Memorandum submitted by Sarah Conyers

 

 

Conduct of the review and related consultations

Recommendations made by the review

 

1.0 Summary

 

- The Badman review contains little argument that is supported by evidence. (para 2.1)

- Evidence has not been used impartially (para 2.2)

- Very little evidence found that home educated children are more at risk of abuse than the rest of the population (paras 2.3 & 2.4)

- There was an absence of expertise in home education on the review panel (para 2.5)

- The recommendations of the review are too heavy handed given the lack of evidence found (paras 2.7 & 2.8)

- Review was poorly conducted (para 2.9)

- Recommendation 7 is an infringement of Article 8 ECHR (para 3.1)

- Recommendation 7 does not treat all children equally as required by ECHR (para 3.1)

 

 

 

 

2.0 Conduct of the Review



2.1. The Review fails to make a case for its recommendations. The Secretary of State says it contains strong arguments, but there is, in fact, little argument supported by evidence in the review. It should be a well argued, evidence based review, instead there is assertion, but little analysis and evidence - for instance, the review simply says 'I believe ...' 16 times.

2.2 The review lacks intellectual rigour, independence or impartiality. Where evidence is presented there is an absence of critical analysis, together with highly selective use of quotations from respondents. Thus it includes without comment a lengthy, and somewhat nave, quotation from the Education Division of the Church of England. The use of quotations is not 'neutral', they serve to highlight certain views merely by their inclusion. The review also does not include the overall conclusion by the Church of England which went on to say

 

'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 standard of home education. Where there are particular concerns about the children in a (sic) home-educating this should be a matter for Children's Services.'

Mr Badman has therefore used quotes inappropriately to justify his own agenda.

2.3. Evidence on abuse by home educators - a key argument used to justify action is absent from the review report. Somewhat surprisingly given the review's terms of reference there is no analysis of the actual number of suspected and found child abuse cases involving home educators. Indeed, there are no robust figures or trends presented (even at an aggregated level), instead there is a vague reference to 'local authority evidence and case studies'. Thus it is impossible to tell whether the concerns about possible child abuse are based in fact or merely imagined.

2.4 The review rightly points out that the number of parents opting for elective home education is unknown. Yet it also claims that 'the number of children known to children's social care in some local authorities is disproportionately high relative to their home educating population'. But given that the size of the home education population is unknown, it is impossible to calculate the proportion, unless these councils have made up a base for the calculation; in effect the statement is meaningless.

 

2.4.1 Figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request show that the rates of abuse within the Home Ed community are lower than that for all children (.78% for Home Ed and 1.76% for all children). This figure will include all children known to Social Services for reasons such as Special Needs and there is a higher proportion of Special Needs children amongst the Home Ed community. Therefore, this figure of .76% becomes even lower for actual cases of abuse rather than just known to Social Services.


2.5 This lack of evidence and analysis is compounded by the absence of expertise amongst the review panel. In the absence of evidence, some degree of confidence in the review's judgements might rest on the expertise of those involved. They could perhaps be forgiven for simply making assertions if they had expertise or relevant professional knowledge of the subject matter. Unfortunately this is not the case. No home educating parent was on the review team.


2.6 Combined with paragraph number 2.1, this undermines the legitimacy of the review - why should what appears to be no more than the prejudices of this group of people be imposed upon the home education community?

2.7 Furthermore, the recommendations are not logically consistent with review's limited evidence.
a. The review says that many LAs are not performing adequately, but then recommends they have more powers. Without an analysis of why they are failing it would seem inappropriate to give them more powers; this would simply create problems and maladministration claims for the future.
b. The review recognises the diversity of home educators, but fails to take this in to account in its 'one size fits all' recommendations

2.8 A key statement from the review, informing its recommendations is:

"The question is simply a matter of balance and securing the right regulatory regime within a framework of legislation that protects the rights of all children, even if in transaction such regulation is only necessary to protect a minority."

2.8.1 This guiding 'principle' is presented with no provisos or limits. It is a highly risk adverse position, and assumes that all parents are capable of abuse. This leads to recommendations that are disproportionate and even the Secretary of State is wary of the cost implications.

2.9 The review was poorly conducted - for example:


It was announced as a consultation on the consultation website then when it was pointed out that it was not compliant with the Consultation Code of Practice it suddenly became a review;
The review outcome was partially pre-judged in advance, Graham Badman, author of the review, publicly said as much when he asserted the status quo could not remain long before the review was completed; and
The on-line questionnaire used to gather home educators and others' views was badly designed involving leading and poorly constructed questions.


