Memorandum submitted by Peter A Williams
This is a submission on the review of elective home
education by Graham Badman. It covers the conduct of the review and related
consultations and the recommendations made by the review on elective home
education. Before I begin here is a little bit about myself. I am a home
educated child and I enjoy home education because of the freedom it offers. I
am 13 years old. My favorite subjects are Maths, Physics, Art and Computer
Skills. I am very talented at chess and I have played in the European Junior
Chess Championships twice. The first time was in
· Recommendation 1, recommending a compulsory registry system.
· Recommendation 2 recommending that the DCSF review the current definition of a suitable education.
· Recommendation 7 recommending that LA officers should have the right of access to the house and the right to speak with the child alone.
· Recommendation 11 recommending ideas to support home education.
· Recommendation 23 recommending that LA's should inform those charged with the monitoring and support of home education of any properly evidenced concerns that they have of the parent's or carer's ability to provide a suitable education irrespective of whether or not they are known to social services on such grounds as alcohol and drug abuse, incidents of domestic violence and anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable education.
· The main point of the review which is the fact that home education could be used as a cover for abuse.
I will now cover these in more detail.
1. Recommendation 1. Local Authorities should establish a compulsory registration system. There is a Contactpoint database so it doesn't make sense to have two registers. Graham Badman also says that home educators should send in a twelve month plan of how they will educate their child. Do home educators now have to educate their child all year-round? Aren't they allowed holidays? Another problem is what will the cost of this register be?
2. Recommendation 2
That the DCSF review the current statutory definition of what constitutes a
"Suitable" and "efficient" education in the light of the Rose review of the primary
curriculum and other changes to curriculum assessment and definition throughout
statutory school age. Such a review should take account of the five Every Child
Matters outcomes determined by the 2004 Children Act, should not be overly
prescriptive but be sufficiently defined to secure a broad, balanced, relevant and
differentiated curriculum that would allow children and young people educated
at home to have sufficient information to enable them to expand their talents and
make choices about likely careers. The outcome of this review should further inform
guidance on registration.
Home educators should be engaged in this process.
One man's opinion of a suitable education and another's are two different things. If a child is particularly talented at something then it should be able to spend more time on that talent rather than spending the same amount of time on all subjects. If this recommendation becomes law then the definition of a suitable education will become a monotonous equal studying of every subject. Home educated children have more freedom to choose what they want to learn.
3. Recommendation 7, LA officers should have the right of access to the house and the right to speak with the child alone. This is the most worrying recommendation; it is also the most unhelpful one. This may frighten younger children and what happens if the child doesn't want an inspection? Graham says that children have a right to have their views heard but he hasn't considered them at all! A survey was done to see if home educated children wanted inspections and the majority said they didn't. In the review Graham gives four examples of more helpful LA's and there is a simple reason why they are more helpful. It is all voluntary! What Graham is trying to do is force inspections on home educators. Force isn't the answer. This is a sweep of all home educated children. The police know that someone is going to commit a crime but they don't inspect everyone to find the person. Also when an LA officer finished interviewing a child on its own you would have no independent record of what was said.
4. Recommendation 11 is the most helpful one but Graham implies that the government might not be able to implement it. It recommends providing support to home educators such as providing access to school libraries and sports facilities. This is a useful idea. Recommendation 10 also talks about providing support to home educators but there is a nasty snag. One sentence says this, "Local authorities must provide support to home educating children and young people to find appropriate examination centres and provide entries free to all home educated candidates who have demonstrated sufficiently their preparedness through routine monitoring, for all DCSF funded qualifications. This saying home educators must be inspected otherwise they will not be allowed access to exam centres!
5. Recommendation 23 which says, That local authority adult services and other agencies be required to inform those charged with the monitoring and support of home education of any properly evidenced concerns that they have of parents' or carers' ability to provide a suitable education irrespective of whether or not they are known to children's social care, on such grounds as:
Alcohol or drug abuse
Incidents of domestic violence
Previous offences against children
And in addition:
Anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable and efficient education.
The phrase, "anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable and efficient education" could mean anything. Some Local Authorities do not like home education and so could use this to make things awkward for home educators.
6. The main point of the review was the fact that home education could be used as a cover for abuse. Firstly where is the evidence of that? Graham Badman actually said that he couldn't find any real evidence of it yet he decided to carry with the review anyway. Inspection from LA officers wouldn't work anyway. Baby P was visited over 60 times by social service yet they failed to protect him. If this recommendation is implemented then LA officers should also have to inspect children who go to school during the holidays just to make sure they are safe. And don't forget the child would only be safe for that day so the LA officer would have to come back the next day. I can predict the number of cases of abuse they would find. 0. You might find one or two but in those cases the children would most like be known to social services already.
7. Now we move onto the members of the review panel. The panel did not seem to have an understanding of home education and made no effort to understand it. Apart from Graham Badman's half-hearted meetings with some home educators. He didn't seem to listen to them though. The review panel also had a school-background. Twelve people deciding what to do with home education and none of them understand it. Graham Badman was Director of Children's Services for Kent and an education welfare officer and an education welfare officer's primary job is to get children back to school. Graham does not seem to be independent.
8 .Graham Badman says that home educated children are twice as more likely to be known to social services than children at school. A lot of these cases are actually of special needs requiring special equipment so they can live a better life. Their parents have to phone up social services to get this equipment and consequently they will be known to social services. Graham also says the phrase, "I believe" 16 times. You shouldn't make changes to the law just because someone says I believe.
9. In section 11 of the review
Graham mentions the 1930's legislation in
Finally Graham Badman says that there is an estimate of 20,000 home educated children but the real number could be up to 80,000. But on the NASW website he says there are only 8,000. Which is it? Graham Badman also said during the review that the status quo could not continue. That means he has reached a pre-determined outcome which of course he shouldn't. He just wrote the review already knowing what he was going to put in it. I have written to both Graham Badman and Ed Balls but they have not replied. I have also invited them to meet with me to discuss the review but I don't expect they will. I hope this helps. I do not agree with this review and other home educators don't either. Home educators need their voice heard.