Memorandum submitted by Louise Thorn



As a home educating parent I currently have a very helpful, respectful relationship with our LA EHE visitor. I fear that if Badman's recommendations are to be enacted, and more powers were to be given to LA in EHE cases then this relationship would be damaged to the detriment of my children and our wider family life.


Graham Badman found no foundation for the rumour that 'Home Education may be used as a cover for abuse', but used a flawed statistical methodology to arrive at figures which appeared to show that children are more likely to be known to social services than their school educated peers.


The phrase 'known to social services' has been conflated, either deliberately or recklessly (perhaps both), with 'at risk of abuse' in Graham Badman's communications with the press to the extent that it has been widely reported in the national media that home educated children are more likely to be abused than school educated ones. Of all smear stories, accusations of child abuse are surely the worst, and this smear has been spread with the active encouragement of a government employee against all home educators.


1. In January 2009 Baroness Delyth Morgan commissioned Graham Badman, CBE, former Head of Children's Services in Kent, to undertake a Review into Elective Home Education in England, following 'concerns that Home Education may be used as a cover for abuse'. In June 2009, Graham Badman published his review, contending that, whilst there was no evidence that Home Education was being used a cover for abuse, he had been provided with evidence that Home Educated children were more likely to be known to social services than their school educated peers.[1] He recommended wide ranging changes to be made to the existing arrangements for monitoring home educated children, including yearly registration in person for home educating families, testing of each child on an annual basis to renew the permission from the LA to home educate a child, and provision for children to be interviewed alone, without their parents present, on the discretion of the Education Officer. In my submission, after a brief examination of the effects these registration and monitoring proposals are likely to have, I will focus on the shortcomings of this 'statistical proof' that stronger regulation and monitoring powers are required and discuss the shameful way that, with the collusion of the report's author, the home educating minority have been portrayed in the press.


2. I am mother of two small children. Although we had always considered home educating our children for philosophical reason, my husband and I took the firm decision to home educate our children after our eldest child had a disappointing first year in our local school. Her experiences whilst attending school, taken together with the most recent Osted report convinced us that the school was unable to meet the needs of our bright, inquisitive, sensitive daughter. We removed her from school in 2008 and we have very much enjoyed home educating her and her sister ever since. As she had previously been registered at school we were referred to our Local Authority as a matter of course, and we have found the LA to be very supportive and respectful of our decision to take the duty of providing an education to our children as our personal responsibility, rather than delegating that important responsibility to others. As a measure of the good relationship which the LA visitor has built up with us, my daughters' asked her to attend their recent birthday parties. Naturally she was not able to attend, but this is indicative of the trust and esteem which attends our relationship with her. I fear that if all of Mr Badman's recommendations were to be enacted in law, this relationship would be changed, not for the better, but for the worse.


3. I am mindful of the need to keep this submission concise. If I was going to write everything I would like to say about the review, I would allow myself to dwell for longer on the problems I perceive with Graham Badman's recommendations for registration and monitoring home educating families. Since space is limited, I will confine myself to a few short points about the discriminatory nature of the recommended regulations as they pertain to home educating families:


4. Recommendation 1 provision should be made for "... registration at a local school children's centre or other public building as determined by the local authority."[2] Why should home educators be made to register in person, when applications for school places may be made online or by post?


5. Furthermore, at the time of registration "... parents/carers/guardians must provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child over the following twelve months."[3] Recommendation 7 introduces the idea that the children will be tested on the basis of the plan lodged with LA at registration "...[P]arents be required to allow the child through exhibition or other means to demonstrate both attainment and progress in accord with the statement of intent ..."[4]


6. This clearly discriminates against parents who choose to follow a philosophy of 'automonous education' for their children, allowing their children to choose what to learn, and when to learn it. striking when the iron is hot, educationally speaking. Those parents will not be able, by definition, to provide a statement of intent with desired/planned outcomes. In addition, even those parents who choose to follow more structured approaches to education may have difficulty in predicting what their children may attain during the year, and yet Mr Badman recommends that home educated children are testing according to these planned outcomes. By contrast, in school, there is no requirement for pupils to repeat a year if they do not attain the minimum standards in their schoolwork that may generally be expected of their year group, and teachers are not penalised if their pupils do not achieve specific grades at SAT, GSCE or A Level.


