Memorandum submitted by Mary MacIntyre
I am a parent who, along with my husband, has chosen to Home Educate out child. We are gravely concerned by the way in which the Badman review of Elective Home Education has been conducted and the recommendations he has made.
Summary of concerns:
Make up of 'Expert' Reference Group
Contravention of BERR Code of Practice at Criteria 2, 4 and 5
Canvassing opinion disproportionately
Contravention of Civil Service Code of Conduct
Not including sufficient information
Failure to carry out the Review's Terms of Reference
Recommendations which are disproportionate to the perceived problem or to the results of the investigations
Making recommendations with quantifying costs
1. Make up of 'Expert' Reference Group:
Out of the 10 members if this group of experts, my researches can only elicit one members having any expertise in Home Education. If a review is to be trusted, the experts should be expert in the field that is being reviewed. Why did the reference group not contain more academics who have carried out research into Home Education and why did it not include a member of the Home Education community sitting on it?
2. Contravention of BERR Code of Practice:
The Badman Review is claimed not to be a consultation but, if it wasn't, it should have been, as major policy and legislative changes have been recommended. A Consultation has now been called on these recommendations but draft legislation incorporating them is already being prepared and therefore the results of the Consultation will be too late to effect the legislation.
Criterion 2: Duration of Consultation Exercises: The Review was not open for 12 weeks. Due to this, many interested parties, including me, did not have the opportunity to respond to the review.
Criterion 4: Accessibility of Consultation Exercises: Contact was not made with stakeholders. Local Authorities were not asked to contact registered Home Educators to inform them of the review. I did not become aware of the review until it was too late to respond. A major stake holding group is, of course, that of Home Educated children but no specific questionnaire was available in order to canvass their views. This is in contravention of Articles 12 and 13 of the UNCRC.
Criterion 5: The Burden of Consultation: This Review is the third since 2005 . The most recent previous review only finalised its new guidance in November 2007. A third review is akin to harassment of a minority group . As far as I can see the only justification for a third review has been due to inflammatory and unsubstantiated claims about abuse in the Home
Educating community. This review has produced no evidence to substantiate those claims and has contributed to those claims by what Mr. Badman has both written and said to the press subsequently.
3. Canvassing Opinion Disproportionately:
In the review, a figure of 60°/a response from Local Authorities is given whereas it is stated that more than 3/ of the more than 2000 responses were from home educators and their children. Considering that it is believed that between 20,000 and 80,000 children are Home Educated, the proportion of response from these stakeholders is very significantly less than for Local Authorities. The reason for this is partly due to the lack of effort made to directly contact Home Educators. Even ignoring the above difference, I am concerned that more weight was given to Local Authority responses than to those of the general public and Home Educators. The Local Authorities questionnaire asked 26 questions compared with only 6 questions asked in the general public questionnaire . Local Authorities also had the opportunity to complete a more in-depth questionnaire (this questionnaire was not attached as an annex to the report).
4. Contravention of Civil Service Code :
The accuracy and objectivity of Mr . Badman should be questioned with reference to statistics used (see 5b) and comments made to the press after completion of the report, about the rate of abuse in the Home Educating Community, He is quoted in the Sunday Times as having said "that child abuse cases were roughly double among the home-educated ". There is no substantion of this. Why is this not written in his report (with supportive statistics)? Surely that is the correct place for such comments, not the press? Such comments to the press are unprofessional and damaging to a minority group.
5. Not including sufficient information:
a) No details have been provided of when and how often the Expert Reference Group met, nor any details of their discussions.
b) No statistics on abuse in Home Educated children are attached at any point, despite the second stated term of reference for the Review being "The extent to which claims of home education could be used as a 'cover' for child abuse". This is a dereliction of Mr. Badman's duties.
I understand he obtained details of children known to the Social Services' from some Local Authorities and then used these figures to extrapolate to the amount of abuse in the Home Educating community . This collection of data is incorrect since a child being 'known to the Social Services' does not equate to the number of children who have suffered abuse. He states in his report, at 8 . 12 "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 population . Secondly, despite the small number of serious case reviews where home education was feature, the consideration of these reviews and the data outlined above, suggests that those engaged in the support and monitoring of home education should he alert to the potential additional risk to children". I take issue with what is said at 8 .12: as i) He admits, "It was not possible to identify with any degree of accuracy the number of children and young people currently educated at home ." How can he say therefore that the numbers known to the children's social care is disproportionately high? ii) He should not just be 'outlining data' but clearly publishing the data he used to draw his conclusions . iii) He has not substantiated any increase in risk but advises that people should be alert to the potential additional risk. This is unreasonable and I consider goes against the civil service code of objectivity.
I also understand that, apart from the poor collection of data, the methods of analysis leave a lot to be desired. Why were these statistics not published? I have seen subsequent analysis of the above figures, which conclude that abuse in the Home Educating community is lower than normal . As stated above Mr. Badman says in his report that "it was not possible to identify with any degree of accuracy the number of children and young people currently educated at home ." As this is the case, how can he quanti1 to the press that child abuse cases are roughly double among the home educated?
Statistics properly collected and analysed could have proven or disproven the concern on whether Home Education is a cover for abuse. By failing to produce such figures Mr. Badman has failed in his review and therefore his recommendations are not valid . if the government bases legislation on the recommendations of this review it could be the subject of a Judicial Review.
6. Failure to carry out the Review's Terms of Reference:
In Annex A, the Terms of Reference to be investigated are boldly stated . As discussed above, the second term of reference, which is "The extent to which claims of home education could be used as a cover' for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude." has not been fully investigated. The Review has therefore failed to fulfil its brief. Recommendations have been made despite this.
7. Recommendations which are disproportionate to the perceived problem or to the results of the investigation:
The investigations of the review have failed to show up factual evidence on the rate of child abuse in the Home Educating community (although there is argument that the statistics that were gathered show that there is less abuse in the community than in the general population). Despite this, recommendations have been made to make very major legislative changes which would allow Local Authorities the right of entry to a private home and got Local Authorities to be able to interview unattended children. Not only would this legislative change go against this country being a place of freedom and liberty (an Englishman's home is his castle), such legislation would fly in the face of the Human Rights Act (right of access to the home engages Article 8 of the Human rights Act 1998 - the right to respect for family and private life, home and correspondence) and the UNCRC Article 12.
A register for Elective Home Education is proposed (more accurately it should be called a 'licence' procedure). This is completely unnecessary and will be very wasteful of government funds as ContactPoint, which will be up and running very shortly, will hold all necessary details on every child in this country (this is acknowledged at 6.2 in the Badman Review).
8. Making recommendations without quantifying costs:
No Impact Assessment appears to have been carried out (one if not mentioned in the report). The current Consultation on policy changes following the Reviews recommendations therefore breaks Criterion 3 of the BERR Code of Practice on Consultation.