Memorandum submitted by Dr Andrew and Mrs H A Bettany
We are submitting our response to the recent review of EHE in our capacity as parents who have been home-educating one or more of our children over the past 11 years. Two of our three children have SEN. Our children have experienced a wide variety of educational settings.
· full-time mainstream school
· flexi-schooling mainstream
· full-time specialised language unit attached to mainstream school
· flexi-schooling with language unit
· full-time home-education
· full-time home-education with the LEA buying in specialist support from a special school.
2. Conduct of the review
2.1 The fact that Mr Badman is asking for more evidence
The letter from Mr Badman to the Directors of Children's Services, dated 17th September, appealed for assistance for further evidence to back up his review. He acknowledges that his 28 recommendations were based 'on a small sample' that did not provide satisfactory 'statistically rigorous information'. Mr Badman's recommendations regarding 'Safeguarding' were partly based on the evidence that 'the number of children known to children's social care in some local authorities is disproportionately high relative to the size of their home education population.' Two points are raised by this:
· Children with SEN are known to social services by virtue of having a disability. Including such children in the statistics would lead to biased representation.
· Section 3.7 of the review states that local authorities have, 'no means of determining the number of children who are being EHE in their area'. In asking the LEA to provide a figure for the number of EHE children who were the subject of a child protection plan as a proportion of the total number of EHE in the local authority, he is asking them to compare a known variable with an unknown one. Section 1.3 states that the estimate of the number of children in EHE is likely to be greatly underestimated. Therefore, the true number of children subject of a child protection plan in relation to the general EHE numbers is likely to be significantly lower than reported.
2.2 Concern about how the review seems to be shrouded in secrecy and being rushed through.
Even MPs are unable to access all the relevant material. Lord Lucas asked the Government to place a copy of the impact assessment to accompany the "Registration and Monitoring Proposals" consultation in the Library of the House but Baroness Morgan stated that 'An impact assessment is not required for the consultation at this stage as the proposals are still at an early stage of development." (House of Commons Debate, 29th June 2009 c6W) However, The Rt. Hon. Ed Balls stated in his letter to Mr Badman that, 'We are acting immediately to address the review's recommendation on safeguarding by issuing a consultation on new statutory arrangements today.' Such radical proposals, which fundamentally change the rights of parents to choose how they educate their children, should be subject to vigorous debate by all interested parties and given time to consider the impact of such proposals.
2.3 Mr Badman has made various proposals about how the LEA should further support EHE but has not included any costing for these recommendations.
In fact, Baroness Morgan, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Children, Young People and Families, stated that, 'We do not expect them (the proposals) to place any significant additional burdens on local authorities'. (House of Commons Debate, 29th June 2009 c6W)
3. The recommendations
3.1 The current recommendation of compulsory annual registration and right of access to people's homes for local authority officials is disproportionate to the reported problems.
3.2 We acknowledge that, at present, it is difficult for local authorities to fulfil their obligations when they do not know how many EHE live in their region. The Government needs to address the reasons why many EHE choose not to register. Rather than assuming EHEs have something to hide, they should consider the attitudes of those in LEA that lead to a reluctance to register. They have to accept that many in the education profession (section 4.7 of the review), have a fundamental opposition to the whole basis of EHE. This is not a good basis for mutual respect and cooperation between interested parties.
3.3 We are extremely concerned about the linking of education issues and welfare concerns.