7. Badman also intends that children should be made to 'exhibit' their learning to the visiting person. Some children, my own children included, are naturally shy and are unlikely to want to 'exhibit' their learning to a total stranger, plus if the stranger is setting the test, then they will be unsure of what they are about to face. Add in to the mix the child's fear that they may be about to be sent back to an institution at which they faced bullying or were otherwise unhappy, and you have an incredible amount of pressure on that child to perform in an almost impossible situation. Badman envisages that to protect 'the right of the child to have an education' this should be repeated on a yearly basis. I do not believe these recommendations have considered what a child may reasonably expected to think or feel in this situation.


8. Another recommendation is that Local Authority Education Officers may, at their own discretion, compel a child to have a one to one interview without their parents being present. There is nothing to say that these powers would be used properly. I have a good relationship with my LA, I personally know other Home Educators who do not. Also I am aware of LAs which choose to act ultra vires (for example, flagging up a parent's failure to 'mark work' as a reason for concern about educational provision) at the moment, there are insufficient safeguards to ensure that the exercise of this power would not become an automatic part of every visit.


9. Having briefly outlined the main objections I have to Graham Badman's proposals, I will now move on to my main point, the fact that the data which Graham Badman uses to justify his proposals is seriously flawed. The idea that home educated children are more likely, in some LAs, to be 'known to Social Services' than their school educated peers, is the whole foundation, the rock on which the recommendations stands, however, there are some very serious problems with the way the data that forms his 'evidence' was collected, and with the way the data was handled and disseminated afterwards. In the review Graham Badman concluded that, on the subject of child protection


"[1.3] The review found no evidence that home education was used to cover forced marriage, servitude, or trafficking other than in isolated cases. However the reviewer was provided with evidence showing that the number of home educated children known to Children's Social Services in some LAs was disproportionately high relative to the size of their home educating population."[5]


10. Unfortunately, the 'evidence' to which Mr Badman refers is not produced alongside, so anyone reading the report cannot tell in how many boroughs this phenomenon was reportedly experienced, and how large or small the numbers of families involved actually was. Graham Badman also went further at a Press Conference at which he was understood as saying that home educated children were twice as likely to be 'known to Social Services' as their home educated peers. Following several FOI requests to the DCSF for the raw data from which these startling figures were derived, a working paper was made available by the DCSF, from which we can glean the following salient facts:


11. a) Data was provided by responding Local Authorities (LAs) on a voluntary basis. Originally all 150 'top tier' LAs were sent a document containing 6 questions, a longer questionnaire with 60 questions was sent out to all those LAs who responded in the first instance, but not all LAs answered all questions. Since participation in the review was not compulsory, all data from the LAs who did respond has a self-selection bias. The median figure from the self-selecting reporting sample was then multiplied by the total number of LAs and compared with the estimated number of registered EHE children (this had to be estimated because only 60% of LAs chose to respond to the original questionnaire which asked how many children were registered as EHE in their authority area). This gave a percentage figure which the DCSF working paper claims was roughly double the estimated figure for 'known to social care' children in state maintained schools, but this estimated figure dated back to 2005.[6] The 'twice as likely' claim is based on data from an extremely small, unrepresentative sample of LAs.


12. b) The data in the working paper contains the caveat:


"* NB: Not all LAs answered all the questions asked, therefore the base numbers mentioned in this note differ. One cannot assume missing data means nil (i.e. no children)."[7]

If not all 16% responded to every single question, in some cases the figures are gleaned from data received from less than 16% of an unrepresentative sample of LAs. The DCSF notes 'One cannot assume missing data means nil (i.e. no children).' but it seems difficult to give credence to the idea that a LA involved in the serious business of child protection would, whilst filling in a questionnaire on child protection issues, omit to include prescient information. 25 LAs (all those who were sent the 60 question document) responded to the question about children 'known to social care', but only 13 authorities responded to the query about children subject to a Care Plan (also referred to as a Child Protection Plan), and of those 13 that responded, the working paper states:


"13 LAs told us specifically about their EHE children who were subject to a care plan (previously a child protection plan). Again, data varied widely but 5 LAs had at least 4% of their case load subject to a care plan." [8]


Implicit in this statement is that, of the remaining 8 LAs, some, if indeed, not all had less than 4%? And even though 'at least' implies that the percentage of EHE subject to a CPP was higher in a few of those 5 LAs, it's not certain to be the case.


