Memorandum submitted by Sue Lawrence

 

The following is a submission to the CSF Select Committee Inquiry into the Badman Review of Home Education. The points I will be addressing are as follows:

Recommendations 1,2,7,9 and 23

The fact that on Friday 18th September Mr. Badman made a request to Local Authorities for further evidence to support his original conclusions.

A request that any such additional information provided by Local Authorities be displayed on the DCSF web-site in the interests of fairness and transparency.

 

1. Recommendation 1 purports to establish a national registration scheme but in fact seeks to introduce a system of licensing for home-educators. The law states that it is the parents' duty to provide for a child's education, therefore it is not reasonable for the Local Authority to be allowed to grant or with-hold permission based on their own prejudices. The idea of a twelve-month plan is unworkable in relation to home-education where even quite structured families will often need or want to change course, and its inclusion here is a very clear indicator that Mr. Badman has worryingly little experience or understanding of education outside of school.

2. Recommendation 2 is fraught with difficulties because of the general lack of understanding about the difference between education at home and at school. Home-educated children typically cover a wide variety of subject areas but they are not always clearly defined as separate subjects as they are in school, nor are they likely to be 'served up' in equal amounts during the course of a week/term/year. A home-educated child who develops a passion for history or poetry or conservation may well do nothing else for several weeks before their interest is exhausted and replaced by something new. This is a very natural way of learning; far superior to having to stop learning about something simply because the bell has rung and it's time to trundle off to the next lesson. I am not confident that this way of educating can be measured and so I fear that certain compulsory elements would be introduced in order to give LAs some control. This of course would be the thin end of the wedge because if some subjects were compulsory then why not all of those that form the National Curriculum? After all we can't have parents teaching their children to cook - we need them to teach 'food technology' where they can spend hours writing about food but never actually producing anything edible!

3. Recommendation 7 is arguably the most contentious of them all and I find it incredible that the Education Secretary found this immediately acceptable. This recommendation will remove the age-old presumption of innocence and pave the way for mass screening of the population in case they may have committed a crime. For having made a perfectly legal choice to educate my child at home I am now under suspicion of doing her harm and must therefore allow a stranger (or maybe two) to enter my home and 'satisfy themselves that the child is safe and well'. Exactly how they intend to reach their conclusion is unclear but I am to be required to allow these strangers to speak to my child alone. My child will be expected to demonstrate her attainment and progress to these strangers knowing that if she fails to impress, then these strangers will be able to prevent me from continuing to home-educate and my child will be sent to school. Has Mr. Badman actually given any thought at all to the feelings of the child in this situation?

4. Recommendation 9 sounds perfectly reasonable and would not be worth mentioning except that there is to be no extra funding for this training. Baroness Morgan has stated that there was no need for an impact assessment as "we do not expect them (the proposals) to place any significant additional burdens on local authorities". This is clearly ridiculous but the Education Secretary has already confirmed that he will introduce the recommendations relating to safeguarding 'as soon as possible' so it appears that these may be implemented before the required training has taken place.

5. Recommendation 23 is open to misuse due to the final clause which states that agencies be required to inform LAs of 'anything else which may affect their (the parents') ability to provide a suitable and efficient education'. Such as? This could potentially be used to exclude, for example, disabled parents, parents of limited means or parents without certain academic qualifications as well as various other groups.

This concludes my comments on the recommendations.

6. I would like here to address the fact that, on Friday the 18th September, Mr. Graham Badman issued an email to Local Authorities requesting further data from them in order to provide 'more statistically rigorous information to the Select Committee'. It will be quite apparent by now that Mr. Badman's review is unsound and I leave it to people more qualified than I to detail the statistical errors. However I would just say that it is my understanding that the purpose of this inquiry is to examine the review as it was published on 11th June. If the evidence contained therein is not sufficiently robust to stand up before the committee then that will be seen to be the case and there should not be the opportunity for the author to amend or add to the evidence.

7. I would like to request that the additional statistics which Mr. Badman now obtains from LAs following his request of 18th September be published on the DCSF web-site or made available to the main Home-Education groups (EO, HEAS, AHEd,etc.) for distribution to their members.

 

September 2009