Supplementary Memorandum submitted by David White
The Use of International Comparisons in the Badman Review
to Support Registration & Monitoring Proposals
International comparison suggests that of all countries with highly developed education systems, England is the most liberal in its approach to elective home education. Legislation from the 1930s banning elective home education still persists in Germany and most European countries require registration, whereas New Zealand demands that the "person will be taught at least as regularly and as well as in registered school." The majority of other countries also have processes for registration and the systematic monitoring of elective home education and require evidence of progress, often specifically in mathematics and reading. The recommendations in this review do not go that far. I have sought to strike a balance between the rights of parents and the rights of the child, and offer, through registration and other recommendations, some assurance on the greater safety of a number of children.
[From the Conclusion to the Badman Report on Elective Home Education]
1. The Badman Review states that registration and systematic monitoring for Elective Home Education (EHE) is to be found in the majority of other (i.e. non- European) countries with highly developed education systems. The alluded-to comparison is used by Graham Badman both to underpin the need for change in the regulation of EHE in England and to imply that his recommendations are quite modest; that they are a proportionate response to the risks facing home-educated children.
2. Yet, the fact is - as my analysis below shows - that a significant number of countries do not require EHE families to register, very few require home visits of the sort proposed by Graham Badman and, most importantly, no jurisdiction has been identified where the local authority has the powers envisaged by Badman to interview children without their parents being present.
3. It is also apparent from my analysis of the regulatory provisions in other jurisdictions that, where monitoring is undertaken, the objective is to ensure compliance with local legislative requirements regarding the provision of EHE, not to improve child safety.
4. Graham Badman justifies his recommendations for introducing the registration and monitoring of EHE with reference to the situation in other countries, but the evidence is not there to support his proposals. Knowing that the Government is now seeking to rush these recommendations through Parliament, I urge the Select Committee to consider very closely the basis on which Mr Badman has arrived at his recommendations and to ask whether they represent a balanced, cost-effective and proportionate solution.
5. I regularly use international comparisons in a professional capacity for analysing and developing regulatory policy and was concerned to see how international comparisons were being used in the Badman Review to support recommendations without any clear exposition of the comparison results. I therefore decided to conduct my own comparison of registration and monitoring provisions in other countries.
6. The extent of the underlying international comparison made for the Badman Review is not clear; New Zealand is cited in the report's conclusion but no other non-European countries. The DCSF's Schools Analysis and Research Division (SARD) compiled an overview of evidence on EHE in January 2009, which included a section on international evidence. The only non-European country quoted in the SARD report in the context of registration and monitoring is Australia.
7. For the purposes of my analysis, I have endeavoured to draw on a range of non- European countries and considered the registration and monitoring requirements in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and Canada1.
8. Between them, these four countries consist of just over 70 territories, provinces and states; each with its own legislation governing home education (see Tables 1 - 4 below). They all permit home education. In 12 of the states, the law does not require any registration process and in a further 16 jurisdictions, home-educating families need only notify the authorities. In his recommendations, Graham Badman wants to go further and require parents to be obliged to obtain state approval before home educating.
9. For EHE monitoring purposes, Graham Badman has proposed giving local authorities the right of access to family homes and the right to speak to children alone. Of the 72 states considered in my comparison, fewer than 10 require educational or other supervisory officers to make home visits; and in researching the legal provisions in these states I have found no evidence to suggest that officials have the right to see the child alone.
10. As the analysis of the monitoring requirements suggests, the rationale behind the monitoring provisions that are in place elsewhere is to ensure that parents are complying with relevant statutory requirements for EHE (which may simply mean ensuring that the necessary records are being kept). In the vast majority of cases, this is achieved without the need for home visits or child interviews.
11. Graham Badman's enthusiasm for home visits appears to be borne of a concern for the safety of EHE children. No evidence is offered in the Badman Review to 1 The analysis has been limited to English-speaking countries to make the research manageable. support the idea, however, that the power to make home visits by officials increases child safety. Indeed, common sense would suggest that it is highly unlikely that an occasional visit to a child's home on the grounds of discussing his or her educational progress is going to reveal how the child is being treated the rest of the year.
12. Clear evidence does exist, however, to show that home visits do not make economic sense. New Zealand's Education Review Office (ERO), the body responsible for reviewing home-educating families and schools, recently announced that routine monitoring of home-educating families in New Zealand would cease with effect from 1 July 2009. A report compiled by the ERO's Chief Review Officer in February this year stated that routine homeschooling visits, at an average cost of over $400 per review, were neither effective nor efficient.
Recommendations for Action
13. The Government's prioritising of a select few of Badman's recommendations confirms that the motive behind the proposed introduction of home monitoring is not to assist with the education of EHE children but an attempt to show it is acting to improve the safety of vulnerable children. Yet the proposal is built on an unsubstantiated case made by Graham Badman for intrusive home monitoring; the reference to similar provisions in other countries does not stand close scrutiny.
14. I urge the Select Committee to seek clarification from Mr Badman on the following points:
a) What countries were included in his international comparison and what research was done to determine the provisions for registration and home
b) What evidence did he find to show that home visits were a cost-effective means of improving child safety and why was the evidence not included in his
c) What evidence does he have of local authorities in other countries with highlydeveloped education systems having the routine right to enter EHE families' homes and interview children without the parents being present?
20 September 2009