, Ms Tracy, 50, explained how Westminster Council has been demanding that the family meets with a home education adviser or else submits to “endorsement by an educator” who knows Lilian. The couple have refused the council’s requests and instead sent the local authority examples of Lilian’s work. Ms Tracy, author of The Student’s Guide to exam Success, point out that ‘vindication’ of their home schooling methods is clear from Lilian’s success in auditioning and winning the lead role in Matilda. She spent three months in rehearsal and performed in the musical for six months until her run came to an end in September.The girl’s situation only came to the attention of Westminster Council when the Royal Shakespeare Company, which produces the West End show, applied for a child performance licence so that Lilian could join the cast.last_img read more