Memorandum submitted by Elaine Hallows
Conduct of the Review
1 As a home educator I am deeply concerned by and lack confidence in the Review of Elective Home Education because:
l it was undertaken by a subjective Reviewer with slight knowledge of home education models. The Author is firmly embedded within the DCSF, despite avowals of independence. This is made evident in Graham Badman's letter of 17 September 2009 to local authorities - 'Request for Supplementary Data' - using the DCSF letterhead and emanating from their website.
l it has not gathered enough sound evidence to support its conclusions under scrutiny; again the appeal for supporting evidence in the letter cited above is further proof that the Author and Department are aware the case has not been made.
l statistical evidence of the sort the Author is now seeking from local authorities has been gathered by Action for Home Education (AHEd) under the Freedom of Information Act; AHEd has made the information available to the Select Committee. These statistics indicate that home educating families are a low risk group with regard to referrals to Social Services for cases of child abuse / neglect. The request by the Author for additional data from local authorities is to be welcomed. It will be seen not to support the Author's case.
2 It is to be questioned whether it is credible fair practice to submit a report to government first, and then request supporting data afterwards.
Content of the Review
1 The core assumption of the Review throughout is that the State carries ultimate responsibility for decisions regarding the child. The implementation of the Recommendations would be in contravention of Article 16 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child - 'Children have the right to privacy. The law should protect them from attacks against their way of life, their good name, their families, and their home'.
2 The Author states in the letter cited above 'Most of my recommendations have not been challenged'. On the contrary, many of the individual Recommendations, as well as the obvious overall bias of the Review, have been criticised and challenged not only by home educating families, but by agencies such as the Church of England, the Victoria Climbie Foundation, Liberty, a broad range of academics, broadsheet newspapers etc.
3 The two major issues addressed in the Badman Review i) Safeguarding and ii) Monitoring of educational goals
l The case for the additional safeguarding Recommendations within the Review has not been proven (data provided by AHEd).
l Such surveillance of home educated children as right of entry into the family home and the power to interview the child alone, is over and above that of school children, and therefore discriminatory.
l The vast majority of home educated children are not unseen by others - screening by health professionals commences amongst the general population ante-natally and continues throughout childhood. Indicators of abuse or potential high risk are usually visible by two years of age, at which point Social Services are or should be involved. In the TWO high profile cases of abuse within home educating families highlighted in the media, both were known to Social Services and correct safeguarding procedures were not followed.
l Social Services already have powers to intervene where abuse is suspected; additional powers should not be imposed on local authority education representatives.
l On the above point, it is to be considered whether local authority education personnel would welcome such powers. The implementation of the Recommendations to enforce entry to the family home and to interview a child alone would severely damage any good will and co-operation between the local authority and the family, whereas currently many local authorities enjoy a positive relationship with home educating families.
ii Monitoring of Educational Goals
l Currently the 'light touch' contact between home educating families and local authorities, in which the family is asked to submit a summary of educational ideology but there is no imposition, WORKS WELL.
l Studies from the
l It is proposed that all home educators should register annually with the local authority, and submit plans for educational goals. This is incompatible with the autonomous education model chosen by some families. Home educating parents often have different, broader educational goals than those achieveable in school or within the constraints of the National Curriculum, and often the provision is demonstrably qualitively much higher.
l Some local authorities lack experience with home education models and can be hostile and obstructive towards home educators without valid cause.
l Many families are home educating because of acute frustrations experienced within the mainstream education system and are wary of re-engaging with the Establishment, often particularly where the child has Special Educational Needs, where support services are PROMISED but do not MATERIALISE.
l The Author states that home educators 'should be supported by local authorities in accessing appropriate services for their children'. The incentives offered to families in return for accepting the local authority's involvement are access to sports and music services, and to examination centres. However, the Secretary of State has already stated that in fact there is no funding available to do so in practice. The reality is that home educating families will have NO INCENTIVES but many ADDITIONAL BURDENS.
Consequences of Implementation of the Review
1 Home educated children will be subjected to discriminatory treatment as outlined above.
2 The Author states 'I believe my proposals will improve support for home educators, and raise the status and quality of home education.' Contrary to this, home educators recognise that there will be substantial additional FINANCIAL and STAFFING burdens to local authorities if the Recommendations are implemented. The full costs of implementation need to be calculated and the budget clearly identified. Local authorities will not welcome the additional workload and expenditure entailed. HOME EDUCATORS FEAR THAT WHEN THE ADDITIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS PROVE TOO EXPENSIVE TO MAINTAIN, MOVES WILL BE MADE TO LEGISLATE AGAINST ALL HOME EDUCATION.