Memorandum submitted by Phillip and Sarah McNeill






1. Recommendation regarding home visits likely to require large resourcing


2. Recommendation regarding home visits must be measured against the required criterion of 'proportionality' in the Human Rights Act


3. Impact of proposed home visits on children in terms of stress and trauma has not been considered.


4. Proposed criminalisation for breaches of intended registration etc is disproportionate and risks alienating home educating community, when taken in conjunction with other proposed measures


5. Educational premise of recommendations risks trying to fit home education into the straitjacket of the National Curriculum model


6. Conclusion - Recommendations put forward dangerous precedents about State and family life




I am the mother of five children whom we home educate.


I have a Double First in History from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and a PhD in History from the University of Liverpool. I have written twenty or so non-fiction titles for children on historical subjects.

My husband is also a graduate of Cambridge University (Natural Science) has a PGCE (post graduate certificate of education) and is a Chartered Tax Adviser and Chartered Accountant.



Comments regarding the recommendations made in the Badman Report


1. Cost and resource implications of recommendations


1.1 Point 28 suggests that proposals should be costed within three months. Three months from the date of publication would have expired 11 September. Has this costing exercise been carried out?


1.2 A substantial funding package would be required to resource the training and deployment of local authority officials to carry out the annual home visits proposed.


1.3 In remote rural areas, like our own in the Highlands of Scotland, the logistics would be difficult indeed. Our area representative is based on the Isle of Skye, which would entail at least a day's travel to get to our home. The AA shortest journey time is 6 hours 45 minutes, for the return trip of a little under 200 miles. The trip would involve an expensive ferry sailing from Armadale to Mallaig, to avoid a hundred mile detour via Kyle of Lochalsh. One day per family visited would not be extraordinary in the Highland area.

Is this a sensible use of personnel time and resources? Would it be more practical to target high risk groups, such as known drug users, if any, rather than channel resources across the board? Could not children at-risk be better identified and monitored through local health services, GPs and health visitors - who already have the required expertise, contact with children and local knowledge?


1.4 At a time when large government organisations, such as HM Revenue and Customs, are increasingly targeting resources on a risk analysis basis, the current 'blanket coverage' of the Badman report appears ridiculous. Local authority staff currently assigned to supervision of home-schooling families are well placed,-and already capable of identifying at risk households. Their resources would be better utilised by facilitating the passing on of current concerns to social workers or health workers. What is needed is joined-up government, not additional bureaucracy.


2. Implications for civil liberties


2.1 Art 8 of the Human Rights Act provides general protection for a person's private and family life, and home from arbitrary interference by the State. Where interference by the State is permitted, this must be justified carefully.


2.2 Restrictions on the right to privacy are to be in accordance with widely drafted criteria, and the organisation 'Liberty' suggests that these are so widely drawn that 'it will usually be easy for the government to say that the interference is in pursuit of one of these legitimate objectives.'


2.3 The principle of proportionality is therefore important here. To quote Liberty again, ' the nature and extent of each interference must be judged against the end it is meant to achieve and any interference with your rights under Article 8 that goes further than is necessary may well be unlawful.'


2.4 The recommendation in the Badman report that homes should be routinely visited and children interviewed 'unless vulnerable' without the presence of their parents must be considered against the background of the Human Rights Act. It must be asked whether such recommendations are proportionate - or a grave contravention of civil liberties.


3 Criterion of vulnerability. Any child is vulnerable - is that not what the Badman report safe-guarding dimension is all about? And they are vulnerable to the stress of being interviewed on the local authority behalf. The potential trauma of being interviewed, away from their parents, alone, by a complete stranger, has not been considered. The organisation Education Otherwise is currently trying to conduct a survey of home schooled children to ask how they feel about the prospect of a home visit.


3.1 In assessing potential vulnerability it should be remembered that many children have been withdrawn from school due to bullying and coercive behaviour which schools have been unable to control. There is a danger of compounding distress here.


3.2 It should also be remembered that the question of institutional schooling is for many home educated children a subject on which they have very strong opinions and feelings. Their school experience has often been very negative, involving racial and religious discrimination.


3.3 The right to have an independent third party present is given to those interviewed, for example vulnerable adults, by bodies such as HMRC. It is inappropriate and disproportionate for the State to have access to any child in the home without, at the very least, the safeguard of an independent observer whom the child knows and trusts.


3.1 In summary, the unsettling effect, stress and potential trauma on children of any such interview, even with an impartial witness, is serious and has not been considered.


4 Proposed criminalisation for breaches of proposed registration system is disproportionate and Report risks alienating home educating community


4.1 Taken with other recommendations of Report, the government risks alienating completely the home educating community. Home educators and, it should be noted, their children, are feeling victimised. They often feel let down by the state education system and would not welcome heavy-handed, unjustified intervention based on an inaccurate premise and hasty ill-considered legislation


5. The educational recommendations of the Report risk trying to force home education into the same educational mould as the National Curriculum; targets, paperwork, performance measured against predefined outcomes.. Home education is bespoke education.


5.1 Home education flourishes on adaptability - adapting to the interests, ability and circumstances of the individual child and family. To have to produce a written annual statement of intent, and then be assessed on performance related thereto, is to impose a straitjacket. To cite evidence from our experience, whilst I have annual 'targets' for each child in terms of their age and ability;keep track of both the National Curriculum and 5-14 Guidelines; and have a weekly timetable, the flexibility to adapt and depart from these produces bespoke education. I had not anticipated that my 5 and 7 year-olds would be interested in Latin; they are, and we respond accordingly.

BBC poetry month produced a crop of interesting library books: we concentrated very much on poetry for a couple of weeks. This flexibility is inherent in home schooling and is its strength.



6 Conclusion

Rather than building relationships of trust, the so-called safeguarding recommendations are perceived as suggesting that parents are guilty until proved innocent, and that the State should stand in loco parentis. These are dangerous precedents. Educationally, the Report misunderstands home education.


September 2009