Memorandum submitted by Action for Home Education
This submission includes
· Comments on the Conduct of the Review, including on;
1. The terms of reference
2. The launch of the review
3. Nature of the Consultation Document(s)
4. Misrepresentation of evidence
5. Tampering with data
6. Unreliable statistics
7. Related consultations
8. Impact assessment
9. Post-review call for supporting evidence
· The constitution of the review team, including;
10. Issues about team expertise
11. Issues around independence/impartiality
· Suppression of Information
13. Local Authority obstruction
14. DCSF obstruction
· The recommendations made by the review
15. General comments re the overall report and specific comments on individual recommendations
1.1 AHEd complained to DCSF that the Terms of Reference for the Review were illegitimate¹
They wrongly assume that:
1.2 ... it is "known" that home education could be a cover for abuse and that its extent needs investigation and prevention - The review failed to substantiate this claim. It is discriminatory to investigate a discrete group for risks of abuse in the home, based only on their legally valid parenting options.
1.3 ... there are existing barriers to safeguarding duties. However, current law is sufficient; the barriers LAs experience are to ultra vires ambitions such as enforced home visits in the absence of reasonable concern. The Review has failed to investigate this issue.
1.4 ... there is currently a legal system for monitoring home education - However, current monitoring is ultra vires. Standards are those set by Education Act 1996 Section 7. The review therefore set out to study how LAs carry out their duties by investigating the extent to which they are successful in carrying out ultra vires policies. New regulations cannot be made on this basis.
1.5 ... Every Child Matters Outcomes apply to home education
1.6 ... parents are "partners" with the LA and others in the education of their children - LAs have duties regarding children using public services, not where a family provide their own private education, except in cases of reasonably suspected failure.
2. Launch of the Review:
2.1 The consultation was launched with a public attack proclaiming that home education might be used as a cover for child abuse, repeated in the Press on many occasions. This is the bias of the review.
2.2 The allegations succeeded in exposing the lives of home educated children to public scandal and persecution by false allegation bringing home educating families into disrepute and contravened:
· Human Rights Act: ARTICLE 8
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence."
· UNCRC: Article 16
"1. No child shall be subjected to ... attacks on his or her honour and reputation."
"2. The child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."
· UNCRC: Article 17
States Parties recognize the important function performed by the mass media ...
To this end, States Parties shall:
(e) Encourage the development of appropriate guidelines for the protection of the child from information and material injurious to his or her well-being.
3.1 Many of the questions in the consultation documents are "leading" questions with false presumptions about current statute - for example a presumption about an incumbent legal monitoring system.
3.2 The questions in the online public (six question) consultation informing the review asked if children can attain the ECM five outcomes. These aims for local authorities in the provision of services to children cannot be imposed as a requirement upon families or individual children, especially in the detailed interpretation of what they may mean in practice. Children have a right to develop their own aims and objectives.
4.1 AHEd have been informed that researchers such as Rothermel, Thomas and Sauer, interviewed for the Review were not happy with Badman's interpretation of their meetings BUT that they had not been aware of this unwelcome interpretation until FOI requests were made to DCSF by home educators.
4.2 AHEd believe that Dr P Rothermel's research, the largest and most academically thorough research into home education in the UK, has been errantly dismissed by Badman who focussed on a subsection of the cohort and erroneously concluded the sample was too small. Badman's own statistics are based upon reports from 25 out of 150 LAs. He is now seeking supplementary data to find justifying evidence, post review, for the recommendations. AHEd are confident, in light of many hours collating statistical evidence, that Badman cannot find evidence to support his claims or justify the recommendations.
4.3 The Review was selective in its quoting of the Church of England's submission, causing a distorted view of the Church's thoughts on home education and thereby upsetting home educating Church members and others.
5.1 The basic analysis of consultation questions² quotes Question 6 "Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this does not happen?"
5.2 However, the Report to the Secretary of State³ reports a different question: Question 7 "Some people have expressed concern that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse, forced marriage, domestic servitude or other forms of child neglect. What do you think Government should do to ensure this cannot happen again?"
5.3 The meaning is changed from one about possible preventative measures to one about measures to deal with existing abuse. The review team and DCSF had no prior knowledge of, and did not find any, evidence to support this. The over-riding message to the reader is "abuse has happened, how can we prevent more abuse?".
