Memorandum submitted by a Home Educated Student
- Introduction, about myself and home education
- The recommendations of the Badman review, and their implications
- the impact of the recommendations on home educated children
- the independence of the reviewer
- My recommendations as to what should be done considering this evidence.
1.1 I am a home educated child. I chose to home educate because school became traumatising for me after moving to a new area, and home education has proved to be a better option for me. I am 14 years old, and am currently taking several GCSE level or higher courses, spreading my GCSEs out over 2 years, but planning to complete some of them a year before I would have finished them if I were in the school system. The total number of these courses is approximately 13, varying from poetry, to politics, to physics; I am fascinated by the world around me, and I am interested in finding out how it works.
education encourages children to want to learn. It also encourages
independence, and is enjoyed greatly by children who use it. The methods used
vary greatly from family to family, some parents giving their children formal
lessons or hiring tutors, some employing
autonomous learning, where children follow their interests and learn with their
parents, gaining independence. Home education is also the natural method of
education; humans have home educated as long as we have existed. There is
statistical proof that the abuse rate of children educated at home is
disproportionately low, as compared to the national child abuse rate. http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=rbrk5-GEdrUdcmfi670Mihg&gid=1
The same conclusion could be arrived at through reasoning that parents who are
unsatisfied with the schooling system enough to remove their children from it
must care about them a great deal.
1.2 Contrary to popular belief, home educated children do not spend all their time at home; I have friends both in and outside the school system, who I see quite often.
Recommendations of the Badman review
2.1 This recommendation suggests annual "registration", but what it actually suggests would be more like licensing, because "registration" could be refused if there were safeguarding concerns, or concerns about the suitability of the education provided by parents. Safeguarding is a very vague term. This is illogical, if there are safeguarding concerns, parents would have no option but to send their children to school, which could be an unsuitable or traumatising environment, and would not stop any mistreatment. Parents would need LA approval to home educate their children, and would have to provide a "statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child over the following twelve months." No parent could be asked to predict what their children will want to learn at a given time, or how fast their children will learn. This recommendation tampers with section 7 of the 1996 education act, because once concerns are raised, parents would have no choice but to send their children to school.
2.2 The definition of a suitable education, which Badman suggested be reviewed, can be found in section 7 of the 1996 education act. An efficient education has only been defined in case law, something that Badman pointed out and quoted in the report. The recommendation also implies that a curriculum is necessary, if an education is to take place.
2.3 This is the most objectionable of the recommendations, in my opinion. It seeks to give "designated officials" the right to enter the private dwellings of Home Educators, and the right to speak with each child alone, for the purpose of determining whether the child is being mistreated or not. Also it recommends "That parents be required to allow the child through exhibition or other means to demonstrate both attainment and progress in accord with the statement of intent lodged at the time of registration."
2.4 It is doubtful that children would confide in a strange person, especially an official, if they had had unsettling experiences with authority in the past, such as in school. The reviewer seems to think that everyone looks up to authority, though in truth, many look away in disgust at policies that seem to be leading up to the state unofficially seizing parental responsibility.
2.5 I am also concerned about the possible conduct of inspectors when they are alone with children. The background of anyone doing this job would undoubtably be checked thoroughly. Nonetheless, it is easily possible that inappropriate people could still get access to people's homes.
Conduct and implications of the report
3.1 The result of the Badman review seems to have been predetermined by Graham Badman's bias; here is a letter that Graham Badman sent to the Directors of Children's Services All local authorities in England on the 17 of September 2009, requesting additional evidence to support the conclusions he reached in his "review".
3.2 The government should not consider, even
for a moment, basing legislation on a report where the evidence is so
questionable. In the letter above, Mr Badman requests LAs send him supplementary
data to strengthen his statistical evidence "so that it is more extensive
and statistically robust." Mr. Badman goes on to say that during the
review, he collected statistical evidence from a sample of LAs on
"vulnerable" home educating children. This, and the following
sentence, show that Mr. Badman made a special effort to collect data that would incriminate home education,
when there is much evidence to show that home educating children are safer, and
achieve higher academic standards than children in other forms of education. The Progress Report 2009, http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=rbrk5-GEdrUdcmfi670Mihg&gid=1.
This is because parents who educate their children themselves, have a high
level of commitment, and people learn better when they receive one to one
tuition, than when a lesson is designed to cope with a large number of people.
This bias in the report is unacceptable. When writing a report, one should
consider all available evidence, and come to an unbiased conclusion.
3.3 In both the report and the review, the Every Child Matters outcomes have been seriously misused. The base in law for Every Child Matters is article 10 of the 2004 children act, which says nothing about ensuring that every child achieves these outcomes;
(1) Each children's services authority in England must make arrangements to promote co-operation between-
(a) the authority;
(b) each of the authority's relevant partners; and
(c) such other persons or bodies as the authority consider appropriate, being persons or bodies of any nature who exercise functions or are engaged in activities in relation to children in the authority's area.
