Memorandum submitted by North and West Yorkshire Home Educators

Comments on the Conduct of the Review, including on;  

1. The terms of reference

2. The launch of the review

3. Character of the questions in the Consultation Document(s)

4. Misrepresentation of evidence

5. Tampering with data

6. Unreliable statistics

7. Related consultations

8. Impact assessment

9. Costs

10. Post-review call for supporting evidence  

The constitution of the review team, including;  

11. positive points

12. negative points

13. Issues around independence/impartiality  

Suppression of Information

14. Local Authority obstruction

15. DCSF obstruction

The recommendations made by the review

The Conduct of the Review and Related Consultations 

1. The Scope of the Terms of Reference for the Review

The terms of reference wrongly assume: 

That home education was known to be a possible cover for abuse and that the "extent" of actual risk needs investigating and preventing. The review has failed to substantiate this claim and FOI requests have shown there is no significant evidence. furthermore all cited cases of abuse have been in families not hidden from the LA. This claim has laid the lives of home educated children open to public scandal and harassment. It is also discriminatory to isolate a group for investigation in this way for risks of abuse in the home when other parents would not be so investigated. 

That there is a system in place for monitoring home education standards. There is not - current monitoring is ultra vires. There are no set standards other than those set by Education Act 1996 Section7. The review set out to study how LAs carry out their duties by investigating the extent to which they are successful in carrying out policies that are outside their legal remit. New regulations cannot be made on this basis. 

That there are barriers for those with a duty to safeguard. There are none - current law is sufficient. Those barriers experienced by LAs are to ultra vires practices such as compulsory home visits in the absence of reasonable concern.

That Every Child Matters Outcomes apply to home education - ECM outcomes are terms of reference for LAs to be mindful of during the course of their legitimate duties, not for parents or children to adhere to.  

That parents are partners with the LA and others in the education of their children - They are not. Parents delegate their duty to educate their children to LAs when they send children to school. Responsibility for education always rests with the parent. 

2. Launch of the Review:

 The review was launched with a public attack, repeated in the Press on many occasions, on home educating parents from various sources which proclaimed, without evidence, that home education might be used as a cover for child abuse. 

All home educating parents are classed as potential child abusers by this review in contravention of: 

Human Rights Act: ARTICLE 8

"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." 

UNCRC: Article 16

1. No child shall be subjected to ... attacks on his or her honour and reputation.

2. The child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

(Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding,) 

UNCRC: Article 17

States Parties recognize the important function performed by the mass media ... 

To this end, States Parties shall:

(e) Encourage the development of appropriate guidelines for the protection of the child from information and material injurious to his or her well-being. 

3. Character of the questions in the Consultation Document(s)

The questions in the online (six question) consultation asked if children can attain the ECM five outcomes. The five outcomes are aims for local authorities in the provision of services to children. They are not a requirement for families or individual children to attain. Children have a right to own their own lives and to develop their own aims and objectives.

4. Misrepresentation of evidence: 

Discussions with home educators were misrepresented or used selectively and this unwelcome interpretation did not come to light until FOI requests were made to DCSF.

Furthermore Dr P Rothermel's research was erroneously dismissed by Badman, who concluded the size of the sample was too small because he focussed only on a subsection of the research. 

5. Cost implications and impact on families and services: 

Baroness Delyth Morgan stated that the costs of implementing this legislation will be minimal. It is our opinion, however, that the costs of setting up the recommended state inspectorate of families and children, its maintenance and enforcement will be considerable. 

Staff working to safeguard children in real need will find funds diverted away home educating families become subject to routine investigation for safeguarding reasons.An estimated 50,000 children would need to be assessed and visited in their home at least annually - compared to the less than 20,000 known to LAs most not visited or annually assessed. The Home Education Advisory Service (HEAS) has produced an analysis of the projected costs estimating around 500 Million per year, which would not seem unreasonable with that estimate of numbers, and there could always be more.

The proposal for forced right of access to homes and access to children without their parents will undermine the integrity and security of the home. It will confuse and damage healthy children in a disproportionate and damaging exercise to seek out abusers. It will contravene the right to both private and family life, and the right to the assumption of innocence where there is no reasonable cause for concern. Many of us will resist what amounts to state sponsored grooming of children forced to accept unwelcome attentions against their will from strangers in a position of authority. While not wanting to be alarmist, we see this as pandering to a paedophile friendly agenda.

The review seeks make the education of all children of compulsory education age the responsibility of the LA. Should this happen, LAs would become liable for their well documented failures to ensure the suitable education of all children; at the moment that responsibility remains with the parent. The implications of this have not been assessed.

Also left unconsidered are the possible costs to the judicial system. Many families will fight any criminal sanctions that might be instigated. This might well take us back to the early days of legal challenge to forced school attendance, when it was established that parents had to satisfy a reasonable person that the provision of education for a child would fit them for their place in society. It would not be surprising if, just as then, home educating families won their legal battles, but at what unnecessary financial cost to the nation?

6. Post-Review call for supporting evidence

Mr Graham Badman has recently called for post review evidence. This would suggest that the original evidence he collected was not sufficiently rigorous and therefore should not have been used to inform his recommendations.

7. Independence of Review

Mr Badman, former Director of Children's Services for Kent, cannot be said to be independent/impartial in the matter of elective home education.

Mr Badman's review aims to legalise long term ultra vires policies and practices, which Mr Badman thought appropriate in his role as Director of Children's Services for Kent, against which home educators have previously sought the protection of law. They would require fundamental changes to existing legislation.