5.4 AHEd are concerned why the report to the secretary of state and the response analysis show this discrepancy, whether the sentence structure is manipulative/incompetent, whether all respondents answered the same question, when/why the question changed?
5.5 This casts doubt on the conduct of the consultation and shows that the high standards required in guiding government policy decisions have not been upheld. It severely compromises the data collection for this part of the review.
6.1 The review report included the admission that figures do not support the abuse hypothesis, but statistics obtained were manipulated to give the opposite impression, resulting in news reports about raised risk of abuse4 .
6.2 AHEd figures collected via FOI requests5 reveal the rate of abuse in the HE community is disproportionately LOW.
6.3 AHEd FOIs to every England LA dealt with actual case numbers. The review questionnaire asked for "estimates" and produced unreliable claims not supported by cases and subsequently admitted to an AHED researcher by at least one LA to be a gross overestimate. The report is therefore based on incorrect and incomplete data.
6.4 A statistician for AHEd scrutinising the review data raised issues of errors in operationalisation, sample selection and methodology, casting grave doubt on use of the results from the Review. He concluded that there may be sufficient doubt to bring a case of maladministration as the statistical methods appear to have been misused to support a case that does not exist.
7.1 The government has made repeated attempts to control choices in education with repeated policy reviews and consultations. We have listed fifteen of these6 in the last few years which have a direct or indirect affect on our ability to carry out our duty to our children. This amounts to harassment using the offices of government. The results of these previous consultations have been against any form of registration or monitoring.
7.2 Previous consultations concluded that current legislation is adequate and DCSF Guidelines were produced to help those who do not understand how to make proper use of current legislation. No assessment has been made of the adherence to those guidelines before launching this Review.
7.3 The Badman review has produced recommendations wildly disproportionate to the (mis)perceived issues around home education; it misuses the function of public consultation at public expense and has attempted to evade criticism by failing to produce an Impact Assessment.
7.4 Consultation: Home Education - registration and monitoring proposals
This current consultation is based on the faulty Review and should be suspended pending the results of this inquiry. AHEd believe the DCSF are rushing consultation in order to make the changes they want in time to include them in the Education and Inspections Bill. Despite insufficient time to properly consider the review report, to produce a Regulatory Impact Assessment or to clearly target the true stakeholders, they opened this consultation on the same day the Review was reported to the public.
This gives stakeholders who have become aware of the consultation little time to give proper consideration to the 75 page report, its 28 main recommendations, their correlation with the proposals in this consultation and how they might wish to address them in their response to the 12 questions of this consultation; all at the same time as providing their children with a suitable education otherwise than at school.
It gives the majority of stakeholders no chance at all to engage with these proposals that affect them directly.
7.5 Legislation for monitoring home education
has prematurely been mentioned in the "
7.6 The government is to produce their full response to the Badman Review with regard to implementing the recommendations, some time in September, which again appears to pre-empt the outcome of the consultation whilst it should have pre-existed both the current consultation and any suggested legislative changes to the Bill mentioned above.
7.7.1 The consultation "sets out proposals for a registration scheme and arrangements for the monitoring of provision to ensure that children are receiving the education they are entitled to."
7.7.2 However, Government has a duty to monitor the provision it provides to parents as a service in the form of state schools but it does not have a duty or right to monitor private provision by parents. See Education Act 1996, S7; these proposals will cause conflict with this section of the Act requiring a repeal which would have extensive consequences for many other parts of legislation.
7.7.3 The proposals are contradictory to the Article 8 - Right to respect for private and family life
7.8.1 The consultation proposes that "where there are serious concerns about the ability of the parent to provide their child with a suitable education in a safe environment then they should not be permitted to educate their child at home."
7.8.2 Current statute already allows for a School Attendance Order to be issued where a parent fails to cause a child to receive a suitable education otherwise than at school and Supervision or Care Orders to be issued where a child is at risk.
7.8.3 It is frankly incredible to say that if a child's home is unsafe the remedy is not to allow home education there, when the child will be there at all other times than school hours. If it is the education which is not suitable there is already a remedy in Section 437 of the Education Act 1996.
