Memorandum submitted by North Wiltshire Home Educators

 

1. Executive Summary

No evidence has been forthcoming to support the safeguarding recommendations.

The recommendations in the Badman report are disproportionate and discriminatory.

Existing legislation and guidelines are sufficient to safeguard home-educated children.

Public money has been wasted and continues to be wasted in vexatious consultations and reports into home education.

 

3. This submission is made on behalf of the North Wilts Home Educators (a group of about 180 families - about 800 people - in the north of Wiltshire, near Swindon). We are a diverse group with extensive experience in home educating. Some people have withdrawn their children from school; others have home-educated their children from birth. We have children ranging from babes in arms to young adults in tertiary education and with a gamut of special needs. We work together to support each other in educating our children, arranging group educational activities and social events.

 

4. The North Wilts Home Educators have serious reservations about the conduct and results of the Badman Review of Elective Home Education and its automatic acceptance by the Minister for Children, Schools and Families. We ask the committee to investigate whether the assertions made by Graham Badman have any basis in evidence and whether the measures he proposes are disproportionate and discriminatory.

 

5. Despite terms of reference that suggested that the Review should examine any barriers to support for home-educating families, the Review seemed to concentrate on safeguarding issues.

 

6. Since the Badman report was published in June, we have asked DCSF to provide the evidence base for his assertion that home-educated children are known to social care services in disproportionate numbers. That evidence has not been supplied. Instead, DCSF has produced a "working paper" on which the report does not rely, according to letters from Dawn Primarolo. The working paper refers to four Serious Case Reviews but they have only tangential bearing on home education:

1. Isle of Wight: A case of SID in a one-month-old child; the baby and its three siblings (one EHE) were subject to child protection plans.

2. South Gloucestershire: A young Traveller committed suicide.

3. Enfield: A 16yo girl's body was found at home with mother and siblings four months after her death.

4. Gloucestershire: This is the Spry case.

 

7. As social care services were already involved in cases 1, 2 and 4 (and had approved Mrs Spry as a foster carer and adoptive mother), it is difficult to see how the Badman recommendations would have prevented these tragedies. The recommendations are completely disproportionate to the risk.

 

8. It is clear that the evidence on which the recommendations are based is insufficient. If it were sufficient, Graham Badman would not be using the conduit of the DCSF to call for more evidence from LAs before coming before this committee. Home educators have issued individual requests under the Freedom of Information Act to LAs about safeguarding concerns. The 125 responses (in comparison to the 25 responses garnered by Mr Badman) do not show any great need for concern.

 

9. Without evidence that home-educated children are more at risk than other children of abuse and neglect, it is discriminatory to institute a regime of annual registration. There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence from home-educating families that some local authority officials behave in a biased manner towards them. This is borne out by the few LAs who report concerns for the vast majority of home-educated children of whom they are aware, in comparison to the majority of LAs who have no or very few concerns. The Badman report chose to ignore that evidence and cherry-picked evidence that supported pre-determined recommendations.

 

10. Although some of the recommendations are more intrusive and objectionable than others, we reject them in their entirety as being unnecessary. Existing legislation and guidelines are sufficient to safeguard all children, if LA officials were to be properly trained and resourced.

 

11. The Review made no attempt to cost the recommendations. Baroness Morgan has said that it has no cost implications, but this is clearly nonsensical. The Review found that around 21 000 home-educated children are known to their local authority but that there are at least 40 000 home-educated children and possibly as many as 80 000 home-educated children in the country. If the numbers registered by LAs are to double and possibly quadruple, a new registration and monitoring system will cost a considerable amount.

 

12. At considerable cost, the DCSF has carried out several consultations and review of home education in the last four years. Home educators have responded to those consultations in significant numbers. When the answers that DCSF receives are not what they want to see, they seem to constitute another review. It is a misuse of public money to harass a minority group that is choosing to fulfil its duty under s7 of the Education Act directly rather than delegating it to agents of the state.

 

 

September 2009