13. c) There is also the issue of the deliberate conflation of the term 'known to social services' (a term which has a pejorative connation), with 'at risk of abuse'. The part of the questionnaire which asked LAs for numbers of children known to social services made explicit the differing reasons why a child may be known to social services, namely section 17, section 37 and section 47 of the 1989 Children's Act.[9] The data in the working paper explicitly includes children known to Social Services for all three reasons, yet this was not made clear in the review when Graham Badman stated:


"... home educated children known to Children's Social Services in some LAs was disproportionately high relative to the size of their home educating population."


14. It is important also to note that being known to Social Services under Section 17 is not an independent variable when it comes to location of education provision. Many children who have disabilities, whether physical or mental, or those who have SEN statements, are home educated because the challenges of their conditions means that mainstream schooling proves problematic or undesirable. The issue of SEN/other disabilities skewing the 'known to social care' data is well understood by the DCSF. It was not specifically addressed in the review, nor was it drawn to the attention of journalists when they were furnished with their attention grabbing headlines about Home Educated Children known to Social Services, but Ed Balls did acknowledge this fact when he wrote an article appearing on his website in late July 2009, apparently in response to the letters and emails he had received on the subject.[10]


15. d) Another problem with the 'collected data' used by Badman is the variation between reporting standards in and interpretation of data categories by each LA. In the preable to the DCSF Statistics for Child Protection Plans for the year ending 31/03/08, the department notes:

" Data quality
3. The reader should bear in mind that the great variability between local authorities shown in some of the figures presented here may be a result of local differences in the interpretation of the definitions of the data categories, rather than accurately reflecting differences in local social services practice.

If the DCSF is aware that the LAs don't all adhere to a single reporting standard for official statistics, how can Mr Badman infer that they are all following the same reporting standard for his informal questionnaire? Similarly, the choice of language used in the review, such as the ambiguous phrase 'known to social care' and 'on the at risk register' do not figure in the official statistics documents available on the DSCF website. They use the terms 'subject to a Child Protection Plan' (now a 'Care Plan' and make further distinction of a CPP enacted under section 47 (risk of significant harm).

16. I have considered the question of why Mr Badman chose to rely on 'unofficial collected data' and whether he really had no option but to turn to a questionnaire format because data was not available from official sources. The DSCF does hold 'official statistics' for children designated as having Special Education Needs, this does show children with SEN designation who aren't at school and breaks this down by LA area.[12] We have already discussed elsewhere the wide ranging definition of 'known to social care' and there do not seem to be any figures available to show children 'known to social care', let alone a breakdown of the distinct factors which made lead to having the 'known to social care' status. Unfortunately the CPP figures do not give the location of education provision, nor is the location of education provision explicitly recorded on SCR documents, so there was a convincing rationale for using some form of questionnaire, the data not being readily available from existing documentation held by the DCSF.[13]


17. Given the absence of the phrase 'known to social care' in official DCSF statistics, I am unsure why LAs were questioned about children 'known to social care' as this is too ambiguous to give a clear meaning to the data from the responses. It would have been better, surely, to ask the LAs to answer unambiguous questions, such as absolute numbers of registered EHE children, with absolute numbers of children of EHE who are subject to Care Plans, and, crucially, to compel them to respond to the question. Furthermore, since Badman acknowledges wide variations between data returned from the 25 authorities, perhaps a more detailed comparison of 'known to social care' rates for section 17, 37 and 47 for each responding authority set alongside the general 'known to social care' for their overall juvenile populations would have been useful. These questions could have been asked, but they were not asked. It begs the question, why more was not done to understand the reasons why there are such wide variations between authorities.


