Memorandum submitted by Rebekah Fox
Summary of main points:
· Questions posed in the 'Questionnaire to local authorities' (Annex D of the Report) are likely to lead to response bias.
· We need access to the detailed (anonymised) data informing the Report, clear statistical summaries based on these, and an explanation of and rationale for data analysis methods used.
· We need clarification of the sampling method used in conducting the surveys informing the Report. It appears that generalisations have been based on a self-selecting sample of local authority responses.
1. I am a home educator with many concerns over the conduct of the review and the Report's recommendations. Due to time constraints I will elaborate mainly on concerns regarding the questions posed in the Questionnaire to Local Authorities, which is published as Annex D of Graham Badman's Report.
2. Current 'Elective Home Education Guidelines for Local Authorities' make clear certain points, including:
a. that (EHE Guidelines for Local Authorities para. 2.7) 'Local authorities have no statutory duties in relation to monitoring the quality of home education on a routine basis'
yet throughout the Annex D Questionnaire, questions are posed as though such monitoring is current local authority practice, for example, question 1 asks: 'who is involved in supporting and monitoring home educated children within the local authority and other agencies?'
b. that (EHE Guidelines for Local Authorities para. 3.13) 'Children normally attend school for between 22 and 25 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year, but this measurement of "contact time" is not relevant to elective home education where there is often almost continuous one-to-one contact and education may take place outside normal "school hours".'
yet question 19 of the Annex D Questionnaire asks 'Of the home educated children in your area of whom you have knowledge, what proportion in your estimation are receiving a suitable, full time (20hrs a week) education?'
c. that (EHE Guidelines for Local Authorities para. 3.6) '...parents are not legally required to give the local authority access to their home...Parents might prefer, for example, to write a report, provide samples of work, have their educational provision endorsed by a third party (such as an independent home tutor) or provide evidence in some other appropriate form.'
yet question 12 of the Annex D Questionnaire asks: 'Following the initial assessment visit, are further monitoring visits made to a home educated child?'
and further, question 15 enquires: 'If you are not permitted access to a child, is any further action taken?'
3. Posing such questions encourages local authorities to respond as though these were acceptable, and indeed, the appropriate approaches. This leads to a response bias. It would be difficult for those local authorities who properly adhere to existing Elective Home Education Guidelines to know how to respond to such lines of questioning.
4. I hope other writers will pick up in more detail the further flaws in the review process. To summarise two further concerns:
a. Neither statistical summaries nor access to detailed data derived from Questionnaires or otherwise informing the Report has been provided. Access to such data should be made available, anonymised where necessary, even at this stage. The approach used to analyse this data should also be clarified.
b. I understand that, having posed the flawed questionnaire at Annex D to local authorities, a further questionnaire was sent only to respondents, and from the resulting self-selecting sample, generalisations appear to have been made covering the whole population of local authorities. If this has occurred it is a statistically unsafe procedure.
5. In a letter sent to Directors of Children's Services by Graham Badman on 17th September 2009, he states: 'I would like to strengthen my statistical evidence in advance of the Select Committee hearing so that it is more extensive and statistically robust.' In my view, a Report containing recommendations which are underpinned by evidence that the author himself fears is unconvincing, should not have been published.