7.8.4 This proposal is in conflict with the Education Act 1996, Section 7 which provides that the parent is responsible for deciding where a child's education takes place
7.8.5 It is also in conflict with the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006 which provide that a parent may remove a child from the school register to educate the child otherwise than at school and that deregistration must take place with immediate effect.
7.8.6 It is also in conflict with a fundamental principle of English law - that of a presumption of innocence - it cannot be just for a local authority to prejudge, without a parent having access to justice, whether that parent may, at some future time, fail in their legal duty to provide a suitable education in accordance with the Education Act 1996. It allows for LA personnel, on the vague grounds of "any other concern", to circumvent the legal priciple of audi alterem partem, leaving the parent with no recourse to due legal process.
8.1 There has been no regulatory impact assessment (RIA) regarding the costs of a compulsory annual registration/licensing and monitoring programme that does not currently exist and for which there is no legal framework. Baroness Morgan claimed no need for the RIA because the costs would be minimal; AHEd suggest this is a gross underestimate of the costs of setting up the recommended state inspectorate of families and children, which would require changes to primary legislation, and of its maintenance and enforcement.
8.2 Finances - Home Education Advisory Service (HEAS) produced an analysis of the projected costs estimating around £500 Million per year which, although AHEd have not scrutinised in the short time available to us, we have no reason to discount given that an estimated 50,000 children would be assessed and visited in their home at least annually - compared to the small number now thus scrutinised (less than 20,000 known to LAs and most not visited or annually assessed), as well as legislatory and other implications.
8.3 The impact on resources for children in need - manpower resources will be further diverted from children who are in real, evidenced and urgent need if large numbers of home educating families, causing no reasonable concern, become subject to routine investigation for safeguarding reasons.
8.4 Implications for home educated children and their families - The proposal of right of access to homes and unaccompanied access to children will undermine the integrity and security of the home, destablising and confusing healthy children in a disproportionate and damaging exercise to seek out abusers. This is an abuse contravening the right to a private and family life, and the right to the assumption of innocence where there is no reasonable cause for concern. Many families will resist this state sponsored grooming of children forced to accept unwelcome attentions against their will from strangers in a position of authority. AHEd members view these recommendations as co-operating with a paedophile friendly agenda.
8.5 Implications for Local Authorities - the review seeks to assert a duty of local authorities to ensure the education of all children of compulsory education age, which does not exist in law. Were it to be successful, LAs would become liable for their well documented failures to ensure the suitable education of all children. This has not been assessed.
8.6 Implications for the Judiciary - The possible costs to the judicial system where families fight criminal sanctions over registration, access to children separated from parents or definitions of suitable education that conflict with their own religious or philosophical convictions and conscience have not been assessed.
9.1 The recent call for post review evidence from Mr Graham Badman amounts to an admission that the evidence informing the review was not sufficiently rigorous and therefore should not have been used to inform his recommendations.
10.1 Eleven of the twelve team members have no apparent experience of or expertise in elective home education.
10.2 Mr Badman demonstrated a lack of understanding of home education when meeting with home educators.
10.3 Two members represent the 3rd Sector. The need for this, or the 3rd Sector's interest in elective home education, is unclear.
10.4 How the Becta/Heppell ICT agenda pertains to elective home education is unclear.
10.5 At least three members are claimed to be experts re ECM but have not understandood that home educators are not bound by this LA focussed requirement.
10.6 Both SEN representatives appear to be in favour of inclusion into mainstream provision. This directly conflicts with elective home education. Beth Reid co-wrote the report 'Make school make sense for me', which failed to explain the option of deregistration, despite stating that school bullying made some children suicidal, and which also described alternative Local Authority-provided education as 'home education'.
10.7 At least two panel members may have a conflict of interests; they are employed by charities providing alternative educational provision, and the leader of the review is employed by Becta whose strategic objectives are in direct conflict with some electively home educating families' educational philosophies.
10.8 One member is also a member of the London Safeguarding Children Board, which has previously been involved in what appears to be the deliberate spreading of spurious, unfounded allegations to LAs about "a number of serious child protection cases where the child was electively home educated."
Mr Badman, former Director of Children's Services for
11.2 AHEd's review of LA services8 concludes that there has been persistently poor service from some LAs due to hostility and a lack of understanding of both the law and how home education often works. Mr Badman, whose lifelong career has been in local authority work, reaches conclusions that seek to legitimise the culture of hostile ultra vires policies and practices on the part of some authorities and replace due process with unaccountable authority.
