Memorandum submitted by Karen FitzGerald

 

Elective Home Education Inquiry

 

Summary

 

Home education and safeguarding are separate issues

Graham Badman has not understood home education and how children learn out of school

The 'evidence' is neither substantiated nor representative; pro-home education evidence is ignored

Existing laws governing home education are adequate

Recommendations are ill-conceived, expensive and contravene English, European and Human rights legislation; affect all children and change the relationship of the State, parents and children

 

 

Introduction

 

1. There are two separate strands to this Review, arguably three; education, protection and welfare. Had the Terms of Reference delineated these different aspects, the resulting report would have been clearer. Continually playing the child protection card is emotive and hinders constructive debate.

 

Home Education: the legal bases

 

2. Annex E of the Review of Elective Home Education sets out the legislative framework governing home education (and the separate 'safeguarding' responsibilities of Local Authorities).

3. Barrister Ian Dowty considers "the powers available to Local Authorities completely adequate to ensure that children of compulsory school age receive a suitable education" [a]

4. This view was shared by Lord Adonis and quoted by Andrew George, MP, during the home education debate at Westminster Hall [b].
Recommendation 2 is therefore unnecessary.

5. Dowty further questions whether the Revised Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities to identify children not receiving a suitable education, issued January 2009, "is not an unlawful extension outside the scope of the enabling section 436A Education Act 1996" and "whether it goes no further than the 'duty to be alert' proposed in Phillips v Brown" [a]

6. If the guidelines are truly "unworkable" as stated in paragraph 1.3 of the Review, why don't all Local Authorities find them unworkable and why isn't the issue addressed with the individual Authorities?

Home Education: practice and effectiveness

 

7. Despite many references to not being prescriptive, the Review seeks to enforce the school model on home educators.

8. Alan Thomas and Harriet Pattison found informal learning, also described as autonomous or child-led, as highly efficient [c]

9. Research by Dr. Paula Rothermel found home educated children often out-performed school their going peers, especially among lower socio-economic groups [d]

10. Not only are the voices of such Consultees not heard, their evidence is arbitrarily refuted [e]

Registration and monitoring

11. Education is the responsibility of parents (Annex E), yet Recommendation 1 makes the choice to educate other than at school dependent on the Local Authority granting an annual licence. Effectively this is the State registering a child, which contravenes existing Regulations [f] and primary legislation [g] [h]

12. The requirement of a plan and outcomes, against which children will be later be measured (Recommendations 7 and 8), shows Badman has neither understood home education practice nor accepted its effectiveness [c, d]

13. Dowty highlights the conflict of interest in giving Local Authorities parental responsibility and judicial duty, and the use of laws that reverse the presumption of innocence enshrined in Article 6 European Convention of Human Rights [h]

14. Sometimes parents are driven to home educate following prolonged bullying which the school is unable to stop. Andrew George, MP, made this point [b] and Education Otherwise, among others, find it necessary to provide specialist anti-bullying support [i]. It seems unbelievably cruel to suggest a child stay in this damaging situation for another 20 days (Recommendation 1).

15. IF controversial registration and monitoring were put in place, a transparent appeals system would be needed.


Safeguarding: Protection

16. Home-based education perhaps most accurately describes education out of school. Much time is spent in the community by children whose education is home-based, thus there are many opportunities for 'other eyes to bear' [j]. The children's survey 'Home educated, not hidden' demonstrates this fact [k]

17. The Terms of Reference sought to identify "The extent to which home education could be used as a 'cover' for child abuse ....." but no findings are given.

18. If there is no safeguarding issue there is no right of access to the home under current law (Recommendation 7). If it were mandated it would apply to all children.

19. The National Association of Social Workers in Education accepts that "Elective Home Education has become conflated with safeguarding concerns which may exist regardless of the method by which a child receives education" [l]

20. Recommendation 23 refers both to "properly evidenced concerns" and "anything else which may affect their (parents') ability to provide a suitable and efficient education". The latter is too subjective and the former outside the remit of "those charged with monitoring ... home education".

21. If registration is refused or revoked on safeguarding grounds (Recommendation 24), is it safe for that child (children) to be with those parents at all?



Safeguarding: Welfare

 

22. Every Child Matters is not about child protection. Further, Local Authorities do not have any duty to ensure home educated children achieve the five ECM outcomes [h]

23. Dowty notes "it is really important to re-affirm the difference in approach between child protection and the delivery of services ... particularly in the case of home educating families [a]. Recommendation 22 conflates these issues.

24. Recommendation 9: Why is training in the subjective Common Assessment Framework necessary?

25. Under the Children's Act 2004, a Local Authority must have regard not only to guidance issued by the government but, crucially, also
"to the importance of parents and other persons caring for children" [a]
Badman uses selective quotes to advance his argument.

Disproportionate Conclusions

26. As elsewhere, Badman arbitrarily dismisses the views of parents in section 8, raises questions which require further research while basing recommendations on his own views and, by his own admission, a 'small sample' of Local Authorities [n]

27. Education Otherwise have been told by home educators that their outcomes were dismissed, although the input from just four families in the NFER study was accepted [h]

28. Results form a Freedom of Information enquiry revealed that just 25 out of 153 Local Authorities replied to Badman's original request for information [o]

29. Recommendation 21 refers explicitly to "current speculation" and "child protection concerns .... which may well be exaggerated"

 

30. Only now is Badman calling for "good quality factual information" that is "statistically robust" [n]. Surely this is an admission that the Review and its recommendations are prejudiced and thus fatally flawed?

31. In considering the 'balance between the rights of the parents and the rights of the child' [m] and 'giving children a voice' [o], does Badman realise this applies to schooled children too?!!

 

 

Children with Special Educational Needs

 

I am not qualified to comment on the Recommendations made in respect of children identified as having special educational needs, but hope you will listen to those with knowledge of the area.

 


Conclusion

 

Article 29 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child endorses "respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms" in the education of the child and, notably,

"the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance equality ...."

 

Graham Badman has written his own prescriptive philosophy of education. His report is contradictory, unlawful, unrepresentative and unsubstantiated, citing safeguarding issues to push forward damaging recommendations.

If accepted they will destroy home-based education as currently practised by many with its attendant positive results, the happiness of these children and their families which is surely at the heart of well-being and achievement, affect all children and change the relationship of the State, parents and children irrevocably.

 

September 2009

 

 

References

 

[a] Ian Dowty 'The Home Education Review' Education Otherwise Newsletter June 2009

 

[b] Mark Field's Westminster Hall debate on Home Education, 9 June 2009

 

[c] Thomas, A and Pattison, H (2007) How Children Learn at Home. London, Continuum International Publishing Group

 

[d] Rothermel, P (2002) Home Education: Rationales, Practices and Outcomes. Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Durham

[e] Review of Elective Home education, paragraph 10.2

 

[f] Pupil Registration Regulations England 2006

[g] Section 434, Education Act 1996

[h] Notes of a meeting held with Barrister Ian Dowty, Home Education Advisory Service and Education, 4 July 2009.
Published on www.freedomforeducationtogrow.org website

 

[i] Education Otherwise, Registered Charity No. 1055120

[j] Review of Elective Home education, paragraph 8.4

 

[k] Children's survey at http:// www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=veji5Wd5BwIHLOxVB1hCRA_3d_3d

 

[l] Review of Elective Home Education, paragraph 8.8

 

[m] Review of Elective Home education, paragraph 1.5

 

[n] Letter from Graham Badman, DSCF, dated 18 September 2009

[o] Education Otherwise Press Release 18 September 2009

 

[p] Review of Elective Home Education, paragraph 3.3