Memorandum submitted by Worcestershire Home Educators
● The Terms of Reference for the Review were flawed and the time assigned inadequate.
● The methodology was flawed.
● The review team were not suitably impartial or knowledgeable about home education.
● The recommendations were not made on factual evidence and are discriminatory, costly and unworkable.
1. The Terms of Reference for the Review were flawed and the time assigned inadequate
1.1) The basic assumptions appear flawed and discriminatory.
1.1.1) That home education could be a cover for undetected child abuse and that its extent needed investigating and preventing.
On a Jeremy Vine radio show on 20th January, Vijay Patel, the NSPCC's Child Protection Advisor, said (about evidence linking home education to abuse) "We don't have the evidence there statistically, no." The report fails to give significant and substantiated evidence of abuse taking place in home educating families any more than in any other section of society.
1.1.2) That home education provides barriers to Local Authorities' safeguarding duties.
Home Educators are subject to
the same laws as any other
1.2 The time assigned for the review was inadequate.
1.2.1) Home Education takes a variety of forms and Local Authorities vary widely in their approaches to dealing with home educators, some being superficially helpful and others making ultra vires requests.
1.2.3) The review appears to have been rushed; such a complex and often misunderstood subject warrants more time.
2. The methodology was flawed.
2.1) The Public Call for Evidence questionnaire (Annex C of the report) was only available electronically, thus excluding responses from any home educators without regular internet access.
2.2) Local Authorities had a second chance to put their views with the questionnaire in Annex D of the report. This questionnaire could also be seen as biased and seems to inherently assume a formal teaching style of home education. For example, question 19 asks about full-time education and then defines this as 20 hours per week; this is not a legal definition of "full-time" for home education, misrepresents what Local Authorities might expect of home educators and therefore invalidates responses.
2.3) The expert panel met just a few times - seemingly not enough to do justice to such an important and complex subject.
2.4) It has emerged that a mere 25 self-selected Local Authorities provided detailed responses. From those 25 Local Authorities Mr Badman extrapolated results for the entire country. He does not appear to have considered that those Local Authorities who chose to respond may have had an axe to grind. Ironically in section 10.2 of the report Mr Badman says about home education that "Some were based on self selecting, and therefore biased, samples." We feel that this quote applies equally to his research with Local Authorities!
2.5) There is a bias throughout the report. For example, there is an out of context quotation from the Church of England's submission in section 4.8 . The quotation gives the impression that they approve of changes; however, the conclusion of their report is completely ignored: "We have seen no evidence to show that the majority of home educated children do not achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes, and are therefore not convinced of the need to change the current system of monitoring the system of home education."
2.6) Mr Badman did meet with some home educators, including a group in Worcestershire. However, the report does not reflect events or comments made, or the positive, caring, inclusive aspect of such groups. This report has the potential to drastically affect young people's lives, yet it does not contain a single comment from any home educated child or young person and does not reflect what they told him.
2.7 Statistics are not presented sufficiently. Frequent use of the words "I believe" indicate that this report is based more on opinion rather than fact.
2.8) Simply put, Mr Badman chose to ignore evidence which did not support his own opinions and the recommendations he wanted to make. Research such as that by Dr Paula Rothermel or Prof Alan Thomas was ignored or dismissed.
3. The review team were not suitably impartial or knowledgeable about home education.
3.1) The Expert Reference Group, listed in Appendix F of the report, did not have expert knowledge of elective home education and their own individual specialisms may have caused prejudice.
For example, three of the panel specialise in safeguarding; without proper knowledge of home education this may have tainted their views.
4) The recommendations were not made on factual evidence and are discriminatory, costly and unworkable
Although any evidence for change was insubstantial and the vast majority of respondents said changes were not necessary, Mr Badman chose to make 28 recommendations including some drastic changes. The following are the ones we have chosen to highlight.
4.1) Question 1 of the The Public Call for Evidence questionnaire (Annex C of the report) asked "Do you think the current system for safeguarding children who are educated at home is adequate?"/ According to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, there were 2013 responses to this question and only 8% replied "No". (see http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/frequency_count_of_responses_to).
4.2) Mr Badman seems to confuse rights and legal duties. It is a parent's duty in law to ensure his/her child receives a suitable education. If a child is not receiving a suitable education within a school setting then it is right for that parent to make other provision. It is therefore unreasonable for a Local Authority to be able to withhold permission for a parent to home educate/refuse to register them, especially for vague reasons (recommendation 23: "anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable and efficient education").
4.4) Recommendation 7 is completely unacceptable for many reasons. It assigns the presumption of guilt rather than innocence on one sector of society based purely on their (legal) choice of education. It will not help vulnerable children but will instead make them vulnerable. It contravenes the Human Right to privacy. Any child has the right to feel safe in his/her home. Giving strangers the right to enter a home and interview a child without a parent goes against all safety messages given out to children ("stranger danger"). This will particularly concern any families with a child who has SEN, such as being on the autistic spectrum. It is unworkable.
4.5) There is no factual indication of how much these recommendations will cost or where the money. If it is assumed that a number of "unknown" home educators will be forced to register then there will be extra costs. At present, home visits do not have to take place; if these are imposed on all home educators at least once a year then there will be extra cost.
4.6) It is questionable why, in
the conclusion to the report (section 11.1), Mr Badman quotes legislation in