Mr Badman's recent appeal to LAs for evidence to support his findings post review, also displays his bias and presumption of guilt of all home educators. His new questionnaire includes those children for whom there has been no assessment and those who prefer to offer information in response to LA enquiries in a legally acceptable form that is not the preferred practice of the authority in the total of children not receiving a suitable education. The other definitions of an unsuitable education are also not currently definitions in law: e.g. "full time" is not defined for home education so a specific time in hours cannot be demanded if it is not suited for a particular child.  

 Nektus:

Nektus is a private company specialising in education management and was first registered as a company in October 2008. (Information from Companies House.) Mr and Mrs Badman are listed as directors along with family members. 

We believe that this compromises the independence of Mr Badman as his company, set up before the review was announced, could benefit financially from the regulation and management of elective home education.

8. The members of the review team

Of the 12 panel members, 11 seem to have had no experience of elective home education.

Mr Graham Badman, the leader of the review, has, at all times when meeting with home educators. Demonstrated a lack of understanding of home education, especially autonomous education and, as far as we can gather, has read very little of the eminent body of literature available to inform him in preparation for his task.

While experience of elective home education is lacking in the panel members there is a high incidence of members representing safeguarding for which there is no evidence of need so little relevance to EHE, neither does the voluntary sector representation seem relevant. There are 2 SEN representatives, both of whom are ardent supporters of inclusion into mainstream for these children, which puts them in conflict with the ideology of home education. 3 members are experts in ECM, so should appreciate that the 5 outcomes should not bind parents and children, but have not made this evident in Badman's understanding.

There is also the potential conflict of interest in that 2 members of the panel, employed by charities offering alternative educational provision, could gain from certain outcomes.

9. The Recommendations Made by the Review on Elective Home Education

The launch, the report itself and the media coverage all pay lip-service to the respect of the DCSF and Review Team for the parents right to home educate as they see fit and claim that they only wish to reconcile that properly with the rights of the child to a suitable education. This seems to be no more than a deliberate attempt to alienate the public toward home educators who "must have something to hide" if they don't agree with the Review. Never apparent in these press releases are those details demonstrating that the recommendations would effectively outlaw choice and freedom in home education such that, for example, the autonomous education from which many of our older children have benefited, will no longer be possible. 

To focus on the most contentious of the recommendations.

We have already commented on our opinion and antagonism towards the idea of giving LA officials access for monitoring purposes to our children without parental presence.

Recommendation 1: Compulsory registration and monitoring system

This would require changes to primary legislation. We do not see any need for such changes. Not only would they prove costly financially but they would shift the burden of responsibility for education from the parent to the state.

 Legislating for the monitoring of home education has already been mentioned as a foregone conclusion in the "Improving schools and safeguarding children bill" on June 29th: http://www.commonsleader.gov.uk/output/Page2831.asp four months before the public consultation on the subject of the monitoring of home education is due to end. (The closing date for responses 19th October 2009) 

Recommendation 2: advises 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." 

The Rose review is about rearrangement to the National Curriculum FOR SCHOOLS and does not apply to home educated children who are to be educated according to section seven of the Education Act 1996.

The consultation document proposes that "where there are serious concerns about the ability of the parent to provide their child with a suitable education in a safe environment then they should not be permitted to educate their child at home."

Current statute already makes provision for a School Attendance Order to be issued where a parent fails to cause a child to receive a suitable education otherwise than at school and Supervision or Care Orders to be issued where a child is at risk. 

It makes no sense whatsoever to claim that if a child's home is unsafe then this can be remedied by sending the child to school though the child will be in the home at all other times than school hours. Safeguarding issues are not served by these recommendations

If it education is not suitable there is already a remedy in Section 437 of the Education Act 1996. Consulting on this issue was always, therefore, a waste of public funds.

This recommendation conflicts directly with the Education Act 1996, Section 7 which provides that the parent is responsible for deciding where a child's education takes place and also with the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006 which provide that a parent may remove a child from the school register to educate the child otherwise than at school and that deregistration must take place with immediate effect. 

It is also in direct conflict with that fundamental principle of English law - the presumption of innocence. There is no justice in a local authority having the right to prejudge whether a parent may in the future fail in their legal duty to provide a suitable education in accordance with the Education Act 1996. But by putting in the phrase, "any other concern", it allows for LA personnel to do just that, leaving the parent no opportunity for legal redress.

Home Educating families are a fairly average cross section of the community. There are likely to be children at risk amongst them, but, we would argue, that, not only will there be a lower percentage of children at risk amongst home educating families, because the neglectful or careless parent would be more likely to want a free child minding service and those children who were at risk because of bullying in school will have been removed from that situation, but there are already statutes in place to deal with safeguarding issues.

We would recommend that, before you sit to look at these recommendations, you read the work of Paula Rothermel and Alan Thomas, and also Jan Fortune-Wood, Roland Meighan, John Holt, John Taylor Gatto and Alice Miller; and that you look at some of the educational philosophies of home educators, posted on the Education Otherwise website amongst others. Then you may come to this with some understanding of where home educators are coming from and how the changes recommended by Graham Badman could be damaging to the concept of Home Education.

We don't know how true it is, but it has been suggested that somewhere in the rubric of the Lisbon Treaty is a recommendation to bring the EU in line with those member states where home education is illegal-in line with Hitler's 3rd Reich directive. Sweden is pushing ahead now. I see no reason why Lisbon should be allowed to achieve what Hitler failed to manage.

 September 2009