11.3 Mr Badman's recent appeal to LAs for evidence to support his findings post review, displays his bias and presumption of guilt of all home educators. For example, his new questionnaire includes in the total of children not receiving a suitable education,
a) those children for whom there has been no assessment
b) those who prefer to offer information in response to LA enquiries in a legally acceptable form that is not the prefered practice of the authority.
It includes definitions of a suitable education not supported in law (eg "full time" is not defined for home education so a specific time in hours cannot be demanded if it is not suited for a particular child.)
12.1 Nektus is a private company specialising in education management and was first registered as a company in October 2008. Mr and Mrs Badman are listed as directors along with family members.
12.2 AHEd ask the inquiry team to consider how this affects the independence of Mr Badman as he has set up a company, prior to the review being announced, that could benefit financially from the regulation and management of elective home education. In particular whether:
Mr Badman is in a conflict of interest situation
Mr Badman and his company stand to gain by the implementation of these proposals, and
Was Nektus involved in the preparation of the Review or the Report?
13.1 Home educators have been and continue to be severely obstructed in their efforts to gather information in order to verify the hypothesis and findings of the Review9.
13.2 Many LAs have refused to provide copies of information which informed the Review; have been evasive and slow in providing information and have had to be followed/reported for Internal Review/contacted by Councillors before information has been forthcoming; Information has been withheld on grounds which have not prevented other LAs from providing similar information.
14.1 The DCSF refused numerous requests for important information on the grounds that it may cause harm to Mr Badman. Andrew Partridge, Information Rights Manager for the DCSF, wrote to the Information Commissioner claiming there is a "campaign" threatening to inundate them with FOI requests. There is no campaign, just an effort by home educators to find justification for this Review and recommendations. It is the extremely controversial nature of the Review that has provoked the unusual numbers of FOI request.
14.2 Mr Partridge also wrote that there has been harassment and hostility towards Mr Badman and others who have been involved in the review. He listed a few Internet pages as evidence of this hostility, which frankly by today's satirical standards are very mild and are not a threat to health, safety or personal privacy and should not be a barrier to government transparency.
15.1 The launch, Report and media coverage all give lip-service to respect for the right to home educate. Unfortunately, what is not written in these press releases is the detail that shows that the recommendations effectively outlaw choice and freedom in home education such that, for example, the autonomous education from which many of our older children have benefited, will no longer be possible.
15.2 This submission has a word limit that prevents a full analysis of each review recommendation so it is inevitable that we focus on the most contentious, however,
15.3 Mr Badman recently claimed that most of his recommendations have not been challenged. How he can know this, when the consultation still has weeks to run, is not clear. AHEd members are aware of the most contentious issues (enforced home visits/seeing children alone and out of the presence of their parent). AHEd wish to make it clear that the home education community are unhappy with many of the recommendations and we would be happy to expand on this if the Inquiry so wishes.
15.4.1 Review report - general issues: Following publication of the Review report, a consultation was launched, on the same day, into the proposals. This is contrary to the DCSF Code of Practice which states: "Criterion 1: Formal consultation should take place at a stage when there is scope to influence the policy outcome."
15.4.2 Recommendation 1: Compulsory registration and monitoring system. This would require changes to primary legislation.
15.4.3 Recommendation 2: advises that "the DCSF review the current statutory definition of what constitutes a "suitable" and "efficient" education in the light of the Rose review of the primary curriculum..."
15.4.4 The Rose Review is written for primary education in schools which has no jurisdiction over elective home education. The criteria for provision for EHE is laid down in the Education Act 1996 Section7 only. Applying "Rose" would contravene the right of parents to provide education in accordance with their religious and philosophical convictions and impose in its place a state monopoly view of what education should be. What Government decree suitable for state schools cannot be used to define "suitable education" per se.
15.4.5 AHEd believe that the Rose review process and consultations are in themselves questionable, were mishandled and carried out against rules for consultation. This contributes to our concerns about lack of proper consultation and abuse of the consultation process for reasons of political ideology. Our concerns are shared by the Cambridge Primary Review10
16. AHEd urge the Committee to reject the review and support the current legal framework.