18. I was so concerned about the use of these statistics to support the Badman recommendations, that I wrote to the UKSA, the official body tasked with improving public confidence in statistics. Their answer was illuminating. The 'statistics' which Badman relies on are not 'official statistics' but merely 'collected data' from his questionnaires. The UKSA official comment is as follows:


"We note the media comment following the publication of the report, and also that some additional information was provided in a supplementary annex released through Freedom of Information Act requests. However, these data are not part of, nor feed into, any of the DCSF's official statistics .... Because these data are research findings rather than official statistics they are not matters that fall within our statutory remit.

"However, as a matter of principle, the Statistics Authority recommends that the supporting statistical evidence for the statements of the kind attributed to Mr. Badman in the media coverage following the publication of the report should be made public which we note has in fact now happened through the publication of responses to Freedom of Information Act requests."


The UKSA has no authority to comment on his figures and his analysis and yet this 'collected data', unable to bear even cursory scrutiny, is to be used as the basis for legislation.[15] It is instructive to note that the publication of the supporting data for the comments which Badman made, which UKSA states should be published as a matter of principle, were only published as by the DCSF on the 'What Do They Know' website as a result of specific FOI requests for the information.


19. The DCSF is definitely aware of the problems with the statistical 'evidence' as the working paper generated from the raw data from 25 Local Authorities also carries the disclaimer:


"The working paper below is a summary of local authority (LA) information returned to the Badman Review team, but it has at this point undergone limited quality assurance and does not meet DCSF standards for publication of statistical data." [16]


20. I presume that this is the reason why the 'twice as likely' claim was not included in the review document itself. To sum up, we have a situation where for justification for extremely significant legislative proposals there is a reliance on unofficial statistics which are therefore unverifiable by the Government body which is supposed to be 'building trust in statistics'. Local Authorities were not required to respond to either questionnaire, and they were not required to answer all questions. There is not a straightfoward comparison between the categories and the vocabulary used for official statistics and the categories and vocabulary used in the LAs questionnaire and those reported in the review. Furthermore, the DCSF itself acknowledges that there are differences in the ways which each LA reports data, and the Badman review highlighted the variations in the way Home Educating families are treated by LAs due to the institutional culture and local interpretation existing law and guidelines.


21. Various sources have also cited a review of Serious Case Reviews[17] which were supposed to highlight a need for greater powers for LA to monitor home educators. Of the four cases written about in the working paper from the DCSF I have been able to review details for three - those occurring on the Isle of Wight (where older siblings, and not the deceased child who was only 3 months old were EHE[18]), in Enfield (sudden death of a teenager, failure to notify death) and Gloucestershire (Eunice Spry). In each of these three cases it is explicitly stated in SCR documentations that parents complied with local HE monitoring arrangements and no concerns had been noted.[19]


22. In two cases (Isle of Wight and Gloucestershire) there had been extensive family contact with various Social Services departments either immediately prior to the event leading up to the SCR (Isle of Wight) or prior to fostering and adoption arrangements being made (Gloucestershire). No details that have been made available about these four cases suggests that any of the tragic events would have been prevented by the registration & monitoring regulations. It seems incredible that Social Services departments that have been found to be failing to use their existing powers to safeguard vulnerable children would cite these cases as reasons why they should be given stronger powers in the case of Home Educating Families only.