3.0 Problems with the Review's recommendations

 

3.1 Recommendation 7 - That LA officials be given the right to demand entry into homes and seek to interview the children without their parents.

 

3.1.1 This is a gross infringement of human rights, Article 8 of the ECHR. The police and Social Services don't have this power without a warrant so how can this power be given to an LA official?

 

- "That parents be required to allow the child through exhibition or other means to demonstrate both attainment and progress in accord with the statement of intent lodged at the time of registration"

 

3.1.2 This is not equal with school children. Not all children at school attain and make progress in accordance with the plans at the beginning of the school year.

 

3.1.3 Mr Badman states that the views of the children must be heard as to whether they wish to be home educated. Are school educated children given a chance to have their say as to whether they wish to be educated at school? ECHR says that everyone must be treated equally, so if all home educated children are to be questioned then all school children must also be questioned (without their parents present)

 

 

3.2 Recommendation 1 - Compulsory national registration scheme

 

"Parents to provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child over the next twelve months."

 

3.2.1 For parents that are using an autonomous approach to home education this simply won't be possible. By it's very nature, autonomous education cannot predict outcomes as what the child learns will change day by day.

 

"Where a child is removed from a school roll to be home educated, the school must provide to the appropriate officer of the local authority a record of the child's achievements to date and expected achievements,...., together with any other school records"

 

If it's now the parents responsibility to educate their child, then surely this information should go to them and not the LA.

 

3.3 Recommendation 2 - What constitutes a suitable education

 

This recommendation would take away the right to educate children according to your own philosophy, ECHR Article 2.

 

3.4 Recommendation 10 - That all LA's should offer a menu of support to home educating families.

 

This recommendation has been ignored by the Secretary of State.

 

Similarly Recommendation 11 has been ignored.

 

3.5 Recommendation 12 - Mention of BECTA

 

More issues here over Mr Badman's impartiality, Mr Badman is on the Board of Directors of BECTA so it's not ethically right for him to recommend in his own interests.

 

 

 

3.6 Paragraph 8.2

 

"Many home educators argue that press coverage of this review has cast them as "guilty" with a need to prove "innocence" just by virtue of being a home educator. And many have argued for a measured response to prevent "hard cases becoming bad law". In addressing this issue I have tried to answer two fundamental questions:

First if there is abuse of children within the home education community, is it disproportionally (sic) high, relative to the general population?

Second, where abuse does exist, would a change of regulation with regard to elective home education have either prevented or ameliorated such abuse"

 

Despite saying he will answer these questions, he doesn't actually answer them in his report.

The answers are:

1. No there is no evidence of abuse within the home ed community apart from 3 high profile cases that on investigation have nothing to do with home education

2. A change in regulations would have made no difference in any of these cases. The laws are already in place to protect children where abuse is suspected and it's those laws that aren't working.

 

He has proved that "many home educators" were correct in their argument that we are being cast as guilty until proved innocent by forcing us to display our children to prove that they aren't being abused.

 

It maybe that "some" home educators abuse their children, but equally "some" school educating parents abuse their children. Just because "some" do shouldn't mean that we all should be tarred with the same brush and made to prove that we're not.

 

 

3.7 Recommendation 23 - "That LA adult services and other agencies be required to inform those charged with monitoring and support of home educators of any properly evidenced concerns that they have of parent's ability to provide a suitable education ...on such grounds as........

 

- anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable and efficient education"

 

This is a worrying "catch all" phrase which gives LA's carte blanche to decide that for whatever reason they like a parent is not able to provide an education.

 

3.8 Recommendation 24 - "That the DCSF make such change as is necessary to the legislative framework to enable LA's to refuse registration on safeguarding grounds......."

 

Mr Badman has said throughout the report that he accepts that parents have the right to home educate and then this recommendation appears at the end suggesting a scheme whereby parents have to seek permission to home educate.

 

3.9 Recommendation 28 - "That the DCSF and the LGA determine within 3 months how to provide to LA's sufficient resources to secure the recommendations of this report"

 

The Secretary of State has said that there is to be no extra funding. If the government is now proposing that every family must be visited then this is certain to increase costs. These recommendations can not be enacted without extra funding.

September 2009