(2) The arrangements are to be made with a view to improving the well-being of children in the authority's area so far as relating to-
(a) physical and mental health and emotional well-being;
(b) protection from harm and neglect;
(c) education, training and recreation;
(d) the contribution made by them to society;
(e) social and economic well-being.
(3) In making arrangements under this section a children's services authority in England must have regard to the importance of parents and other persons caring for children in improving the well-being of children.
(4) For the purposes of this section each of the following is a relevant partner of a children's services authority in England-
(a) where the authority is a county council for an area for which there is also a district council, the district council;
(b) the police authority and the chief officer of police for a police area any part of which falls within the area of the children's services authority;
(c) a local probation board for an area any part of which falls within the area of the authority;
(d) a youth offending team for an area any part of which falls within the area of the authority;
(e) a Strategic Health Authority and Primary Care Trust for an area any part of which falls within the area of the authority;
(f) a person providing services under section 114 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 (c. 21) in any part of the area of the authority;
(g) the Learning and Skills Council for England.
Special attention should be paid to paragraphs 2 and 3.
3.4 Mr.Badman has been a "civil servant", reporting directly or indirectly to the DCSF, for most of his working life. He has been a teacher, and worked in 2 local authorities, before writing this report, which reeks of Government policy and involvement. In his recent letter requesting supplementary data, to strengthen his report in advance of the select committee, he stated that the "DCSF's 'Star Chamber' gave approval for this voluntary data collection on 15 September." http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/everychildmatters/_download/?id=6586
3.5 A person acting independently would only have needed to submit a Freedom Of Information request, rather than going through the hassle of obtaining star chamber approval. The letter also uses the DCSF logo, which should not have been available to Mr. Badman.
3.6 The report seems to imply that the opinions of people and organisations are the same as evidence. "The NASUWT maintains the existence of a right to home educate is anomalous with the clear emphasis in Government policy of ensuring that all children and young people can benefit from educational provision where teaching and learning is led by qualified teachers in well resourced and fit for purpose modern educational settings." Not only are opinions treated as evidence in the report, but much of this "evidence" comes from uninformed sources, and furthermore, most of the "evidence" presented was probably selected because it is parallel to Mr Badman's own opinion.
3.7 The opinions of people and organisations should be taken into account, but should be treated as opinions, rather than evidence. The reply to an FOI request justifies my concerns on this subject. I requested a list of evidence not presented in the report, and was referred to chapter 2 of the badman report. http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/badmans_evidence
3.8 This reply implies that the opinions submitted have been treated as evidence. This is completely inappropriate. Reports of this type should have many tables of statistics to back up its conclusions, whereas this one had nothing but rhetoric.
3.9 Throughout the report Mr. Badman repeatedly refers to "the balance between the rights of the parent and the rights of the child", as if these are in conflict. I assume this means the duty of the parent to provide their children with a suitable education "at school or otherwise", and the children's right to education. There is no way that these rights conflict in home education. Also the wording used is much too vague, it does not specify which rights it refers to.
3.10 Paragraph 3.2 of the Badman report states that "The question is simply a matter of balance and securing the right regulatory regime within a framework of legislation that protects the rights of all children, even if in transaction such regulation is only necessary to protect a minority". This could be seen to contradict paragraph 1.5, which states that not finding this "balance" could result in "the concerns for a minority being applied to the vast majority...". The rest of the report however, makes recommendations that would do just that; Annual registration, monitoring, and allowing inspectors to speak with children alone, are all designed to protect a minority of children who might be mistreated or not provided with a suitable education, but Mr Badman applies these recommendations to the majority of home educators.
3.11 In paragraph 1.3 of the Badman report, Mr.Badman states that "I have read many submissions made by home educators who argue their case from almost as many standpoints as there are children in elective home education". Here Mr. Badman acknowledges that there is a very real case to be argued. The statement that home educators should not be regarded as a homogenous group conflicts with the statement that "The degree of individualism exhibited may well be a strength but it militates against securing representative opinion and has led to factions within the elective home education community that actually distort the strength of philosophical commitment, achievement and need. I shall make recommendation in this regard." Mr. Badman does not make any recommendations with regard to this point.
3.12 I think it is a concern that Mr. Badman views it as a problem that the government does not know the true number of home educators in this country. Some home educators may have not revealed themselves because they are worried about particularly narrow minded LAs interfering with their lives.
3.13 Paragraph 3.3 of the Badman report attempts to use article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child " 1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child." This article is used to give a moral reason to allow LA inspectors the powers suggested in recommendation 7 and implies that home educated children are denied that right by not seeing LA inspectors alone.
Based on the evidence I have seen, I recommend that;
- The children, schools, and families, or another relevant party, inquire further into the quality and diversity of evidence the report was based on, from which parties evidence was collected,and suitability of the methods of collection that were used.
- The children, schools, and families consider Mr. Badman's background, and how it might have affected his impartiality.
- The inquiring party disregard the parts of the Badman report that use vague language, rhetoric, or contradict other parts.
- The inquiring party review the basis in law for Badman's implication that the rights of parents conflict with the rights of children, and that these rights need to be balanced.