23. Furthermore, a FOI enquiry to DCSF Child Protection Unit indicated that of 121 SCR held by the department for the period 1st April 2007 - 9th August 2009,


88 SCR were opened for cases involving children aged 0-4;

16 SCR for children aged 5-10,

6 SCR for individuals aged 11-16; and

11 SCR for individuals aged 17-18.


Of those of compulsory school age (total 22 individuals), 20 were registered at state schools, of the two remaining individuals one was 'unknown to any educational establishment nor registered with LA as EHE' and one's location of educational provision was recorded as 'unknown' as it was not specifically recorded in the SCR.[20] Given the scrutiny that must attend any SCR undertaking, it would indeed be strange if, a child having been found to have been neglected and/or abused whilst being home educated, this fact would NOT have been recorded very prominently in the SCR document. This cursory review of SCR documents held by the DCSF for the period 01/04/07-09/08/09 indicates that there are no current SCR held by the department involving EHE children.[21]


24. Given the very serious flaws in the methods used to provide a semblance of a statistical justification for the legislative proposals, I would now like to turn to the way these 'statistics' have been used to stir up bad feeling against home educators in the press. When the review was announced, the Junior Minister in the DCSF, Baroness Delyth Morgan, was widely quoted in the press as saying that that 'Home Education could be used as a cover for abuse'. Quite apart from the very questionable professionalism of Baroness Morgan making such a statement on the eve of a supposedly 'impartial and independent' review into Elective Home Education, I wonder if a similar statement would have been tolerated if it had been made about another minority - perhaps a particular religious denomination or a higher profile cultural group? I believe this statement has promoted mistrust of home educating families who are, despite widespread belief in government to the contrary, high profile within their local communities if not on a national level. Why should my decision to remove my children state system of education which does not meet their needs be slandered and smeared in this way? There has been no apology from the Baroness nor the DCSF, despite the findings of the review.


25. I was also concerned by the way that the review's author had been allowed to present his 'findings' to the press. Having carefully read the review when it first appeared in June 2009, I felt that the coverage of the issue in three papers,'The Independent', 'The Guardian' and 'The Times', all broke the PCC rules with regard to accuracy.[22] All three had run with the story that the new monitoring and registration legislation was necessary because children who were home educated were twice as likely to be known to Social Services than their school educated peers. In the course of the investigation of my complaints, it has become clear that the press were briefed with figures that did not appear in the review, but from the raw data, which was later made available as the working paper discussed above. Graham Badman sought to justify his recommendations using figures gleaned from his raw data, why, given that this figure did not appear in the review was he allowed to do so, without also presenting information vital to the correct interpretation of the data, namely:


The significance of a small sample size

Extremely likelihood of self selection bias and unrepresentative sample

Conflation of 'known to social services' with 'at risk of abuse'

Likelihood that SEN statements and other disabilities would skew the 'known to social services' data

Discrepancies between interpreting/reporting categories at LA level

Wide variations between 25 reporting authorities

Comparison with out of date statistics for the overall population.?


This resulted in headlines which gave the general public the idea that Home Educated children were more likely to be abused by their parents than school educated children, a vile slur, and one which is not borne out by the figures in the DCSF working paper, nor the AHEd review of LAs which was later published online.[23]


26. A journalists from 'The Independent' newspaper has also gone as far as to claim that during the Press Conference, Mr Badman claimed that a review of SCR had shown that home educated children are twice as likely to be the subject of a SCR than their school educated peers.[24] I do not have tape recording of the press conference, I am only able to rely on the reports from journalists who are currently involved in a complaints procedure, but what is clear from all three accounts is that there was no attempt to distinguish between 'known to social care' and 'at risk of abuse' and Mr Badman gave journalists to understand that figures from a small, self selected sample of LAs as being representative of the picture across all LAs. We therefore have a situation in which a man, charged by the government to investigate home education has appeared before journalists and given them misleading, statistically 'dodgy' information which would lead to detriment of that minority. In my opinion this amounts to government sanctioned smearing of a minority in the mainstream press.


27. In summary, the Badman legislative proposals for registration and monitoring home educators, whilst apparently seeking '... to achieve a balance between the rights of parents and the rights of the child.' discriminate against home educators, denigrate the rights of the child and the wider family to a private family life, and will leave home educating children vulnerable to abuse by the LA charged with ensuring they are 'safe'. If the DCSF intended that the review was to be viewed as a fair investigation of the current situation, then it's representative Baroness Delyth Morgan should not have made her unpleasant, unfounded statements to the press, and there should have been tighter control of the methodology used to derive the statistical basis for the recommendations. Furthermore, if the DSCF truly wishes Home Educators to be able to develop good relationships with their LA Education Officers in an atmosphere of trust and co-operation, then it should not have allowed the author of the review, Graham Badman, to mislead the press as to the true nature of his 'collected data' and the inferences which could reasonably be drawn from it.


