Memorandum submitted by Carole Kitching

Executive Summary

In this memorandum I wish to challenge aspects of the review and its conclusions and recommendations under the following headings:

Terms of reference

The report sought to review two aspects of EHE; safeguarding and the effectiveness of education. In the subsequent blurring of these two issues in both the text and in the recommendations, clarity, perspective, factual evidence and proportionality have been lost.

Selectivity and robustness of the evidence base for recommendations

The absence of the voice of the EHE learner

Selective extracts from consultees reports, e.g. Education Division of Church of England

Significant and provocative statements based on a small statistical response; less than 25% of Local Authorities in England responded to the Review questionnaire.

Some key statements were based on responses of less than a third of that 25%

Some recommendations are not based on current good practice in education and safeguarding

An objection to the methodology and focus of a request for further statistical evidence from local authorities submitted by Mr. Badman for presentation to this Select Committee.

Brief Introduction to Submitter

I make this submission in my following roles:

The parent of an electively home educated child

A fully qualified teacher

The Principal of a College of Further Education

Factual information

Selectivity and robustness of the evidence base for recommendations

The voice of the learner is barely heard in the review; this is a significant omission in light of the centrality of Learner Involvement Strategies in schools and colleges and the most significant role the voice of the learner plays in supporting Ofsted to make judgments on the suitability and standard of education and the five outcomes of Every Child Matters (ECM). The learner voice may have contributed to a more rounded view of the current situation

The response from the Church of England is used to support a view that the ability of HE families to deliver ECM outcomes is in question. The full response from the Church of England makes it clear that the Cof E's view is that they believe it perfectly possible that families can ensure successful outcomes of ECM; their concern is around just one aspect.

Not all full responses are available to view; such selectivity may have distorted the 'evidence base' presented.

The review is not clear that only 90 Local Authorities responded to the request for information out of a total of around 400. It is therefore impossible to conclude that any statistics or views quoted represent 'the majority'; it can only refer to the majority of the (minority) of respondees.

This is particularly significant in 8.12 where only 25 local authorities, of the 90 respondees support the statement

"the number of children known to children's social care in some local authorities is disproportionately high relative to the size of their home educating populations."

This statement is highly inflammatory and made with insufficient statistical base data. Such misrepresentation calls into question the foundation for other recommendations made in the report and this is very unhelpful and possibly misleading.

Some recommendations are not based on current good practice in education and safeguarding

Recommendation 7

In no other arena are local authority officers responsible for making judgments about the effectiveness and suitability of education. This is the role of Ofsted who inspect the whole range of provision from Childminders to large and complex colleges. That range of expertise is crucial if there is to be confidence in outcomes. Whilst the need for training is recognised in Recommendation 9, there is no explanation as to why, in trying to bring the monitoring of EHE more in line with educational monitoring a completely different inspection regime is to be introduced, at huge cost to the public purse.

Ofsted's involvement as indicated in Recommendation 13 is insufficient if the DCFS is seeking to establish good practice in the monitoring of EHE and in supporting HE families.

Even the most basic of Child Protection training emphasises that one of the most significant indicators of potential abuse is change in behaviour of a child over a period of time. An annual visit by one officer will not result in this key indicator being recognised and therefore such a visit cannot claim to be in anyway helpful in identifying potential safeguarding isssues.

 

An objection to the methodology and focus of a request for further statistical evidence from local authorities submitted by Mr. Badman for presentation to this Select Committee.

I challenge the value that may, at a later stage, be attributed to a very recent request for statistical information that Mr Badman has made to local authorities.

This request was made on the 15th September with a response deadline of 1st October, more than a week later than the deadline for submissions to this Select Committee.

Some of the information requested by Mr Badman in this document will not even be available to local authorities at this stage, specifically around NEET statistics.

There will be insufficient time for local authorities to compile the kind of information requested and therefore there will be inaccuracies in returns.

 

Recommendations for Action

I respectfully request the the Select Committee carefully considers the implications of misrepresentation of key statistical data in the review and the impact this may have on the robustness of the evidence base for the recommendations. I ask also that the Committee ensures that this weakness is not compounded by Mr Badman's last minute haste to secure more robust data for presentation.

I ask that if Home Educators are to register nationally that the select committee considers the rights of the children and families involved to be inspected by an appropriately trained inspectorate as is the right of the majority of children in this country.

I ask the Select Committee consider the flaws in the review arising from the two separate issues of suitable education and safeguarding being treated interchangeably. Perhaps more than any other single factor, this one has outraged the home educating population the most; in no other sector of society are parents , en bloc, proposed to be subject to annual visits to ensure their own children are not at risk.

September 2009