Memorandum submitted by Gill Kilner
Inquiry into the DCSF-commissioned review of elective home education
Written submission on:
• the conduct of the review and related consultations (e.g. the constitution of the review team; the scope of the terms of reference for the review; and the nature of the consultation documents).
• the recommendations made by the review on elective home education.
This submission encompasses:
· The problems for autonomous education presented by the Badman report (Paragraphs 1, 2 and 3);
· A brief overview of my assessment of the report (Paragraph 4);
· How the report makes make careful use of language in several key areas to obscure or dress up its real meaning (Paragraphs 5 and 6);
· Issues in the report to do with safeguarding (Paragraphs 7 and 8);
· Some legal issues presented by the report (Paragraph 9);
· Areas in which the report appears to be completely illogical (Paragraph 10); and
· A financial issue raised (Paragraph 11).
The problems for autonomous education presented by the Badman report
1. I had very little involvement with the compilation of the report or the process of the review itself apart from, along with some nearly 2000 of my fellow home educators, submitting a response to the six questions which I feel (in common with most of them) was summarily ignored. I understand that other parents went out of their way to spend time with Mr Badman during the process, explaining to him at length the concept of autonomous learning, amongst other things and I'm told that he appeared to take on board what they were saying at the time. However, his report belies this completely, because it renders the method almost impossible to practice. My older children who have now all but completed their [autonomous] education with good outcomes all agree that their success would have been significantly marred had the Badman recommendations been in effect in the last ten years.
2. The main problem the report presents for autonomous education is the requirement to present in advance a plan for each year of learning, and for the parents to be 'required to allow' the child to demonstrate its achievements at the end of each year, so that officers can check that this matches the plan. But autonomous education follows the child's interests with spontaneity, which keeps alive the spark of curiosity that is so essential to effective learning. This is something that might not be feasible with a school-type teacher: pupil ratio, but it makes perfect sense to do at home with all of the time, freedom and resources we have.
3. In his report, Mr Badman suggested that autonomous learning might be "a quality of education that lacks pace, rigour and direction", showing a complete lack of understanding, insight and tolerance of this radical but eminently successful approach. He calls for more research, but if his recommendations are enacted (specifically Nos. 1 and 7) there will be no autonomous education left to research because home educating parents will all have to teach to the plan, in the same way as school teachers do.
A brief overview of my assessment of the report
4. Since the Badman report was published in June, I've spent what available spare time I had (as a home educating mother of five) making my own detailed assessment of its content. I found that there were five areas in which it presented problems: on the issues of use of language; about safeguarding; legal factors; questionable logical reasoning and about finances.
How the report makes make careful use of language in several key areas to obscure or dress up its real meaning
5. The report seems to make careful use of language in several key areas to obscure or dress up its real meaning, repeatedly referring to such things as parental rights, for example (instead of - as the law states - their legal duties). This supports the erroneous suggestion that there is some conflict between parents' and children's rights, when in fact these are completely compatible with the more accurate position of parental duties.
6. The recommendations describe a system of licensing for home educators, but refer to this throughout as a system of registration, which it is quite evidently not and even at one point (Recommendation 7) descends to such a linguistically tangled contrivance as: "That parents be required to allow the child.." [my emphasis] instead of stating its real meaning: '..compelled to coerce..'. These and the many other examples throughout the report of obfustication combine to signify a serious underlying degree of fundamental dishonesty, which the author must have deemed necessary to convey what can therefore only be a set of publicly unacceptable concepts.
Issues in the report to do with safeguarding
7. The review itself was launched on the pretext of alleged safeguarding concerns, and yet a compilation of local authorities' own statistics demonstrate that such concerns were unfounded and that a strict monitoring regime would therefore be disproportionate. An hour spent in the company of a child once a year by a local authority's education officer would also be an absurdly ineffective method of safeguarding and the potential psychological damage to children and families by such an inspection regime as the one proposed in the report is completely overlooked.
8. Recommendation 24 contains the nonsensical suggestion that a family might not be deemed able to provide a sufficiently safe environment for home education, but nevertheless be left with residential care of its children. We would contend that a child at risk of severe neglect or abuse in its family home is at the same level risk regardless of whether education takes place at home or at school.
Some legal issues presented by the report
9. The report's recommendations give rise to five serious legal issues, namely: (from recommendation 7) whether it's the educational provision, or the child's uptake of this which is compulsory; that the method of autonomous education in its purest form will not be possible under recommendations 1 and 7, due to the necessity to plan and demonstrate uptake of planned learning; that the proposed de facto licensing scheme will breach a parent's inherent right to educate his child according to his own philosophy; that the 'anything else' rider of the list in recommendation 23 might potentially lead local authority officers to make arbitrary and prejudiced decisions; and that several of the recommendations ride roughshod over the presumption of innocence.
Areas in which the report appears to be completely illogical
10. There are four aspects of the report which defy any form of logical reasoning: recognising the need for good relations between home educators and local authorities, but then recommending a list of procedures which would render this all but impossible; calling for "further research into the efficacy of autonomous learning" - after recommending the effective outlawing of the practice which would somewhat challenge the availability of data for such research; [in recommendation 15] seeking to prevent the alleged practice of 'off-rolling' whilst failing to allow for Local Authorities' duty to publicise the option to home educate; and again, in recommendation 24 suggesting that that some children might be quite safe at home with their families in the evenings, through the night, at weekends and throughout the entire school holidays - but not between the hours of 9am and 3pm whilst being home educated instead of attending school.
A financial issue raised
11. Finally, the report raises a financial issue in its section 9, in which it implies that the AWPU of home educated children should be drawn down to fund the administration of the recommendations, but not their actual educational provision.