September 2009



[1]Recommendation 21 8.12 'Review into Elective Home Education in England' Graham Badman, 11/06/2009 access to an online version available via the DCSF website

[2]Recommendation 1 'Review into Elective Home Education in England' Badman, G.


[4]Recommendation 7 'Review into Elective Home Education in England' Badman, G.

[5]'Review of Elective Home Education in England' Badman, G.

[6]Working paper dated 20/08/09 released to Shena Deuchars via the What Do They Know FOI website here



[9]Section 17 ( is to do with providing services to children in need or disabled.

Section 37 ( is to do with looking after children involved in court proceedings.

Section 47 ( is to do with safeguarding.

[10] "... [T]he relatively high proportion of these children with special educational needs and others who require services they would otherwise receive through school." Ed Balls personal website accessed 27/07/2009


[12]May be accessed here

[13]Graham Badman suggests that this problem should be remedied in Recommendation 21 "... [I]nformation should be categorised thereby avoiding the current speculation with regard to the prevalence of child protection concerns amongst home educated children which may well be exaggerated." (my emphasis). 'Review of Elective Home Education in England' Badman, G.

[14]Text taken from emailed letter from Ross Young, Head of Communications & Parliamentary Relations, UK Statistics Authority to me on 04/09/09

[15] Although the UKSA were unable to comment, a Statistician was given access to the data, and comments as follows:

"The methodology as shown does not stand up as plausible or acceptable statistically, apart from all the other issues concerning the precise information used i.e. abuse, disability services or known to SS for a variety of possibly unsubstantiated reasons.

The use of a sample median to gross up to a national value requires that all LA's have the same number of EHE children, which they do not.

It is not easily possible to estimate the statistical error introduced by doing this but suffice it to say that the standard error of such an estimate would be so large that it would not be worth using the statistic.

Also quoted is 477 registered EHE children known to the 25 LA's that responded out of the 90 asked to respond as part of the review. We have no way of knowing how representative the 25 are of the 150 LA's and this needs to be checked before any statistics can be quoted. Are we comparing like with like? If we were confident that these 25 reasonably reflected the total 150 then we might take the 477 and divide by the total number of EHE children in the 25 LA's. This would give us an estimate of the proportion of EHE children known to SS per LA. This is what they could have done but did not.

There are at least two main flaws to be noted:

1. The inappropriate use of one measurement instead of the target measure. Using 'known to SS' rather than recorded abuse (often termed an error of operationalisation).

2. Using a non-probability sample. No standard errors or confidence intervals can be computed. Only some qualitative value may be possibly obtained. This is error in sample selection.

I can say without any hesitation that the information on methodology casts grave doubt on any use of the results from the Badman Review.


W. Wallace BSc MSc MPhil FSS AFIMA (taken from accessed 09/09/09)


[16]Working paper dated 20/08/09 released to Shena Deuchars via the What Do They Know FOI website here

[17]Recommendation 21, 8.2 'Review of Elective Home Education in England' Badman, G.

[18]SCR may be accessed on Isle of Wight council website last accessed for this document 09/09/09

[19]Working paper dated 20/08/09 released to Shena Deuchars via the What Do They Know FOI website here

[20]Data taken from a response to a FOI request sent to the Child Protection Department DCSF held on the website 'What Do They Know' at accessed 08/09/09


[22]PCC complaint references 092877, 092880 and 092908.

[23]The data, collated from individual FOI requests to each LA, can be viewed online here

[24]Letter from J Youngson, Independent Legal Department, to Hannah Beveridge, PCC dated 16/07/09

"... [A]t one point when Mr Badman was talking about serious case reviews he said he had looked at 'a significant sample of them' and then in talking of these he said 'the ratio is almost double' that is of the incidence of serious case reviews in the population of home educated children compared with the non-home educated."