Memoranda submitted by Linda Fullock and Garry Humphreys

 

 

Summary: 1. Statistical basis

2. Omissions and inclusions

3. Timing

4. Lack of evidence

5. Costs

6. Conclusion.

 

The conduct of the Review has been called into question. The Children, Schools and Families Committee is currently investigating the way the Review was conducted, including the evidence base that Graham Badman used and whether for example he extrapolated evidence from only a small sample. Also of note is whether he used quotes from submissions out of context to fit his case, and omitted quotes in favour of the current system of home education.

 

1. Statistical basis

 

Fiona Nicholson, of Education Otherwise and chairwoman of the Education Otherwise Government Policy Group, quoted in the Children and Young People Now Daily Bulletin 18 September 2009, states that Freedom of Information requests made by home educators show that only 25 out of 152 local authorities responded to Badman's initial call for evidence.

 

Indeed the DCSF itself has recently noted that the evidence for changing the current system with regard to home education put forward by Graham Badman was obtained from only a small sample of local authorities and the statistics he uses are therefore not rigorous. We understand that the Committee has given Mr Badman extra time to find more evidence and that he is contacting local authorities again. In a letter sent out to directors of children's services last week, Mr Badman said: "I would like to strengthen my statistical evidence in advance of the select committee hearing so that it is more extensive and statistically robust." This would suggest that he did not have sufficient statistical evidence on which to base the conclusions in his report when he wrote it, and yet was prepared to make recommendatiopns for change based on those conclusions.

 

Of the local authorities that did respond only a minority have a "disproportionately high number of children known to social care" (8.12). It should be emphasised that children with SEN are known to social care and this could account for the majority of those known, rather than that the children are "at risk". NB: There is a higher proportion of children with special educational needs in the home education population as compared to schools since parents find their children's educational or sometimes medical needs can be better met outside school. It is also the case that some local authorities may use social services for children who are not part of the school system, which would be another hidden statistic in the figures that Mr Badman used.

 

An attempt to equate home education with child abuse risk is thus unproven from the statistics upon which Mr Badman bases his report.

 

2. Omissions and inclusions

 

Mr Badman apparently now wants councils to tell him how many home educated children are subject to child protection plans, how many are receiving inadequate education, how many are missing and how many former home educated children are not in education, employment or training, surely important considerations that should have been included in his investigations before writing his report and, if the statistics were not available, he should not have come to the conclusions that he did.

 

It should also be noted that Mr Badman failed to make proper and full use in his report of the many submissions and the evidence contained therein made to him by home educators during the initial consultation period in February 2009. Included in his report (sections 4.2-4.4) were two paragraphs and a sentence with sweeping summaries of the evidence, positions and opinions submitted by home educators and two unrepresentative quotes, these taken out of context. Approximately 1,300 home educating parents and 200 home educated children responded to Mr Badman's Review questionnaire!

 

Furthermore, he took quotes from the various bodies that he consulted out of context, using only those quotes within the submissions that appeared to criticise an aspect of home education, and failed to include the positive comments about home education in the submissions. This made it appear that certain organisations were against or critical of home education even when their reports were largely in favour of it.

 

The Church of England's report for example was broadly in favour of maintaining the current system and was happy with the way it functions - for example: "Parents are in the vast majority of cases the best people to decide what is appropriate and best for their children" and "We have seen no evidence to show that the majority of home educated children do not achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes, and are therefore not convinced of the need to change the current system of monitoring the standard of home education". The British Humanist Association also said that 'We agree that the Every Child Matters outcomes are appropriate to home educated children and believe that home educated children can - and frequently do - achieve all five outcomes" and "We accept that parents have the human right to educate their children in accordance with their religious or philosophical beliefs and that home education is one way to meet this requirement. We also acknowledge that for a wide variety of reasons, including bullying, special needs and difficulties accessing an appropriate school, some families feel that they need to home educate their children. We therefore believe that it is important not to undermine the principle of home education." In the actual report, only negative quotes for these bodies were given by Badman (4.8).

 

3. Timing

 

The Badman Review and Report were conducted in haste and the rush to primary legislation before considering the Committee report and the Consultation is also hasty and ill considered to the point of being undemocratic. "The Badman Review was not given sufficient time to consider the issues so reached hasty and disproportionate conclusions" (Fiona Nicholson).

 

On 19 January 2009 Graham Badman was asked to report to Ministers and the Secretary of State by May. Online questionnaires were hastily sent to local authorities asking whether personnel had "concerns" about home educating families. The deadline for completion was 6 February which gave Children's Services fourteen working days to turn round the questionnaire. The returns on the 14-day questionnaire formed the evidence base for the review. The questionnaire was also a way for Graham Badman and his assistant to identify local authorities who would be available for a meeting in March. A second questionnaire - with a slightly longer completion time of 24 working days - was also made available to the general public.

 

Mr Badman's review was conducted over a very short period of time, and without gathering full evidence (see above), and yet drew conclusions that would result in a change to primary legislation and a profound change to the way home education operates in this country - changes that will include shifting the responsibility for a child's education from the parent to the state, which will then license the parent to carry out the education, the right of entry to a home educator's home and right of access by an individual offiicial to the child without the parent (or any other adult) being present.

 

We understand that the Select Committee is not expected to report its findings before the Queen's Speech, thus the legislation based on the Badman report will be announced before the Committee has pronounced on whether Graham Badman conducted his report correctly and whether his findings have a sound basis.

 

Also, the timing of the Select Committee's call for evidence (announced 22 July 2009), was not helpful, given that Parliament has been in recess and local authority staff and other interested parties, including home educators, will have been on summer holidays, and therefore not available to make submissions to the Committee, and this will have delayed the compilation of evidence or affected whether submissions are made at all from some stakeholders.

 

The public consultation on the Badman Report does not close until 19 October 2009. Adding the proposed new monitoring arrangements into the Improving Schools and Safeguarding Children Bill to be submitted to Parliament in the Queen's Speech this Autumn is precipitous, since the clause has been added before the Consultation has closed and without giving any consideration to the results of this Consultation or any weight to the opinions and evidence that will be submitted during the Consultation.

 

4. Lack of evidence

 

Mr Badman would not be requesting statistics from local authorities after writing his report if he had based it on sound evidence.

 

Nor was Graham Badman's report conclusive in its recommendations, as he indicated many areas which he stated needed further research or which he said were outside the parameters set for his inquiry; thus his report does not seem extensive or thorough enough to form a basis upon which to introduce legislation and certainly not legislation that will lead to such a profound change to home education.

 

5. Costs

 

Substantial cuts (over 2 billion pounds) in education have just been proposed by the Government. This cannot be the right time to introduce a new system to monitor home educators (home education is already covered by current legislation). A report commissioned by the Home Education Advisory Service has found that the new system will be costly, at least c.60-150 million pounds per annum if a new level of administration is introduced by education authorities, and if children were driven out of home education into the state system, the bill could rise to up to 500 million per annum. (The HEAS report's author is a financial analyst and management consultant and former Head of Research for Citigroup.)

 

6. Conclusion

 

There is enormous dissatisfaction with the process amongst home educators, who see the report as having been written in order to reach a predetermined conclusion, but in the event with insufficient convincing evidence, or with evidence skewed by Mr Badman to fit his case (e.g., the Church of England and British Humanist Association examples given above). This reaching of a desired conclusion seemed to be borne out by the Secretary of State's instant written acceptance of all the recommendations without question or due reflection!

 

We have been to see our MP as have hundreds of others.

 

We urge the Government to think again before including this legislation in the Autumn programme.

 

September 2009